Vladimir Putin said that the decree on the simplified procedure for issuing Russian passports to residents of certain regions of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine was “a humanitarian measure”. That is, it is like taking care of people who are suffering. In fact, in order to alleviate the suffering of the residents of Donbass, one must first of all end the war. A decree on passports represents, on the contrary, continuation of the policy that gave rise to the war in the east of Ukraine.

It is this hypocritical foreign and domestic policy of the recent decades that has led our country to a deadlock. As a result, the current situation in Russia can well be called a hybrid political crisis, which gradually develops into a comprehensive one (see Breaking the Circle, April 2019). The rapid decline in ratings of the ruling group, growing uncertainty in the future and, against this background, endless talk about empty restructuring of the political system in order to keep themselves in power for an unlimited period of time – all these are the signs of impending serious problems.

The peculiarity of our time is almost universal global political instability and unpredictability, certainly, the post-Soviet space inclusive. However, Kiev’s course (with all the political failures and surprises) represents the European way, striving for the European Union, and this is the key stabiliser of the present situation in Ukraine, a window and door to the future for the country.

And also Kazakhstan, which, despite the controllability of the situation, yet experiences problems of political transit, tends towards the European political culture so much that, fearing Russian imperial politics after the Crimea and Donbass, it officially refuses the Russian language and Cyrillics in favour of the English language and Latin. Back in 2008, the government of Kazakhstan adopted the state programme “Path to Europe”: Kazakhstan appeals to European countries for help and advice on reforms, rather than to Moscow or Beijing. Before making changes to its constitution in 2017, Kazakhstan, for example, asked for help from the Venice Commission at the Council of Europe. The road to European democracy is long, but Kazakhstan is moving in a historically right direction and is a respected member of the international community.

And our country is deprived of any guidelines. On the contrary, over the past five years, Russia has turned into a country with a negative reputation and has further strengthened the idea of itself as of a mafia state, following the “path that does not exist” – to Eurasia, China, back to the USSR, or somewhere else… It will be extremely difficult to get rid of such a reputation. And in these conditions any, even insignificant problem becomes destructive.

Endless friction in relations with Belarus is another symptom of the situation in which Russia is coming to a crisis. News about the suspension of Belarusian exports of petroleum products due to the poor quality of Russian oil (deliberately spoiling the equipment of Belarusian enterprises?) and reports of Russian sanctions against Belarusian agricultural products have become common. But recent statements by Lukashenko deserve attention: “Anyone who dares to destroy Belarus today – the president, the government or someone else – they will be cursed by our Belarusian people, and who dares to do it by force – they will receive a powerful response from our people, first of all those born in a sovereign and independent Belarus.” This is the “echo” of the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbass and, obviously, pressure aimed at the inclusion of Belarus into Russia as the 86th subject of the Russian Federation. That is how Russia is paying for aggressive actions against one of its closest neighbours and for its anti-European policy in general (see “Five years after Crimea: the Consequences”, March 2019).

Going on breaking the post-Soviet space, Moscow increasingly conflicts with its neighbours (see “Russia Is Creating a Zone of Instability Around Its Borders”, March 2014).

“In cultural and historical terms, Russia, like Ukraine, and Belarus, belongs to the European civilization, and the European direction is the only really existing direction of their further development. If these countries want to preserve their statehood in the 21st century, then they have no other way.  An attempt to move in a different direction represents a deviation from natural historical development. <…>

The Ukrainian crisis is of particular importance since it is the first large-scale manifestation of this deviation and a direct consequence of the disruption of the natural process of the historical development of the post-Soviet space. The key role in this crisis belongs to Russia. <…>

Russia’s unnatural refusal to move along the European path means a disruption in the post-Soviet space. The main obstacle for the European way is not the present problems in Europe and growth of the Asian economy, but its fundamental incompatibility with the interests of the Russian ruling class in preserving itself and the current Russian system of merging power, property and business. The talk of “Eurasianism” is a demagogic cover for this incompatibility. ”

The active phase of the conflict with Ukraine has been going on for over five years: people are dying, life is being destroyed and time is running out. The problems are only getting worse. But instead of solving them, there is a desire to step on the tail of triumphant trampism during the growing confrontation with the United States: Putin meets with Kim Jong-un, who arrived in Vladivostok on his father’s armored train, while the Russian Defense Minister speaks of the ability to overcome the American missile defence system as the main achievement of the country.

In 2001, Kim Jong-il, the previous North Korean leader, came to Russia on the same train. Then there was no isolation, there were hopes vested in Russia, we had more opportunities to influence the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and world politics in general. Although the essence of the choice was the same as at present: the European vector of domestic policy and cooperation with the democratic world in solving global problems or the “sovereign armored train” going into nowhere. As a result, the choice was made in favour of the latter.

It has been almost two decades ago – two decades of movement to nobody knows where to, two decades of lost time. If the same policies are continued, the loss of time will somehow result in losing the country’s future.