October 24, 2013
It’s not a secret that possible signing of the Association Agreement and creation of the Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the European Union is perceived in Russia as a threat to the personal image of Vladimir Putin – the so-called “collector of Russian lands” and the main ideologist of creation of sort of a new USSR. Meanwhile, the successful Vilnius summit for Ukraine will again stir up the question of territorial integrity of Ukraine in the Russian society.
Vladimir Putin (however, the same way as the majority of Russians) doesn’t hide his negative opinion concerning independence of Ukraine and almost openly hints that the part of its territory has to belong to the Russian Federation.
In this context the interview of the former adviser to Putin Andrey Illarionov which he gave to the Ukrainian Internet newspaper “Ukrayinska Pravda” is interesting. “The attitude of the Russian leadership towards Ukraine is based on the idea voiced by Vladimir Putin a few years ago. It could appear as an accidental slip of the tongue, but actually, of course, it was the conscious act. He stated that Ukraine doesn’t have a long history of its own statehood, and the considerable part of the Ukrainian territory is actually the Russian territory which Ukraine received unreasonably. “A half of Ukraine is Russia”, something like that…
He acknowledges independence of the state of Ukraine partially, but the internal feeling of the big historical injustice caused by the fact that, at least, the part of the territory of Ukraine is to belong to Russia, is invisibly present.
And if it’s impossible to have revenge politically, then there comes time for actions of the economic character”, – Illarionov frankly said about Vladimir Putin’s attitude towards Ukraine. And he added right there that the Russian leadership tries to build some sort of a new Soviet Union, but meanwhile it doesn’t know which one: “This is an instinctive, almost unconscious desire to restore, reconstruct a certain similarity of the Soviet Union. It doesn’t mean a desire to restore the Soviet Union the way it looked in 1991. These people perfectly understand that it is impossible to restore the USSR in its previous form. But they don’t know themselves very well what new Union they want to get. They want restoration of influence, restoration of the controlling center, use of this influence for their existence and domination”.
Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow, the American Foreign Policy Council (Washington), has similar opinion. According to him, for the Russian government, Ukraine clearly “arouses strong, even irrational emotions”. Moscow does not believe that Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and integrity have full force and effect. Allegedly, only Russia is the true heir of the medieval “Kievan Rus”, the only “legitimate state-building factor in the Eastern Orthodox world”, says the author. Ukraine’s move to the West would also destroy Moscow’s hope of creating a “Eurasian Customs Union and Economic Community”. This would erode Putin’s legitimacy and his claim to fame as the man who rebuilt the Russian Empire, considers the expert.
Meanwhile, a considerable part of Ukrainians still highlight similarity between Ukraine and Russia. Thus, 78% of Ukrainians find more similarities than diversities between Ukraine and Russia, and 35% of Ukrainians consider the neighboring country to be the manifestation of both good and evil at the same time. This is testified by the poll conducted by the Ukrainian “Research&Branding Group” company. Nevertheless, the anti-Russian rhetoric is quite popular among Ukrainian politicians. Besides, what’s remarkable is that Ukrainian politicians and mass media prefer to accuse Russia in complication of relations on controversial questions between Ukraine and other European states.
In this context results of another sociological research, conducted by the “Rating” company after the last “customs war” between Russia and Ukraine, and also after sharp and aggressive statements of the Russian officials in relation to our country, are interesting. According to the research, about 46% of Ukrainians are ready to defend territorial integrity of the country with arms in hand. “Over the last three years this is the highest indicator: thus, in 2010 there were 43% of such people, in 2012 – only a third. At the same time, 43% of respondents aren’t ready to defend territorial integrity of Ukraine with arms in hand, 11% – haven’t decided yet”, – note authors of the research.
A remarkable detail: if the west of Ukraine has nearly 90% of those who would support independence with arms in hand, and the North and the Center – nearly 70%, then the East and the South have less than a half. Let’s note that the most radical Russians consider exactly eastern and southern regions of Ukraine to be “their” and, it is obvious that after signing of the AA the ill-fated “hand of Kremlin” will be directed exactly there to rescue the honor of its owner.
Anyways, Russian threats must be taken seriously and rebuffed openly by the West. According to that same Stephen Blank, Moscow has sought to aggrandize its influence in the Middle East at America’s expense. “Backing Ukraine would be a good way for Washington to start pushing back. It is also key to ensuring the continuity of peace in Europe — an unprecedented phenomenon that, thanks to Moscow, is now at risk”, – he said. Let us add: Europe should be interested by this question more, than Washington. Because “the hand of Kremlin” is also on its pulse …
Author : tfranke