The Carnegie Endowment held a call on the latest in the Ukraine crisis with Balázs Jarábik, Dmitri Trenin, Andrew S. Weiss, and Richard Youngs.

This transcript has not been checked against delivery.

ANDREW WEISS:    Good morning, everyone, it’s Andrew Weiss in Washington. I think everyone’s online, so why don’t we get started.  I know it’s a very busy news day.  I’d ask if you could mute your line until, we start the question period.  

I’m joined on this call today by three esteemed colleagues.  We have Dmitri Trenin from Moscow, the Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.  We have Balasz Jarabik whose Carnegie’s lead Ukraine Watcher who’s based in the region, and Richard Youngs from Carnegie Brussels, Carnegie Europe Office in Brussels who’s a leading expert on the European Union.

We’re gonna very quickly I think do sort of three or four minutes at the top from each of us describing the situation at which, the point we’re at today which obviously is very fluid and moving really quickly.  And then, we’ll turn things over to you guys for questions, and my hope is we’ll really have the bulk of this call be, be focused on the discussion, so with that maybe Balasz if you could just quickly bring us up to date on what’s happening with these reports of a possible change in the diplomatic atmosphere between Putin and Poroshenko and the reversals on the battle field in Eastern Ukraine.

BALASZ JARABIK:    Sure and thank you for having me and at least to everyone.  Let me put forward four trends from a Ukrainian perspective. I think these are the key ones.  

Number one the country’s trying to digest the defeat in ___.  I have to remind everyone they’re still have, we, we have no exact information about the casualties and what exactly happened. There is some semi-confirmed numbers, so at least captured Ukrainian soldiers which is up to 700. There are rumors for at least 100, oh, of death soldiers, and it seems to be, seems to everyone, have a ___.  

Also in conjunction with that I think I found at least, very symbolic that, the most powerful and __, battalions, but don’t ___ the battalion has ___ took of his mask yesterday, which I kind of, seeing as the Ukrainians already believed the battalions as well as with the for a cease fire.

The second trend is the increase number of negotiations and talks.  It was a big mixed, mixed meeting.  There was a Minsk, contact group.  Yesterday, there are ___ Rus ___ in Moscow ___ from reminder of ___ to ponder dollar discount to Ukraine.  And there are now an increased number of Poroshenko-Putin phone calls, and this is I think, um, these two trends could it be key.

There was obviously there’s some controversy today after the call whether there’s a cease fire or not.  What I see, it’s also a kind of diplomatic trap for the Poroshenko administration.  They announced it, and then, later on, the Putin administration denied, but basically they wanted to be in line with their, with their line that there’s no Russia as a party in the Ukrainian ___.

The third is, it was clear that there’s no western military support.  Ukraine I think there is a growing, in Kiev at least, there’s a growing disappointment about the very big respond.  And I have to actually add that this is not only the west is failing to mobilize the troops, but they’re failing to mobilize the necessary cash at the I think key trend in Ukraine that, the people are increasingly looking for what the government is gonna do about the upcoming economic and social crisis.

I mean Ukraine is essentially broke, the current time of plan is, is, it’s far from enough they’re ___ building a new Ukraine, and it’s an additional $19 billion at least not mentioning the, the, the coast of Donbas.  So, I think, what we also seen the third, the fourth thing is as the split in the society, I see boarding numbers now that Ukrainians have the 73 percent of the Ukrainians would like to have peace, so the key priority, in the peace settlement, but that, that, meaning this 57 are for the immediate cessation of the anti-terrorist operation.

There’s still many that you know like if the Ukrainians are split, what exactly that, that peace, could be achieved, and, and there are still many Ukrainians who are actually continuing, the fight e, especially it’s everyone I, I know and talk, eh, thinks that this is obviously, the Russians invading Ukraine.  So there is - I’m ___, um, in the ___,

And allow me just, just to add conclusion.  There’s actually very interesting thing; I talked to one of my friends who were in the school, and, and they were trying to you know set up the school with asking you know not, not to bring any flowers but chip in for the anti-terrorist operation.  So this is a very strong feeling at least in Kiev.

The conclusion is that, that, that the Russians will ___ any peace settlement will, will ___ Asia ___.  I’m afraid that, that, the Ukrainian split over a peace settlement, is not gonna go away.  Yulia Tymoshenko, get back on the limelight.  Obviously, she’s gonna represent the radical opposition toward or against any peace settlement, and even if there’s gonna be a kind of normal peace settlement between, between the rebels and Kiev, the split in the society is unlikely to disappear.

