Thursday, November 13, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Putin Proposing Molotov-Ribbentrop-Style Grand Bargain to West, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 13 – Vladimir Putin is proposing the kind of grand bargain to Barack Obama that Hitler proposed to Neville Chamberlain and then to Joseph Stalin, in which the West would accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea in exchange for Moscow’s cooperation on Iran, according to Andrey Illarionov.


            Chamberlain rejected that bargain but Stalin did not. The Soviet leader’s agreement took the form of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. But despite what Hitler promised that did not end his demands, lead to peace in Europe or keep the German fuehrer from turning on his Soviet accomplice.


            And that pattern, Illarionov suggests, is something Obama and other Western leaders should keep in mind if they are offered the kind of “bargain” Putin is presenting because it will not lead to war but only to shame now and war later, to use Churchill’s classic phrase (


            Even as Moscow hopes to provoke Ukraine into take military actions that will allow Russia to accuse Kyiv of having broken the ceasefire, the Kremlin is working on broader plans, using its aggression in Ukraine as the basis for getting those it still calls its Western “partners” to sacrifice Ukraine in the name of some larger agreement.


            As Illarionov points out, the exact shape and dimensions of this proposal are still not clear.  Roger Cohen of the “New York Times” suggests it will take the form of “an exchange of Ukraine for Iran.” Aleksandr Lebedev and Vladislav Inozemtsev say it involves the exchange of Western recognition of the Crimean Anschluss for an end to Russian aggression in Ukraine.


            Sergey Markov, who yesterday underscored just how close Putin’s diplomacy reflects that of Hitler by talking about the notion that the Baltic countries would not remain independent in the event of a major war, said that Moscow would agree to the territorial integrity of Ukraine as it existed before April 2014 in exchange for federalization of Ukraine and making Russian a state language of that country.


            But Illarionov argues that “Putin’s strategic desires are much more ambitious” and include Western recognition of a privileged position for Russia “at a minimum” over “the entire post-Soviet space,” something that would mean that the West would agree implicitly if not explicitly not to take any measures to defend the countries in it against Russia.


            Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev certainly feels that such an offer may be on the table, Illarionov continues. In an unusual speech to his countrymen this week, he spoke of his “foreboding” about the approach of “global tests” in the course of which “will be changed the present architecture of the world” and in which “not all states will survive” (


            If Obama and other Western leaders don’t agree to his outrageous demands, of course, Putin and his regime will accuse them of rejecting Putin “proposals” that should not have been rejected because they would mean peace in our time and lead to the solution of other international problems the West is concerned about.


             The Kremlin leader will then launch an even broader campaign against Ukraine before stopping and renewing his call for a grand bargain. In short, Illarionov says, those who think they can dissuade Putin by such an accord do not understand him or the nature of his regime. He will see any such agreement as an indication of weakness and simply up the ante in the next round.


            That is what Hitler did in the late 1930s; Putin must not have the chance to do it now.


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