Crimea isn't enough for Putin.
He wants half of Ukraine
Don't waste time trying to second-guess Putin, the Russian leader has made his intentions
A year after deriding Ukraine’s statehood, Putin made a very public visit to lay a wreath at the grave in Moscow of Anton Denikin, a commander in the White Army who fought the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution.
Putin recommended journalists in attendance to read Denikin’s diaries, saying: “He has a discussion there about Big Russia and Little Russia - Ukraine. He says that no one should be allowed to interfere in relations between us; they have always been the business of Russia itself.”
As he made clear in 2009, Putin believes Russian-Ukrainian relations are an internal family matter, not a question for international diplomacy. Now he is acting on that belief to reclaim “Little Russia”, even at the risk of a partition of Ukraine into its eastern and Europe-facing western halves.
Putin has made the cornerstone of his third term as president the creation of a “Eurasian Union” uniting the former republics of the Soviet Union into an economic and, ultimately, political entity to rival the EU. Ukraine, as the largest republic outside Russia, is critical to that vision, but the overthrow of the pro-Moscow Viktor Yanukovych as president and the determination of Ukraine’s new leadership to seek ties with the EU have wrecked its prospects.
Ukraine’s industrial base is overwhelmingly in the east - the area, along with Crimea, that Putin regards as Russia’s “gift” to its neighbour. Both regions are suddenly up for grabs and Putin’s sense of historical mission gives him every motivation to try to redraw the map.
One more thing many western leaders fail to understand about Putin is that, unlike them, he does not think in terms of the next election but on a timescale of 20 years.
He believes Western anger over Ukraine will eventually fade and, when it does, he’ll still have Crimea and maybe all of “Little Russia”.
©Tony Halpin, 2014
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Wonder at what point Russian military asks why they've been sent into Ukraine to fight non-existent enemy, given evidence of their own eyes— Tony Halpin (@tonyhalpin) March 2, 2014
Do the Russian troops in Crimea keep their faces covered for security reasons or because they're ashamed?— Tony Halpin (@tonyhalpin) March 2, 2014
Interesting to read different approaches of Komsomolskaya Pravda's Russia and Ukraine editions - mirror images— Tony Halpin (@tonyhalpin) March 2, 2014