This is also mean that in the upcoming elections in October, Ukrainian may un, end up with a highly divided parliament which further weaken the already shaky central authority.  Thank you.

ANDREW WEISS:    Great.  Thanks so much Balasz. Dimitri, can you talk about a little bit about, this news this morning about six point peace plan, and, and how the Putin Poroshenko call looks to you?

DMITRI TRENIN:    Well, thank you, Andrew.  Um, I guess, um, a couple of weeks ago the question on a lot of people’s mind was whether Mr. Putin could afford a defeat of the, rebels in, um, Donetsk.  I think that, the answer to that question was and I think it is with hindsight we can say that he could afford it, but he chose not to.

So he refused to accept the insurgents defeat.  He put his finger on a scale of the battle in Donetsk.  He helped defeat the Ukrainian government forces. He, um, made Ukraine ready at least as it seems today for a cease fire in Donbas.  A cease fire is, in my view an important victory for Russia, and, um, having secured a cease fire if it, if it actually goes through, Russia will be bargaining from a position of strength, using the domestic political situation in Ukraine, the economic plight of the country, the social consequences from that plight, um, that, Balasz so vividly described just a minute ago.

As to Putin’s, seven point plan, I think it’s something that, um, have been discussed, for some time. Certainly, um, as late as or as early as, late July, August, people were talking about the various formats for a cease fire.  Um, they, they all look, pretty, those issues look pretty technical to me.  

It means that, Mr. Putin clearly did not as he put it jot down the outline of a cease fire plan, on route to Ulan Bator where he arrived on a visit, but, it had been in the works for quite some time.  And, Mr. Putin would be celebrating a major technical victory today.

ANDREW WEISS:    Thanks, Dimitri.  Um, I’ll, I’ll just add a couple of thoughts from Washington about how the situation looks, um, before turning over to Richard.  I think it’s obviously very hard for a traveling White House having worked in one to response in real time to real fast moving situations, especially now when we had this other parallel crisis unfolding in the Middle East.  

Um, people by now have probably seen the President’s comments in Estonia this morning where he made some sort of tentative remarks about this possible cease fire agreement, and I, I assume that that’s all gonna be, sort of change over time over the course of the day.  And the President should be speaking any moment now in a more formal address.

I think overall though the White House is not thrilled to have this split screen of the President actually on the ground in Europe amid the major reversals that we’re seeing in Eastern Ukraine in the sense that Putin has upper the ante and is starting to see an immediate, ch, you know overall change where a couple weeks ago we were talking about whether the Ukrainians were gonna be able to, to wraps things up and defeat the, the separatists in these two big strongholds.  

We’re now talking about a third front.  We’re talking about large scale losses for the Ukrainian military and for the paramilitary forces in Eastern Ukraine.  

Um, and then this other focus which obviously is, is the NATO Summit in Cardiff where I think on balance you know the, the alliance will do things that are, you know, important for its future longevity and for its vitality.  But overall I think it will look quite paltry in terms of dealing with the New Russian challenge to European security, and the fact that really isn’t a lot of consensus inside the alliance about what to do specifically about Ukraine.

There’s certainly no consensus inside the alliance about providing lethal military assistance.  I, I’d argue there’s probably not much consensus inside the U.S. government about that issue at the moment even though we’re, we’re moving in that direction.  

The focus in Cardiff will be on trying to show some kind of reassurance to the frontline countries to reassert the salinity of the article five commitment to their security while trying to pr, create some sort of consensus around new sanctions and penalties against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.  But the, the problem remains basically where it was, for the last several months which is time is not on Ukraine’s or the west side.  There’s no serious U.S. or EU, diplomatic track to resolve the crisis, non-militarily.

Um, the key will be the dynamic between Merkel and Obama, but we’re hitting a point potentially where this crisis spins out of control, and that, that’s been my fear which is this is looking more and more like the Balkans where you will have long-term instability.  This crisis could grind on for some months to come, or, you know, you know the idea that there’s gonna be sort of a neat and tidy resolution before the brutal winter sets in I think that to me it looks more and more losery.

