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Ukraine must become a fortress

The crackdown on protests in Russia which happened yesterday is not an ordinary event. It may define for a long time how this country develops, its relations with Ukraine and eventually our future.

Photo: EPA/UPG

It became obvious that the inevitable departure from a social state which Russia has been even after the collapse of socialism drives the majority of Russians mad. Results of public surveys about pension reform, the crackdown on protests and the score of Putin's One Russia in local elections all attest to this.

It may seem strange to Ukraine – who can it be possible? After all, most Russians supported the occupation of Crimea and Donbas, the war against our country, the crimes of Putin's regime in Syria – and suddenly they got angry!

But this is how it is. Most Russians have an imperial set of mind. They behaved exactly the same back in the Soviet times. When the USSR intervened in the affairs of Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan, hardly a person protested. But once they stopped getting food, they grew increasingly indignant, which ultimately destroyed the Soviet Union. By the way, its leaders were perfectly aware that their citizens thought with their stomachs only. On the eve of Khrushchev's dismissal as well as on the eve of the August 1991 coup, the absence of products in Moscow, above of all bread, was pre-arranged so that Russians could later hail the changes. There is nothing to talk about if even the February 1917 revolution started in a bread line in Petrograd!

The solution to stability in Russia is not in Crimea or Donbas. They are in a bakery. But with each day Putin and his cronies are running out of capacity to maintain this bakery. And there is no way back, what is more, if relations with the West escalate, this will prompt Russians to join ranks even faster and will only empower the protest. No wards will help Putin any longer. Russians do not care about the wards when they are not fed. In 1991, once loyal Stalinists, they beat party officials who were being evacuated from Moscow. And at the time, the Bolsheviks had a tight grip in power, the war was still underway.

Photo: EPA/UPG

He may even stop imitating democracy and introduce a classic dictatorship. Without any elections, free internet and alternatives. Uniformed agencies must become the core of this power, they must be ready to bathe Russia in blood and guarantee safety and enrichment to a limited circle of Putin's minions. Yes, in this case the protest will become total but Putin might well sit in his throne well until his mandate expires, that is until his physical death. The ruler should not care much about what happens next, as if there were no tomorrow.

If everything stays as is, the regime will crumble even faster, with Putin still in office. And he will have to bear responsibility for all the consequences of his rule. Because what we saw in Russia yesterday is not the beginning of Maydan. This is the beginning of an "Aran Spring" Putin is so afraid of.

There is a third option, the best one, which to capitulate to the West in exchange for help. Yes, they would have to forget about their ambitions, get out of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Syria, and take care of their own country. In exchange, its subjects will be fed and make no fuss. But Putin will never accept this option, his own complexes will not let him. And up until the end he will believe that uniformed agencies will rescue him from a senseless and ruthless Russian riot. Uniformed agencies, but not Trump.

If Putin chooses dictatorship, we are in for new armed provocations, attempts to destabilize Ukraine and continuous resistance to the aggressor.

If Putin chooses to keep the existing situation, we should expect flows of migrants, instability along Russian border and other bonuses of living close to "Europe's vile person".

If Putin chooses capitulation, we should expect the West to lose interest in our country. Again they will start talking about European integration of Russia and the role Ukraine should be assigned not to prevent this European integration – who could resist such a wonderful chance?

Photo: EPA/UPG

In short, there is no positive scenario in prospect for Ukraine at all regardless of the fairy tales our politicians could be telling our credulous compatriots ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections.

To survive, Ukraine must turn into a real fortress ready to resist military threats, react to migration flows and defend its view of the future in dialogue with the world's leading countries.

However, one cannot build a fortress with the population the majority of which remains similar to Russians and is ready to vote for anyone who promises illusory social preferences. Therefore we can only hope that the durability of unfinished Ukraine, which has emerged after the Maydan victory, is still high.

Vitaliy PortnykovVitaliy Portnykov, Journalist
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