Analysis: The crisis in Ukraine is a confrontation of two world views

NEW YORK (AP) – The crisis in Ukraine is unlikely to go away – a confrontation between two world views that…

NEW YORK (AP) – The crisis in Ukraine is unlikely to pass – a confrontation between two world views that could affect Europe. It echoes the Cold War and revives an idea left over from the 1945 Yalta Conference: that the West should respect Russia’s sphere of influence in Central and Eastern Europe.

Since coming to power in 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin has worked steadily and systematically to reverse what he sees as the humiliating disintegration of the Soviet Union 30 years ago.

While massing troops along the Ukrainian border and holding war games in Belarus, near the borders of NATO members Poland and Lithuania, Putin demanded that Ukraine be permanently banned from exercising its sovereign rights. membership in the Western alliance and other NATO actions, such as stationing in former Soviet bloc countries, were reduced.

NATO says the demands are unacceptable and that joining the alliance is the right of any country and does not threaten Russia. Putin’s critics argue that what he is really worried about is not NATO, but the emergence of a prosperous, democratic Ukraine that could offer an alternative to Putin’s increasingly autocratic rule. which Russians may find attractive.

Russia’s current demands are based on Putin’s longstanding feelings of grievances and his rejection of Ukraine and Belarus as truly separate, sovereign states, rather than part of the mainstream parent country, and the age-old Russian language should be associated with, or at least friendly with, Moscow.

In a millennium-spanning treatise last summer titled “The Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” Putin waved his hand. He stressed that today’s separation of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus into separate states is contrived, largely due to political mistakes in the Soviet era and, in the case of Ukraine, motivated by a “anti-Russian project” supported by Washington since 2014. .

His Russian-focused view of the region poses an important test for US President Joe Biden, who has been grappling with crises on multiple domestic fronts – the coronavirus pandemic, the rise of inflation, a country divided in which a large part of the electorate refuses. acknowledges his presidency and a Congress have stymied many of his social and climate goals.

Biden has ruled out military intervention to support Ukraine, and instead used tense diplomacy and rallying Western allies to back what he promised would be severe and painful sanctions. painful for Russia if it dares to invade Ukraine. But depending on how the situation plays out, he admits he could have trouble keeping all of the allies on board.

The Russian leader has invaded Ukraine once, with little response. Russia recaptured Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has supported pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists fighting the Kyiv government in the Donbass region, a quiet war that has left 14,000 people dead, including more than 3,000 civilians.

Putin’s strategy is to try to recreate the defining power and sphere of influence that Russia lost when the Berlin Wall fell, at least in the former Soviet Union. He opposed what he saw as Western encroachment into the former Warsaw Pact countries, which had formed a pro-Soviet buffer zone between the Soviet Union and NATO.

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were allowed to join NATO in 1999, followed by Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia in 2004.

Under Soviet domination after World War II, countries aspired to join the Western defense alliance and the Western free-market system to ensure independence and prosperity after the fall of the Iron Curtain. .

For similar reasons, both Ukraine and Georgia want to join and have been recognized by NATO as ambitious members of the alliance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Western leaders to take Ukraine’s membership request with greater urgency as a signal to Moscow that the West will defend Ukraine’s independence.

Russia argues that NATO expansion violates commitments made after the fall of the Berlin Wall in exchange for Moscow’s acceptance of German reunification. US officials deny any such promises have been made.

Early in his presidency, Putin did not appear to be staunchly opposed to NATO. He suggested in an interview with the BBC in 2000 that Russia might even be interested in participating; years later, he said he raised that prospect with US President Bill Clinton before Clinton left office in 2001.

Now, however, Putin sees the alliance as threatening Russia’s security.

But newer NATO countries take the opposite view. They see Russia, which has the region’s largest military and huge nuclear arsenal, as a real threat, which is why they rushed to join NATO – fearing that one day a Strong Russia may attempt to re-establish its dominant position.

A disputed election in Belarus has led to months of massive protests against longtime Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Alienated from his own people and unrecognized as a legitimate president in the West, Lukashenko has been pushed closer into Putin’s protective embrace.

Similarly, after the civil unrest in Kazakhstan just a few weeks ago, Russia sent troops to help the former president of the Soviet republic restore order as part of the peacekeeping mission of the Allied Alliance. Collective Security Treaty organization led by Russia. The army has left the country.

Putin’s aim is to restore relations with Russia’s former Soviet neighbors, while challenging and dividing the West. Instead of leading Russia in a more democratic direction, he now seems to reject the very idea of ​​liberal democracy as a sustainable model, seeing it as a pretense that the West uses to follow. Chase his own goals and humiliate his enemies.

He came to power vowed to restore Russia to a sense of greatness. He wrested economic control from the oligarchs, crushed insurgents in Chechnya, gradually stifled independent media and increased investment in the military. More recently, he banned some of Russia’s remaining human rights organizations.

Beyond Russia’s borders, his secret services have overseen assassinations of critics and meddling in foreign elections, including giving covert support for Donald’s election. Trump in 2016, the pro-Brexit campaign in the UK and various right-wing parties in Europe oppose European integration.

He told an interviewer in 2019 that “liberalism is out of date,” implying that the dominant Western ideal of liberal democracy no longer has a place in the world. The idea that Ukrainians are independent and can freely choose their own alliances is a hoax to him.

“All the subversives involved in the anti-Russian project are clear to us. And we will never allow our historic territories and those close to us who live there to be used against Russia. And to those who will make such an effort, I would say that in this way they will destroy their own country,” he wrote in his essay last summer.

“I am convinced that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia.”

The challenge for Biden, NATO and the European Union is whether their collective determination and solidarity can protect Ukraine’s vision of itself as part of the West and whether its Russian nationalist ambitions Putin in the region will succeed or fail.


EDUCator’s note: John Daniszewski, vice president of the Associated Press and editor-in-chief, talks extensively about Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Russia during the breakup of the Soviet Union and the early years of Putin’s presidency.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. Copyright Registered. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed. Analysis: The crisis in Ukraine is a confrontation of two world views

James Brien

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