Um, and as we’ve known throughout, Putin retains control over how this crisis will go.  He has the biggest stake potentially other than the Ukrainians obviously, and the biggest lever the number of levers in terms of how this crisis may further escalate.  

The Ukrainians are too weak to prevail militarily.  Poroshenko is hemmed in for a whole host of reasons which Balasz can touch upon in terms of domestic constituencies and the, the disappointment he had from his initial peace outreach.  His initial outreach and in unilateral cease fire was right after taking office.
    
The focus on sanctions, people by now I’m sure have seen yesterday’s reports about what kind new EU sanctions package might agreed as early as tomorrow, but nothing that’s on the table here is strong enough to change Putin’s calculus.  I also think we need a broader conversation about whether Putin himself is even influenceable even though that’s not really a word.  

And we’ve been sort of operating throughout that, that there’s this you know measure, set of measures diplomatic isolation or economic penalties that are gonna change as calculus.  I’m not really sure there is a set of measures like that the West is ever gonna be able to put on the table, and then, you know over time we are gonna see fraying of this western, unity over Russia, and you’ve already seen this in the statements from various central Europeans like the, the Slovaks and the Hungarians and the Czechs. There is you know there over time there’s gonna deep urge among our European partners to go back to business as usual or to seek some kind of resolution short of outright victory, so anyways let me turn things over to Richard, and then we’ll take your questions.

RICHARD YOUNGS:    Actually, entering what Andrew’s just said I think this is a very difficult moment for an EU perspective.  I think more of the insurgents were on the back foot some of the differences between member states were less apparent. I think they’re beginning to resurface now perhaps not so much in the question of sanctions. I think the difference is between member states who exist on sanctions, but I think particularly on, on two issues.  

First of all the question of direct of military support I think we will see some member states begin to push for this much more actively while others, um, are still very reticent to offer such support, and then, secondly, your question of whether the mediation track is a useful forward or not, and I think it’s revealing that some member states are beginning to put much more pressure on Poroshenko to accept a sensation of operations and to agree on a case fire while others think this, this should not be the main, stress as European policy.

I think it’s worth, pointing out though as well that the, the mediation track of course has been done, with Germany and France not the EU per se, and that’s beginning to cause some tensions amongst other members states.  So I think it’s a turning point.

The EU policy I think over the last month it perhaps looked as if Europeans governments wouldn’t have to face this really hard choice of actually what they’re willing to do protect Ukraine if it involves directly confronting Russia, or as I think now they’re perhaps coming out of that comfort zone. I think the answers will be very varied between different European, governments.

I think just one, one other point is worth pointing out, um, with the EU a lot of what is being it’s actually rather hidden from view.  It’s not the kind of things that, make it into the headlines.  The EU’s routinely made the point that where it can offer most influence is perhaps not in terms of the sanctions be it vis a vi Russia, but what it does to offer support to Ukraine on the ground.

And if there are things happening here, um, they’re not dra, dramatic or especially noted, but the association agreement has been signed, it’s being implemented.  EU is supposedly showing flexibility in a way that this is implemented being more flexible on conditions, offering funds.  There’s lots of new projects going on in decentralization, on bridge building between East and West.  There’s and apparently relatively productive dialogue with Russia on the free trade, um, area as well.

And but I think that the challenge is that there’s all this going on, but you have to show that this is actually, relevant in a tangible way to what’s happening at the moment in the Ukraine.  For example the EU, has dispatched its, security mission, but, again, this is not who I think to be of direct help in, in, in the current, situation.

ANDREW WEISS:    Great, thank you so much Richard.  Let’s turn to folks questions. You know I, I know it’s a very busy news day, so you know maybe we’ll, we’ll try to do another say 15, 20 minutes based on how many questions there are, but obviously, we’re prepared to go longer de, depending on your interests..

And then if you could just identify yourself before posing a question please.

MICHAEL PETROU:    Michael Petrou from MacLeans Magazine.  Is it all right if I get, I, I can push a little bit on a point that, Andrew and Balasz made regarding the yeah divides in the Ukraine society, and, and what the ramifications of that might be if and there some sort of formal cease fire even peace deal.  I mean would the majority of society accept that, and if they wouldn’t wh, what, what might that resolved in, o, on, on the ground?  Could the peace deal hold, or what might be, what might be, might we be looking at, unofficial, conflict, continuing in the East?

