What Putin Didn’t Get In Hangzhou by Brian Whitmore – EurasiaNet
A EurasiaNet Partner Post from: RFE/RL
One of the most significant things about the G20 summit was something that didn’t happen.
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Hangzhou didn’t become Yalta. China didn’t become Munich.
But Vladimir Putin sure wanted it to.
In fact, Russia’s actions in and around Ukraine over the past month appear to have been, at least in part, a big psy-op in the run-up to the summit.
Moscow ginned up a fake crisis in Crimea in August, accusing Ukraine of sending a team of agent saboteurs to the annexed peninsula to carry out terrorist acts.
Feigning outrage, the Kremlin then abruptly pulled out of planned four-party talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande.
And all the while, Russia moved tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine’s borders and conducted menacing military exercises, sparking fears that an all-out invasion was in the cards.
It was in this context that Putin pushed for a joint meeting on the sidelines of the G20 with Merkel and Hollande — but without Poroshenko — aimed at resolving the Ukraine conflict behind Kyiv’s back.
“Putin appeared to be willing to offer certain compromises on Syria, expecting the West to reciprocate on Ukraine, decreasing their support to the Kyiv government,” Aleksandr Kokcharov, Russia defense analyst at IHS Jane’s 360, told Newsweek recently.
It’s a classic Kremlin tactic. Create a fake crisis and then offer to help resolve it on Moscow’s terms.
But it didn’t work.
Merkel and Hollande agreed only to meet Putin separately, where each pushed him to fulfill Moscow’s obligations under the Minsk cease-fire.
Both refused to cut any deals about Ukraine without Poroshenko’s involvement.
And to stress that point, the French and German leaders then met with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss Ukraine — without Putin.
Moreover, Hollande called for a resumption of four-party talks on Ukraine — the so-called Normandy format — and Putin acquiesced.
“Putin is still where he was two months ago, before the recent reescalation in east Ukraine and military buildup in Crimea,” Kokcharov said.
So the elaborate psy-op the Kremlin launched last month, when it accused Ukraine of plotting terrorist attacks in Crimea, fell flat on its face.
But while Putin may have suffered a tactical diplomatic defeat in Hangzhou, he clearly hasn’t given up on his strategic goal of dominating Ukraine, even as Kyiv makes impressive strides in reforming and modernizing