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Thursday, March 22, 2018

The return to peace

The situation in the Donbass remains tense. Large-scale hostilities ended more than a year ago after debaltseve fights, but local skirmishes happen every day. At the same time, despite the shooting and the stiffness of the rhetoric from both opposing sides, there have been attempts to negotiate a compromise.

Increasingly in the public space are the words “police mission” as a tool for cultivation of the parties and the stabilization of the military situation in the region. However, not everything is simple. Ukraine expects that this mission will monitor the elections in Donetsk and Luhansk, and the situation on the border with Russia. Forces for a blitzkrieg in Ukraine today, and no, and Western partners have a negative attitude to any Ukrainian military action. The West, Kyiv will not give up, but he’s not going to risk it when we can talk about the great war. In addition, the European business is tired of sanctions in relations with Russia — politicians from France and Germany would like the sanctions were eased in the foreseeable future. So Ukraine is under serious pressure from the West that it has fulfilled its obligations stipulated in the Minsk agreements.

For DNR-LC option with the “police mission” looks a threat, as it revives fears that Russia “merges” of the unrecognized Republic. However, such fears were before, but they did not come true. The question is what “merge”. If we are talking about the admission of Ukrainian troops in Donetsk and Lugansk, this option is not considered seriously by anyone. However, the most radical supporters of DNR-LNR “merge” means to abandon any promotion of the project “new Russia” — if not to Kharkov and Odessa, then at least to Mariupol. In this sense, it is really possible to talk about the review of the position, but he will not come this year and another in 2014 (the debaltseve battles were associated with the desire to align the front line and not move it to the borders of Donetsk region).

For Russia, the issue of expanding the role of the OSCE was acceptable, although the term “police mission” is rejection because of its potential wide interpretation. After the resolution of the UN security Council in 2011 on a no-fly zone over Libya that led to the defeat of the Gaddafi regime, Moscow is extremely mistrustful of such formulations. It seems, however, that a compromise on the situation in Eastern Ukraine is possible in principle. So, the controversial “police” wording could be replaced by another — for example associated with the extension of an existing mandate of the OSCE performing the Supervisory function in the region. It seems that in Russia all the more influence the point of view that the Ukrainian crisis should be resolved on the basis of agreements. This may be due to several factors.

The simplest predictions about the imminent collapse of the Ukrainian regime did not come true. A new Maidan is not visible. The Ukrainian economic situation looks bleak, although the precipitous decline ended in the current year is projected to be 1-2% GDP growth. But more importantly — the active layer of society, appeared on Maidan, new revolutions don’t want to, even if many of its representatives are not enthusiastic about the policies of Petro Poroshenko. An analogy with the 1990-ies in Russia, when disappointment in Boris Yeltsin led to the collapse of his regime due to the fact that active citizens Communist comeback was even more unacceptable. With regard to the consistent anti-Maidan supporters, they were either in Russia or in the Donbass, or underground. Consequently, Russia will have to coexist with a Pro — Western Ukraine-and the question is how to do it with minimal costs.

But in addition to Ukrainian factor, there is also a purely domestic arguments, however, and, apparently, more serious. Traditionally, the Russian government currently relies on a strong support from the community — and there are a lot of arguments. However, public opinion in Russia is complex, which cannot be reduced to simple schemes. Yes, the Russians really want to live in a strong and powerful country — so any criticism of our orders are often given a hostile reception. But it was in the USSR in the first half of 1980-ies, when the Soviet people sincerely believed America to be the sole culprit of arms race, and dissidents — enemies of their own country. Several years passed, and patriotism gave way to disappointment and self-abasement. This trend is historically characteristic of Russia, where the amplitude of the oscillations of the pendulum of the public mood is so massive that for a short time, can overcome the way from one pole to the other. We are talking about the underlying mentality of Russians, over which was speculated by many philosophers and historians. For example, Nikolai Berdyaev wrote about the combination of such opposite properties, as the despotism, the hypertrophy of the state and anarchism, liberty. With these opposites Berdyaev have linked the causes of the shocks, which is so rich Russian history.

Let’s move from philosophical insights to the prose of modern sociology. The President’s rating although somewhat decreased, but remains extremely high — 80% (according to the may survey, “Levada-Center”). About this decrease any Western leader can only dream of. But this “backbone” rating increasingly detached from the real relationship of the population to the socio-economic situation in the country. The President practically is not responsible for the problems in the economy, healthcare, the pension sector. Guilty, from the point of view of society, are members and Ministers (except the “presidential” block). The number of endorsing and criticizing the government’s activity in may was equal to 49%. The gap between the positively and negatively relevant to the work of Dmitry Medvedev at the same time amounted to 9 points (54 to 45%), while in December last year — 24 points (61 to 37%). As for the deputies, the people disappointed in them even more — the work of the Duma approve 42%, disapprove — 56%. These figures show that margin gradually becomes thinner. There is growing fatigue, euphoric mood 2014 has gone down in history, which creates conditions for further growth of protest moods.

With the economy the situation is also difficult — the dependence of the budget on energy saved. And the situation on the oil market is not simple. Oil, of course, can rise in price — for example, to 60 dollars. But, first, not a fact. And secondly, in order to reach pre-crisis level of social obligations required price twice more — and on this development in the coming years, don’t expect even the most optimistic prediction authors. $ 60 per barrel is not exempt from austerity measures, though, and allows you breathe a little. But if price dynamics is the opposite, belt-tightening will have stronger. Moreover, Russia is increasingly less able to influence market prices. OPEC countries this spring and could not agree not only on the reduction, but even the freeze on petroleum exports. The position of Saudi Arabia and Iran to reconcile failed.

But what about diversification, the desire to get off the oil needle? Indeed, in recent years, increasing the agriculture sector, new orders received “defense”. Only agriculture received a doping protectionist measures (“counter”) and the fall of the ruble — improve the quality of the products is not observed. And “defense” as it is known, thrived in the Soviet era that did not save the Soviet economy from collapse. On the contrary, now the only resource of the market economy, more flexible and easier to adapt to the new realities of providing for private initiative, and saves Russia against repeating Soviet “collapse” of the mid 80-ies. But any resource is not known to infinite.

The plans for a major “pivot to the East” has remained an illusion. How a couple of years ago there should be euphoria about building a relationship with China, so now is dominated by careful judgment. The Chinese are willing to cooperate with Russia, but do not confuse intent with “hard” contracts — the latter significantly less. In addition, China is a very difficult negotiator, ready to wait for years while the other side would make concessions. On the partnership with Turkey for obvious reasons now not remembered.

Thus, for Russia the time of the decisions in the Ukrainian direction, and in the General context of relations with the West, which is closely linked to the issue of Donbass. “Red line” for Russian authorities in the Ukrainian question may be the status of Crimea (it is not a subject of discussion) and preservation of identity of the population of Eastern Ukraine, to prevent its suppression by the Central authorities of the country. Everything else can be subject to political agreements designed to mitigate the foreign situation and reduce the pressure on the Russian economy. The chance for such an agreement now looks real — the more important it is not to be missed.

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