The White House today warned Russia to keep its troops out of Ukraine, amid fears that Moscow may step in with military force following the overthrow of the President, its ally, Agence France Presse reports:
Tensions also mounted in Crimea, in Ukraine’s southeast, where pro-Russian politicians are organising rallies and forming protest units demanding separation from Kiev. The region is now seen as a potential flashpoint because of its deep strategic significance to Moscow.
US President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, said it would be a “grave mistake” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to send soldiers into Ukraine to restore a friendly government after the upheaval. Nobody would benefit if Ukraine were to split apart, she said. “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate.”
Lilit Gevorgyan, a Russia analyst at IHS Jane’s Insight, said: “If there’s turmoil and real talk of the breakup of Ukraine, the Russians will be interested in securing” Crimea’s Sevastopol port. “Strategically, symbolically and historically, it’s important for the Russians.”
She told AFP: “There are many Russians who believe it was [former Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev, who was an ethnic Ukrainian, who decided to give [Sevastopol] to Ukraine, and still believe it is unfair. If it had been part of Russia, it would have provided a deepwater port for its Black Sea fleet, whereas Russia now has to pay a lease until 2042.”
But the Kremlin is unlikely to interfere, says a prominent analyst.
The most popular myth about Moscow’s role in the Ukrainian crisis is that Mr. Yanukovych has been but a puppet of President Vladimir V. Putin. In reality, Mr. Putin has been very frustrated with his Ukrainian counterpart, says Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center:
To Mr. Putin, Mr. Yanukovych is unreliable, forever vacillating between the European Union and Russia; and now, a totally spent force, he has fled from Kiev to Kharkiv, a Russian-speaking city in eastern Ukraine. Moscow knows that the Ukrainian oligarchs, most of whom used to support Mr. Yanukovych, are largely anti-Russian. Though they in effect rule Ukraine, they fear being taken over by the richer business giants next door. Even those who made their money in Russia, like the protest-funder Petro Poroshenko, prefer to keep it in the West.
Despite what some Ukrainians suspect, Moscow is unlikely to try bringing about the breakup of Ukraine in order to annex its southern and eastern parts, he writes for the New York Times:
That would mean civil war next door, and Russia abhors the idea. Moscow’s best option at this point is to stand back and wait, while quietly favoring decentralization in Ukraine. Although federalization is seen in Kiev and western Ukraine as a step toward ultimate partition, it could in fact help hold Ukraine together. With more financial and cultural autonomy, the country’s diverse regions could more easily live and let live, and keep one another in check. Promoting decentralization in Ukraine would be a realistic long-term strategy for Russia, something Moscow has lacked so far.
Sergei A. Markov, a political strategist who advises the Kremlin, criticized the “cynical geopolitical games” that European leaders played in Ukraine, and suggested that Russia needed a new approach. “It’s simply necessary for Moscow to reformat the Ukraine element of its foreign policy,” he told Interfax.
Since Ukraine could either descend into chaos or right itself on a path toward a new democratic stability, the European powers and the United States must offer the country all possible support to move toward the latter, says Brussels-based analyst Ulrich Speck:
Ukraine’s crisis isn’t just political: The country faces economic default without support. It had been relying on Russia for that help, and now Europeans and Americans must quickly work with the International Monetary Fund to provide a financial lifeline to Kiev and to prepare longer-term economic-assistance programs; they must also be ready to give direct emergency aid by themselves, if needed. Simply by announcing a readiness to commit to these steps, they would be providing enormous help to the forces committed to change in Ukraine.
Besides getting through the first days and weeks, there are two great political risks the West must help Ukraine to address, he writes for the New York Times:
One is the inevitable attempt to undermine an emerging order. The protest movement that began last November, centered in Kiev’s Independence Square, has won. But it is quite possible that the forces that supported the former regime, especially in the east and south of the country, are going to contest the new order…..The second risk is that the new regime will look like the one installed after the Orange Revolution in 2004: years of painful stalemate, political institutions blocking each other, permanent infighting and no clear separation between political and economic power.
It is primarily up to the Ukrainian people to put their still-young country on a new path. Many have demonstrated incredible courage over the last weeks. But a post-Yanukovych Ukraine will still be a fragile state with weak institutions.
The key to this approach lies in Berlin, says Speck, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the European center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
In the 1990s, it was Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Angela Merkel’s mentor, who pushed through the enlargement of the European Union to include former members of the Soviet bloc as a way to stabilize Germany’s Eastern neighborhood….Seen by many as the European Union’s leading power, Germany can bring France on board, a necessary condition for getting the bloc fully behind a new approach to Ukraine. Moreover, Berlin, with its strong economic ties with Moscow, is able to keep the West’s relations with Moscow on track. And Berlin pulls enough weight in Washington to put together a common trans-Atlantic strategy.
Dr. Nadia Diuk, Vice President Programs-Africa, Central Europe and Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, National Endowment for Democracy (above) shed light on recent events in Ukraine with a recent article for World Affairs, ”Euromaidan: Ukraine’s Self-Organizing Revolution.”
“January 22nd, the date usually celebrated in Ukraine as the Day of Unity between east and west, will now go down in history as the day the two-months-long Euromaidan movement saw its first fatalities as violence escalated in Kyiv’s city center, with internal troops and special forces pitted against the formerly peaceful protesters in a vicious, at times almost medieval battle. One civic activist was found beaten to death in the woods outside Kyiv, and others were shot as they took part in the standoff.”
Read the complete article here.