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Ukraine and the New Divide

Historically speaking the regional divide in Ukraine between its western and eastern part had always been a strong factor of dissatisfaction among the people.

Professor Nirmala Joshi

The latest article by Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Center, Moscow aptly describes the on-going strife in Ukraine as a ‘New Divide ‘. Historically speaking the regional divide in Ukraine between its western and eastern part had always been a strong factor of dissatisfaction among the people. Today Ukraine is caught between Russia and the West. Its western part more oriented to the West, while the eastern part inhabited by Russians is oriented towards Russia. The strife has shades of Cold War adversarial features, as well as that of the ‘New Great Game’ for control and influence. Today Russia is considered as an adversary in Western strategic thinking that was based on ‘zero sum game’. In terms of the New Great Game there is intense competition between the West and Russia for control and influence, not only of Ukraine, but for Belarus, Moldova and other post-Soviet space countries. This competition is manifesting itself in Russian goal of establishing an Eurasian Union on the one hand, and the European Union on the other; a form of economic integration. For both the sides participation of Ukraine in their respective unions is important. Ukraine’s geographical location between the two areas, its industrial potential, intellectual resources and its fertile soil once considered as the ‘Bread Basket of Europe are crucial.

In this on-going strife it is the people of Ukraine who are undergoing hardships. The war of sanctions and removal of Russia from major regional groupings such as the G-8 are likely to hurt both the sides. The challenge for the Ukrainian leadership is how to steer clear from the two sides and ensure the interests of its citizens.

Professor Nirmala Joshi is Research Advisor at the United Service Institution of India and former Professor at the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies ,Jawaharlal Nehru University , New Delhi

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