The Kremlin fears that Yanukovich’s ouster will be regarded as its defeatWorld Press
Ukraine’s role is pivotal to the great Russian state – whether yesterday’s Soviet Union or today’s federation. Two decades ago, I told my foreign colleagues that the USSR could survive without any of its 14 other republics. I have no doubt it collapsed when Ukrainians voted in a referendum in favour of independence in 1991.
The reason is not the economy. Ukraine was the most industrially advanced of all the Soviet republics, yet Russia can do without it. Ukraine badly needs Russian oil and gas, yet no disaster is in sight even if Moscow breaks its economic ties with Kiev altogether, which is highly unlikely.
The cold war zero-sum game mentality is by no means dead. Russia’s leaders regard the west, particularly the US, with much suspicion. They do not believe that Washington is bent on war, but they assume that, given an opportunity, the Americans will never miss a chance to do something nasty to Russia.
If the western Ukrainian militants keep insisting the whole political system must be thoroughly overhauled immediately, bloodshed may yet resume with a boost to separatist movements in the east and south. Nobody knows how that will end.
However, remember that back in 1994 Ukraine was given a guarantee of its sovereignty in exchange for Kiev’s consent to transfer its nuclear potential to Russia. The guarantors are Russia, the US and the UK. Now, if any separatist action takes place including secessionist moves in the Crimea, a grave international crisis may ensue. The Russian-Georgian war of 2008 would seem like a minor skirmish