Thursday, August 20, 2009


Relations between Russia and Ukraine have always been difficult. … Last year Vladimir Putin, then Russia’s president, escalated the conflict by publicly questioning Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He has repeated his claims as prime minister.

The Kremlin’s misunderstanding of Ukrainian politics is based on the fact that, unlike Russia, Ukraine is a democracy. The Russian leaders think they can “buy” Ukrainian politicians, but in the end they must listen to their voters, not Moscow, to gain office. This is an alien thought to the authoritarian Muscovites, who believe everything is manipulated from above and by Washington. …

The broader problem for Russian foreign policy is that the country’s rulers do not know how to deal with their post-Soviet neighbours. Their policy objectives are mixed. … Private businessmen aspire to expand their corporations. … Russian nationalists persist in neo-imperialism and populist politicians try to win domestic support by attacking their neighbours.

The result is that post-Soviet nations are trying to develop relations with anybody but Russia. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are opting for gas exports to China. Most starkly, Georgia and Ukraine are turning to the west, but even Belarus, the ultimate Russian loyalist, is fed up with the Kremlin and seeking other options.
“Russia’s botched policy in its own backyard”
Financial Times, Aug 18, 2009, p. 7
By Anders Åslund, author of How Ukraine Became a Market Economy and Democracy

This is part of a series of outsourced economic policy criticism as a cost-cutting move during difficult times.

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