Back to the 90s – how past mistakes will drive Ukraine’s future

Russia will create an atmosphere in which European countries – unsure of their relationship with Russia and Ukraine – will question not only Crimea’s right to self-determination but also all of eastern Ukraine. In this atmosphere Putin will obscure the very fact that Russia has invaded a foreign country with no justifiable pretext.

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By Scott Schenking

As policy makers continue to work through their next moves and question Putin’s intentions, it is worth taking a look back into the history of relations between Ukraine, Russia and the United States from Ukraine’s independence in 1991 to the start of the Orange Revolution in 2004. The patterns of behavior then have been repeated through the last decade and Putin appears to be maneuvering to reverse the mistakes of the 1990’s that led to a weakened Russian position. Now that Putin has learned from lost opportunities he will exploit Ukrainian and international community divisions while seeking to extract the maximum possible gain from his current position in Crimea. International community unity over protecting Ukrainian territorial integrity will be essential to force Putin’s withdrawal from Crimea especially if diplomacy fails and military options are on the table.

This article will take an in-depth look at Ukraine development in the 1990s, Russia-NATO and Russia-Ukraine relations and U.S. policy in Ukraine prior to the Orange Revolution.  From this study, a clear pattern of behavior in Putin’s handling of Ukraine emerges which may give us some insight into future decisions.


Ever since independence Ukraine has faced two internal issues: regionalization and an east-west split. Ukraine’s national security concept of 1997 defined regional separatist tendencies as one of the key potential threats. The problem Ukraine faces with regionalism is that it has weakened the central government. As political issues revolve solely around regional problems, issues central to government are not solved by a coalition of parties. The risk continuously exists that regions could not only seek to secede but place regional interest far ahead of national interest. In seeking to build a new national identity the breakdown of the country into such strong regional ties hindered the development of a strong central relationship as support for central government decisions were often overridden by regional interests.

The ethnic issue in Ukraine in the 90’s is best understood by looking at differing nationalist movements active prior to the Orange Revolution.  The Popular Movement for Restructuring in Ukraine (Rukh) party, the only opposition to the Communist Party, gained important government seats in the 1991 referendum but split into many factions once in power. While Rukh overall has generally displayed tolerance and moderation on the ethnic question, perceiving the danger of alienating eastern Ukrainians, the more radical leaders in western Ukraine have been less restrained in criticizing “Russophone” elements in eastern Ukraine. They demanded a government crackdown against separatist tendencies in Crimea and Donbas in the early 1990s. Now Rukh has been divided into a series of parties that represent the right and center-right of Ukraine.

The most difficult ethnic area for Ukraine is, of course, the Crimean peninsula. In this area most people identify themselves as Russian and separatist forces have been prominent since independence.  Yet, the majority of Crimeans participated in the March 1994 Ukrainian elections despite separatist calls for a boycott. One of the major forces pushing for Crimean independence was the Republican Movement of Crimea.  The party called for a ‘treaty’ between Ukraine and Crimea and for dual citizenship (Ukrainian and Russian) during these elections and received 75% of voters’ support but internal dynamics in Crimea prevented rapid implementation. In March 1995, then Ukrainian President Kuchma abolished the Crimean presidency and annulled its separate constitution saying that it violated the Ukrainian constitution. The new Ukrainian constitution afforded Crimea a significant degree of autonomy and its own regional constitution. These moves by Kiev in 1995 temporarily reduced tensions and quelled an active separatist movement.

There is little evidence from the national development of Ukraine that it has abused the ethnic minorities within the country. Kiev has suppressed separatist movement, but in doing so they have granted regional governments autonomy. It can be fairly stated that the ethnic minorities have retained their right to self-determination short of separation from the state. We can also see from this brief history that the struggles in Ukraine are less about conflicts over ethnicity and more a classic struggle for power in the central government.  Once a party has a prominent position of power it can drive the national agenda in a manner that is directly beneficial for the region that voted the party to power.

These divisions have caused the Ukrainian government to be traditionally hindered by political instability.  During 2003, political instability within Ukraine was heightened as a result of a growing confrontation between supporters and opponents of then President Kuchma. A stable parliamentary majority did not exist which heightened parliamentary paralysis.  The volatile political context prevented anything more than gradual reform. The primary problem causing political instability within Ukraine is less an issue of ethnic divisions but more of a lack of party consolidation. In the March 2002 election, for example, more than 30 political parties competed and only a handful exceeded the 4% threshold for parliamentary representation.

