Russia’s conduct toward Ukraine and other formerly Soviet states in Eurasia reflects the lack of a cohesive grand strategy on the Kremlin’s part. A critical flaw is that the logic of confrontation inherent in its doctrine of protecting Russian-speakers living abroad contradicts President Vladimir Putin’s intention to forge Eurasia’s economic integration.
Ever since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Russian policymakers have wrestled with the question of where does Russia (as a national community and as a state) begin and where does it end? In all of Putin’s recent speeches, especially those related to the Ukraine crisis, a murky notion of a Russkii Mir (Russian World) has figured prominently.
“We will always defend ethnic Russians in Ukraine,” said Putin in early July at a gathering of Russian ambassadors. He added that Moscow’s protection will be extended to “that part of the Ukrainian people who feels linked by unbreakable ties to Russia – not only by ethnic, but also cultural and linguistic ties; who regard themselves as part of a broader Russian World.”
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