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To deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the West has to assume that he is rational and will respond to carrots and sticks. Accordingly, it should take him up on his proposal to form a working group on Ukraine, which would at least force everyone to take a deep breath and survey the situation with a measure of calm.
It is time to imagine what once seemed impossible: In addition to Crimea, Putin attempts to annex the other southeastern Ukrainian provinces that are generally regarded as most susceptible to conquest -- Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhzhya. Ukraine would be the immediate loser but might find itself better off in the long run. Russia, on the other hand, would quickly discover that it is in possession of economically unviable provinces that cannot survive without massive infusions of rubles.
Destroying or dismembering Ukraine serves no country’s interests, least of all Russia’s. After all, it is in Russia’s best interest to have a stable, prosperous, and friendly Ukraine on its borders. The only thing the move could serve is the megalomaniacal Putin.
The demonstrators’ slogan that “Ukraine is Europe!” signifies much more than a desire to join the EU. For them, as for most Ukrainians, Europe is a symbol of democracy, national dignity, human rights, and freedom -- everything they believe, correctly, the Yanukovych regime opposes.
Later this month, Ukraine will decide whether to sign an association agreement with the EU, boosting political and trade ties, security cooperation, and cultural connections. Whatever choice it makes will reshape Ukraine’s domestic political landscape and force President Viktor Yanukovych, ever the authoritarian in democrat’s clothing, to change too.
Just about everyone expects the October 28 election to result in a victory for the ruling Party of Regions. The result will be a further erosion of democracy, greater instability, and Kiev's drift toward Moscow.
President Viktor Yanukovych has led Ukraine, no stranger to crisis, into another round of turmoil. He has rolled back democracy while failing to take on corruption or take the country closer to Europe. Now, much of the public has turned against him -- and the country could be headed for more unrest.
On becoming president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych immediately took actions that undermined democracy and aligned Ukraine closely with Russia. If he keeps on his current course, he could very well provoke a second Orange Revolution.
The recent deterioration in relations between Russia and Ukraine should be of great concern to the West, because Ukraine’s security is critical to Europe’s stability. Ukraine must be placed back on the policy agenda as a player in its own right.
Two new books attempt to explain U.S. power and policy in imperial terms. Unfortunately for their authors, the United States neither has nor is an empire.