Ukraine, a lower-middle-income country in Eastern Europe with a population of 43 million and an area of 603,550 square kilometers, finds itself in the crosshairs of the United States and the United States. Russia. Recently, the presidents of the two countries met virtually to discuss the latter’s openings to Ukraine’s borders, where Russia has positioned 100,000 of its troops, alluding to a massive military attack on the country. During the meeting, President Joe Biden threatened Russia with severe economic sanctions if it did not withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s borders. Some analysts said it was déjà vu in 2014, when Russia annexed the Republic of Crimea without even firing a shot.
We must reflect on three significant years to decipher the situation today and understand the fascination of Vladimir Putin for Ukraine. Until 1991, Ukraine was part of the USSR, when Putin rose through the ranks of the KGB. In that year, the USSR collapsed and Ukraine, among other countries, became an independent country. Ukraine has always been seen as part of Russian cultural hegemony and an extension of Russia by people like Nikolai Gogol. The second significant year in this timeline was 1999, when Putin came to power after Boris Yeltsin was ousted. Since the start of his tenure, first as Prime Minister and then, successively, as President of Russia, Putin has been vigilant about his legacy, preparing the ground for him to be remembered as ‘a “great leader”. Russia, it should be noted, measures greatness by territorial extent and not by the economic development of its people.
The year 2014 is the third important year which saw the dismissal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. He had declined fervent calls for Ukraine’s greater integration into Europe, which led to widespread violent protests in Kiev and other major cities. Yanukovych eventually had to give up his post and take refuge in Moscow. Throughout his reign (three terms as prime minister and one term as president between 2002-14) he was considered the man of Moscow. Putin took Yanukovych’s impeachment as a personal affront to his leaders and as a Western conspiracy to thwart the extent of his ambition. In the months that followed, thousands of Ukrainian citizens were killed by the “rebels”, who also shot down, possibly accidentally, Malaysian Airlines 17. Over 14,000 of its citizens have been killed since 2014, Crimea has been annexed, and several parts of Ukraine are under Russian control.
Read also: What motivates Putin’s attitude in Ukraine?
What will Putin do next?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was preparing not only to invade the country but also to overthrow it in a coup. It is not uncommon to see an autocrat claim another country as his own territory and deny its citizens their sovereignty and their history. In this case, it is Putin who claims Ukraine as Russian territory. As we know, Ukraine became an independent country in 1991, but it was the seat of a medieval kingdom, which emerged in the 10th century in Kiev and today ruled Ukraine, Poland, Russia and Belarus. This is the origin that the Russians and Ukrainians claim. This is also the story Putin wants his country to return to, leaving his indelible mark on Russian society.
Earlier this year, Putin published his 5,000-word essay describing Ukraine as a Western “project” and said the country “is entirely the product of the Soviet era and was to a large extent created at the expense of Russian historical lands ”. Throughout this rant, Putin continues to say: “I am convinced that true Ukrainian sovereignty is only possible in partnership with Russia. After all, we are one people. His assumptions are perfectly in line with the populist leaders of countries determined to bring their countries back to their golden past and make them great again.
Will there be a war?
Biden is not seeking to engage his country in war with Russia, especially after the recent experience in Afghanistan. Yet he will do his best to maintain (or regain) US hegemony in world politics. However, it can be said with certainty that US special forces will not fight in Kiev. However, the United States can ensure that Ukraine has all the tools it needs to destabilize the Russians. Putin, on the other hand, doesn’t like unpredictability. This is one of the reasons why Russia does not have a big footprint in Syria. He didn’t know which way he could have gone. Putin also knows that if Russia follows through on its veiled threat to attack Ukraine, NATO could get involved in what could become Europe’s biggest land war since World War II. Putin may think he can defeat Ukraine without having to go into full-scale war, and therefore the positioning of his army is an opening for Biden to come to the negotiating table, to withdraw his support. to Ukraine. On the contrary, that posture has given him the headlines, the meeting with Biden and the attention he so dearly seeks. It also earned him the first round of his favorite coercive diplomacy – the final phase of getting Biden to commit to keeping Ukraine out of NATO.
(The author is a former head of communications for UNICEF in New York City, where he worked for over a decade.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.
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