The political dynamics of Ukraine in the 1990s consisted of parties from the right of center, the pro-president center, the anti-president groups and the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). The CPU was the most organized and consolidated political party and maintained control over a sizable share of the legislature. The CPU’s parliamentary representation dropped by one-half in the 2002 election, when it won just 65 of the 450 seats in parliament and currently holds just 32 seats in parliament. The issue of party splits within a government is not unusual and not always debilitating. However, in a nation that is attempting intense reform while dealing with rampant corruption this paralysis is devastating to stability and progress. Ukraine has been on a slow track to development. The combination of government corruption and political instability has caused stagnation in effective institution building.

This confusion within the country during its early development prevented Ukraine from moving in a single, clear direction.  The CPU maintained a strong presence early on and the many divisions in the pro-reform parties prevented the creation of a distinct pro-European platform.  Ukrainian parties quickly moved to whatever actor, internal or external, that might give their party a boost.  This vacillation became a critical factor in the relationship between Ukraine and the United States and Russia.


A confidential statement to President Kuchma from Russian Foreign Minister Udovenko in 1995 eerily outlined Russia’s view of its relationship with Ukraine.

“Russia has no intention to build its relations with the CIS countries in line with international law, nor respect the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty, and non-interference in domestic affairs.  The integration, proclaimed as useful and necessary in Yeltsin’s decree in fact means undermining CIS countries’ sovereignty, subordinating their activity to Russia’s interests and restoring the centralized superpower.”

Despite this harsh statement, Russian relations have not always been directive with Ukraine.  In order to put Russia’s relationship with Ukraine into the right context we should first examine the changing relationship Russia has had with NATO.  Russia has evolved since the end of the Cold War from attempts to rebuild Russian prestige in cooperation with NATO, to a period of open mistrust and resentment, to the more modern period of manipulation, coercion and aggression.

At the end of the Cold War Russia hoped that NATO would dissolve similarly to the Warsaw Pact.  Opposed to further enlargement to the East, Russia sought to engage NATO with alternative choices.  When the Partnership for Peace Program was being developed, Gorbechev proposed in mid-September 1993 a NATO-Russia treaty as an alternative to NATO enlargement.  Russia wanted relations to be closer between Russia and NATO than relations between NATO and Central Europe.  But this strategy failed to slow NATO expansion.

The first step to Russia’s initial strategy began on June 22, 1994 in the “Summary of Conclusions of Discussion between the NAC (North Atlantic Council) and Foreign Minister of Russia Andrei Kozyrev,” in which NATO and Russia agree to pursue cooperation beyond Partnership for Peace.  A year later this was followed by the May 31, 1995 “Areas of Pursuance” document, Russia’s Individual Partnership Program with NATO and Russian participation in IFOR in Bosnia.  During this process, Kozyrev, the minister of foreign affairs, thought that Russia needed to ensure that the Central European Countries (CEC) did not get preferential treatment in the process of integration.  Russia was seeking to avoid international isolation by integrating simultaneously with Central Europe.  Russia failed to achieve this objective as the CEC moved rapidly to join NATO.  In January 1996, Yevgeni Primakov who felt that a realistic agreement on the enlargement of NATO would be better than no agreement at all replaced Kozyrev.  Eventually, this led to the “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation,” signed in Paris on May 17, 1997. The main principle of the Founding Act stated,  “NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries. They share the goal of overcoming the vestiges of earlier confrontation and competition and of strengthening mutual trust and cooperation.” This act established the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council to carry out the aims of the Founding Act. Yet, after enlargement it became clear that Russia was still marginalized in comparison with its former Soviet states that joined with Europe.

The spirit of this relationship shifted during the Yugoslav crisis into resentment and mistrust.  On March 24, 1999 just two weeks after the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary formally became NATO members, NATO launched its military action against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo campaign. This was part of a new NATO concept of conducting NATO supported “non-article 5 crisis response operations.” Russia felt directly challenged and threatened by these actions, stating that NATO actions made the Founding Act a useless document and undermined the sovereignty of states. During this period there was a dramatic shift in public opinion of NATO within Russia. Prior to Kosovo, belief that NATO was a direct threat to Russia was at 31-48% but following Kosovo the figure rose to 86-92%.  As a result of this crisis domestic limitations were placed on Russian leadership in dealing with NATO.  During this period, Putin revised the Russian National Security Concept, the Military Doctrine, and the Foreign Policy Concept.  For the first time since the end of the Cold War, NATO’s eastward expansion was directly identified as a threat to Russia.

