Ukraine Analysis from Strategic Forecasting (StratFor)
For fans of StratFor who no longer receive their stuff since they went full-subscription-only (like Chester), here is a free analysis of the Ukraine situation --------------------------------------------------- THE BATTLE FOR UKRAINE By George Friedman The Ukrainian election crisis, which has pitted a pro-Western presidential candidate against a pro-Russian prime minister -- and in which allegations of fraud have kept the outcome in suspense for more than a week -- is much more than an internal problem. It represents a fundamental geopolitical crisis with the potential to define Eurasia for a generation. That might appear an extreme statement, but what happens in Ukraine will determine the extent to which Russia can re-emerge as a regional and global power. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has faced an ongoing threat of disintegration. The insurrection in Chechnya is part of a broader tendency of Russian regions to seek greater autonomy or even independence. The Russians are resisting any attempts by Chechnya to break away because in their view, Chechen independence would be the prelude to a further disintegration of Russia. The state cannot be indifferent to its future. Ukraine, which became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has a strategic importance that transcends that of any other state in the region. Apart from size and economy, Ukraine's significance is geographic: it borders Russia and Belarus in the northeast. If Ukraine were hostile or controlled by hostile powers, Russia and Belarus would be indefensible. Ukraine represents a deep salient which, when combined with Poland and the Baltic states under Western control, would create an untenable military situation for Russia. After Russia was defeated by Germany in World War I, it was forced to cede Ukraine to Germany. Germany returned it to the Soviet Union after its own defeat by the Allies. Again in World War II, Ukraine was a focus of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The reasoning was partly economic -- Ukraine is a rich prize -- but also military: Germany understood that without Ukraine, Russia was so vulnerable it could not function as a major power. It would always be on the defensive. This is not to say the United States, Europe or NATO have any intention of invading Russia. Far from it. Nevertheless, the Russians cannot afford to focus on intentions; they must focus on capabilities. Intentions can change quickly, capabilities much more slowly. But beyond the direct threat, the psychological consequences of a pro-Western, NATO-dominated Ukraine would serve to emphasize Moscow's inability to control events in its own sphere of influence and encourage disintegrative tendencies in Russian provinces. The political crisis in Ukraine is a battle for the country's soul. It pits a pro-Western political coalition of interests against a pro-Russian coalition. It pits the western part of Ukraine against the eastern part. It pits a vision of Ukraine as part of Europe against a vision of Ukraine as part of the Russian sphere of influence. The election has drawn in Western and Russian powers -- and, not coincidentally, has led to massive confusion in Kiev. The apparent defeat of the pro-Western party and candidate Victor Yushchenko drew the intervention of Europe and the United States, which demanded that the legitimacy of the election be examined in detail. As the crisis and the pressure have grown, even Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich, the pro-Russian apparent winner, agreed that new elections should be held -- but whether that pertains only to the disputed second round of voting or the entire two-phased process remains a point of debate. Moscow, for its part, has insisted that the election was free and fair, and has condemned both the Western intervention and the Ukrainian opposition's call for new elections, with Russia's Vladimir Putin telling outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma today that a new vote "would yield nothing." At the strategic level, Russian officials believe that the West's concern for free elections is an attempt to pry Ukraine out of its relationship with Moscow and into NATO. The West is equally concerned that the Russian interest in Ukraine is part of a broader strategy to reassert Russian hegemony in the region. Intentions are not important. The objective fact is that the political orientation of Ukraine defines the degree to which Russia is geopolitically secure. If Ukraine were to be in NATO, Russia would never be able to guarantee its own national security and would never re-emerge as even a significant regional power. If Russia were to dominate Ukraine, forging it into a three-way relationship with Belarus, Russia would be much more secure and in a much stronger position to influence events regionally and, in the long run, globally. The stakes in Ukraine are, therefore, historic. The war with al Qaeda will end in due course. The question of Russia will then become critical. If Russia and Ukraine are split, Eurasia goes one way; if Russia and Ukraine are allied, it goes another. Therefore, the disputed presidential election is certainly one election worth stealing. ------------------------------------------------------------ Don't you love how he throws out those little teasers? "The war with al Qaeda will end shortly." Someone should collect all of the books by these analysts (Friedman, Bodansky, etc, etc) and put them in a savings deposit box for about five years and then take them out and see who was right. A good case for the importance of the election outcome, though he avoids any editorializing on whom the preferred candidate might be. This is normal for StratFor though.