AEI's Leon Aron: Putin's Overreach in Ukraine 'Worst Blunder' in 14 Years of Power

AEI Scholar on Ukraine's Revolution: Towards Russia or the West?

February 25, 2014

Leon Aron of The American Enterprise Institute explains the complex dynamics behind the Ukrainian revolution in this short video published today by AEI.

The video follows Aron's blog post yesterday titled "Putin’s misplaced bet on Ukraine’s Yanukovich" where he argues Putin's overreach in Ukraine is his "worst blunder" in 14 years of power and will forever change the geo-strategic map of Europe:

As for Russia, unlike the Sochi Winter Olympics, Putin’s bet on the now former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (which precipitated today’s Ukrainian revolution) has proven to be a huge strategic error. Without a doubt, it has turned into Putin’s greatest political blunder of his effectively 14 years in power.

As a result, the paramount task of Russian domestic and foreign policy for months will be to mitigate, contain, and, if possible, derail the Ukrainian revolution. The upswing in domestic retrenchment, repression, and anti-Western propaganda, widely expected once the Olympic spotlight is gone and now doubly probable, will be combined with efforts to mobilize Russian Ukrainians. The overwhelmingly ethnic Russian Crimea would be a good place to incite a secessionist campaign, possibly followed by the Russian-speaking industrial Donetsk. Suddenly, the Kremlin, which beats and jails peaceful protesters, censors television, and turns every election into a farce, is touchingly anxious about the legitimacy of the Supreme Rada and the alleged human rights violations of "ethnic minorities" in Ukraine (aka Russians). One Russian parliamentarian has gone so far as to propose a bill, which would protect Ukrainian refugees who can prove they are ethnically Russian.

In the end, the geopolitical map of Eurasia, so drastically altered in the past few days, is not likely to revert back to the pre-February 21 configuration. Last week, before the Ukrainian protesters triumphed, I borrowed a metaphor from a Soviet World War II song and compared the Kremlin’s predicament to a shark choking on a whale. Continuing with the zoological theme and borrowing from Marx’s image of progress as "the mole of history" that digs incessantly and unstoppably, it is most unfortunate for the Kremlin that this was not a US or EU conspiracy that effected the change. It was the Ukrainian people’s thirst for dignity in democratic citizenship, transparency, government accountability and true civil society. It seems that the mole of history has burrowed its way right to Russia’s borders.