ANDREW WEISS:    Balasz you wanna, you wanna take that on?

BALASZ JARABIK:    Sure, um, just very quickly well issue is, is, not that much, not that much of a kind peace settlement of what’s kind of cease fire, the conditions of cease fire, but at this stage, just talk to rebels.  Say you know like if, if Kiev was, was waging an anti-terrorist operation, everyone in Kiev is calling them terrorists and not rebel separatists, so um, so from that viewpoint even, even, even talking to them, , which you know it’s happening in the contexts and formats where former President Kuchma is representing the Kiev government.  You know it’s always gonna be a big concession, um, on, on the side of, of the radical side of the Ukra, Ukrainian, society.

The other issue is that you know this is, the current situation appears to many as another ___, and the Ukrainians looking at ____ as a way as you know this is holding up, they, you, you know Moldova’s Ukrainian or Transatlantic choice, you know, basically the integration, um, with ___ smoke and mirrors.  And, and that would further kind of radicalize the society, I mean this was there’s a finding for in the past seven months literally. in this is in, in the mind of, of many of these people.

On the other side, a lot of people are tired, you know and, and really, really feel the burden, the social burden, and, they do not hear from the government you know what exactly to grant to save the economy, you know and what to do with the social warfare.

Um, um, so, so, so these are two, two big trends which kind over and __, among the Ukrainians from the political tension because this is an upcoming, the upcoming, elections are gonna be very tough.  And especially the campaigning is gonna, we’re gonna be very touch.

And you know the current situation if, if Poroshenko is have to accept a cease fire as it is, as it is today it’s basically it’s putting Poroshenko in the weakness, weakness position. Just think about a few week ago, the Ukrainians went to Minsk. They captured ten soldiers, um, from Russia as well as with the hope that they can win the situation, and this is what changed after Minsk, so I assume basically Putin was able to force the Ukrainians, into the situation.

We’re actually accepting a cease fire and accepting talks with the rebel, is now, is now a must, so, so the Ukrainian society has to go through this, and you know it’s gonna be easy. And it’s not gonna be, um, I don’t think it’s gonna be easier or, or it’s gonna be achieved in a very short period of time.

ANDREW WEISS:    Michael I think just to add to what, what Balasz said there’s sort of two points.  One is that there is this sort of creeping militarization in the Ukrainian politics, and you see the paramilitary leaders and particularly Governor Kolomoyski Dnipropetrovsk who’ve been the, the real the frontline commanders, and the people who’ve been le, leading the military effort seeking a political voice inside Kiev.  

And so I think we’re setting up a dynamic potentially down the road which to me I mean it’s sort of serves two purposes.  One is those leaders will look at any peace moves or any sort of messy compromises that are struck with the Russians as a betrayal of the people who shed so much blood on the ground in Eastern Ukraine.  And then two I sort of always return back to former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates comments about what is Putin up to, and he basically if I  just to paraphrase him Putin won’t stop until a pro-Moscow government is installed in Kiev.  

And I still think long term that’s the Russian game here which is to discredit Poroshenko, to make his life miserable and to undercut his authority unless and until someone more malleable or at least more willing to strike a modus vivendi takes the, takes the stage in Kiev.  And the person who’s lurking in the, the wings to do that obviously is Yulia Tymoshenko, but there may be others.

MICHAEL PETROU:    Is he hoping for some sort of __ model in the East. Is that on his agenda, or is he looking at a country as, as a whole?

ANDREW WEISS:    Dmitri, you want to -

MICHAEL PETROU:    Inaudible Comment.

ANDREW WEISS:    Dmitri, do you wanna, do you wanna touch up on that?

    Crosstalk

DMITRI TRENIN:    Put, Putin’s - do you hear me?

ANDREW WEISS:    Yeah, now we can hear you.

DMITRI TRENIN:    Put, okay, Putin’s strategy is evolving.  He certainly has, um, I think he has end all a Ukraine that is, um, a bumper state between Russia and the West. No association with a European union is fine, but, but no NATO, no U.S. bases.  

Essentially, what Ukraine was more or less after the, dissolution of the Soviet Union, um, that’s ____, um,  I think that, um, it will all depend on, how the Ukraine will negotiate when they, in the weeks and months to come.  If the Ukraine, um, reaches a deal with which Mr. Putin can live, and the Ukrainian leaders can live, then there will be, um, a Ukraine, whole under Kiev where there’s some special rights enjoyed by, __ I think.  But essentially it will be a, a whole country demilitarized, et cetera.

