In an utterly unpredictable course of events, Ukraine’s domestic struggles between pro-European masses and their corrupt regime spiraled into a conflict that bodes a new global standoff between Russia and the West, notes analyst Mariana Budjeryn.
Indeed, those in the know assert that Ukraine is only a pawn in Kremlin’s bid to foil what it perceives as a Western plot to prevent Russia from taking its history-ordained place as a great power in the international system, she writes for World Affairs:
The West, initially dismissive and reluctant, is finally getting the idea that Putin is willing to expend blood and treasure, and violate every international norm, to achieve this goal.
Putin’s propaganda has been vigorously spinning a narrative that justifies Russia’s assertiveness as a payback for West’s various transgressions. The story goes that the West had humiliated Russia when, weak and truncated, it was brought to its knees by the Soviet collapse. Echoing Putin’s narrative, John Mearsheimer, a distinguished international relations scholar, argues that the current crisis is exclusively the West’s fault: the West glibly broke its promise not to expand NATO eastward, given in exchange for the Soviet approval of German unification. It also antagonized Russia by funding democratic civil society initiatives in Russia’s backyard, in Ukraine, Georgia, and, of course, in Russia itself.
The reality, she suggests, is otherwise:
Russia has little to show for its greatness. It is an oligarchic kleptocracy, stricken by the resource curse, a tendency of states rich in natural resources and poor in democratic institutions to succumb to poor governance and abuse of power. Outside of a handful of lavish cities, Russians live in desolate villages ravaged by corruption, poverty, bad roads, and substance abuse. With all of its vast territory, Russia is a net importer of food, having failed to make investments in agriculture and consumer goods that could as much as feed its own population. The country that builds nuclear missiles cannot even raise a chicken!
Mariana Budjeryn is a Ph.D. candidate at the Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy, and International Relations at the Central European University, in Budapest, Hungary. Her research investigates politics of nuclear disarmament of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union.