"Putin already benefits from the war in Gaza"

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In the preface of The Russian-Ukrainian war (Peninsula Ed.), Ukrainian historian Serhii Plokhy remembers how on February 24, 2022 he carefully chose his clothes. The Russian invasion came to Vienna. He had a job, and he remembered what the American diplomat George F. Kennan did when he learned of Hitler's attack on Czechoslovakia. He arranged himself carefully, as if to say that, whatever happened, he was determined to resist. The prestigious Harvard professor captures that resistance in a detailed book that details how Putin's imperial impetus has led Europe to the largest military conflict since World War II.

The sovereignty and integrity of post-Soviet states depends on them remaining allies of Moscow. Was this the original Ukrainian sin or was the breakup earlier?

The agreements for the recognition of the borders between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Ukraine were signed before the fall of the USSR, but Russia later questioned their legitimacy, saying that they would only recognize them if Ukraine was in some form part of the USSR or part of the Union of Independent States. This formulation was withdrawn in 1998 when there was a new agreement on borders. But the reality is that thinking about recognizing any state to exist or any border in Moscow depends on that state being part of the Russian sphere of influence. This is what we see, for example, in Belarus: it is completely under Russian control and Russia does not question its existence or that of its borders. Ukraine decided to go its own way and leave that sphere and immediately afterwards the existence of Ukraine as a nation and the question of the legitimacy of Ukrainian borders began to be questioned and we see the formal integration of parts of Ukraine within a new amendment to the Russian constitution . The comparison between Ukraine and Belarus tells you a lot about if you are not independent, Russia is willing to recognize your independence, but if you want to be really independent you get into trouble.

Do you think that the weak response of Western states, especially European ones, led to the war?

I believe that if the response to the annexation of Crimea had been stronger, the current war would not have broken out. The attitude in 2014 was that it was illegitimate but Russians are the majority of the population, so perhaps it was just an exception. Then Russia supported the separatists who, using Russian weapons, blew up the Malaysian Airlines plane with European citizens on board and from there Europe began to move and introduce sanctions. Even after the start of the war one of Germany's navy commanders was quoted as saying that the only thing needed to solve the problem was to show Putin "respect." That was the reflection of the thinking in many European countries. The responsibility always lies with the aggressor, let's be clear, but the appeasing position of the EU helped make this war possible. It created a situation in which Putin thought that the EU response would be ineffective and short-lived judging by what happened after the annexation of Crimea.

Is Ukraine doomed to be a cushion state in perpetuity?

Ukraine is on the border but the best scenario for Ukraine as well as for Europe would be for Ukraine to be included in the European strategy because if it continues as a cushion state that means gray areas and more uncertainty and security gaps and the two parties will try in some way to interfere in your favor. So the geographical situation of Ukraine is not going to change, but the political geography is changing. Ukraine today has one of the most capable armies in the world, battlefield experience that no other army has and that is an asset for its change of role.

When you say integrate into the European strategy, do you mean the EU or also NATO?

I'm talking about both. It may not happen tomorrow but that is the trend. I think there is an understanding that once the war is over the doors will be open, also for NATO. Given the tendency for gray areas to disappear, that is the trend.

“A successful counteroffensive without aircraft or long-range missiles is magical thinking”

Winter arrives and the counteroffensive stalls.

Russia has learned from its defeats. On the Ukrainian side, morale remains high, but they are having difficulty obtaining the military equipment they need from Western allies. Washington accuses Berlin, Berlin accuses Washington... It would be funny if it weren't so tragic. The West lives in a kind of magical thinking. First he miscalculated Russian military power. And after the Ukrainian success, it has entered another phase in which a successful counteroffensive is expected without aircraft and without long-range missiles. It was magical thinking. And the magic hasn't happened.

There is talk of Ukrainian fatigue in Washington and in Europe. Without progress and with the US elections approaching, do you fear that Zelensky will have difficulties obtaining resources?

He timing It is not in favor of the Ukrainians or the coalition. Spring and summer next year will be decisive. I don't foresee support disappearing completely, but the risk of a significant decline at a time when Russia is increasing its capabilities is real, not just for Ukraine. At stake here is not only respect for the international order or the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine. This is a war of a democratic country against an authoritarian country. Democracy is in danger not only on the Ukrainian battlefront, but also in Washington, in European capitals... The war in Ukraine is also an internal matter.

Does the new war between Israel and Gaza benefit Putin?

He has already done it. On the one hand, she distracts attention. On the other hand, the resources of the allies are limited and it has already been published that some defensive weapons that were going to be sent to Ukraine will now go to Israel. As if this were not enough, it also helps Putin reinforce his role in the Global South, where support for Ukraine has always been partial and Ukraine's message that it was fighting the empire has not been taken seriously. For much of the Global South, anti-imperialism is associated with the West, and the war in Ukraine does not fit into that paradigm. Now, with the war in Israel and the West supporting it, any support there may be is eroding.

We are heading into a difficult phase of the conflict...

We will see clearer divisions. Israel's war has contributed to increasing the gap between countries that support Ukraine and those that are in solidarity with Russia. This is not good news for either Israel or Palestine. And they are very bad for Ukraine.

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