Puppet master Putin
Over two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is pretty clear that the former Soviet sphere of influence over Eastern Europe is still very much in effect. At the moment, this seems most pronounced in regards to Ukraine, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to pull the strings on Russia’s former satellite, steering it away from a partnership with the European Union. Fearing the repercussions of upsetting his more imposing Russian neighbor, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has been playing along, going against the wishes of many Ukrainians in order to avoid being bullied by Putin. According to the Ukrainian government and its supporters, turning their backs on Russia would result in trade bans and other economic pressures that would inflict a blow to Ukraine’s economy. However, Ukraine’s reliance on imports of Russian gas and on the Russian market’s consumption of Ukrainian engineering exports does not seem to be a strong consideration for the protesters erecting barricades in Kiev’s city center. These anti-Russia demonstrators have been coming out in droves to protest Yanukovych’s decision, outraged at their country’s backslide into a status quo many Ukrainians have been trying to break out of. This issue is not only interesting for what it says about Ukraine’s democratic deficit, but also for its implications on the future of Eastern Europe’s integration into the EU sphere of influence. The days ahead will tell whether the curtain will be definitively drawn on Putin’s maneuverings in the former Soviet states, or whether Russia will still manage to pull the strings.