Initially, the overall relationship between Russia and NATO appeared to warm with the election of Vladimir Putin.  Despite harsh words directed specifically to NATO in the 2000 National Security Concept, Putin also heavily focused on multilateralism, which was one of the most repeated ideas in the new concept.  Putin placed economics in the forefront as both a threat to Russia and a means toward greater Russian global influence.  The National Security Concept describes a Russia that fears global isolation, a loss of influence and the need to strengthen economic opportunities.  Despite misgivings over NATO expansion, the need for multilateral cooperation with the West for economic and security reasons took precedence.  At the time Russian President Putin appeared to support close NATO-Russian cooperation and acceptance of future NATO expansion.  After meeting in Crawford, Texas following September 11th, Putin pledged to “work together with NATO and other NATO members to improve, strengthen and enhance the relationship between NATO and Russia.”

The NATO-Russian Council, developed in 2002, replaced the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council from the Founding Act and provides the groundwork for specific mutual security cooperation.  Within the framework NATO and Russia work on the struggle against terrorism, crisis management, non-proliferation, arms control and confidence building measures, theater missile defense, search and rescue at sea, military to military cooperation, defense reform and civil emergencies.  What the NATO-Russia Council provided Russia in 2002 was the ability to work with NATO as a strong partner rather than simply one of the then 19 members.  This provided Russia with a feeling of true partnership to NATO and a direct ability to influence security affairs.  Despite this new partnership, Putin remained skeptical about the role of future NATO expansion suggesting in one speech that any sovereign country has the right to join whatever alliance it wishes even if that is NATO but stressing in other speeches that the mechanical expansion of NATO will not be positive for security in Europe.

In this context we can understand the relationship with Ukraine during the same period. In 2003, relations between Russia and Ukraine began to warm. President Putin declared 2003 the Year of Russia in Ukraine in an active drive to promote stronger ties. He began the year by signing a border treaty with Ukraine that according to Kuchma was a “healthy compromise” on border issues.  Putin stressed that he considers Ukraine to be an equal partner and is taking action to demonstrate equal relations. In a January 2003 speech in Kiev over the border treaty he stated, “I would like to stress again that Russia made the step deliberately, believing that we have to solve all issues that make anybody at all doubt that Russia is willing to develop relations with Ukraine on the basis of equality.

Despite these overtures, the rationale behind Russia’s rapprochement with Ukraine was unclear.  Throughout 2002, an on-going trade war continued. Russia placed pressure on Ukraine to join the EEC (Eurasian Economic Community) despite duties imposed on imports into Russia. Russian companies continued to buy Ukrainian companies while Russian oil companies operated freely in Ukraine with little competition.  Russia’s desire to strengthen the EEC with CIS states did not appear to be an attempt to build a truly open free trade zone, but to expand Russia’s trading partners solely on terms favorable to Russia.

In an interview with a Russia Duma speaker in 2002, he stressed that Ukraine should not join NATO but should join the EEC. Despite continuing trade wars and a 20% reduction in Ukraine-Russian trade in 2002, he believed that Ukraine’s route to strength is through closer ties to Russia and not with the West. He specifically linked NATO to the EEC when he stated his belief that NATO membership could be viewed as a pass to the European Union that would draw Ukraine away from the EEC. Even as Kuchma and Putin drew closer, the intent of Russia remained unclear. Was Russia willing to treat Ukraine as an equal partner or use Ukraine to build Russia into a Great Power?

Despite oil and natural gas reserves in Ukraine, Ukraine remains dependent on foreign sources for 75% of its oil and 80% of its natural gas needs, most of which comes from Russia. The Russian Druzhb pipeline goes through Ukraine on its way to Slovakia and Hungary and eventually Western Europe and provides Ukraine with transit fees. However, Ukraine’s consumption costs exceed its transit fees resulting in an estimated $2 billion debt with Russia. In 2000, Russia accused Ukraine of illegally siphoning oil from its pipelines and began to demand repayment of its debt over ten years.  Realizing Ukraine’s inability to pay, Russia proposed exchanging equity in Ukraine’s pipeline for debt relief.  Ukraine scoffed at the idea since pipeline transit fees are one of its largest steady sources of income.