I, if that is not happening, then, I think we can end up with a Donbas as the, as a Ukrainian ___.

ANDREW WEISS:    I, I just the only thing I’d add is I think the Russians have done a very good job of disguising their agenda and disguising their goals, and even though we find it kind of laughable this assertions that Russia’s not a party to the conflict, Russia’s not providing military assistance in a meaningful sense that these all volunteers or socials on vacation, I think the reality is just don’t still have a good fix on what Putin wants.  

And I think that’s in part by design.  That’s just the nature of keeping options open and trying to keep the Ukrainians and the West off balance while controlling the past, the pace of escalation.  But it also reflects the lack of real channels, and until recently the only I think serious channels were the Germans.  I’m not sure those channels are, are, are really gonna be effective going forward because most of the West I think is just throwing up its hands.

And we saw a statement I think over the weekend - I’m not exactly sure the timing - from Stangmire saying that, that the situation may heading be heading a point where it’s spinning totally out of control.  

Any other folks on the link that liked to ask a question?

TONY CONNOLLY:    Yeah, I’d, I’d like to ask a question.  It’s Tony Connolly from Irish Television in Brussels from RT Television.  I’d like to ask Dimitri, um about sanctions.  Is there any sense in which sanctions might be biting, because the view in Brussels is that, these sanctions might take some time.  And that we will see, fruits, in the near future that might you know g, give us some kind of leverage over, over Mr. Putin.

DMITRI TRENIN:    Well, I think that the, sanctions are biting, and I think that, people here would expect more sanctions and more bite. The problem for the west is that, those sanctions is not changing Mr. Putin’s policies and are not at least not yet changing the attitudes of the majority of the Russian people who continue to support him.  I would guess that if pressed hard to the wall, Mr. Putin would be more combative not less so.

ANDREW WEISS:    Thanks.  Next question, please?

WARREN DURELL:    Can you hear me?

ANDREW WEISS:    Yep.

WARREN DURELL:    Yeah, this is Warren Durrell from, USA Today, um, and I, I wanted to ask about the, right, I came in a little bit late to the conversation.  I think Boris was talking, but this __ question there’s a part for everybody. Is there any evidence that, um, that any western nations are providing any assistance to Ukraine in terms of weapons or you know lethal, lethal aid even training or, or, or advice, um, you know from a military aspect of this conflict?

ANDREW WEISS:    Hi, it’s Andrew, Warren.  Um, I haven’t seen any formal announcements from governments that are providing lethal military assistance.  I’ve seen plenty of announcements that they’re providing including the United States things like sleeping bags, night vision equipment, body armor, um, and the like.

Um, I think we’re hitting a point though where there will be pressure particularly in Washington to do more, um, and then that raises the sort of basic to me friending question of, a, will it be it a, a, a trigger for further escalation.  And I think that’s just you’re reading something into the White House reticence on this..  I think, um, that we see you know this worry that any Western military assistance of that type will, will provide and then send over an excuse for the Russians to retaliate and provide additional assistance to the, the rebels groups.

And then the final question is will it change the situation on the ground, or will it only just make this, this thing drag on be worse, you know re both in terms of, the, the death count, the civilian suffering, um, and the possible spill over into other parts of the neighborhood.

Dmitri or Balasz, do you got, Richard if you guys wanna add, wanna add on this topic?

BALASZ JARABIK:    From ___ viewpoint, I haven’t talked or haven’t seen anything which would indicate or leave any, any, any indication or evidence that this is the case, um, so you know like the, they, there are some rumors.  But like at, at that, at this stage in the conflict if that will be happening, we would see something at least.  You know compare that to, to the, to the evidence on the Russian troops on the ground, so I, I think it’s negative.

WARREN DURELL:    And is that, how is that, um, I guess, I guess my other question is how, how is that impacting the, the conflict?  I mean is it, is it, is it, is it affecting the, I mean how much is it affecting the, um, the Ukrainians’ ability to counter, what they’re, what they’re up against?

