News / Europe

Putin Strategy With Ukrainian Separatists Differs From Crimea

Putin Strategy With Ukrainian Separatists Differs from Crimeai
Scott Stearns
April 23, 2014 5:25 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin's approach to pro-Russian militants destabilizing southern and eastern Ukraine differs from his strategy on Crimea, where Russian forces took a more active role in breaking away the peninsula from Kyiv. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns looks at what is behind the change.
Putin Strategy With Ukrainian Separatists Differs from Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin's approach to pro-Russian militants destabilizing southern and eastern Ukraine differs from his strategy on Crimea, where Russian forces took a more active role in breaking away the peninsula from Kyiv.

Massing Russian soldiers along the Ukrainian border mirrors the troop build-up that preceded Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Putin appears to have a different approach, however, to Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the southern and eastern provinces, some of whom want him to send troops to protect them.

American University professor Keith Darden said Putin sees those separatists not as future Russians, but more as a lever to influence what happens in Ukraine.

"Whereas Crimea he saw as a strategic asset that was important to pull away, the strategic value of the south and the east of Ukraine is within Ukraine as a bulwark against Kyiv turning further to the West, joining NATO, engaging more actively with the European Union. So he wants to keep them in Ukraine but more powerful," said Darden.

Separatists in Donetsk are planning a Crimea-like referendum on leaving Ukraine.

Denis Pushilin, one of the separatist leaders, said, "The referendum will make it possible for us to build a relationship with any other country, federalization or non-federalization, or just to gain independence."

Federalism is the most likely way Moscow would seek to maintain its hold on Russian-speakers in the south and east. Such an outcome, though, would give up far too much to Putin, according to Heritage Foundation researcher Ariel Cohen.

"What is really federalization of Ukraine? Federalization of Ukraine is rendering Ukraine impotent as a nation state.  It is dictating a constitutional change to a neighboring country. And I am wondering what would federalization mean for Russia itself?" asks Cohen.

The Russian leader maintains that all Ukrainians should be free to choose their future, dismissing criticism that Moscow imposed the referendum on Crimea that led to annexation.  

"If we are being honest and objective, then it will be clear to everyone that it is impossible to force people from their houses, their apartments under a gun and make them go to a polling station to vote," said Putin.

Putin said he is open to resuming normal relations with the West. He also said there can be no comparing Kyiv's actions against pro-Russian separatists today with Moscow's campaign against Chechen separatists in the 1990s.

"In the North Caucasus we were faced with an aggression by international terrorism. Those were properly-formed, well-prepared gangs supplied and armed from abroad. That is a big difference," said Putin.

Reagan Administration Soviet advisor John Lenczowski said Putin's approach in Ukraine is rife with Soviet-era tactics.

"Moscow is paranoid. This was a classic Soviet strategic deception theme," said Lenczowski. "It is designed to get everybody in the West to believe that we have to handle Moscow with kid gloves. 'We cannot provoke them too much, we cannot resist what they're doing or else it will provoke them and make things worse.'"

Russia says its troops along the border are not meant to interfere in Ukraine and are there only as a precaution against any spillover of violence.

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Comment Sorting
by: Brent from: California
April 24, 2014 11:32 AM
Russia is a nuclear power, but not a true superpower. Their economy is too one-dimensional and easy to crash. Their conventional military is not all that well-trained or well-equipped, certain "showcase" formations excepted. They can intimidate their neighbors, except China, as they are a fairly strong regional power in terms of ground forces. Force projection overseas is not something they can do like the USA, though. With the Special Relationship between the US and the UK, and the forces of NATO, Russia cannot intimidate the West.

Putin likes to act like he is a true world player, but in reality he is a corrupt money-grabbing populist who has stolen vast sums of cash from his nation, along with his inner circle of weasels. If he did not have nukes, he would be ignored, and then spanked when he gets out of line. His nukes make him able to command a bit of attention, but he knows he cannot use them. In the end he is going to do what he always does - bluff and grab whatever he can steal on the cheap. That goes for cash and for land.

He is a laugh using the same type of logic & excuses that Hitler did for moving into the Sudetenland. The only worry is that he pushes too far, like Saddam Hussein did, and end up crossing the line & attacking a NATO formation when he moves on Ukraine. That will end badly for him, but will also require Western nations to be resolute, and we need to be ready for it.

by: gen from: Japan
April 24, 2014 5:56 AM
The separatists seems to change The extremist.They seems to be extremists like Ukraine right secter nationalists.
Ukraine interim government ,USA,
the easten separatists and the ukraine right secters,everybody seems to want Russia to come over the boder of Ukraine.Everybody calls for Russia army.
But I think Russia don' need use their forces.Both The western and eastern sepratists are terrorists. They will have no
choice but to wage bloodshed civil war between the twe.The Ukraine would collapse on their way.Russia would not help the extremists and criminals and Ukraine kiev begger govenment.Russia is one of superpowers in the world.They would not touch childish skirmishs in Ukraine. I think that all Russian have to do is to help the eastern pro-russian ordinary people after the collapse of Ukraine.

by: Brent from: California
April 23, 2014 4:18 PM
Time to ready ourselves for war. That runt Putin is going to push the world into WWIII. He has already caused CWII - as in Cold War II. What a disturbed little dictator.
In Response

by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet - Africa
April 24, 2014 4:03 AM
Stand against the selfish interest of the West, you are a Dictator. Tilt in favour of the West, you are Democratic. Yes! Why not? Mind you, the world is no longer a puppet. It is very unfortunate that the "power holding gang of Ukraine" are so primitive that they can't read the hand writing on the wall - highly dependency! It is also no doubt that this power holding gang are Gays. So, the West love them and sooner than later, the West would start DICTATING for Ukraine what life styles and culture they MUST adopt. Then WHO IS A DICTATOR?

Now, Former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole has said that U.S. should send weapons, including tanks, to Ukraine, LOL. Imagine a dieing old man saying such. This shows how war mongering the US is. Then Ukraine, when weapons and tanks are sent to you, what does it mean to you... ? Absolute senseless!! Which Military is going to use it? And against who? Is it the Military that is giving sides to the Pro-Russians or is it for the demoralised Military of Ukraine? Do you think that sodiers are fools? Absolutely NO! There is no way the bloody civilians would continue to rubbish the government and expect them to go in and start fighting for them - old story! The Military is full of Coup d'état and counter Coup d'état, then what is happening today with the so-called Democracy? The forceful removal of legitimate and democratically elected president, is it not Coup d'état?

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