A former U.S. House foreign policy analyst says the violence and turbulence in Ukraine is giving Russian officials reason for alarm, because of the nation’s dependence on its neighbor.
It might even be reason for Russian President Vladimir Putin to move to annex Ukraine, analysts say.
There have been several days of violence – and dozens of dead – in Kiev, Ukraine, as conflicting interests there fight over whether the nation’s future should align with Russia, or the European Union.
There was a truce, which was broken. Then today came word that an agreement for new elections was reached.
Analyst Brian Weaver says a major factor in the fight – and one that may prompt Putin to action – isn’t being discussed much. It’s oil.
“Pulling up a map of the Russian oil pipeline to Europe, the majority of the oil from Russia to Europe goes through the Ukraine. With the political unrest there, it would not surprise me for Putin to send in Russian troops under the guise of protecting the pipelines,” Weaver said.
Weaver says another factor to be considered when anticipating Putin’s future actions is his past.
“Putin was old school KGB and has shown the distinct earmarks of setting up a populist authoritarian regime in Russia. The so-called president from 2008-2012 was hand picked to run by Putin and after elected made Putin the prime minister,” he said.
“The truth is Putin actually ran everything those four years. To present a picture of democracy to legitimize his rule to the world, Putin will follow the Russian constitution, which limits a president to two consecutive terms.
“He will then pick a person to run in his place; a rigged election will put his pick in office, then after four years Putin will run again,” Weaver said.
Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor-in-chief of the Foreign Affairs-affiliated journal, Russia in Global Affairs, disagrees with some of Weaver’s assessments.
He said Russian annexation of the Ukraine isn’t on the radar.
“As I know, it is not true. At least as long as Ukraine keeps going as a viable state. Russia has no interest to take in this unbearable burden,” Lukyanov said.
The tipping point is Ukrainian stability.
“If Ukraine will face the crisis of its statehood, which is unfortunately not conclusive due to the awful quality of the political class there, I can imagine that many countries will get involved, including Poland, for example,” Lukyanov said. “But for now it is not in anybody’s plans.”
Former U. S. News and World Report Moscow correspondent Nicholas Daniloff says it’s very possible that Putin is eyeing his neighbor.
“I don’t doubt that Putin would like to re-integrate Ukraine into the Russian Federation. He is doing what he can to gather back all those dissident republics who walked out of the USSR,” Daniloff said.
One of the key issues driving the political unrest in Ukraine is the people’s desire for outright independence from Russia. Daniloff says Ukraine has had independence in the past.
“Ukraine has wanted to be independent for a long time, and was independent for a short time after the Russian Revolution,” Daniloff said.
Yet there is a complex political divide that Daniloff believes Putin will use to Russia’s advantage.
“Ukraine is divided between its western part which is pro-Europe and the eastern part which is pro-Russia. I expect Russia will apply a lot of economic and unseen sanctions on Ukraine to (prompt them to) come back to Mother Russia. However, I doubt that Moscow will use armed force as in Georgia or Czechoslovakia,” Daniloff said.
However, any Putin move is tempered by the present.
“Certainly not during the Olympics! Annexing is no longer a simple business as it was in the Baltic republics at the beginning of WWII,” Daniloff said.
President Obama has urged calm in Ukraine and called upon Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych to use restraint in dealing with the protesters.