Our media likes to run with stories offering one-sided, very poorly researched reporting on many foreign events and the Ukraine is another in a long line. First, let’s realize the Cold War era is over and a new, shifting geopolitical map exists. George Friedman describes this best:
When the Soviet Union collapsed, its western frontier moved east nearly a thousand miles, from the West German border to the Russian border with Belarus. From the Hindu Kush its border moved northward a thousand miles to the Russian border with Kazakhstan. Russia was pushed from the border of Turkey northward to the northern Caucasus, where it is still struggling to keep its foothold in the region. Russian power has now retreated farther east than it has been in centuries. During the Cold War it had moved farther west than ever before. In the coming decades, Russian power will settle somewhere between those two lines.
– Friedman, George (2010-01-18). The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (p. 70). Allison & Busby. Kindle Edition.
To understand this in geopolitical terms, Moscow now sits with the west poised almost a thousand miles closer to Moscow. That, combined with the dramatic loss of control over large swaths of the former USSR, makes it imperative for Russia to try and exert influence in its neighboring countries. Of course, Putin wants to regain Russian standing in the world, so we see him in the Middle East, working on Sino-Soviet cooperation, trying to turn Sochi into a Russian PR win, and even moving in Central America. At least this is my take on matters.
Stratfor, George Friedman’s excellent global intelligence site, offered a very good analysis of the history and background to the latest uprising in the Ukraine: “Protestors in Lviv Raise the Stakes in Ukraine’s Crisis”, which will help make sense out of the fever-pitched reporting on TV.
Kforce Government Solutions, Inc. (KGS) offers a free analysis of open source information that provides excellent background to events around the world (thanks JK for that link a while back). Their report is called Nightwatch and the report for 2/19 offers some excellent information to help make sense of the Ukrainian protests.
To hear President Obama’s mundane commentary on the Ukraine, check out Politico’s, “President Obama: Russia disputes not ‘some Cold War chessboard'” (*yawn*). Don’t expect any clear geopolitical explanations from this story – same old, same old and who knows next week he may have a different foreign policy take on the Ukraine. Afterall, his foreign policy guru is on record as saying, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it.” Yep, they’ve got to remain flexible…