Kortunov: Minsk agreements should be reviewed, revised
The Minsk agreements regulating the Ukraine conflict should be reviewed and revised, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov said in an interview with BNS.
"The time has come to review and to revise the Minsk agreements, focusing on what is doable right away and putting on a back burner the most controversial and politically sensitive matters," said Kortunov, who will be participating at the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn in mid-May, adding that his view was unfortunately clearly a minority view in Moscow today.
The Russian official was not too optimistic about possible progress in Ukraine this year. "My feeling is that both [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko are convinced that time is playing on their side," Kortunov said.
"In Moscow, they assume that with mounting economic, social and political problems, Ukrainian leadership will be forced to exercise more flexibility or will be replaced by new leaders more willing to meet Russian demands," he said.
Kortunov said that in Kiev, they count on maintaining Western pressure on Putin, so that at the end of the day he will have to reconsider his current policies towards Ukraine. "I think that both approaches are self-delusive," he added.
It was currently unclear what exactly the Trump policy towards Ukraine is going to be, he continued. "So far, the most important decision that the new administration has made was to quite dramatically cut U.S. assistance to Kiev," he noted. "My reading of the Trump thinking is that he apparently believes that Ukraine is mostly a European problem and that Europeans — the EU and Russia — have to find a way to resolve it."
Kortunov said that his estimate could of course change, but that so far the U.S. government has not expressed any intention to take part in the Minsk process or any other multilateral format.
'Putin not likely to escalate with the West before elections'
On the subject of Russian relations with the West, Kortunov expressed that Putin likely would not escalate Russia's confrontation with the West before the presidential election next spring.
"So far, Vladimir Putin's approval ratings remain high," he said. "I do not know what the moods are in the Kremlin, but I suspect at this stage that Putin feels confident that he will be reelected in the first round in March next year.
At the same time, Kortunov said that the Russian public is tired of the opposition with the West and another round of confrontation would be the last thing that the Russian people would like to see. "Surveys show that more than 70 percent of Russians would like to see better relations with Western neighbors," he said. "They are getting more and more concerned about the tate of the national economy. Having said that, I have to argue once again that the Kremlin is not in the mood for serious concessions."
Kortunov told BNS that the overall political situation in the West was too unclear and too volatile for any new initiatives or proposals from Moscow. "If I were to bet, I would bet on a 'wait and see' approach — at least until March 2018," he said.
"In my view, in the nearest future, Russian policy is more likely to be reactive and not proactive; opportunistic and not strategi; risk-evasive and not risk-taking," he clarified.
Lennart Meri Conference
This year's Lennart Meri Conference, entitled "Darkest Just Before Dawn? The War on Trust and How to Win It," will take place from May 12-14. The conference will consider the severe challenges facing the West and seek to identify opportunities which may arise in these bleakest of moments.
Other topics to be discussed include the future of the EU, the impact of populism on democracy, Russia's growing militancy in the information sphere and cyberspace, the conflict in Syria and China's growing influence — topics that demand not only answers but also fundamental readjustment and changes in the current world order.
Editor: Aili Vahtla