12 June 2007

Congratulations, President Putin

Your bluster and efforts at intimidation have now inspired the President of Ukraine to put NATO membership on the front burner.

Ukraine is not Estonia. It's the second-biggest Slavic nation (population 48 million, one-third of Russia's own 148 million), with a language so closely related to Russian as to be almost a dialect of the latter (and more of its people speak Russian than Ukrainian anyway), and is probably more culturally similar to Russia than English Canada is to the United States. The Ukrainian border is closer to Moscow than the South Carolina border is to Washington. Ukraine is by far the most important and valuable of the republics that broke free of Russian control when the Soviet Union collapsed -- and before that collapse it had been part of the Soviet Union and Russian Empire for centuries. Very likely most Russians haven't yet quite come to terms with the idea of Ukraine as a genuine separate country -- try to imagine how jarring it would be for Americans to think of Texas as an independent nation, if it were to declare itself one.

Ukraine joining NATO would represent the greatest imaginable failure of Russian foreign policy. To Russians it would be a political earthquake. If such an event didn't open the Russian people's eyes to the disastrous nature of Putin's strategy, it is hard to imagine what would.



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