Q: Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe–how does instability there affect the region?
A: Is Ukraine important? Very much. But the main reason why it is important is that it is a neighbor of an even more important country – Russia. Russia with Ukraine within its orbit and under its control is a superpower. Should Russia fail to control Ukraine, it would sink to the level of a regular country, a standard player on the international scene, one of many. Russia’s decline from the glorious days when Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev made the world tremble would be complete.
No one can predict what will happen in Kyiv. But those who expect to find a solution to the crisis in Washington should not hold their breath. Unlike Russia, Ukraine is undeniably a European country. Its problems are European problems, and their solution has to come from the European Union. The French, German, and Polish foreign ministers are scheduled to visit Kyiv on February 20, 2014. That is good news. The visit gives them an opportunity to tell President Viktor Yanukovich that he faces a momentous choice between two options. He can rely on violence and hope to survive as a lap-dog of Vladimir Putin, fed by crumbs from the Kremlin and despised forever by his own people. Two, he can face the situation as a Ukrainian patriot and leave the president’s office – now.
—Igor Lukes is a Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University, specializing in Central European History, East European Politics, Contemporary Russia.