The competition for the western European oil market and debate over transit fees has strained Ukraine-Russian relations for years. Accusations have been cast across both borders. Russia accuses Ukraine of illegally siphoning gas, while Ukraine accused Russia of unfair trade practices that strangle Ukrainian oil competition and drive prices higher. In 2002, an international consortium between Russia, Germany and Ukraine began negotiations to stabilize control of the Ukrainian pipeline system. Germany agreed to finance improvements in the system, while Russia’s largest oil company, Gazprom, ceased talks of a Ukrainian bypass and agreed to fair transit fees. With a stake in the business, Ukraine’s state owned pipeline system agreed to stop siphoning gas destined for needs out of the country.

During this early period, Putin attempted to gain control of Ukraine through influence. While Ukraine’s western reform process lost momentum, Putin stepped forward and gained an ally with President Kuchma.  Prior to the Orange Revolution, Putin believed it possible to keep Ukraine as a nearly subordinated state to Russia without the need for overt coercion. The United States policies in Ukraine slowly helped Putin to achieve this objective not because of a failed U.S. approach but due to an undecided Ukraine unable to commit to reform to join the rest of Europe.

United States

Relations between the United States and Ukraine began ambiguously with Ukraine’s declaration of independence in 1991.  The United States maintained a Russocentric approach to Ukraine with an inability to separate Ukraine from Russia.  These poor relations were exemplified by President H.W. Bush’s “Chicken Kiev” speech in Kiev on 01 August 1991 in which Bush recommended that Ukraine should give up “nationalist ambitions.”  This speech displayed a United States misunderstanding of Ukraine’s intent through an inability to separate Ukraine from Russia.

During 1992-1994, relations with Ukraine took on a more focused tone.  The United States sole intent was to ensure Ukraine’s ratification and compliance with START I and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  The intense level of negotiations and pressure placed on Ukraine by the United States made clear that the United States interest was not in Ukraine’s future as a country, but in the security of nuclear weapons.  America was preoccupied with security against Russia and not with stability in Eastern Europe or Ukraine.  This led to mistrust and resentment.  In 1993, several Ukrainian parliamentarians angrily denounced the United States articles and newspaper editorials that described Ukraine as a pariah state and a “barrier to nuclear peace.” The denouncement urged such dramatic action as isolating Ukraine and withholding all technical assistance until it fulfilled its security obligations. Especially alarming to Ukraine were joint public statements made by President Clinton and Russian President Yeltsin at the Vancouver Summit urging Ukraine’s compliance with START I and NPT.

Ultimately, Ukraine ratified START I in February 1994 and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in November 1994.  It was in this context that the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 was signed between the U.S., UK, Russia and Ukraine. As an attempt to entice Ukraine to sign the NPT the memorandum guarantees that the signatories would respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine but it falls short of acting as a mutual defense agreement. In fact, the only obligation of response of the U.S. and UK is to bring issues of territorial infractions to the United Nations Security Council. Establishing a mutual defense agreement with Ukraine in 1994 would have preempted the role of NATO and made further cooperation with the alliance duplicative.

The period between 1994 and 1999 saw an increase in bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and the United States. Clinton recognized the critical role that Ukraine could play to European security and pushed for an increase in economic and military aid. The U.S. committed $700 million in technical assistance to Ukraine. The Joint Commission on Trade and Investment chaired by U.S. Department of Commerce and Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations was established to lower trade barriers and stimulate foreign investment. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) made $50 million available in funding for investment projects in Ukraine. Benefits of the United States Generalized System of Preferences were extended providing Kiev with duty-free access to the United States market for some 400 products. Internationally, the United States advanced a proposal at the G-7 Naples Summit in 1994, to provide Ukraine with a $4 billion economic aid package that was approved.  The U.S. supported the creation of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund totaling $150 million to promote private sector development in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus.

