In a millennium-spanning treatise last summer titled, “The Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” Putin tipped his hand. He insisted that the separation of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus into separate states today is artificial, due largely to political mistakes during the Soviet period and, in the case of Ukraine, driven by a malevolent “anti-Russia project” supported by Washington since 2014.
Since coming to power in 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin has worked steadily and systematically to reverse what he views as the humiliating breakup of the Soviet Union 30 years ago.
While massing troops along Ukraine’s border and holding war games in Belarus, close to the borders of NATO members Poland and Lithuania, Putin is demanding that Ukraine be permanently barred from exercising its sovereign right to join the Western alliance, and that other NATO actions, such as stationing troops in former Soviet bloc countries, be curtailed.
NATO has said the demands are unacceptable and that joining the alliance is a right of any country and does not threaten Russia. Putin’s critics argue that what he really fears is not NATO, but the emergence of a democratic, prospering Ukraine that could offer an alternative to Putin’s increasingly autocratic rule, which Russians might find appealing.
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