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Advantage: Russia
Without China, Can Russia Make Ukraine Happen?

Putin photo courtesy Getty Images.

Fresh from his history-making decision to snub the EU’s association agreement, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is coming down heavily on the side of a “strategic partnership” with Russia. The BBC reports that this week Yanukovych flew to Sochi in Southern Russia for “surprise talks” with Putin:

In Sochi, Mr Yanukovych discussed “preparation of a future treaty on strategic partnership” with Russia, his press service said.

The talks covered various economic issues, the statement said, without elaborating.

Mr Putin has been urging Ukraine to join Russia’s customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan – a union whose entry terms are far less demanding than the EU’

But despite this visit, the Russia-Ukraine relationship is still very much in flux. In Kiev, thousands are still protesting the original decision to turn down the EU, and behind the public protests Ukrainian oligarchs are split over whether their country should throw in its lot with the Russia or not.

Moreover, it’s not clear that Russia has the financial resources to make the deal stick. Putin is fighting the tide of history, because economic logic pulls Ukraine toward the much larger and richer markets to its west. The economic challenges to the Russia-Ukraine relationship become even more intense when you view the Sochi story in light of the rest of Yanukovych’s trip. Right before flying into Sochi, Yanukovych was in China to ask for financial aid from the country. China declined to announce any aid packages, and now Putin has to buy Ukraine on his own.

This incident also illustrates limits on Sino-Russia coordination: China isn’t going to risk its relationship with Europe to help finance Putin’s neo-imperial project. While Russia and China are both interested in reducing US power, the two largest land powers in the world are jealous of one another and China in particular gets so many benefits from participation in the global trading system that Russia can’t count on it for support.

So Putin is on his own with Ukraine, and the big question is whether he can buy off enough Ukrainian oligarchs to make the country come back to the fold permanently, all the while carrying the responsibility for Ukraine’s faltering economy. Ineffective and uncoordinated US and EU policies have given Putin a huge opportunity, but we don’t yet know whether Russia has the financial resources and Yanukovych has enough popular support to parlay that opportunity into a long-term deal.

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  • Kevin

    This site has done well covering recent Ukrainian events but could really use more context on what is driving various Ukrainian actions and actors. I suspect there are a complicated mix of motives at work here and understanding these would help understand better what is going on.

    • Damir Marusic

      That New York Times article linked midway-through is about as good a thing as I’ve seen on the insider dynamics at play.

  • Pete

    Why, shut ma mouth!

    Prof. Mead might just be growing out of his Southern white-guilt complex and is actually coming out against the reverse discrimination policies of affirmative action.

  • Anthony

    WRM, “the only way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” (Chief Justice John Roberts) – a lot of unfinished business.

  • TheCynical1

    Professor Mead’s observation, “dealing with historical injustice is a hugely difficult task and there
    is little sign that today’s bureaucratic diversity industry is up to the job — or really even very interested in the job,” reminds me of a nice quote:

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
    — Upton Sinclair (who was, by the way, a progressive)

    This also reminds me of my first sour brush with affirmative action, back in the 1980s, when I was a Berkeley senior, I was still quite liberal, and affirmative action was quite fashionable. One day, the campus was visited by admissions officers from law schools around the country, who came to answer questions. I introduced myself to the person from Boalt (the law school at Berkeley), a Chinese-American man. I made some comment that assumed I would receive affirmative action consideration there, but he then interjected, “Japanese-Americans aren’t a minority group that qualifies for our affirmative action program.” Stunned, I asked if all other Asian-Americans were eligible for affirmative action — and he replied that they were. Without explaining further, he then glared at me, as if to dare me to further question the obvious wisdom of these purportedly progressive policies. I just walked away.

    To this day, I still find it inexplicable why Japanese-Americans were singled out for categorical exclusion from affirmative action, at least at that place and time, as opposed to all Asian-Americans. I started to dimly perceive an ivory-tower mindset of grandiose social engineering that could not resist splitting hairs — and messing with people’s lives — to an obsessive-compulsive degree. Because of this and other disillusioning experiences with liberal dreams and schemes, I lost my faith in liberalism over the years.

    • TheCynical1

      One more observation, as long as we’re talking about diversity and the Supreme Court: I think too many people are still unaware that once Justice Kagan was appointed to fill Justice Stevens’ vacancy in 2010, the Court, for the first time, no longer had even one WASP among its members. Thus, this Court, though perceived as conservative-leaning, happens to be the most diverse in history.

  • Anthony

    “Setting up quotas and preferences in a dysfunctional system is not way to make progress in the United States.” WRM, here is timely response to above quote: “at a time when economic and racial stratification is growing, privileging the consideration of one over the other is a naive cop-out.” Author is intimating use of alternative form of AA – hing

  • Jim__L

    “Historical justice is in any case an impossible thing to define—much less to administer.”

    This brings to mind Hayek’s observation that Government interference cannot create, it can only play favorites… which is not justice.

  • William Ockham

    “A young women of Korean ancestry…is likely to have to do much better than her African American or Latino peers…to get a spot in the University of California.” You are too reserved in your comments. She will also have to do substantially better than her Caucasian peers.

  • tomdperk

    “A decent and serious society will not make educational or other
    important policy decisions without taking this history and this heritage
    into account.”

    And in a few decades, when no such history has any living victims, all AA must perforce have gone away.

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