Unexpectedly, on the day of Nuland’s arrival in Moscow, the Russian “Kommersant” published a blunt in content and form, and ambiguous article by Dmitry Medvedev on Russia’s relations with Ukraine. The former Russian president asked a riddle, the solution of which may indicate the direction of the Kremlin’s further actions towards its western neighbor.
Five offensive theses
Medvedev, who is currently the deputy chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, in his article included five theses defining the attitude towards the current Ukrainian government and President Volodymyr Zelensky. He accused him not so much of not being a Ukrainian, but actually of not knowing who he was. Despite the fact that he spoke Russian from childhood, he worked in Russia and drew financial resources from there, joining the political game on the side of Ukrainian nationalists. This is supposed to cause him “everyday cognitive dissonance” – deeply affecting current relations with Russia.
Zelensky was supposed to turn towards Ukrainian nationalism out of fear of his political partners. The worldview he officially presents is alien to him, which makes him a “turned upside down” man. Therefore, according to Medvedev, it is impossible to hold talks with him or to come to an understanding.
According to the former Russian president, Zelensky might be willing to come to an agreement with Russia and conclude a lasting peace with the separatists from Donetsk and Lugansk, but he succumbs to the demands of his nationalist circles that he wants to continue fighting until the victory and “liberation” of Ukrainian territories. Zelensky must also constantly maneuver between the nationalists making their demands, the Tatars, the Russians and ordinary Ukrainians who only want peace.
Medvedev went so far as to point out the Ukrainian president of Jewish origin, writing that he was afraid of the moment when Ukrainian nationalists “sewed a yellow star on his back”. Indefinitely, he also compared him to a Jew who joined the SS in the Third Reich for ideological reasons.
I play fame, to scoundrels
All this is supposed to make the Ukrainian president, shouting “Game of fame”, “more nationalistic than the most radical nationalists”, and in his political deliberations he must “bend his neck, being careful not to twist his neck”. Medvedev also rebukes Ukrainians for crimes committed during World War II, including the Volyn Massacre, stating directly that today’s political elites in Ukraine are the heirs of Bandera and Shukhevych.
In turn, the allegation made against the Ukrainian authorities is their dependency. Ukraine is to be ruled from the outside, and to a much greater extent than in the times of the USSR. The goal of these governments is to create an “anti-Russia”. However, the hopes of the Ukrainian elite for a reward for this subjection – that is, admission to NATO and the EU – will prove to be in vain. Medvedev quotes a Ukrainian proverb about a goat that “dragged along with the wolf so that only skin remained”.
Wprost writes that Ukraine is ruled by “scoundrels” who care only about stuffing their own pockets, ready to sell themselves at any moment for pennies to foreign bosses. They do not value real values, being content with trinkets – the participation of Ukrainian soldiers in exercises with the US army or a photo with a high-ranking American politician. Ukrainian authorities are unreliable and ignorant, constantly changing their position, trying to adapt to the requirements of overseas principals. The “home grown Talleyrands” date, and then they don’t keep their promises.
This makes it not worth talking to them – as vassals -. Although Russia would easily get along with the “sovereign”, who is supposed to be the inhabitants of Ukraine, for now it will talk with the USA over their heads, and above all over the heads of the Ukrainian elite.
So what to do with the Ukrainian government, “focused on a total, on the verge of war, confrontation with Russia”, organizing “idiot Crimean platforms” (sic), “dimming the society and flexing muscles before the elections”? According to Medvedev, it must be waited out. Eventually, Russia will see the authorities that establish equal and mutually beneficial relations with Russia. Only with such a government will it be possible to cooperate productively. “Russia knows how to wait, We are patient people” – the former president concludes his article.
What an article, such a response
This declaration was received in Russia and Ukraine with mixed feelings. The renowned Russian political scientist Dmitry Trawin noted that Medvedev hid a peaceful message to the US and Western Europe behind a facade of traditional Russian accusations and spells. Russia will leave Ukraine alone, just waiting for more favorable authorities. The aggressive rhetoric of the article is only intended to appease the Kremlin hawks who are adopting belligerent positions towards Ukraine.
