Letter From the Editors

The big non-event of this news cycle was Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he will run for another presidential term. Granted, the staging was just right: After a Kremlin ceremony in which Putin awarded Heroes of Russia medals, the father of one of the posthumous honorees addressed a direct plea: “You’re our president, we’re your team. We need you, Russia needs you.” How could anyone say no to that? An element that added weight to the request is the position of the man who made it: Artyom Zhoga, chair of the DPR people’s council, who will presumably lead a horde of loyalists in eastern Ukraine to vote in their first Russian election.

The only other element of interest in these preelection rituals is colorful commentary from political pundits. In this case, first prize goes to Mikhail Shevchuk, who portrays the next stage of the Putin era thusly: “The ‘Putin plan’ . . . is only becoming clear now. . . . [T]he president obviously intended to lead the Russians for literally 40 years, like Moses of the Old Testament, in order to make new generations forever forget about the times of the metaphorical ‘Egyptian captivity’ in the West. . . . We are wandering through the desert, almost not thinking about the fact that something is supposed to happen once the 40 years are up, but if we stop thinking completely, we won’t be able to remember anything afterward.”

Another mention of collective memory comes up in Nadezhda Arbatova’s article about a potential new line of East-West conflict along the borders of the Baltics. She writes: “Right now, it is difficult to imagine the joint Russian-European cooperation initiatives that used to exist in the not-so-distant past. . . . These projects were focused on fostering cross-border cooperation for joint economic, innovative, scientific and technical development of the region.”

Ah, those were the days when a burgeoning European Union had a unified vision of outreach toward the former USSR. This week, however, an enlarged EU had trouble agreeing on whether to move further on admitting Ukraine to the club. In the end, the EU summit declaration contained a lukewarm resolution “to open accession negotiations with Ukraine.”

Technically, even this move was not approved by full consensus. Denis Leven comments that “the EU passed the unity test, but not without difficulty. . . . [T]o reach this ‘historic decision,’ Brussels once again had to make concessions to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The vote itself took place without him: When the question of Ukraine came up, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz asked Viktor Orban to go grab some coffee, and then the remaining 26 participants in the meeting unanimously voted in favor.”

Orban returned for a subsequent vote on financial aid for Ukraine, using his veto power to block increased funding for the war effort. This prompted Jens Geier, the leader of the German Social Democrats in the European Parliament, to say that “Putin is also at the negotiating table.”

One event where Putin is less likely to be at the table is the finalization of a peace settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Expert Vladimir Yevseyev says that Moscow has lost its relevance in this area of the Caucasus, and NG confirms that the former Soviet republics have already reached fundamental understanding,

Ukraine and Russia are far from that point, and it’s natural to wonder whether Kiev, like Yerevan, will have to make territorial concessions to get there. In any case, Arbatova writes that a Ukraine peace settlement “is the only way to return to multifaceted cooperation between Russia and its neighbors. . . . Ultimately, this would drive the need for an international forum on a new order in Europe that would . . . help put the mistakes of the past behind us, if not put them right.” Otherwise, how many years will we keep wandering in the desert?