Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry
By Anatol Lieven
United States Institute of Peace Press, 1999, 182 pp.
Ukrainian and Russian nationalists will not like this book, nor will Westerners who see Ukraine as a useful counterbalance to Russian expansionism. Lieven's two main arguments provide them little ammunition. First, he argues, because most Ukrainian Russians and Ukrainians are very close in culture, language, behavior, and attitudes after centuries of coexistence, the more untrammeled aspirations of both Russian and Ukrainian extremists do not sit well with them. The natural disposition is for an independent Ukraine, but one that is ethnically mixed and culturally tolerant. His second argument follows from the first: with both countries now genuinely separate but closely linked, it would be a grave mistake for outside powers to imagine -- let alone insist -- that Ukrainian independence must set Ukraine against Russia. Lieven recognizes the pitfalls in Ukrainian-Russian relations and writes lucidly about the many elements in play, including the shadow cast by the Ukrainian leadership's dismal economic performance. He also acknowledges that if the cruder variety of Russian nationalists actually come to power, they will likely jeopardize his own predictions. A very sensible book, enhanced by exceptionally graceful prose.