Staunton, April 21 – A day doesn’t go by that some Russian official or politician talks about the need to promote the disintegration of Ukraine and then the integration of all or some of its land into the Russian Federation, a pattern that has become so normalized that it rarely attracts attention let alone the criticism it deserves.
Periodically, Ukrainians remind the world that there are large territories within the current borders of the Russian Federation which are historically Ukrainian and which are populated by Ukrainians. Known as “wedges,” these exist not only next to the current borders of Ukraine but as far away as in what is now the Russian Far East.
(For background on them, see https://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/06/window-on-eurasia-zelenyi-klin-isnt.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/08/kyiv-takes-up-cause-of-ukrainian-far.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/06/historical-memory-of-ukrainian-wedge-in.html, as well as the sources cited therein.)
No one in Ukraine is seriously proposing that Kyiv launch a campaign to recover them, but now, Igor Romanenko, a retired general who used to be deputy head the Ukrainian general staff, says Kyiv must be ready to act when at some point the Russian Federation disintegrates (glavred.info/ukraine/10064759-ukraina-obyazana-zahvatit-chast-rossii-posle-ee-razvala-general.html).
“Russia can lose not only Siberia [to China]; it can in general fall into pieces. But this to happen certain conditions must obtain. History teaches that no one empire remains in the form in which it had existed. Sooner or later, all empires fall apart or are reformed. This awaits Russia as well. The question is only when.”
The general says that Ukraine must be ready to make use of this moment, “exactly as Russia acted toward Ukraine in 2014.”
While many Ukrainian experts have argued that the disintegration of the Russian Federation would be “a catastrophe” for Ukraine (glavred.info/ukraine/10051421-razval-rossii-budet-katastrofoy-dlya-ukrainy-istorik.html), some Russian experts like Dmitry Oreshkin have said it is going to happen not soon but within 25 years (glavred.info/world/482087-rossiyskiy-politolog-sprognoziroval-neizbezhnyy-raspad-rf.html).
Romanenko’s words suggest at the very least that some in Kyiv want to lay down markers given Moscow’s current aggressiveness and that they are thinking in longer terms than they often have been, recognizing that regardless of how the situation appears at present, it almost certainly will look very different in a few decades.