Political scientist, Konstantin Kalachev head of the Political Expert Group believes that Russia should suffice with an expanded Donbass, because the full effect of the sanction will become apparent in half a year. Kalachev is a political consultant with ties to the presidential administration and had done work for the ruling United Russia Party.
Kalachev claims that the Kremlin had never listed occupation of Ukraine and the capture of Kyiv as an objective. He believes that the analysts were misled by independent polling data in Ukraine that showed Putin with a positive rating more than double Zelensky’s and Zelensky’s party Servant of the People with a puny 23% rating. The analysts didn’t realize that while the Ukrainians are a fractious lot in peacetime, they unite when their national identity is under assault. Russia does not need more expansive war aims than the Donbass residents themselves, who have checked off their entire wish list in the current fighting.
Prolonging the war threatens to turn Russia into a Chinese satellite, and would exacerbate problems. If Russia’s domestic aviation is disrupted, people in remote areas will feel isolated leading to accusations against Moscow.
Kalachev’s interview with Rosbalt media’s Peter Godlevsky follows below:
More than a month has passed since the start of the special operation in Ukraine. The question is being Increasingly asked: what are we doing there for so long? Does Vladimir Putin, in your opinion, have an exit strategy from the current situation?
– I think that there was, is and will be a plan. It is being corrected. It is quite obvious that the Anschluss story did not happen. If it was about not only solving the problems of the LPR-DPR, but creating a Union State, with Ukraine included in it, then this plan, of course, did not work.
On the other hand, no one has announced this. Initially, it was said that there was no question of the occupation of Ukraine, and the set of demands that was publicly announced did not look excessive. The capture of Kyiv was not there. This was designated as a goal by our ultra-patriots, who are very worried about the progress of the peace negotiations. We have not heard anything similar from official personages.
Furthermore, now we are talking about the liberation of Donbass. I think that the real task of the special operation is to expand the borders of the LPR-DPR to the administrative borders of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions. The question of what to do with Kherson, with the corridor to the Crimea, remains open, but there seems to be talk about creating new administrations. Perhaps there will be local pro-Russian activists who will be ready to proclaim yet another “people’s republic”.
Probably, plans are adjusted based on the situation.
Of course, the original plan and the one we have now should be different, because no one expected such resistance from the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I have already said that I understand how the decision was made. Recently, a search was carried out in Kyiv at the home of the well-known Ukrainian political scientist Mikhail Pogrebinsky. The results of polls were found, conducted, as I admit, by order from Moscow, where Putin had a rating of 48% in Ukraine.
Imagine a situation in which the president is told: “Zelensky has a rating of 23%, you have 48%. The rating of the [ruling]Servant of the People party has collapsed. The Ukrainian elites are fragmented, venal and cowardly. The people are tired of them. Let’s give them an alternative. Let’s bring them liberation.”
It can be assumed that the one who prepared the analytical notes, most likely, was poorly aware of Ukrainian society, where people can argue with each other and criticize the authorities, but at the moment of a threat to their identity they are ready to unite.
This does not alter the fact that the mood in the Donbass differs. In principle, the broad masses of Russian workers will be quite ready to accept as a victory the expansion of the LPR-DPR, their recognition, which has already taken place, and the discussion of their entry into Russia.
Let’s try to look into the future. In Istanbul, at the peace talks, a period was announced that could be allocated to resolving the issue of Crimea’s status – 15 years. One expert noted that this is the period that Vladimir Vladimirovich could mete out to himself as the country’s leader. True, the proposal for 15 years was made by the Ukrainian side, but the question of what awaits Russia after the completion of the special operation is very relevant. Will we live in the paradigm of “Putinism”?
Putinism can outlive its founding father, just as Gaullism outlived Charles de Gaulle. At one time, the Gaullist party renounced de Gaulle because he was unpopular. It was headed by Valerie Giscard d’Estaing.  Then the general again became a national symbol. His party still exists, having changed its name six times.
If we talk about Putinism as an ideology, then it may well exist after him, if the line of succession is ensured.
If we talk about short-term prospects, I don’t see anything tragic for Russia. In the medium and long term, what is happening now can greatly affect the future and not for the better. We can become a satellite of China. The real effect of the sanctions will not be in a month or two, but in six months, in a year. China is not interested in our technological development. We suit it as a font of resources.
As for territorial acquisitions, these are colossal expenses. I remember very well how in 2014 a most eminent statesman told me about the inadvisability of annexing the Donbass, since this is a very expensive story. Their coal industry is not needed by Russia, but by Ukraine. We have enough coal of our own, we export it.
In addition, it is necessary to understand that there are two major difference between what the Donbass industry is now and what it was back in 2014. Local businesses eke out some sort of existence, but if you are serious about investing in these projects, then you need to cut costs somewhere else. Who can promise a surplus budget? Where are the guarantees that there will be no embargo on the export of hydrocarbons, and that the accumulated margin of safety will not be consumed in a year or two?
The topic of new cities in Siberia has already sputtered out. Further on the problems will only be greater. Let’s talk about domestic flights. Flights from Moscow to the Far East and back will become even more expensive and less frequent. People will feel isolated. All this cannot exclude the possibility that the problem of centrifugal tendencies will be on the agenda. Due to the fact that logistics can be disrupted. I fully admit that in conditions when life will become worse, the search for the guilty parties will begin. Moscow will be blamed for all the troubles. Again, regional separatism will wake up and so on, so on, so on… The future, in fact, seems to be very difficult.
As some rightly say, no matter how the showdown between Russia and Ukraine ends, China will be the winner. There are those who believe that the United States will be the winner.