With the backdrop of the Russia hysteria in the American media and negotiations proceeding over a variety of issues between the Kremlin and the White House, the miserable, frozen conflict of East Ukraine is once again a pawn in the great game between world powers.
This week, Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Donbass, declared a new state of “Malorossiya” or “Little Russia” in the rebel-controlled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. He also declared the new state will include other parts of Ukraine, in essence mimicking the Little Russia of imperial times, the entire Ukrainian territory.
“The situation has reached a dead end. We propose the plan of the reintegration of the country in order to stop civil war, we discussed the situation and came to the conclusion that Ukraine has shown itself to be failed state,” said Mr. Zakharchenko.
Although the government in Kiev and the leader of Luhansk quickly dismissed such claims, the viability of this new state is not the issue. The issue is the announcement was done on Russian television. Nothing happens on Russian television without the Kremlin’s approval.
In other words, this announcement, right before upcoming talks on the status of the Minsk Accords, the failing cease-fire that both sides have ignored in recent months leading to more deaths almost daily, was not an accident. As before, the Kremlin is using East Ukraine as a pawn for leverage in its ongoing negotiations with the West.
There are many things to settle between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump.
First, there is the issue of the diplomatic compounds President Obama seized as punishment for Russian meddling in the 2016 American presidential election. No mention at the time was given about American meddling in the 2012 Russian election, of course. Mr. Obama knew all along Moscow was attempting to damage the credibility of our electoral process. It was only when Mr. Trump looked to become president that Mr. Obama enacted these sanctions, among others in order to tie Mr. Trump’s hands. Mr. Obama was never about American national security, only about defeating his enemies and pursuing an agenda, but that’s for another column.
For its part, the Trump administration has declared they would like to move the relationship with Russia forward but want something in return. This didn’t sit well with the Kremlin. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called it a “daylight robbery.” The American Congress and the corrupt media, colluding with the Deep State, are hellbent to stop any progress between the two countries, looking to tie Mr. Trump’s hands with constant leaks coming out of the West Wing.
Also on the table is the eventual removal of economic sanctions against Russia that have crippled its economy, further strengthening of NATO on Russia’s borders, and the establishment of “deconfliction zones” and a cease-fire in Syria.
In this light, the “announcement” about Malorossiya makes perfect sense. The Kremlin is just reminding the West that it can cause serious havoc and instability in this corner of the world very easily. Russia could turn on the weapons shipments and military support in the blink of an eye and Europe could once again be involved in a full-blown, hot shooting war.
Officials in the Kiev government stated the “Little Russia” announcement would likely torpedo the upcoming peace talks on finding a solution to the war in Donbass. This is likely true. The Kremlin will not allow the conflict to be solved until they get what they want, which is control of the threat from the “near abroad,” or Russia’s borderlands with Western Europe.
Mr. Putin is an experienced geopolitical player. The Trump administration is not. It is obvious the “Russia collusion” narrative the media is pushing is false and politically motivated.
However, East Ukraine, South Ossetia and other “frozen conflicts” are very real and they will test the Trump administration’s competence in looking out for America’s interests first, while finding a way to reduce tensions with Moscow.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.