Robert Wade, Professor of Political Economy and Development at the LSE’s Development Studies Institute (DESTIN), worked at the World Bank, 1984–1988 and the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex from 1972–1995, undertaking fieldwork in a range of countries including Italy, India, Korea, Taiwan and Pitcairn Island.
Professor Wade has responded to a FT editorial, following the recent visit of John Kerry, US secretary of state, to President Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort of Sochi, which asserted that deeper engagement with Russia is worth pursuing. It could integrate the US into the western diplomatic effort on Ukraine, involving Angela Merkel, and François Hollande. He writes:
“You are right that “America’s outreach to Moscow is justified but your longstanding view that the Ukraine crisis is an interstate war between (united) Ukraine and Russia is, at best, questionable. It leads you to place almost all the responsibility for securing peace on Vladimir Putin, as though the president is largely in control of the military fighting the Ukrainian army.
“The German weekly Der Spiegel published a report (March 7), based on sources in German chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and the Federal Intelligence Service, describing the US and Nato claims about Russia’s controlling role as a gross exaggeration. At the end of August 2014 eight retired US intelligence officers wrote to Ms Merkel saying much the same.
The conflict is more accurately understood as an internationalised civil war. Foreign states are engaged on both sides. But the primary dynamic is the resistance of the large Russian-speaking (by no means pro-Russia) minority, roughly 40% of Ukraine’s population, against forces in the Ukrainian-speaking majority seeking permanently to subordinate them.
The key to peace is that both the Kiev government and its western backers must remove the grounds for Russian speakers to fear that the Kiev government is using the civil war to get the west to underwrite the ascendancy of Ukrainian speakers.
Professor Robert Wade
London School of Economics
London WC2, UK