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Russia will increase its pressure on Ukraine

By Messenger Staff
Friday, September 18
Among the countries of the post-Soviet space, the area which Moscow considers its ‘sphere of special interest’, the Kremlin is most displeased with Georgia and Ukraine. Following the August 2008 war and the occupation of Georgia Moscow is now preparing to teach Ukraine a similar lesson. There are several levers Russia can use to put pressure on Ukraine and there is a great probability that in the near future these will be activated.

It was always inevitable that Ukraine would find itself a subject of Russia’s neo-imperialistic policy. There is much evidence to demonstrate that this is happening. One vivid example is President Medvedev’s open letter to his Ukrainian counterpart in which he accused Ukraine’s leadership of conducting an anti-Russian policy. In the same letter there were direct hints, and specific phrases, linking the improvement of relations between the two countries on terms agreed by Russia to the future of the Ukrainian leadership.

Control of Ukraine is of key importance for Russia if it intends to reconstitute its empire. However it is unlikely that Russia will launch a direct military attack against Ukraine like it did against Georgia last summer. Ukraine is too big and too powerful for the Georgian scenario to work. However unlike in Georgia there are many pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. So the Kremlin’s first hope lies in manipulating the Ukrainian elections, as Russia thinks that it can thus suppress the pro-Western forces supporting current President Yushchenko and replace him with a pro-Moscow leader. Yushchenko’s rating is very low at present and his most credible opponents are the clearly pro-Russian Ianukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko, once the President’s closest ally, who now wants the job herself and is flirting with Moscow to try and gain the Kremlin’s approval. There is also yet another threat to Ukraine. If the elections there do not yield the results Russia wants it might trigger unrest in Crimea, where it has nurtured ‘nationalist’ sentiments, just as in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in the Russian population.

Russia is pressurising Ukraine while there are many unanswered questions about the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy and Eastern Partnership. There is much scepticism about these projects and even the EU has not clearly determined how it should implement them. For example, if Russia’s destabilising activities in Ukraine are limited to manipulating elections to bring its preferred leader to power the EU will most possibly be quite tolerant of this. This would be a short-sighted policy to adopt, because a pro-Russian Ukraine will further increase Moscow’s imperialistic ambitions which will have multiple negative long term consequences for Europe. These consequences are not what the European Neighbourhood Policy and Eastern Partnership are designed to bring about..

The Obama administration has several times stated that it will not accept the idea that the post-Soviet space is a sphere of Russian influence. However under its ‘reset’ policy the US has tried to persuade Moscow that it is not supplying Georgia with arms, even defensive ones. Even the training of the Georgian troops who will be sent to Afghanistan was negotiated with Moscow. In return Washington received from “grateful” Russia the introduction of military hardware into Venezuela. Russia is seeking to demonstrate that it thinks attack is the best form of defence and that its ambitions have not geographical limits. One does not have to be fortune teller to predict that in the near future Moscow will bribe, blackmail, or otherwise force other countries to recognize Georgia’s breakaway territories as independent states..

Russia’s very aggressive political games and diverse methods of attack make it clear that it wants to become the number one country in the world. Georgia was just a practice run, in which Russia achieved partial results. It occupied Georgian territory and established separatist regimes in those areas, using them as military bases, but was unable to remove Georgia’s pro-Western leadership. Now it is Ukraine’s turn. Here Moscow will use a different strategy, but seek the same goal. All this is happening while Western countries are hesitating about creating a clear cut strategy to stop Russia, whose appetite, as we have said, is increasing.