Threat of invasion: Could Russia and Ukraine become one country? | Volodymyr Zelensky | Vladimir Putin | WORLD


December 13, 2021

“Russia has been stolen” of their territories in Ukraine, wrote President Vladimir Putin in a disturbing statement last July “On the historical unity of the Russians and the Ukrainians” -which can still be read on the official Kremlin website-. There he added that “The true sovereignty of Ukraine is only possible in association with Russia”.

How did these statements resonate with the ears of the Ukrainian people? What support would the Ukrainian people – “the poorest country in Europe” according to Putin, give to the possibility of joining powerful Russia? In his writings, the Russian president aspires to historic times of regional unity. Are the Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians as interdependent as the Scots, Welsh and English to form one country?

In the West, there are fears that the war of pro-Russian separatists in the Ukrainian Donbass region, which has lasted for eight years and claimed the lives of 13,000 people, is just a test bed for the advance of Moscow troops across Ukraine, as it did in 2014 in the Crimean peninsula.

“Today there is the threat that tomorrow there will be war”Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding that the Kiev army was “Fully prepared” to fight.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the Russian Civil War Memorial on Unity Day, Sevastopol, Crimea last November

Although the American president, Joe Biden, He warned Putin this week that there would be “strong measures” if Moscow launched a military occupation outside its border, “Occupation” Yes “frontera” they have a different meaning for Moscow than for Washington and Kiev. The word “occupation” does not appear in the dictionary that the Russian government uses to refer to Ukraine. He only applies it to what the Nazis and Fascists did. From the first years of school, Russians learn that their country “Posted” territories, never occupied them.

Likewise, regarding the idea of ​​”border”, as Putin wrote in his statement, they consider that “There is no historical basis” for “An idea of ​​the Ukrainian people as a nation separate from the Russians.” In fact, the very word Ukraine means “border” in Russian, but because they saw it as the country that marked the border of the empire with the rest of Europe.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former United States National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) used to say that “Russia can be an empire or a democracy, but it cannot be both”, and the question that moves the needle one way or the other is still Ukraine, which was once Russia’s “granary” or “bakery”. The imperial vocation is green at the time, like today, when the Russian president explicitly says that his desire is “Treat with great love” to Ukraine.

But it is unrequited love. The latest survey by the independent Levada Center in Moscow showed that at the end of last year only 5% of respondents in Ukraine supported the idea of ​​forming a single state with Russia and basically they were Ukrainians of Russian origin in the east of the country. Two decades ago, the percentage reached 20% of Ukrainians.

The Kiev government posted a meme this week on its Twitter account that added nearly half a million likes in a matter of days. It classifies different types of pain and the area of ​​the head most affected: migraine, hypertension and stress. But the one who lights up the whole head in red is “Living near Russia”.

In the puzzle of the two peoples, the long regional history is full of moments when the demarcation lines have been drawn, widened or disappeared.

Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians are all descendants of ancient Kiev Rus (9th-13th century), which was the largest state in Europe, with its capital in Kiev. Moscow was then an area of ​​little importance, far from the metropolis. Yes It was Prince Vladimir the Great (988-1015) who initiated the Christianization of the whole empire and put an end to the idolatrous paganism of the Slavs. This is how the Russian Orthodox Church was born in what is today the Ukrainian capital. And this is one of the strengths of the Russians to invoke their unity with Ukraine.

The baptism of Vladimir in Kiev Rus. Painting by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926)

In the puzzle of the two peoples, the long regional history is full of moments when the demarcation lines have been drawn, widened or disappeared.

Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians are all descendants of ancient Kiev Rus (9th-13th century), which was the largest state in Europe, with its capital in Kiev. Moscow was then an area of ​​little importance, far from the metropolis. Yes It was Prince Vladimir the Great (988-1015) who initiated the Christianization of the whole empire and put an end to the idolatrous paganism of the Slavs. This is how the Russian Orthodox Church was born in what is today the Ukrainian capital. And this is one of the strengths of the Russians to invoke their unity with Ukraine.

Threat of invasion: Could Russia and Ukraine become one country?  |  Volodymyr Zelensky |  Vladimir Putin |  WORLD

But Ukraine’s great weakness is its economic situation, something Putin seeks to exploit. And a possible association with Russia could be a relief. This former Soviet republic with a number of inhabitants similar to Argentina, and twice the size of the province of Buenos Aires, it has almost half of its population below the poverty line.

Putin wrote: “The extent of deindustrialization and, in general, the deterioration of the economy can be seen in an indicator such as power generation, which it has almost halved in Ukraine over the past 30 years. And finally, according to the IMF, in 2019, even before the coronavirus epidemic, the level of GDP per capita in Ukraine was below $ 4,000. It is below the Republic of Albania, Republic of Moldova and unrecognized Kosovo. Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe”.

Threat of invasion: Could Russia and Ukraine become one country?  |  Volodymyr Zelensky |  Vladimir Putin |  WORLD

Ukrainian soldiers march in the separation line of pro-Russian rebels near Katerinivka in the Donetsk region of Ukraine

For Tetiana Gaiduk, Director of Communications for Truman Consultant, Ukraine, “The Russian threat is unfortunately something that we are already used to living with and we are not ruling out an invasion. But Ukraine will resist ”. The political scientist reminded LA NACION that the hashtag #UkrainiansWillResist (Ukrainians will resist) is the most popular search in the Ukrainian segment of Facebook today.

Gaiduk concluded: “Russia invaded Ukrainian Crimea in 2014 and started a war against our country. There is no other interpretation of this fact, as this is the modern history of Ukraine, which we are all witnessing. Russia is today an aggressor country”.

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