ANDREW WEISS:    Well, I, you know I look at what the if you haven’t read it Alan Callison wrote this morning where he sort of portrays the fate of people in who are stuck in this terrible situation __, which Balasz referred to in the beginning.  You have you know the most effective parts of Ukrainian forces on the ground up to now have been these paramilitary groups which are largely volunteers or private armies funded by people like, the Oligarch and governor of, the Dnipropetrovsk, Kolomoyski.  Um, and they’re just not necessarily a good match for a much better armed, much better training conventional Russian force which includes special forces and, , and millennia sort of seasoned military veterans.

So yeah I think long term there’s no shortage of weapons inside Ukraine.  Ukraine’s a major defense producer and exporter.  Um, I’ not convinced there’s any systems that western governments could provide that over the short term could be assimilated quickly enough and be decisive enough to change the, the situation on the ground which is, is we talked about at the beginning gives Putin tremendous latitude to control the pace of escalation and to impose really serious costs on the Ukrainians.

Crosstalk

DMITRI TRENIN:    Okay, go ahead.

ANDREW WEISS:    No, Dmitri, what do you -

BALASZ JARABIK:    As it’s one, one thing it’s the state of the army which would you know which would not allow specifically Ukrainian army which is a real problem.  The disinger, the disintegration of the Ukrainian army I mean Ukraine has enough weapons is, is the issue that, that the army was not really willing to fight ___ the, the volun, the voluntary battalions you know there is not too much integration up until now between the regular army units and this, and, and this __. And obviously the quality of the equipment, you know the army was not willing to give their own weapons, um for the battalions for the volunteer battalions.  So this is the main, main issue. And, and the other is like basically Ukraine army was not ready, um, um, for the fights.

WARREN DURELL:    I see, and, um, I guess the other, this, it’s my last question here is, um, you know the Russians and __ you know they continue to say that they’re not, um, they’re not a part to this, to this conflict.  Um, you know Lavroff has said, has said this too that, that there are no Russian troops in, in Ukraine, and has, has anyone actually challenged them?  You know I’ll even add at the press conferences or at, at you know and has anyone actually face to face challenged them on this, challenged the Russian leaders on this ‘cause I know that, that the western NATO, OSCE, United States, everybody’s been that, that’s not the case, and Russian troops are in the Ukraine.  Um, but I’m, I’m wondering whether anyone has actually, um, challenged the, the Russian leaders who are saying that they’re, that they’re not there, um, up above that?

ANDREW WEISS:    Yeah, I think Warren, it’s Andrew.  I think if you talk to any western official, people are at their wits end.  They you know they’ve gone over this stuff, ad nauseam with Russian counterparts, and they get these denials and this, this kinda, attempts to say, oh, no, no, there’s no such thing going on here. And it’s really just tested everyone’s patience.

I know the Chancellor’s frustrated. I think the President the American President is quite frustrated, and that’s these channels these high level channels which normally would rely on there’s no trust.  The trust has basically completely evaporated, and people are starting to question the merit of further dialogue and basically saying it’s just not worth it.  We’re banging our head against the wall.

Another -

WARREN DURELL:    Thank you.

ANDREW WEISS:    Another, another question we will you know ___ -

Crosstalk

NEIL LOCKHART:    I have a question.  It’s Neil McLockhart, from the New York Times.  I just, um, l, looking at these Minsk talks that are supposed to resume on Friday, and you have both Poroshenko who may, oh, e, wh, that they’re one step removed from, but they’re also both saying that both sides want a cease fire.  So is it there, is there a chance that because they both want a cease fire but don’t want to be involved directly is Minsk talks will produce something somehow?

ANDREW WEISS:    Balasz, you wanna, you wanna tackle ____?

BALASZ JARABIK:    Well, just, just really two things I mean I, I think both Putin and Poroshenko actually wanted to have a deal, um, already in Minsk, and, and e, y, y, you know I assume that there were some concrete talks. They, they met over two y, two, two hours, and y, you know and Poroshenko knows exactly what he needs to turn his attention in the e, into the, into the economy because winter is coming.  And the social unrest is gonna be significant.

At the same time, they’re not really controlling, particularly Poroshenko is not really controlling either you know all the battalions, militarily and, and especially not the public opinion and the media. You know the media was let’s give that the, the intention and the, the impression that, that Ukraine is winning the war, and it’s not gonna be the question of days or weeks, and they’re when they’re gonna, um, win, that.

