George X. Protopapas
The president of Russia Vladimir Putin adopted the theory of realism during the crisis between Moscow and Kiew. Putin immediately secured the Russian geopolitical interests in Crimea after the fall of the pro-Russian president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. Crimea’s annexation is considered the natural outcome of the Ukrainian- Russian crisis as the majority of the population in Crimea peninsula is Russian and the port of Sevastopol is the home of Russian Black Sea Fleet.
The geopolitical position of Ukraine is of great importance for Russia. Zbigniew Brzezinski writes in his book “The Grand Chessboard” that “Ukraine is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state, more likely to be drawn into debilitating conflicts with aroused Central Asians, who would then be resentful of the loss of their recent independence and would be supported by their fellow Islamic states to the south. If Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as its access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia”.
Ukraine’s crisis reminds “Cold War” strategies but the international security system is very different after the fall of the Soviet Union. We could suppose that the European periphery continues to be a small area of “Cold War” due to the antagonism between West and Russia for influence. The European security system excludes Russia and a further eastern expansion of the Euro- Atlantic institutions seriously threatens the Russian national security. Russia considers the former Soviet States a traditional sphere of influence and has showed that can protect its national interest in this area at any cost.
However a war between Ukraine and Russia is difficult to start because: Ukraine does not have sufficient national armed forces and Moscow has already secured its geopolitical interests in Crimea. Moreover Ukraine’s allies, the European Union and the USA have demonstrated a limited action against Russia. They have condemned Putin’s aggressive policy against Crimea and have imposed financial sanctions to Russia. The European Union encounters significant political and financial problems and Washington does not want another “military adventure”, especially with Russia. Washington and Moscow cooperate in order to resolve Syria’s civil war and to prevent the expansion of Islamic extremist fighters in Middle East and North Caucasus, respectively.
We could assume that the USA president Barack Obama adopted the right decisions as Ukraine seems to be a second priority for the American national interests. Obama has showed that the use of diplomacy is always his first option on the international crisis. The outbreak of the war between Ukraine and Russia involves the risk to provoke NATO’s reaction if the war’s outcome seriously threatens the European security.
Russia has the tools to undermine the European security exploiting the Russian populations in Baltic States, Caucasus and Moldavia. Putin has attested that use the military power when the Russian national interests are in really danger. Russia does not have ethically the right to annex provinces of a state. However Moscow could invoke that the USA have supported the annexation or the autonomy of provinces of a state in order to promote their geopolitical interests in Balkans and the Middle East ignoring the changes of the borders.
Contributor Opinion to the American site The Daily Journalist (http://thedailyjournalist.com/)