Thursday, December 25, 2008



clipped from:

The 2004 ‘Orange Revolution’, in which pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko successfully contested the rigged results of the presidential election that was ‘won’ by his pro-Russian opponent Viktor Yanukovich, seemed to place the Ukraine firmly in the western camp.

Ukrainian politics has however seen several reversals of fortune since that time, proving that Ukraine is unique among the former Soviet republics: pro-western and pro-Russian sentiments are almost completely in balance.

This map shows which of both Viktors was the victor in each of Ukraine’s regions in the (contested) November 2004 presidential elections. Each candidate has won in a remarkably contiguous area - Yushchenko winning the northwestern half of the country, Yanukovich the southeastern part.

In the years immediately following the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia was too weak to prevent what it qualifies as EU and NATO ‘encirclement’ (an old Russian geopolitical worry). But now, a resurgent Russia flush with oil money insists on checking what it sees as further encroachment by the EU and(especially) the US.

The Ukraine however, with 45 million inhabitants and about the size of France, is firmly within Russia’s Near Abroad. Its east is ethnically mainly Russian (Ukrainian nationalism tends to be a western thing), and Russia has strategic interests in the Crimea (Russian until 1954, when it was transferred to the Ukraine, but still home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet). The country itself seems divided on whether it is an eastern outpost of the west, or a western outpost of the east.

Both Moscow and the West are eager to have the populous, and potentially prosperous Ukraine in their camp. Will the fault line running through the Ukraine become the front line of a Second Cold War?

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