So you know basically I assume that Poroshenko went to the Minsk with these, with these thoughts, and Putin you know the Russian troops immediately started basically overnight, after the Minsk.  So I assume Putin was in mind that at least leave a sign that he’s choosing not to, to ___ at least in the Ukraine.

ANDREW WEISS:    I, and yeah, the only point here I guess I’d add is we still believe, and we have this idea that everything happens at least in the Ukraine is being directed and orchestrated by Putin or some close set of associates around Putin.  And I’m struck at least even in the statement from Mongolia today and the statement, the late night statement that came out last week where Putin seems to almost be issuing orders by press release.  That we just need to remember that the Russians have unleashed a set of processes here which they just don’t have full control over.

There’s any number of crazies and volunteers who’ve now joined the fight in Eastern Ukraine that really aren’t answerable to the Russians. I think the, you know there’s no doubt if the Russians want to cutoff the assistance and want to sit on the separatists that this conflict could come to an end.  But, but we keep seeing these statements that you know this conflict could be over in five minutes if Putin gives the order, and I think that really does just exaggerate how organized things are.

And I, I frankly the situation is not that sim, dissimilar on the Ukrainian side that if Poroshenko were tomorrow announce a withdrawal or you know some dramatic move like that from Eastern Ukraine, I think there’d be a lot of people who would defy him starting with Kolomoyski.

Great, well, we’re, we’re almost at the -

Crosstalk

FEMALE VOICE:    Can I ask a question?

ANDREW WEISS:    Sure maybe one or two more questions and then we’ll wrapping up, and we’re obviously happy to take conversations offline if, if there are additional questions.  Please go ahead.

FEMALE VOICE:    I wanted to know whether you think that if Putin has educated a fete de complete in taking control of the Eastern Ukrainian areas, is there some going to be enough to satisfy the you know the appetite he’s whipped up in Russia for we taking areas where large numbers of ethnic Russians live, or do you see another conflict you know brewing up in say the Baltic States or Kazakhstan in a couple of years?

ANDREW WEISS:    Dimitri, can you touch upon this?  I assume folks have seen that Putin’s made some comments about Kazakhstan over the weekend that got a lot of attention.

DMITRI TRENIN:    Well, I don’t think Putin has a plan to, invade other countries.  I think he was, in his own mind reacting to the threat posed the Ukraine, weaning to the western side as a result of ___ revolution.

Um, I think that, Putin is, also, um, given to, um, speaking very freely where the his international counterparts, such as, President Barroso of the European Union or, publically with regard to countries such as Kazakhstan you see he’s, um, he’s speaking his mind in, in many ways.  Um, I think that we need to a, assume that sure that, um, an empire Russian as Putin would define it a government take hold of Kazakhstan, after President steps down or something - , he’s succeeded by somebody - then it will be a case, for Russians, um, activists politically certainly at some point maybe beyond that.

Um, I think the Baltic States should be safe.  I don’t think Putin is, um, or anyone in Moscow is thinking seriously about taking on NATO and the United States, but, um, certainly, Putin, um, having not allowed, the defeat of the rebels in Eastern Ukraine will not allow, um, Russia to be defeated in Ukraine.  He is in there for the long haul.

He, um, has, plans for Kiev.  I don’t think he wants to integrate Ukraine into and expand in Russia, but he certainly wants a regime in the Ukraine with which he can live.

ANDREW WEISS:    I had one thing that I was - I think - and I’m probably in a little different place than Dimitri - I think this crisis has demonstrated a couple of things.  Putin wants to show that the west is feckless and toothless, and so just as they tore up the Budapest memorandum and previous, you know c, constant, statements about guaranteeing the sanctity of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, I think long term the Russians as much as they like to play up NATO as a threat, and they have insisted for ages that you know there’s this, this military -

Crosstalk

[Foreign female speaking in Russian].

MALE VOICE:    Please hold on for a while.  You will be able to continue the conversation soon.

[Background music].

ANDREW WEISS:    So I assume one of the people dialing in from Moscow we lost them. Anyways, I would probably now just for tactical reasons need to wrap. If you guys have questions, I’m happy to continue the discussions offline.  You have Clara Hogan and Sarah Sheffer’s contact info, and folks probably have mine and the other participants.  I’m grateful the offer for dialing in and look forward to doing this again very soon.  Sorry about the technical glitch.

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