In 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an address to the nation that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical tragedy of the last century. Some take this as a hint towards a publicly secret agenda to bring back the hammer and the sickle. What they don’t realize, however, is that they never left. As every historian and journalist alike will tell you, Eastern Europe is a maelstrom of tragedies, and Ukraine is very near the funnel.
The country has always been the target of political segregation, be it between Central Europe and the Soviets or the West and Russia, and tensions have always been high. After the fall of the Union, three of its past members signed an agreement to form a new coalition titled the Commonwealth of Independent States. Among them was Ukraine, which subsequently chose not to ratify the agreement following Russia’s declaration to be the only legitimate heir to the previous superpower.
This renewed attempt at regional hegemony by their former ally is the main reason why the country is pulling away from Russia. The nation sees no prospect in a partnership with a federation run by a former KGB agent. However, Mr Putin is far from willing to let such a strategic territory slip from under his fingers. Let’s not forget that he still holds the ace when it comes to natural gas, a critical resource for the Ukrainian economy, and can bare his fangs when pushed too far, as we’ve already seen with the annexation of Crimea.
On the other side of the spectrum, the West is showing unquestionable weakness. Not long ago, a Ukrainian protester marching on a Crimean airbase shouted, “America is with us!” after pro-Russian forces threatened to shoot them in the legs. But where is the eagle when the bear is strangling their allies? Neither the US nor the EU, seem capable of anything more than a stern voice and a few sanctions. Perhaps they are cautious of the very real possibility of a new world war, but then the question is, where does that leave Ukraine?