Turkish President Erdogan, who recently visited Putin in Sochi, traveled to Lviv on a peacekeeping and mediation mission to meet with Zelensky and the UN Secretary General. I can’t remember another occasion when I wished the Turkish leader’s success with the same passion.
In order to understand what is at stake at the moment, it is enough to read the news that “competes” in the reports of news agencies with stories about the Turkish guest’s trip: “The Russian Defense Ministry warned that Kyiv was preparing a provocation at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.”
However, in politics, the concepts of “wish” and “hope” are sometimes very far in their semantic content from the concept of “really count on something.” It is in Erdogan’s power to achieve tactical breakthroughs in negotiations (and this will also be a great achievement). But strategically, the conflict in Uk-raine — and the underlying wider conflict between Russia and the West — will definitely move into 2023. And where 2023 is, 2024 is not far away – and further on the calendar.
One of the most prestigious and respected publications in the United States, The Washington Post has just published a very large and lengthy article describing the background of the current round of conflict in Ukraine. Among other juicy details there is a colorful episode.
On January 21 this year, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Russian Fo-reign Minister Sergei Lav-rov met in Geneva. An hour and a half of negotiations in the format of delegations turned out to be fruitless, and, as the newspaper writes, “it seemed that there was nothing more to talk about.” But Blinken decided to make one last attempt and asked Lavrov for a one-on-one conversation.
“Two ministers entered a small room next to the conference room and closed the door behind them… Outlining the Ukrainian situation again, Blinken stopped and asked: “Sergei, tell me what are you really trying to achieve?”
Are we really talking about the same security concerns that Russia has raised over and over again – NATO’s advance towards Russia’s borders and the perceived military threat? Or is it really about Putin’s almost theological belief that Ukraine is and has always been part of Mother Russia?
Without giving any answer, Lavrov opened the door and walked away.
I am sure that the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, if asked about it, will describe this episode in a completely different way: not only Americans know how to use phrases like “almost theological faith.” But the words “without giving any answer, he opened the door and walked away” very well characterize the current state of relations between Russia and the collective West (in political terms, official Kyiv can be considered, if not a part, then an appendage of this collective West).
Neither side is ready to agree on something solid, permanent and sustainable. There is simply no room for a compromise that would more or less (or even just less) suit everyone. Instead, each side is determined to keep pushing.
Moscow is set to give Europe a “fun winter” with energy shortages and the resulting economic and political problems. The West is determined to accelerate the rearmament and re-equipment of the forces of official Kyiv. Even if in autumn and winter, as some experts predict, there will be a relative or even absolute lull in the war zone (as you know, it’s not harmful to dream), in the spring everything will most likely resume with renewed vigor.
Of course, any forecasts are now “shots in the dark.” And this prediction is no exception. I will say more, I really want him not to justify himself. But in the R-ussian and foreign expert c-ommunity, the scenario of dragging out the conflict (or its purely temporary and tactical termination) is incr-easingly perceived as the main one.
Does all this make Erdogan’s efforts Sisyphean labor? In no case. As I already wrote, even a confrontation must be controlled – obey certain rules. The leader of Turkey is the only politician capable of providing at least a relative amount of this manageability. And the fact that it does not sit idly by, but acts, is very good. The main thing now is not to overestimate expectations. The slogan of the student street riots in Paris in May 1968 “Be realistic – demand the impossible!” in August 2022, unfo-rtunately, it does not work.