As the political and economic chaos goes on, who will win the tug of war over Ukraine?


In spite of the West’s own problems – division, post-crisis economic stagnation, and attention deficit disorder –it is inevitable that Ukraine will eventually enter the European family of nations. It is, simply, more attractive than Russia. While Russians frequently flock to St Tropez and Courchevel for holidays, westerners are not exactly clamouring in droves to go to Sochi now the Olympics are over. The vast majority of Ukraine knows what it wants too. What Russia or the West desire is largely irrelevant. Let us be blunt: the Cold War is over and Russia lost. No one wants a loser (especially a bad loser), and the other post-Soviet Republics, including Ukraine, are slowly slipping through its fingers. Part of the problem with the crisis being portrayed as a tug of war is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Both Russia and the West have to deal with the chaotic results, but Ukraine has demonstrated that it will determine its own fate. James Nixey is head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House.


Ukraine’s pro-Russian ex-President Viktor Yanukovych may no longer be in power, but the Kremlin maintains significant influence over Ukraine. There are three main reasons: economics, energy, and population. First, not only is Russia by far Ukraine’s most important trading partner, but it is heavily indebted to Russia, to the tune of around $30bn (£18bn). Second, Russian gas fuels Ukraine’s manufacturing-based economy, which chiefly produces goods for the countries of the former Soviet Union. For many in Ukraine, particularly in the east, the trade system has barely changed since the Soviet era. Third, almost one-fifth of Ukraine’s population is Russian, providing Moscow with sway over the country’s democratic process. And a deal signed in 2010 means Russia will have an active military presence in Crimea until 2042. None of this will change in the short term. Dr Andrew Foxall is director of the Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society.

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