Russia is getting its 'sphere' back
Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia – Russia is making progress in keeping its neighbors within its 'sphere of influence.'
This week Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made his first state visit to Ukraine. After five years of cold relations between the two countries, this trip was meant to cement much warmer ties with Ukraine’s new, Moscow-friendly leader.Skip to next paragraph
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“Finally,” Mr. Medvedev told journalists, “there is a worthy Ukrainian partner.”
In case you haven’t noticed, Russia is making progress in bringing former Soviet satellites closer to its orbit. Ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia has worried about Western encroachment on its geographic “sphere of influence.”
Part of this concern has to do with feelings about lost empire. That’s understandable. Britain, too, struggled with diminution when the sun set on its empire, and there’s much hand-wringing in the US about the limits of its superpower clout.
Another Russian worry is deeply-rooted anxiety about strategic vulnerability. That’s understandable, too. It’s hard to forget the gruesome battle of Stalingrad, or even a cold war.
Still, there’s nothing for Russia to fear in former client states choosing membership in the democratic European Union or NATO alliance, which includes Russia in a special joint council. Moscow, however, still thinks otherwise, and that perspective drives its foreign policy.
To what extent is becoming clearer by the day. By taking advantage of situations or through strong-arm tactics – using its political, petroleum, or even military clout – Russia is getting its sphere back.
Since 2004, though, Ukraine’s democratic leadership succumbed to fierce political infighting, and its economy has been slammed by corruption and world recession. This year, elections gave rise to a new president, Viktor Yanukovich, who is much more friendly to Russia. He dropped Kiev’s interest in joining NATO, and last month extended the lease for Russia’s naval base in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol until 2042.