WRM’s latest column in the WSJ is about the competition between Europe and Russia to win Ukraine. As the piece argues, the stakes for this contest are very high indeed: the outcome could decide whether Vladimir Putin’s strategic plan for Russia succeeds for fails. More:
There is no doubt that, psychologically and practically, the crown jewel of Russia’s lost empire is Ukraine. Its capital Kiev was the birthplace of Russian culture and for many Russians it is an integral part of their homeland. The Crimea is a mostly ethnic-Russian region that Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily deeded over to Ukraine in 1954. The eastern half of the country speaks Russian and many people there would be happy to return to Moscow’s arms.
It isn’t just nostalgia that draws Russia to Ukraine. It’s also about power and security. With Ukraine back in the fold, Russia has the potential to become the kind of great European power whose interests the EU cannot disregard. Recovering Ukraine is how Vladimir Putin can become Vladimir the Great, ranking with Peter, Catherine and Alexander I as a dominant figure in Russian history.
The problem for Putin is that Ukraine has often signaled that it prefers the EU to Russia when it comes to trading and political partnership. WRM argues that these tensions will come to a head at the EU’s November 28th summit for eastern countries. If Ukraine signs a free-trade agreement with the EU at that conference, Putin’s hopes of reconstituting Russia’s power will be dashed. Read the whole thing to get a sense of the various factors that will influence that decision, and for insight into the general geopolitical realities facing Russia, Ukraine, and the EU. This month could turn out to be very fateful indeed.
[Putin photo courtesy of Getty Images]