Ukraine’s Gordian knot: Sovereign Choice vs Spheres of Influence

During the closing weeks of 2014, newspapers’ international pages have seemed like a throw-back to the Cold War – in the coverage of the bitter geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine. A recent analysis by Trusted SourcesChristopher Granville highlights the importance – relative to conflict resolution efforts on the ground in Ukraine – of addressing the conflict’s roots: that is, the divergent visions of the international system, and Russia’s role in it, that has triggered an apparent de-globalisation process across the zone. 

According to Granville, these two visions clash when it comes to the role of Russia in the post-Soviet international system. Russia’s goal is to maintain itself as an independent sovereign actor in the world. Therefore while the NATO members view themselves and their expansion as not a threat to Russian interest, Russia views with suspicion the integration into “Euro-Atlantic” system structures of countries that used to be part of the Russian (and/or Soviet) empire.

In Figure 1, we can observe how the former Warsaw Pact members have integrated into western structures such as the European Union and NATO. Taking into account the Russian view of NATO as a threat to its role in the world, the map highlights the reasons behind Russian’s efforts to halt NATO expansion in Georgia or Ukraine. To fully comprehend this perception we need to understand that ex-Warsaw Pact countries saw their admission into the West’s clubs – NATO, the European Union – in a way close to Russia’s perspective than western countries’ perspective: as proof of their emancipation from Russia’s sphere of influence. 

These two visions between Russia and the West are echoed in internal Ukrainian tensions, between a pro-western globalized identity and a pro-Russian identity with both groups using NATO membership as a political battleground.  For pro-western Ukrainian politics NATO membership seals the country’s emancipation from its former Soviet masters while Russia-leaning regions perceive it as a step towards US tutelage. Likewise, the Russian Federation perceives the dismantlement of its sphere of influence as a threat to its capacity to remain an independent actor in the international arena. 

Trusted Sources analysis identifies these two competing principles – sovereign choice vs spheres of influence- as the Gordian knot that needs to be untangled: How to respect state sovereignty while providing solid security guarantees to Russia over NATO´s expansion in neighbouring countries.  It also emphasizes the need to devise a solution before the conflict deteriorates and creates potential blockages as has already been seen after Russia’s land grab of Crimea against the international law or the tragic downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17.

A complete report on the Ukraine situation and its possible solution can be found on Trusted Sources

You can also read the previous articles published in the CGR blog regarding Ukraine crisis:

Solving the Ukraine Crisis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s