Expert: Zelenskyy wanted to show that Putin has no place in world politics
Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to Washington overshadowed the trips made by Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev to Belarus and China respectively, said experts on ETV show "Aktuaalne Kaamera."
The Ukrainian President's speech in Washington has received strong reactions from those on both sides of the divide in US politics, as well as abroad, including in Russia and Iran, and domestically in Ukraine. The visit itself sent such a strong political message that it even overshadowed the latest round of military aid pledged by the U.S., including Patriot anti-aircraft systems, experts told ETV show "Aktuaalne Kaamera."
Secretary General of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jonatan Vseviov said, that Zelenskyy's message was exceptionally powerful, and had the potential to help maintain U.S. support for Ukraine for longer than if he had taken any other approach.
Vladimir Juškin, director of the Baltic Centre for Russian Studies, added, that the main purpose of Zelenskyy's visit was to show that President Putin has no place in world politics. "It was a demonstrative visit, because decisions about the amount of U.S. and Western military aid sent to Ukraine are made in other cabinets and by other people," Juškin said.
Putin's visit to Minsk was also a form of demonstration in which the Russian president aimed to present himself as a regional leader. The joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises announced in Minsk had already been agreed prior to the visit. Once again, the issue of whether Belarus would formally enter the war was on the agenda.
According to Vseviov, the potential consequences of such a move are apparently well understood in both Moscow and Minsk. "And what risks are involved in all this, both for the Belarusian state and for its leader. Hopefully this step will not be taken," Vseviov said.
However, Putin's visit to Minsk could also be a deceptive maneuver, to give the impression that the anticipated winter offensive on Kyiv will come from the direction of Belarus.
"Perhaps it will come from the north, from Minsk to Kyiv, where the distance is just 90 kilometers, or maybe it will be from somewhere else," speculated Vladimir Juškin.
Russian Security Council deputy chair and former president Dmitri Medvedev's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to offer the most intrigue, according to Vladimir Juškin. During the visit, Medvedev handed Xi a signed letter from Vladimir Putin.
Juškin discussed why Medvedev appeared to be performing the role of an ambassador or foreign minister.
"Was Medvedev passing the message on to Xi that there are plans to close the borders to all military personnel on January 9, and that on January 16, martial law and general mobilization will be declared?" asked Juškin. The director of the Baltic Centre for Russian Studies suggested there may also be a second possibility, though he emphasized that it appeared to be more of a conspiracy theory: perhaps the Chinese president was informed about Putin's successor.
"According to the conspiracy theory version, Medvedev went to present himself as Putin's successor. And to get Xi's approval for the post," said Juškin.
According to this theory, Putin could present Medvedev to the public on December 31, just as he himself was once presented by Boris Yeltsin.
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Editor: Michael Cole