September 6, 2019

Stable Ukrainian-Russian peace impossible until Putin is convicted of war crimes


Many have been speculating about what steps Russia and Ukraine must make to achieve a stable peace, but in nearly every case, they ignore the fundamental reality that Ukraine is a victim of Russian aggression and Moscow can’t be counted on to refrain from further aggression unless Putin is convicted of war crimes, says analyst Yuriy Shulipa.

The director of Kyiv’s Institute of National Policy says that one must begin any assessment of Russian-Ukrainian relations with that fact and also that what is taking place now is “a continuation of the existential struggle between Kyivan Rus’ and the Golden Horde,” between a country looking toward Europe and one part of Asia (

It is deceptive and wrong, Mr. Shulipa argues, to describe the current situation as “a conflict” between the two countries. “Legally and factually, Ukraine is a victim of Russian military, political and other aggression, and Russia is an aggressor country.”

More specifically, he suggests, “the root of the current problem… is very simple… After the disintegration of the USSR, part of the citizens of Russia and a very small part of the citizens of Ukraine suffered phantom pains from that event; and it seemed to them that the USSR was alive and Ukraine should thus remain up to now subordinate to Moscow.”

“Until the victory of Kyiv’s Euro-Maidan,” Mr. Shulipa says, “Ukraine in large measure continued to remain a Muscovite political and economic colony.” Moscow “applied the doctrine of limited sovereignty” to Ukraine, and Kyiv had only as much authority as Moscow wanted to give.

What this means, the Ukrainian analyst says, is that at least until 2014 with respect to Ukraine, “the USSR did not fall apart completely but only partially. The victory of the Euro-Maidan led to the exit of Ukraine from under the colonial influence of Moscow” and the resumption of its pursuit of a European future.

Moscow couldn’t tolerate this and so launched its war of aggression against Ukraine under the pretext of “defending the Russian language population” of Ukraine, Mr. Shulipa continues. “For the senior Russian leadership, seeing next to it a flourishing democratic state was equivalent to death.”

Vladimir Putin in particular was frightened by the murder of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and “really is afraid of the overthrow of his regime as the result of a Russian Maidan.” And to prevent those outcomes, Mr. Shulipa says, the Kremlin leader launched and continues his war of aggression against Ukraine.

As a result, the Ukrainian analyst says, “Ukraine, the victim of Russian aggression, and Russia, the aggressor, have nothing in common,” except their common state borders, which Russia continues to violate. Peace between them can only be approached if the Budapest Memorandum is enforced and if Russia is so weakened that it heads toward collapse.

But even these things “will not provide a guarantee that Russia’s aggression in one or another forms will end in the future.” That will require that Mr. Putin and his senior aides be tried and convicted in an international court of crimes against humanity and crimes of war. Only that will allow a rapprochement of the two countries.

But even if that occurs, Mr. Shulipa continues, it must be remembered that the two countries are on very different trajectories. “Ukraine is moving in the future toward the construction of a law-based democratic state of the Central European type and toward integration in European and international institutions.”

Russia, in contrast, “is heading toward the past, toward a hybrid syncretic Stalinist-Nicholayevan empire” dominated by a dictator and hostile to the values and norms of civilized countries. Ultimately, that isn’t sustainable and Russia will collapse even as Ukraine strengthens economically and politically.

When the Russian Federation disintegrates, Rostov, Voronezh, Belgorod, Kursk, Bryansk, Kaluga, Moscow, Yaroslavl, Smolensk and Tver oblasts, as well as others, may join Ukraine, while “the rest of Russia’s regions, for example, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Mordvinia and others” will go their own way, Mr. Shulipa writes.

In sum, the Ukrainian analyst says, “the stabilization of relations of Russia and Ukraine are impossible not only now but in the long-term perspective.”


Paul Goble is a long-time specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia who has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau, as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The article above is reprinted with permission from his blog called “Window on Eurasia” (