Western Nations Have Misunderstood Mr. Putin’s Global Strategy (Part 4-2)

We talked to Ken Ishigouok, a journalist who often covers Russia, about the Ukraine crisis and Mr. Putin’s thoughts on the future of the international community.


Western nations have misunderstood Mr. Putin’s global strategy

Journalist Ken Ishigouoka

(Ken Ishigouoka) Born 1947 in Tokyo. Graduate of Moscow State University, Department of Physics. Worked as Cairo Middle East, Moscow bureau Soviet and Russia correspondent for Mainichi Newspaper. Professor at Nihon University Integrated Sciences Research Center. His numerous works include, “Vladimir Putin,” “Discussion Paper Northern Territory Problem” (both from Toyoshoten).

While there are reports heard often that Mr. Putin had long planned to annex Crimea, I disagree with that view.
Initially, both Mr. Putin and senior Russian leaders stated that they “have no intention of annexing” Crimea. Mr. Putin even made the effort to call Chancellor Merkel to tell her as much.
However, a few days later, a decision was made to go forward with the annexation. During the interim period, there was an explosion of nationalism inside Russia, with calls to “rescue the ethnic Russians in Crimea” which Mr. Putin was unable to ignore or hold back. Russian public sentiment reached a hysterical state.

If annexation did not take place, there may have been riots in Moscow.
In fact, if this indeed was a planned annexation, silence would have been a preferable approach to lying. Mr. Putin himself described the lack of planning by saying that he “thought about it on the fly”.


Russia Supported Ukraine Economically

Ukraine and Russia cannot cut their ties. Russia is Ukraine’s largest trade partner, and buys mass amounts of Russian natural gas. However, Ukraine’s debt to GDP ratio is 80%, putting it on the verge of bankruptcy. If Ukraine goes bankrupt, the Russian economy will be hit hard.

Last December, in order to prevent Ukraine from collapsing, Mr. Putin lowered the price of gas, announced a $15 billion economic support package, and immediately executed a $3 billion loan. In January of this year, despite opposition from his entire cabinet, he attempted to provide additional financial support to Ukraine. However, even as they received the loan, Ukraine did not properly pay their gas fee, and Mr. Putin had no choice but to end the support.


Has the West Abandoned Ukraine?

With Russian assistance terminated, Ukraine is being supported by the IMF. Ukraine has failed to repay its IMF loans on two occasions in the past, so the IMF does not want to give further loans. However they are being pressured by the U.S.

(Deleted the word “However”) Mired in a budget crisis, Ukraine is in no position to enact and fulfill the reforms that the IMF demands in exchange for providing loans. For instance, the IMF seeks the abolition of the subsidy system of gas prices. If this is implemented, Ukraine’s gas price will rise over 50%, and the Ukraine’s industry will be dealt a critical blow. The fact is (deleted comma) Western finance groups have given up on Ukraine.

Ukraine has another big problem. They blame others, be it the West or Russia, without facing up to their own problems. . The time has come to let go of animosity between Ukraine’s east and west, and for Ukrainians to unite.


Logic of the West who Dominate the World

The crisis is happening in Ukraine, but the media in Japan and in the West is focused on the conflict between the United States and Russia. Criticism (deleted the “s” after criticism) toward Mr. Putin has been harsh, and he is being chided for attempting a “revival of the Soviet Union”.

The language barrier has also prevented voices from the Russian media from coming through. For instance, a Western journalist covering the Ukraine reports in English. So they end up talking to pro-Western Ukrainians, and the voices of the Russian-speaking pro-Russian group aren’t heard.

The Japanese should be careful about the Western media, which is providing a very one-sided report by judging according to their own “universal values”.


Putin’s Global Strategy

With American power declining, and with China’s rise, international politics is changing. Russia cannot hope to become a superpower like the Soviet Union, and Mr. Putin understands this as well.

Mr. Putin calls this the “era of multipolarity.” Giving a speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, he stated that, “America’s unipolar moment is over”, and has warned that China will be next to exert significant influence.

However, with Western sanctions, Russia is being forced to become closer to China. China too is thinking that they will be next in line to be hit by the West if Russian power declines, so they are proceeding with purchasing cooperatives of Russian natural gas. In addition, there are reports that China may have suggested to Russia to “hold joint military exercises around the Senkaku Islands.”

If that were to happen near the Senkaku Islands, Japan would obviously object. Japan-Russia relations would deteriorate, and Russia would find itself in a grave situation. Russia actually wants to build a friendly relationship with Japan.
In a multipolar world that is increasingly unstable, Mr. Putin wishes to protect Russia by turning it into one of the poles. I believe that is what he is thinking.

Western Nations Have Misunderstood Mr. Putin’s Global Strategy (Part 4-2)
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