Dramatic events unfolding in recent months in Ukraine, just like during the First and Second World Wars, have articulated geopolitical role of this large, Eastern European nation. Ukraine, according to Brzezinski, similar to Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus and Uzbekistan in the Central Asia, is a key geopolitical axis of the Eurasia. There is a belief in Russian military-political circles, however, that the very fact of ”existence of ”sovereign Ukraine”, in geopolitical terms, is a declaration of a war against Russia” (see: Ирина Богачевская. Европейский выбор Украины: геополитическая цена вопроса / ”Перекрестки” № 3-4/2013, p.17). Ukraine itself on the other hand, throughout the entire post-Soviet period has struggled to make the painful choice, torn between gravitating toward unified Europe and geographic and ethnic proximity to Russia.
Finally, a strategy of integration to the European Union was chosen, with a hope that it was the best option of realization of national interests in building economic and democratic state, and solidification of country’s position in the global system of international relations. Kiev believed that the most efficient role Ukraine could play on the international arena would be the kind of a buffer between Europe and Russia, and the very European integration would contribute to modernization of economy, attracting foreign investment and new technologies, enhancing competitive edge for the Ukrainian manufacturers and access to the EU consumers market and eventually to global markets.
Nevertheless, all the good intentions ultimately led to this buffer morphing into a battlefield for fierce geopolitical rivalry between the West and Russia. Burdened with grave financial and domestic political problems that have grossly aggravated in the last decade, owing to weak Central European nations, the European Union in fact, became incapable of pursuing its geostrategic ambitions in the Eastern direction. Telling example of this was inability of the EU to buttress least economically the Ukraine which was ever more failing in the aftermath of the ”Maydan revolution”, and limiting itself to mere political declarations.
Furthermore, appeal of the growingly tolerant ”blue” and ”pink” Western Europe has plummeted in the eyes of traditionalist, quite conservative societies of the post-Soviet space, including Eastern Ukraine. All in all, the country faced a choice between Western modernist and Eastern conservative civilization paths. In turn, significantly increased in the last decade economic and military prowess of Russia allows it, with more determination and resolve, to draw Ukraine into Putin’s Eurasian geopolitical project.
Capitalizing on undisguised Russophobe policy pursued by the official Kiev of ”Maydan” with respect to entire South-East region, Russia has undertaken decisive steps to return Crimea and Sevastopol and thus, significantly has consolidated its military-political presence in the Black Sea basin. Russia unequivocally showed both the West and the Ukrainian side its readiness to resort to all means, including direct military intervention, to ensure inclusion of South Eastern region into the sphere of its geopolitical influence. Moreover, according to American ”Foreign Policy” magazine, ”Ukraine, being compelled to rewrite its constitution, will probably end with more loose federal system. Eastern regions will be granted autonomy, to allow rapprochement with Moscow and distancing from Kiev” (see: Американская пресса признала триумф Путина / ”Взгляд”, April 19, 2014). Plus, an obstructed path toward Transnistria will be secured.
As to other post-Soviet states, aspiring to maximum extent of proximity with NATO and European Union, particularly Georgia, utterly negative position of Russia regarding this process has led to shattering of territorial integrity of this nation in 2008. Just like current events in Ukraine, this served as a kind of a harsh warning to all the post-Soviet space which hoped that the ”West will come to our aid”.
D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor