Russia Seeks to Win the War for Ukraine
Opinion polls show that a pro-Russia politician will probably win Ukraine’s January 17 presidential election. After the 2004 “Orange Revolution” it seemed as if Ukraine had moved toward the West. But polls strongly indicate that Russia will bring the errant nation to heel in January. And, unlike Georgia, it seems that Ukraine won’t require a military campaign to be reconquered by Moscow.
The current pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko’s approval ratings are in the single digits. Although we cannot be sure who will win the election, we can be almost certain that it won’t be Ukraine’s only pro-Western candidate. He has worked hard to align Ukraine with nato, but neither of his more popular opponents, along with 88 percent of Ukraine’s population, want Ukraine in nato.
The polls predict that ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych will ultimately win the election, beating Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a run-off ballot. Neither of these candidates is expected to garner the 50 percent of votes necessary to win the January 17 elections outright—meaning they will probably face each other in a run-off election on February 7.
Both of these candidates are pro-Russian. Viktor Yanukovych led Ukraine before 2004, when it was decidedly more supportive of the Kremlin. He had the support of then Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yulia Tymoshenko used to be pro-Western, working with Yushchenko to move Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence. But she appears to be a pragmatist, and has decided that she has a better chance of being reelected by focusing on mending Ukraine’s ties with Russia.
The rest of the world seems to have resigned itself to letting Russia have Ukraine back. The United States appears to have abandoned Ukraine in exchange for more Russian help in Afghanistan.
nato has declined to offer Ukraine a membership action plan, and has instead said that Ukraine’s path to nato is only going to get more difficult. On the other hand, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (csto), Russia’s alternative to nato, says that if Ukraine wants to join, it could be a member within a month.
“With us, Ukraine would not have to carry out the kind of overhaul of its entire defense and security system that nato demands,” said Vitaly Strugovets, csto’s chief spokesman. “If you look at it from an overall security standpoint, Ukraine is fundamentally a lot closer to the csto’s way of doing things. I’m talking about everything from military hardware to the basic mentality of the officer corps.”
Yanukovych has hinted that he likes the idea. “We are surrounded by strong governments,” he said. “Naturally, this means above all Russia, as well as other Eurasian countries, for whom Ukraine is desirable as a stable country, a reliable link in a system of collective security.”
But there is one other strong government that may yet have the leverage with Russia to do a deal over Ukraine: Germany. Insiders reckon that the prospect of Ukraine joining nato is still under discussion.
“[M]ost likely only Western Ukraine would join,” declared Heinz Brill, an ex-Bundeswehr expert, hinting at a possible partition of Ukraine. Writing in Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift, an Austrian military journal, he continued, “[I]n this case Eastern Ukraine would become independent or a de facto nation like Abkhazia.” Germany’s energy interests are paramount in any answer as to Ukraine jumping east or west. This includes access to the Caspian oil, and to the vital port facilities at Odessa and Mykolyaiv.
We have long suggested that the Dnieper River would be a natural divide in any trade-off between Germany and Russia over Ukraine. The Dnieper also is the general divide between Ukraine’s Catholic far west and Orthodox east. There are those, including ourselves, who believe that Russia and Germany have done a deal over Georgia. That deal may well have included continuing negotiations over the division of Ukraine between the European Union and Russia.
Ever since the EU’s expansion eastward, Russia and Germany have been jockeying to find a line of demarcation to clearly delineate where there imperialist goals stop. The Dnieper River offers a natural security boundary between the two.
A third of voters are still undecided as to who they will vote for in Ukraine’s election, and politics can always hold surprises. Also, elections in this region are not averse to vote rigging, in particular where the Communists are involved. The outcome of this election may yet be subject to a disputed result like those of past elections.
Over the past several years, Russia has worked hard to isolate Ukraine from Western nations while at the same time trying to win the Ukrainian people over to its side. In doing this, it has used the Russian Orthodox Church and even movies. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been careful to direct his criticism of Ukraine at the leadership alone, emphasizing friendship with the people.
On October 16, Ukraine’s prime minister had a reported meeting with the pope that lasted for 30 minutes. She stated to reporters that she believes that her visit to the Vatican and the meeting with Pope Benedict xvi were “very important.” Such a comment is of significance when seeking the support of the Catholic vote. “Pope Benedict xvi sees Ukraine as an integral part of the European community, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has said. ‘The pope believes that Europe has two lungs. One is Eastern Europe and the other is Western Europe. As long as Ukraine is not a full-fledged participant of the European community, Europe will not breathe easily,’ Tymoshenko said …. Tymoshenko said that Pope Benedict xvi told her this during a one-on-one meeting in Vatican last Friday” (Interfax-Ukraine, October 20). Tymoshenko supports Ukraine joining the EU and nato, both aspirations being anathema to Russia.
Russia faces the political power of Germany and the spiritual power of the pope, and the reaction that they could all too readily stir against any Russian attempt to grab total power in Ukraine. A division of territory between the EU and Russia would seem to be an effective compromise. German energy politics and papal power politics are in active play in this game that will decide the future of Ukraine.
Ukraine is a vital piece of territory for both Germany and Russia. It is key to controlling the strategic Caucasus. In addition to housing Russia’s Black Sea fleet and its continental ballistic missiles, Ukraine is a buffer state in defending Russia’s south—and a countervailing buffer to any Russian expansion toward Germany and the EU.
Without Ukraine, Russia is vulnerable. With it, the Kremlin would begin to feel a lot more secure. January 17 could bring a major increase in Russian power. And Russia has shown that it is not afraid to invade its neighbors. Of course, such a move would be a grand provocation to trigger an accelerated German-led militarization of the EU. We have consistently pointed to Ukraine as being crucial to a future pact between Germany and Russia to settle the line at which their individual imperialistic aims meet.
“As Russia gets stronger, as the world grows more dangerous, as economic problems escalate, the Germans will be crying out for strong leadership!” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote last year. “They are looking for a king—with a fierce enough countenance to stand up to Vladimir Putin!”
If Yanukovych wins the elections, it would amount to a bloodless takeover by Russia. Watch for Russia to continue to seek to increase in power, and watch for Europe’s response. For more information, read our article “Russia’s Attack Signals Dangerous New Era.”