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OpinionsThe Russia-Ukraine tango goes on

The Russia-Ukraine tango goes on


Putin must know that statecraft works as much by diplomacy as by the power of arsenal and one needs goodwill to achieve goals


Vladimir Putin will shortly visit Beijing to further fatten his relationship with China's strongman Xi Jinping. One wonders whether the Russian leader realizes that his country has vast land on the one hand, but faces a declining population on the other. Does the current Vlad remember that in 1969, his country fought a border war with China and lost many islands on the Ussuri River? In contrast to Russia, China has less land, but a much more population. Russia's large Siberia particularly has a vast land, which will naturally tempt any land-hungry neighbour.
Notwithstanding this reality, Putin continues to wage a war that will complete two years in February. Is it to ‘recover' the republic his late predecessor Mikhail Gorbachev let secede in 1990? How did Russia become so revanchist in only 32 years? Ukraine became a Soviet Republic only in 1922, with a government set up under a constitution revised in 1937 and amended in 1944 by the Soviet Union, which gave Ukraine “the right to enter relations with foreign states, to conclude agreements, and to exchange diplomatic and consular representatives with them”, and to maintain its military forces (Encyclopaedia Brittanica). Ukraine was a full member of the United Nations; it was in fact, one of the founding members of the UNO. The Ukraine Ministry of Trade was permitted to establish exchanges overseas, though these were usually limited to Eastern Europe's socialist countries.
In the 9th century, Ukraine's territory was known as the Kivian Roos, under the suzerainty of a duke of Varangian origin. This Kivian state extended westward and northward during the 11th and 12th centuries but was invaded by the Tatars during 1237-41. Later, control was passed on to a Polish prince of the Piaste Dynasty. When Poland and Lithuania became united in 1386, Ukraine came under their joint rule. In 1569, Ukraine's territory was separated from Lithuania and incorporated into Poland. The Poles were Roman Catholics and the religion of the Ukrainians was known as Eastern Catholicy.
From time to time, the Ukrainians were also known as Ruthenians. Russia and Poland clashed with each other in the mid-17th century, in 1667, resulting in Ukraine being partitioned between Poland and Russia along the Dnieper River. In 1668, Ottoman emperor Sultan Mehmet IV managed to capture Ukraine, making it a protectorate. Ukraine thus fell under Ottoman suzerainty. In the course of the next two centuries, i.e., in 1846, a united Ukraine asserted its nationalism and the city of Kyiv regained some of its old glory. Nevertheless, Russia didn't stop eyeing Ukraine and interfered with its government.
During War I (1914-18) Count Georgy Bobrinsky was appointed Ukraine's Governor-General, but because Russia sustained defeat in WWI, this was short-lived. The Ukrainians saw their chance to achieve independence and organize an independent government in Kyiv. They elected Srushevsky as their president. The Russian communist regime of Vladimir Lenin tried to assert its rule by setting up a parallel government at Kharkiv, but the Ukrainians insisted that they were a free and sovereign republic.
Meanwhile, the Central Powers led by Germany saw an opportunity for themselves and promptly occupied Ukraine. However, the Austrian governor could not last long in Lviv and had to hand over power on November 1, 1918. By January 23, 1919, Ukraine was again united and proclaimed itself an independent country with Kyiv as its capital.
Russia, however, could not take its eyes off Ukraine. Not only the Red Army, but the White Russians too competed for power. On December 28, 1919, Lenin was so motivated as to address an open to the workers and peasants of Ukraine, in which he recognized the equality of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, and suggested a treaty of alliance between the two. Such an alliance was concluded on December 28, 1920, in Moscow, signed by Lenin and Rakovsky; it was an act of incorporation. This incorporation was endorsed in his signature by Marshal Josef Pilsudski, the then-head of the Polish government.
It was on December 20, 1922, that the Soviet Union began to normalize as a federation, wherein Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine and the Trans-Caucasus came together as the first step towards unification. Separatism, however, did not disappear in Ukraine and an underground Ukrainian military organization called the UVO continued to simmer, if not actively function. Ukrainian nationalists looked to Germany for the realization of an independent Ukraine, hoping to provoke a Ukrainian revolution within the Soviet Union. On June 30, 1941, after Nazi Germany occupied Lviv, the Ukrainians proclaimed the restoration of their state as an independent republic. After Josef Stalin died in 1953, Crimea was transferred to Ukraine; northern Bukovina and the Bessarabian districts of Hotin and Izmail were also incorporated.
Vladimir Putin is experienced enough to realize statecraft works as much by diplomacy as by the power of one's arsenal. Diplomacy continually needs the blessings of goodwill. Does he even realize, behind the walls of the Kremlin, that he has lost the goodwill of virtually all of Europe and the West? After attacking Ukraine, he has very few friends left. He rules over 17 million kilometres of territory; why does he crave for bits and pieces of Ukraine, especially when he should know that China can grab virtually what it likes, of Siberia?

(The writer is a well-known
columnist, an author, and a former
member of the Rajya Sabha.
The views expressed are personal)

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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