Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Rather than Invade, Moscow Will Seek to Destabilize Ukraine from Within, Georgian Official Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 20 – The Government of Georgia is convinced that Russia will not invade Ukraine, a country immeasurably stronger than Georgia, the vice premier of that South Caucasus republic said yesterday, but rather that Moscow will employ “the most clever means” of destabilizing Ukraine from the inside during the ongoing presidential campaign there.
Georgy Baramidze, who also serves as Georgia’s minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, said that Russian forces could not hope to defeat Ukrainian ones and therefore will “attempt to blow up [the Ukrainian] state with [Ukraine’s own] forces’
Moscow, he said, will try to “create controlled chaos and an atmosphere of hatred,” to play off one group of Ukrainians against another in order to “inflame” the situation. Indeed, Baramidze said, “Russia will support everyone who supports the escalation of the situation and all who pour grease into the fire.”
The Russian authorities can do this in many ways: distributing Russian passports as they did in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and are now doing in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, playing up ethnic and language differences, promoting now one and now another political leader, and putting money in various media projects, all steps designed to exacerbate the situation.
In addition to its own weakness relative to Ukraine, Baramidze continued, Moscow has two other reasons for adopting such an approach. On the one hand, few in the West and indeed very few in Ukraine itself are likely to recognize that Moscow is behind many of these covert actions, finding it more convenient in both cases to blame one or another group of Ukrainians.
And on the other, he insisted, “Russia needs chaos in order to be able to say to the West: ‘Here, you see, we turned out to be right – Ukraine can’t live independently. Give it to us. Under us, it will live normally and will live quietly in the future. You don’t understand that they are not Europeans; these are our brothers, not yours. And we will deal with them.”
But if Moscow's first targets in this campaign are Ukraine itself and its Western supporters, Baramidze concluded, people in Kyiv and the West must recognize that ”Ukraine is the key to Eastern Europe.“ If Ukraine does not hold out against it, then ”Russia will have carte blanche“ to dominate the entire region, which is Moscow's strategic geopolitical goal.

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