Russia has always been different from the rest of the world with regards to making its defense policies. For centuries, it sought security by dominating immediate neighbours and then their neighbours until the demise of the former Soviet Empire in the early 1990s. However it still seems to be aspiring to resist upbringing of liberal democracy in its surroundings. History undoubtedly brings changes but it seems unable to change Russia’s old aspirations for having an extended sphere of influence across European continent.

The USSR’s dismemberment reduced the Russian geopolitical leverage and confined the former communist republic in terms of political influence. However, imperial aspirations could not die and remained in hibernation for two decades that now seem to be unearthed again. In this regard, protests and change of regime in Ukraine and the subsequent Russian intervention in Crimea should not be surprising, because Vladimir Putin’s attempt to recreate the old Soviet sphere of influence.

Putin probably understands that his decision to send forces into Crimea has sent a strong message across the free world, though he has called it ‘an act to save the ethnic Russians in Crimea.’ Moscow’s uncontested influence over the pro-Russian parts of Ukraine is likely to prove a double-edged sword. It therefore does not seem anomalous that Putin, since his arrival in the office, has tried to undermine the Ukrainian independence in which he, today seems successful to some extent.

As far as Ukraine is concerned it is probably one of the most suffered societies from the Soviet communism. Not only did the communists ensured the demise of its language, culture and traditions, but their policies also paved way for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of the Ukrainians. Their farmers were either killed or sent to Siberia (after opposing Stalin’s collectivization) and their intellectuals were defamed and murdered. During the early 1990s, the Ukrainians were so uncommitted to their Moscow-based leaders that they were among the first who declared independence.

In spite of Moscow’s robust attempt and initial success in its policy to influence Kiev, there are multiple challenges ahead to face. For instance, Putin has once again taken a daring step by sending the Russian troops in Crimea. He has probably forgotten the lesson learnt from his collaboration with Viktor Yanukovich, which has led to the demise of the Yanukovich regime.

Furthermore, this decision would inevitably send a strong message across the Western Europe and EU nations. In response they would try to put substantial overt and covert efforts to keep Russia at bay whether through expanding their support to the anti-Russia elements within the country or pouring in aid to the new government, because Russia is still the primary source of threat for the EU. The EU nations’ frustration with this development, therefore is not irrelevant especially when they have seen their prime threat moving towards a position of strength.

MUHAMMAD SHOAIB,

Islamabad, March 4.