Between 1995 and 1999 cooperation continued to increase.  In 1995, the U.S. offered a billion dollars in balance-of-payments support for export credits. The Gore-Kuchma Binational Commission was established in 1996 to “realize the full promise of the United States-Ukraine relationship.”  Presidents Bill Clinton and Leonid Kuchma stated in a joint declaration in May 1995 that, “independent Ukraine, secure in its internationally recognized borders, is a key factor of stability and security in Europe.”

Cooperation with NATO continued to grow with the United States support.  In 1994, Ukraine became the first CIS country to join Partnership for Peace program with NATO. In September 1995, an Individual Partnership Program for Ukraine was approved. Finally, on July 9th, 1997 the NATO-Ukraine Charter on Distinctive Partnership was signed.

But in 2000, relations began to slowly deteriorate.  United States aid was not being met with aggressive economic reform and a reduction in corruption. In August 2000, the United States placed pressure on Ukraine to cease its bombers for gas program with Russia. The US threatened to stop providing funds for the decommissioning of Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal if Kiev continued to transfer bombers to Russia to offset its massive gas debts. Ukraine Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko was considering handing over 10 Tu-95 and 60 Tu-1 bomber planes to offset part of Kiev’s massive gas debts.  In 1999, Ukraine gave Russia 11 bombers as repayment for $285 million of its total debt, which Russia claims is over $2 billion.

Further, the effect of US aid was not being positively felt throughout Ukraine. In 1998, the Clinton administration persuaded the Ukrainian government to order Turboatom, a producer of giant steam turbines and one of Ukraine’s largest enterprises, to back out of the Iranian project. The move was regarded as a great success of American policy and it was expected that it would seriously disrupt Russia’s ability to complete the Iranian power station. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright traveled to Kiev in March 1998 and praised President Leonid Kuchma for “great statesmanship” in joining the struggle to “halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”  However, construction at the Bushehr power plant was due to be completed in 2002. Russia was expected to earn about $1 billion from the project. Part of that went to its largest turbine manufacturer, a St. Petersburg company, which took over Ukraine’s contract to produce the turbine that was delivered to Iran in September 2001.  In the end, the only party that was hurt by American intervention was Ukraine. “This was one of our biggest contracts, and losing it has been a very serious blow to the economy of our region,” said Anatoly A. Bugaets, Turboatom’s general director. “But of course we are law abiding people, and when a decision is made at the highest level, we have to obey.”

During this period Ukraine and Kuchma continued to receive US support. Madeleine Albright praised President Leonid Kuchma in Kiev on 15 April 2000, saying his re-election has given fresh impetus to reforms in Ukraine. “I was very impressed by President Kuchma’s…desire to move the reform process forward and by the work the prime minister, [Viktor Yushchenko], is undertaking.” The U.S. government granted $195 million in aid to Ukraine in 1999. Albright pledged $78 million to build new power production capacities at Ukraine’s other nuclear power plants as compensation for closing Chernobyl.

In 2001, the United States and Ukraine entered into further arms agreements when Ukraine’s Economics and European Integration Ministry and the United States Defense Department signed an agreement to assist Ukraine in introducing the export control system to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  Yet, the relations began to cool in 2001 when the US imposed trade sanctions on Ukraine after its parliament was unwilling to pass legislations that would prevent the illegal production of compact discs in the country. During this same year, Ukraine accidentally shot down a Russian airliner over the Black Sea on 4 October 2001. Information that the United States had concerning the incident placed America and Moscow at odds over Ukraine, thus further straining relations between the US and Ukraine.

In 2002, the issues between the United States and Ukraine came to a boiling point leading to Kuchma not being invited to the NATO Prague Summit in November 2002. The key issue that placed Kuchma and the United States at odds was the alleged sale of military equipment to Iraq. In September 2002, the United States froze financial aid to Ukraine because of evidence it acquired linking Kuchma to the illegal sale of radar equipment to Iraq in violation of United Nations sanctions. In addition, the US suspected Ukraine of selling pontoon bridges to Iraq in further violation of the restrictions.  In response to these allegations, Kuchma was not invited to attend the NATO summit in Prague providing Ukraine with a clear signal of its standing with NATO.