Alexei Makarkin, a journalist and political scientist, thinks similarly. According to him, there will be no talks with Zelensky, just as there was no one with Poroshenko. Russia also has no intention of attacking Ukraine. He will simply disregard it as he talks to the Americans over the heads of Ukrainians.
Alexei Czesnakov, the pro-Kremlin director of the Center for Political Situation, believes otherwise. According to him, the Ukrainian authorities are not only unreliable, but also devoid of subjectivity at all. They can’t even follow orders from an American suzerain. The Kremlin also admitted through the mouth of the president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov that he agreed with Medvedev’s theses.
However, there are many critical voices, especially regarding the form of the article, up to the comments of Internet users that Medvedev, who reportedly had problems with alcohol, wrote it after a few deeper glasses. Opposition politician Dmitry Nekrasov accused the text of being thoughtless and primitive. Appropriate for the level of the average Russian, stunned by television propaganda, and not a politician of the rank of Medvedev. By designating the style of relations with the West with such texts, Russia closes itself on the influx of modernization impulses and technologies it so much needs, bringing the country back to the Middle Ages.
The advisers of the Head of the President’s Office of Ukraine quickly reacted to the text. Mikhail Podoljak disregarded Medvedev, stating that the Ukrainian authorities pay attention only to the position of the current president of Russia. He called the article “out of date and off topic” and compared it to the Soviet propaganda of the 1930s. He also stated that it aims to deepen the confrontation between the two countries. Alexei Arestowicz struck a similar tone as Medvedev – mentioning on Twitter the “psychological and historical” problems of Russia in relations with Ukraine, concerning the beginnings of the Moscow state – “the only known creature in the world”, the origins of which are related to places that “lie outside the borders Russia “. He further mentions the “hybrid tsar” and the “mutant two-headed eagle”.
The newspaper “Ukrainian truth” called the text “blackmailers” and on the portal “Gławkom” it was described as “hysterical”. Ukrainian journalist Janina Sokołowska wrote that Russia is trying to “knead” its idea of ”one nation”. Ukrainian political scientist Dmitry Oktisiuk described the article as rude and stated that the authorities in Kiev will not change their attitude towards Russia until it starts treating Ukraine as an equal partner with an independent policy.
Relaxation or a smokescreen?
In fact, all commentators associate the publication of the article with Nuland’s visit to Moscow. The visit requested by the USA. With no little difficulty, since the secretary was subject to Russian sanctions, first the American administration had to lift the sanctions on one of the Russians affected by them.
The form and content of Medvedev’s article immediately raises the question – what was the importance of the former Russian president trying to convey? On the surface, the text looks like a complaint against a sidelined politician who was once planned to succeed Putin. However, such an article would not have been published without the consent of the latter. It was published three months after Putin’s article himself, in which he argued that “Russians and Ukrainians are one nation”.
At the same time as Nuland’s visit to Moscow, an EU-Ukraine summit was held in Kiev. Several secondary reciprocal agreements were signed on it. As could be expected, due to the delays in implementing EU standards by the Ukrainian authorities, no declarations were made as to the prospects of Ukraine’s membership in the EU.
On the one hand, Medvedev signaled that Russia had vital interests in Ukraine and would defend them. On the other hand, however, his statement suggests that he treats the current Ukrainian authorities as temporary and has no intention of taking any aggressive measures against them, waiting for politicians to take power with whom an agreement will be possible. In the face of Ukrainian society’s disappointment with the lack of tangible benefits from cooperation with the European Union, it may happen quite quickly.
Such a hard-and-soft attitude will surely be conducive to reaching a Russian-American compromise on Ukraine and coming face-to-face by both sides. This corresponds to the results of Nuland’s talks with the Russians. After a meeting with Nuland, the deputy head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Ryabkov, stated that “he does not rule out tightening relations with the US, unless further efforts are made to normalize them.” In turn, after talks with Putin’s representative for Ukraine, Dmitry Kozak, only a short announcement was issued about the readiness for further talks on the special status of Donbas, while maintaining the Minsk agreements in force.
Medvedev’s announcements may well serve as a traditional Russian smoke screen to mask the real goals and soften the attitude of the West. In this case, we can expect further aggressive moves by Russia towards Ukraine.