No, an open war between Ukraine and Russia does not expect the slavist Ulrich Schmid. “But like Bismarck, Putin will not hesitate to fight a bounded or secret battle to achieve his political goals.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov will meet on Friday in Gen. Their consultations follow a series of talks between Russia and the United States, NATO and the organisation for security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The aim is to reduce the tension around Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden predicted a Russian invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday. He expects Russian president Vladimir Putin to take that step, despite the major economic consequences of such an incursion on Russia. Ukrainian intelligence warned of a Russian invasion through Belarus.

The US and NATO have suspected Russia for several months of preparing an attack on Ukraine. Russia has stationed 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine. With these troops, Russia is putting pressure on the West. The Kremlin is demanding no less than a ban on NATO membership for Ukraine, Georgia, Finland and Sweden, and no NATO activities in the Eastern European member states.

“In the summer of 2020, Russian president Vladimir Putin wrote the article “the real lessons of World War II”. In it, he indicated that the permanent members of the Security Council should decide on all questions of world politics. Those permanent members are Russia, the United States, China, France and Great Britain,” says Dr. Ulrich Schmid, who is a slavist and professor of Russian culture and society at the University of St. Petersburg. Gallen in Switzerland.

Schmid adds that this concretely ” means that the Kremlin can veto almost every major issue. On the other hand, the Western position is that every state is sovereign and that every country can decide for itself who it joins. Putin wants to go back to the time when NATO’s expansion to the East had not yet taken place. The Russian president said this openly. If NATO goes into this, the organization might as well disband immediately.”

The Swiss Russia specialist states that NATO in the past disagreed among themselves about the membership of Georgia and Ukraine. “The United States was in favor, France and Germany were against. At the 2008 NATO summit, a compromise text was then drawn up: Georgia and Ukraine were to become members, but a date on which this should be done was not mentioned. In 2008 and 2014, Russia conducted military operations against Georgia and Ukraine to prevent further integration into NATO.”

In politics and in diplomacy, in negotiations it is give and take, but Russia only wants to take.

“The Russians make their demands, for example, via the internet. That’s too bizarre for words. The main requirement is that Ukraine should never become a NATO member. At the moment that is not even possible, because Ukraine does not control its own territory. In the foreseeable future, Ukraine will not become a member.

Moreover, it is not Ukraine that threatens to invade Russia. The reverse is at issue. As early as 2014, the Russian army has been conducting covert operations in eastern Ukraine. It is clear that the Ukrainian army is not able to recapture the territories. The Russian army will take care of that.”

If a compromise is not possible, will there be a war or a limited invasion?

“A war is unlikely. The Kremlin has always been careful not to be a war party. Russia denies having participated as a warring party in the military conflicts in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014. Russia calls the war in Georgia the Georgia conflict. Russia does not see itself as a war party and neither does it in Ukraine. That image would ruin Putin if he officially invades the country and he does not want that.”

The Russian people are against a war against Ukraine, Schmid said this week in an interview with the Neue Zurcher Zeitung. “In almost every Russian family there is a Ukrainian grandmother.”A war would bring down Putin’s low popularity even further.

What does Putin want to achieve?

“Putin may have an eye on the armament of Kaliningrad, the former K ②nigsberg in East Prussia. If the West protests against this, because the enclave is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, Russia can say: “you have not responded to our demands. Now we do not take into account your sensitivities.” But a secret operation is also possible.”

In Ukraine?

“Yes, but again, he will not fight an open battle. To mention one more point: that would mean the end of Nord Stream 2, the pipeline that supplies Europe with Russian gas. Putin does not want that. In addition, in a war against Ukraine, Finland and Sweden will want to join NATO. This is counterproductive for Russia.”

Putin also talks about historical Russian rights to Ukraine?

“That’s a historical story. Then you arrive at the grand Principality of Kiev. Is that the forerunner of the Russian or of the Ukrainian state? That is a sensitive point of contention between Russian and Ukrainian historians.

In any case, you can not trace the present States back to the medieval forerunners. What you see Putin doing is that he is mobilizing Russian history to get support from the people. Central to this is the idea that Russia is a great power that occasionally wants to demonstrate its power in the world.

You can compare Putin with the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Just As Bismarck united Germany and made the country great, Putin sees himself as the leader who unites Russia and helps it to New Greatness. With the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 Bismarck conquered Alsace and Lorraine from France. That raises associations with Crimea. To achieve his political goals, Putin does not hesitate to wage a bounded or secret war.”

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