Wednesday 21 February 2018

Chess master Putin will require an equally strong opponent

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting during his visit to Petrozavodsk in Russia's Republic of Karelia. Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting during his visit to Petrozavodsk in Russia's Republic of Karelia. Reuters

Francis de Roelman

When the Geneva settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, "signed by all parties", was announced, I regarded it as too good to be true. While some politicians rejoiced, my sceptical view was proven right. So-called 'pro-Russian militias', blocking roads and occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine, kidnapping observers, refused to disband, as the Geneva accord ordered. Why? Because they had not been represented, not agreed to anything, nor signed documents.

What happened in Geneva is a diplomatic trick, used during the Cold War by both sides. One meets, is friendly and pretends to come to an agreement, which is then announced, only to 'find out' later that important elements are missing.

One problem is that many Western politicians and diplomats, especially younger ones, forgot – or never learned – the Moscow Rules of the Cold War, which was a big game of chess, played with real people for chessmen, and the world as board. Russians are great chess players. After the collapse of the USSR, in very hard times, they played even more, sharpening their minds for revenge. In Ukraine, we see the start of it, following the example of Hitler, when Germany bounced back from its defeat and collapse of 1918.

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