Monday, October 21, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine’s Demise would be ‘Catastrophe’ for Russia, Kyiv Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 21 – The disintegration of Ukraine, something Russian commentators and politicians often predict or even urge, would be “a catastrophe” for Moscow because it would mean that the Russian Federation which now faces instability along its southern periphery would face the same thing in the west, according to a Ukrainian political analyst.

            In a comment to the news agency, Yuri Romanenko suggests that those who think Russia might gain from the disintegration of Ukraine are dangerously misinformed and wrong-headed as any clear-eyed assessment of what the world would look like in Moscow if that happened (

            Just imagine, he says, that “everything in Ukraine goes wrong and that we, God forbid, descend into a civil war.  What would that put at risk for Russia?  Everything. Its gas transportation network, its oil pipelines, its transit flows, its base in Sebastopol.  NATO would expand further to the east because in such a struggle, Ukraine would certainly fall apart with all the ensuing geopolitical risks.”

            Moreover, there would be “millions of refugees. This would affect not only Russia but also Belarus, and that in turn would have an impact on transportation stability. And he adds, “I am not even speaking about the destabilization of the situation in Russia itself. And there is every reason to assume that would happen because [it] is no social paradise but just the reverse.”

            “Therefore,” Romanenko says, “the destabilization of Ukraine would undermine the quasi-stability of Russia” itself.  In addition, the collapse of Ukraine would cost Russia not only that market, which now accounts for about seven percent of Russia’s exports, but markets further afield.

            And there is yet another possibility that Moscow needs to consider: the victory of  revolutionary regime in Ukraine that would put that country on an even sharper collision course with the Russian Federation.  For the latter, the analyst suggests, this   would be   “an automatic   check and mate.”

            Why? Because “instead of a comprador regime of oligarchs on its periphery would arise a Slavic state with a functioning government and which would reject everything that over the course of 22 years has destroyed our morality and economy.” And that model in turn would have an impact across the entire post-Soviet space.

            “The destruction of Ukraine is thus the prologue of the destruction of Russia itself,” Romanenko says, and “Moscow must accept [this] new reality: without a stable Ukraine, there will not be a stable Russia.”

            The Ukrainian analyst’s observations are important both because they call attention to the fact that many in the Russian capital seem to believe that breaking Ukraine is in Russia’s interests and because they underscore just how dangerous that process could be for the Russian Federation itself.

            Although he does not say so, Romanenko’s post is a direct response to those Russian analysts and politicians who in recent times have been talking about “the recovery” of Crimea for Russia or about splitting Ukraine, with the eastern and historically more “Russian” east going one direction and the Western and much more “Ukrainian” west going in another.

            Such loose talk reflects a failure on the part of Moscow and others to understand the evolution of Ukraine itself and an even larger failure, as Romanenko suggests, of what Ukraine means for Russia.  What is striking is that many in eastern Ukraine support Kyiv’s drive toward Europe, preferring to live in a country linked to the EU than in one tied to Moscow.

            That attitude, of course, reflects not only a pragmatic calculation of self-interest but also the weakness of Russian ethno-national identity there and elsewhere and anger at Moscow’s apparent assumption that it can push Ukraine around as much as it wants with little or no regard for the interests of the citizens of Ukraine – or even with regard to ethnic Russians as such.



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