Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Little Bit of Red

Ukraine's tilt toward Moscow under the new president, Yanukovych, will be most visible in two actions:

Yanukovych, a native Russian-speaker, is expected to bring Ukraine closer to Moscow. He has said he will welcome Russia into a consortium that would jointly operate Ukraine's natural gas pipeline network, restoring influence that the Orange leaders had worked to revoke.

He has also said he would extend Russia's lease on a naval base in the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol that is due to expire in 2017. Russia's Black Sea fleet stirs emotions in Ukraine, and Yushchenko had fought to kick it out, calling the fleet a hostile presence on Ukrainian soil.

While Yanukovych had to win some ethnic Ukrainians--based on his promises to restore the economy--to win the election, if the visible signs of his rule are pro-Moscow and viewed as anti-Ukrainian by these ethnic Ukrainians, his base of support will slide to ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and Russia itself.

It would not be out of the realm of possibility to see a domestic crisis between the ethnic communities with Russian miltiary intervention that turns the Russian-dominated parts of Russia into bigger versions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.