‘Ukraine is Russia’ Medvedev rules out peace talks

March 4 (Reuters) – Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and an ally of President Vladimir Putin, described Ukraine as part of Russia and said what he called historical parts of Russia needed to “come home.”

In a bellicose presentation that suggested Russia’s military goals in Ukraine are far-reaching, Medvedev, who was Russia’s president from 2008-2012, praised the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and said Moscow would prosecute its “special military operation” until the Ukrainian leadership capitulated.
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Medvedev was speaking in front of a giant map of Ukraine, which showed the country as a much smaller landlocked rump of land than its internationally recognized territory.

The map appeared to depict a scenario in which Ukraine would be squeezed against Poland, with Kyiv remaining its capital, but Russia would control a swath of Ukrainian cities and its east, south, and entire Black Sea coastline.

Russia has the initiative on the battlefield and controls just under one-fifth of Ukrainian territory, which it claims as its own, but the scenario is sharply different from the situation on the ground.


Medvedev, who the West once saw as a liberal reformer, said Russia’s “geostrategic space” was indivisible from Ukraine and that any attempt to change that by force was doomed.

“All our adversaries need to understand once and for all a simple fact: that the territories on both banks of the Dnipro River (which bisects Ukraine) are an integral part of Russia’s strategic and historical borders,” he said.

Medvedev ruled out peace talks with the current Ukrainian leadership. He said any future Ukrainian government that wanted talks would need to recognize what he called the new reality.

Commenting on East-West relations, Medvedev said ties between Moscow and Washington were now worse than during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the two countries appeared on the brink of nuclear conflict.

“I will say one bitter thing,” he said. “The current situation is much worse than the one in 1962. This is a fully-fledged war against Russia with American weapons and with the participation of American special forces and American advisers. That’s how it is.”


Peter Tesch, Australian National University

It is no surprise the second anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine generated so much commentary. What is surprising, though, is that Kremlin propaganda remains so prevalent in what purports to be analysis.

This week, the ABC was forced to defend a documentary it aired on the conflict, which quoted Russian soldiers justifying the country’s invasion. Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia said it repeated “blatant lies” coming from the Kremlin.

ABC management will meet with Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia following the airing of a documentary on Russian troops that the Kyiv spokesperson labelled a “bowl of vomit”. — The Saturday Paper (@SatPaper) March 20, 2024

But this is not the only example. Among the other Russian assertions frequently repeated by commentators are that the West is at fault for the war and that the root cause lies in “NATO expansion.” Proponents of this line recycle the tired narrative that the West does not understand Russia’s worldview and has failed to accommodate its “legitimate security interests.”

Another persistent line is that the West’s failure to understand Russia’s thinking is to blame for the tensions that have marked relations between the two sides for the past 20 years.

On the contrary, Putin has been clear he is intent on recovering Russia’s “historic lands” in his war with Ukraine, in the process wantonly breaching security guarantees Moscow had given Kyiv twice in the 1990s.

There is no misunderstanding Putin’s threat-infused nostalgia for “the legacy of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences” of 1945, either. This was when the US, UK, and Soviet Union carved up the territories of the vanquished following the Second World War and demarcated their respective spheres of influence, denying tens of millions of people any say in their own future.

Accusing the West of sowing democracy on Russia’s doorstep today ignores the reality that, freed from 50 years of Moscow’s repressive domination, the countries of Eastern Europe unequivocally saw their future security and prosperity as part of the European Union and NATO.

While they have been understandably silent on the matter since February 2022, some of Russia’s leading foreign and defense policy thinkers—none of them Kremlin opponents—previously dismissed the idea that “NATO expansion” threatened Russian security.

Defence analyst Alexander Khramchikhin argued in the authoritative Military Industrial Courier in October 2021 that claims NATO was preparing to attack Russia were “shameful”. If NATO was preparing for war with Russia, he added, it was doing so defensively.

Similarly, Andrei Kortunov, formerly the influential head of the Russian International Affairs Council, argued on the now-shuttered Carnegie Moscow office website in January 2021,

former Soviet republics have been desperately storming the gates of the Euro-Atlantic security structures, and the West, fully aware that accepting these new member states would weaken NATO, not strengthen it, had to respond to this pressure.

Putin’s own policies have also substantially worsened Russia’s strategic circumstances, not least by driving Finland and Sweden to pursue NATO membership. Moreover, NATO’s recent policies (including generally declining military expenditure from 1990–2014) in no way pointed to hostile intent towards Russia.

Finnish soldiers trained with Swedish units in northern Finland as part of NATO-linked military exercises earlier this month. Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency/EPA

Putin’s war aims were not limited

In a similar vein, some believe Putin’s aims in Ukraine are limited to securing disarmament and neutrality, as well as a special status for Crimea and the eastern region of Donbas. Advocates of this line implicitly condone Putin’s use of military force to recast post-second World War borders unilaterally.

It is clear serious planning and intelligence failures misled Putin and his narrow cohort of advisers into thinking Ukraine would fold in days. A history autodidact, Putin presumably had no interest in occupying western Ukraine, knowing this traditionally had been Catholic Polish and Lithuanian territory and never part of the Orthodox Slavic lands of Great Russia.

We can reasonably surmise Putin’s goal was the swift capture of Kyiv, the political or physical elimination of President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the occupation of Ukraine east of the Dnipro River (and potentially the Black Sea coastline, including Odesa, founded by Putin’s heroine, Catherine the Great).

Thus, Putin would replicate the “gathering of the lands” of one of his distant predecessors, Tsar Ivan III, and consign what was left of western Ukraine to the eternal financial responsibility of Europe.

The revised map of Ukraine that former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev introduced on state television earlier this month makes clear this intent.

Confident assertions, whether by the Kremlin or outside analysts, that Russia’s economy has withstood Western sanctions are also premature.

Sanctions work over the long term, and Russia’s much-touted growth rates mainly reflect its increased investment in the military and defense sectors. Credible commentators believe Russia’s economy shows clear signs of overheating. Only time will tell.

What is true, though, is some countries are conniving with Russia to exploit loopholes and circumvent sanctions. Furthermore, many analysts are silent on the fact that Russia – a permanent member of the UN Security Council – is flouting the very sanctions it helped impose on North Korea by sourcing weapons and military material from Pyongyang.

Aiding Ukraine is not a distraction

Another myth being propagated in the West is the contention that aiding Ukraine diminishes the US’s capacity to deter China in the Indo-Pacific.

It is not a zero-sum game. It is hard to see how unsettling allies and partners by dumping democracies – including one fighting for the very principles upon which the US was founded – would be a deterrent to China.

Neither Russia nor China has allies, as we understand the term. Both see alliances as directed against someone or something rather than being mutually reinforcing arrangements underpinned by common beliefs and values.

Both Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping seek to undermine confidence in US leadership and commitment through falsehoods and propaganda. We must be vigilant and forthrightly contest these efforts, regardless of the competing demands on governments and the distractions of our often fractious democracies.The Conversation

Peter Tesch, Visiting Fellow at the ANU Centre for European Studies, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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