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Recently in Sochi took place the annual meeting of Valdai discussion club. During the club meetings Russian political and economic experts, government officials are discussing the main trends of international relations, global problems and their solutions. Russian media presents club Valdai as a "think tank" that provides Russian vision of contemporary international order to the world community. And often ideas voiced in the framework of these activities are reflected in the foreign and internal policy of the country. The highlight of the club meetings program usually is the speech of President Vladimir Putin.
Last year, the so-called "Valdai speech" of the Kremlin boss was full of aggressive rhetoric, amounted to the fact that Russia has a right to refuse to "play by existing rules" of international order in favor of their own interests and for the sake of struggle against US domination in the world. This year, Vladimir Putin in his speech and answers to some questions from the audience tried to create impression that Russia is not a threat to international security and is ready for a constructive dialogue with Ukraine and the West.
Dust in the eyes of the West
This time Vladimir Putin during a meeting of Valdai club tried to defuse tensions with the West in order to avoid new sanctions. Putin tried to throw dust in the eyes of the US and the EU, to convince Western partners that Russia supposedly bears no threat to international security. According to him, the armed forces of NATO member countries and the Russian Federation are not equal, the Russian propaganda is inferior to the influence of the US media, and can’t influence the opinion of US citizens. He supported Ukraine's proposal to introduce the OSCE armed police mission in Donbas and to include the US in Normandy format negotiations.
Kremlin fears of tightening of anti-Russian sanctions. Existing Western sanctions and Russian counter sanctions have caused significant losses of Russian economy. According to the Russian edition Vedomosti, Russia from 2014 to 2017 would lose $ 280 billion, and has already lost $ 85 billion of direct investments. Within two years of the food embargo, food prices have risen more than 30%.
In the case of introduction of additional restrictive measures, Russian Federation would suffer great economic losses. During the last summit of the European Council it was decided to extend the anti-Russian sanctions. In December European Council will review the possibility of introducing new sanctions against Russia if the Kremlin will not stop shelling positions of Syrian opposition. US will not lift sanctions as long as the Russian Federation does not comply with the Minsk agreement.
Using the Finnish scenario?
It is no coincidence that during the Valdai club meeting, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia is ready to resume the direct supply of natural gas to Ukraine for $ 180 per 1,000 cubic meters on a prepayment basis. According to him, Ukraine now buys overcharged Russian natural gas at $ 330 in the reverse mode through the EU. The owner of the Kremlin in the spirit of great-power chauvinists stressed that "Ukrainians and Russians are one nation, one history, one culture, ethnically very close.” The phrase "one nation" can be perceived as a prospect to the formation of political and economic alliance.
If Ukraine agrees to make concessions to Russia, it will not be able to restore its territorial integrity, as Finland failed to do it in case with the Soviet Union. Even if Ukraine will join the Customs Union, Russia will not return Crimea that Russian society from ancient times considers its own territory. Otherwise, Russian current government will lose the ratings among its own citizens. General Secretary of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev, who transferred Crimea to the USSR because of purely economic reasons, is not popular in Russia. Vladimir Putin and the future Russian leadership is not interested in inheriting his image.
It is doubtful that Russia will maintain a clear game in Donbas. Devastated after military operations Donetsk and Luhansk regions will become the strongholds of Russian chauvinists and former terrorists. The Kremlin insists on maintaining their power on eastern territories for political pressure on Kyiv. The pro-Russian Donbas even in peace will raise the issue of independence as soon as action of the official Kyiv will begin to diverge from the point of view of the Kremlin.
The only effective means of compulsion Russia to peace on terms favorable to Ukraine, it will be a continuation of the Russian economy exhaustion due to the strengthening of sanctions. The introduction of an oil embargo by the West. Reducing import of Russian natural gas by the EU member states. It is the only way to deprive the Kremlin of funds for geopolitical escapades implementation in the future and to destabilize the socio-economic and political situation in the Federation.