The United States’ early attempts at engaging Ukraine were overly optimistic. The US hoped that Ukraine could be forced into a shock therapy similar to Poland but the reforms have progressed slowly and produced few results. What they initiated was an increase in Ukrainian aspirations for rapid integration with Europe and the United States. As these aspirations continued to rise, US support dwindled in response to a slow reform process and Ukraine resentment of the United States grew for using aid as internal leverage. As a result, Kuchma sought to build ties with any nation that may benefit Ukraine’s economy. The negative implications were seen in Kuchma’s overtures to Iran and Iraq, two countries considered to be part of the “axis of evil” by the Bush administration as well as closer relations with Russia.

Putin and Kuchma worked closely together on increasing economic and military ties.  Putin supported Kuchma as president of Ukraine and strongly supported his recent election as chairman of the CIS Council of Heads of State. This significant appointment demonstrated Kuchma’s desire to move to the East; despite a foreign policy that states western integration as a key goal. Since the Prague Summit, Russia’s President Putin proved a greater influence on Kuchma than United States President Bush.

The policies of the United States regarding Ukraine have been viewed by many in the country as vacillating and unreliable.  Ukrainian attempts to move to the West did not meet their expectation of rapid absorption into Euro-Atlantic structures nor provide a solution for their economic woes.  Many in Ukraine left the 1990s with a belief that their true economic interests lie with Russia.  As Putin opened the Year of Ukraine in 2003 it seemed to some to be a time of growing economic deals with Russia with few strings attached.  The heavy requirements of reform and the appearance of many lost opportunities further helped to exacerbate the already existing divisions in Ukraine.

The next move

Now is the time when Putin wants to capitalize on Western past mistakes while learning from his own.  Putin’s strategy in Ukraine:  obfuscate, divide and remain. Russia will flood the international community and Ukraine with a continuous stream of false information.  For nearly ten years Putin’s strategy in Ukraine remained unclear and ambiguous and it was in this atmosphere of confusion that his influence grew.  Russia will create an atmosphere in which European countries – unsure of their relationship with Russia and Ukraine – will question not only Crimea’s right to self-determination but also all of eastern Ukraine. In this atmosphere Putin will obscure the very fact that Russia has invaded a foreign country with no justifiable pretext. As part of this strategy, Putin will attempt manoeuvres to provoke a response from the Ukraine government, its citizens, or the international community. It will be critical for the international community to remain united on supporting the complete territorial integrity of Ukraine especially in the face of potential military action.  Only if unified can allies hope to control Putin’s next move rather than play the game according to his rules.

Putin is a masterful political player and will seek every option available to divide the international community as well as to divide Ukraine itself. At some point, Russia will try to inflict harm on Western Europe by cutting oil and gas in “retaliation” for a move by Ukraine or the United States.  Russian and European business loses will be blamed on US intervention and the Russian people and parliament will rally around Putin as a leader who is finally correcting the losses Russia has suffered during the last two decades.  In Ukraine, Putin will capitalize on already existing divisions.  He will remind Ukraine of how little progress they have made with the European Union while inflating the role of Russian investment in Ukraine. He will follow the Kosovo example and encourage regions to accept their right to self-determination and declare their own independence. If any region declares independence Russian troops will enter quickly to secure their “right” to self-determination from Kiev “aggression”.

Finally, Putin has attempted to play diplomatically in the past to put Russia first in the region and it did not work for Russia in the 1990s.  Now, he will play militarily and Georgia was only a precursor. It is reasonable to expect that Putin will not leave Crimea until the peninsula is de facto an independent state. One of the key concessions he will seek is a forced continuance of the lease, if not ownership, of the Russian naval base in Sevastopol but this is less about geostrategic positioning than it is about proving a capacity to assert Russian interest. He will follow lessons he learned from Kosovo and stay in the region on a near permanent basis, dragging out negotiations while making all attempts to wear down and divide the international community. While military options should not be a first resort of the international community we must not assume that Putin will leave Crimea under diplomatic or economic pressure alone. The international community must now accept that we have entered a new stage of relations with Russia in which Putin will aggressively pursue Russia’s interests with military force.  Only a unified stance against Russia will remove Putin’s power.

Scott Schenking , Lt.Col. (ret.) was an advisor on the Western Balkans in the U.S. Department of Defense from 2006 until he concluded military service in 2013.  His most recent assignment was as Deputy Defense Attaché in the U.S. Embassy, Sarajevo.  Scott is currently studying international law and conflict dispute resolution with the University of London.

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