In Ukraine, few think Crimea marks the end of Putin’s expansion

a13-iconMcClatchy reports: With the Russian takeover of Crimea all but complete — Russia’s Senate is expected to give final approval to the Black Sea peninsula’s annexation on Friday — Ukrainians are waiting for the other shoe to drop. And expecting that it certainly will.

Indeed, many people here believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a game that goes far beyond reclaiming a piece of land that first became part of the Russian Empire during the rule of Catherine the Great. What they see adds up to what in Kiev is now jokingly referred to as a “Russian Spring,” a term usually meaning an uncomfortably cold season.

But while in the United States it’s fashionable to cast Putin as playing chess, his approach seems closer to the American board game “Risk” — a game of maps.

“All options remain on the table,” said Bobo Lo, a Russia expert at the British think tank Chatham House.

What are those options? For those who wonder if Putin, who famously has said the collapse of the Soviet Union 23 years ago was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, might be intent on reassembling at least part of it, the next conquest could be southeastern Ukraine.

“Crimea is definitely not the end,” said leading Ukrainian military analyst Oleksiy Melnyk, co-director of Razumkov Centre, a research center in Kiev. “He will not be satisfied.”

Experts then wonder about Transnistria in Moldova, a breakaway region that has requested Russian annexation. That’s just west of Ukraine. And just north is Belarus, also discussed by Putin as historically important to Russia. [Continue reading…]

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