In a new development over the weekend, the Kremlin has started to officially recognize passports issued by separatists authorities in eastern Ukraine. Despite claims from the Ukrainian government in Kiev that Russia’s recognition of east Ukrainian passports violates the Minsk agreement, Russia contends that this is a ‘humanitarian’ move seeking to help those stuck in eastern Ukraine.
According to Dimitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, “These aren’t the documents of an officially recognized state. They are de facto issued on the territory.”
Why would the Kremlin make such a move? If Russia is so concerned with the humanitarian conditions on the ground in Donetsk and Luhansk, then the Kremlin would withdraw its forces from Ukraine and bring an end to the fighting.
But the Kremlin is not interested in bringing an end to the fighting.
In a move that’s in keeping with Russia’s foreign policy of creating ‘cold conflicts’ throughout its so-called near-abroad, President Putin has escalated the situation in eastern Ukraine to acquire additional bargaining chips that can be used in future negotiations. Such a strategy is very adept as it is a way for the Kremlin to get favorable outcomes in future bargaining scenarios without giving up meaningful concessions.
In this case, Russia now recognizes eastern Ukrainian passports, which in absolute terms means very little, but in relative terms it means a great deal. They are gains in a relative sense because in the future, Russia can walk-back its transgressions as a sign of good faith even though Russia was the one to create this situation in the first place.
Nevertheless, the Kremlin will continue to layer its foreign policy consisting of ‘fiat accompli’ like actions with seemingly small unrelated actions (like recognizing passports) to hedge its future negotiations with Western powers. But when reading about Russia’s actions abroad it is important to remember that Russia, Moscow, President Putin are all trying to fool us. They are trying to make the West think that Russia is the mediator in any given situation when in fact, Russia is the instigator. As a way to project Russia’s ‘power’ it has simultaneously created and then tried to solve various international incidents around the world. At every chance, the rest of the world should use their voice to call out President Putin on his duplicitous foreign policy.