Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk waves as he leaves a European Union summit in Brussels on March 6, 2014.
Courtesy Reuters

When I recently asked one member of the Lvivska Sotnia -- an ardently nationalist self-defense brigade that provided security for the months-long protests at Kiev’s Independence Square -- how he wanted Ukraine to respond to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, one might have expected a fiercely jingoistic response. This was, after all, one of those Ukrainians whom Russian President Vladimir Putin used as a pretext for his invasion in the first place. But it turns out the last thing he wanted was for Kiev to try to retake Crimea by force -- that would only risk starting World War III, he said.

Lost in the recent discussion in the West about Russian aggression in Crimea has been the question of whether Ukrainians believe that Crimea is worth fighting for in the first place. Although Westerners (and the Ukrainian government) profess the importance of defending Ukrainian territorial integrity, most Ukrainians wouldn’t seem to mind letting Crimea go. For them, the issue is much more a matter of prudence than principle.

There are three main factors that inform Ukraine’s current passivity toward Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. First, there is the fragility and disunity of the current political leadership.

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  • TARAS KUZIO is a research associate at the Centre for Political and Regional Studies at the University of Alberta.
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