Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his attitude toward Ukraine. Despite ongoing formal statements of the Russian president’s respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine, his other statements about our country are equally well-known. Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union the biggest disaster of the 20th century. He was even blunter at the Bucharest Summit, where Ukraine failed to get the NATO Membership Action Plan because of Russia’s actions and Germany and France blocking the decision. There, Putin said that Ukraine was not a real state. The list of such statements can go on and on.
They suggest that the Russian political elite cannot accept the loss of Ukraine. This refusal manifested itself in Russian information campaigns, diplomatic and security services’ actions, Ukrainian-Russian economic cooperation, promotion of the Russian World project by the Russian Orthodox Church, and “fifth column” influencing political processes in Ukraine itself, and so on. That is, Russia focused for many years on preparing for what is happening in Crimea now.
The Russian-Georgian war just gave Russia free hand and added passion to its campaign, as the world actually put up with the annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. How many geopolitical victories had it only in recent years? Syria, Snowden, the Iranian issue, preventing Ukraine from signing the Association Agreement with the EU... The only thing, though, that rained on Putin’s parade were protests on Maidan, which happened twice, in 2004 and now. This is the main reason that has made Putin so determined to go on the offensive and finally solve the Ukrainian issue, while the idea that the West once again would engage in appeasement had only added confidence.
Russia took advantage of a vacuum of power in Ukraine and launched a well-planned military operation in Crimea. This suggests that the Russians carefully analyze the Ukrainian political process. Timing was chosen very well, but the problem is not so much with Russians as they have made no secret of their intentions, but with newly-minted Ukrainian authorities. It is too early to assess the results of their work, but we have been able to analyze their methods and personnel policies.
While Maidan held funeral services for boys who were killed in the confrontation with the previous regime, the parliament was already dividing portfolios, and politicians just glowed with happiness. Of course, they had to retake control of the country, but what methods they ought to use? They engaged in backroom dealings which were not clearly legal and involved money, so, in short, the old rules continued to work. As a result, the new composition of the Cabinet of Ministers got approval, including from protesters, but people were still left unsatisfied, not to mention the lacking professionalism and experience of new officials.
The first practical steps also prompt questions. Have they detained at least one official from the previous government? Who will be responsible for dozens of beaten and killed people? How is it that Viktor Yanukovych came to Russia and became a tool of its influence? The new government actions after the beginning of the Russian campaign in Crimea are clearly raising the question of our leaders’ competence. “I hope that the war will not come. Perhaps pacifist stance is justified. But you cannot provoke the enemy with weakness! They have not even recall the Ambassador of Ukraine to Russia! At least for consultations...” expert Valerii Chaly posted on Facebook.