It was about 23 years ago that the Soviet Union broke up throwing splinters in all directions. Republics of the Soviet Empire, which was surviving on the vestiges of Leninism and Stalinism and taking on the might of another superpower — the United States of America, became victims of a political centrifugal force that emanated from the Kremlin and tossed them out. Ukraine was one of the Republics that split from USSR and became an independent state. After the virtual overthrow of its leader Viktor Yanukovich in a parliament-backed upheaval, does the former Soviet Republic face the fate of the erstwhile Soviet Union?
With the western provinces including Kiev saturated with anti-Yanukovich forces and commanding the support of the firebrand Yulia Tymoshenko, the country looks to be picking up the pieces though the situation remains fluid. Parliament Speaker Oleksander Turchinov has been declared the interim president with calls for the Orange Revolution heroine to take over as premier.
However, the eastern provinces — closer to Russia and where Russian remains popular — still remain loyal to Yanukovich. The glare of the media for weeks has been mostly on the capital Kiev. The situation in the eastern provinces is not quite the same. Yanukovich, whose exact whereabouts are not known, is thought to be hiding somewhere in the Russian speaking regions. The US, fully aware that the east European country of 46 million is being used like a chessboard of the Cold War, wasted not time in warning Russia not to intervene militarily. With Ukraine’s predicament, Putin — just out of the glory of hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics — will have a hard time deciding what to do. It was Putin who strong-armed Yanukovich into agreeing to join the Customs Union floated by the Kremlin. Moscow has blasted the protesters and described the dismissal of Yanukovich as illegitimate.
So, is the integrity of the former Soviet Republic in danger of being threatened by Russia? Will the west and east of Ukraine split, with the breakaway parts pivoting west and east? The answer is an emphatic no. The European Union, which was humiliated by Yanukovich’s sudden volte face when he decided to ditch the bloc in favour of Moscow, will do everything to stop Russia from invading Ukraine. With US support to prop it up, the prestige of the 28-nation bloc is at stake and Brussels will strive to pull over Ukraine to its side as a whole.
It is highly unlikely that Putin, who has recently tried moves to burnish his image, will risk an invasion of Ukraine. More so, when he has to pay attention to a festering Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus. The heat of the revolution, so to say, will not melt Ukraine’s integrity.