What are Russia’s real motivations in Ukraine?

Ruth Deyermond writes: Interpretations of the Ukrainian crisis as engineered by Russia to enable a neo-imperialist land-grab, though understandable in places with a long and unhappy history in relation to Russia such as Poland and Georgia, are mistaken. Russia has never seemed keen to bear the political or economic costs of reacquiring other ex-Soviet states when it can achieve its regional objectives through other instruments.

Russia’s role in the origins of the crisis was differently motivated – attempting to prevent the irrecoverable loss of its most important neighbour to western institutions, it appears to have persuaded the Yanukovych government to pull back from closer ties to the EU. In doing so, it triggered the protests which brought down the Ukrainian government and presented a far more immediate and severe threat to its interests in Ukraine – a radically pro-western, anti-Russian government. Russian actions in Ukraine have been, and continue to be, an attempt to salvage its position in a crisis it helped to create but did not want.

For those in the US and Europe who fear an escalation of the crisis, this should be both positive and negative. The positive aspect is that far from being driven by a crazed, Hitler-like quest for European domination, the objectives of the Putin government appear to be both limited and rational: the protection of its regional security interests and great power status. Escalation of the crisis is precisely what needs to be avoided for this to succeed, which is why Russia appears open to a negotiated resolution. [Continue reading…]

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