Scenes of Russian troops taking control of Crimea might well lead one to believe that Russian leader Vladimir Putin holds most, if not all the cards in the unfolding Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Yet the Russian leader’s Crimea gambit should be seen as a reflection not of his strength, but of his feelings of insecurity.
The Kremlin is deeply concerned (if not outright frightened) by the ouster of the kleptocratic regime headed by Viktor Yanukovych. Specifically, Putin is concerned about a possible ripple effect that the Euromaidan Revolution might have on other authoritarian states in post-Soviet Eurasia – including Russia itself.
Russia’s bullying of Ukraine flies in the face of the Kremlin’s grand foreign policy design. In Moscow, Ukraine has long been seen as a lynchpin of Putin’s pet project of the Eurasian Union. Yet Putin’s aggressive moves in Crimea, undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, seem certain to dash the Kremlin’s ambitious “Eurasian vision.”
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Igor Torbakov is Senior Fellow at Uppsala University and at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden.