Monday, August 04, 2008

Ukraine and Russia Fight over Europe versus Eurasia

Ukraine and Russia recently celebrated the Christianization of the 1020th year anniversary of the Kievan Rus, the kingdom which both Russia and Ukraine claim common lineage to. The anniversary was attended by first among equals Patriarch of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch among others. Rather than it be the odd yet only happens once 1,020 year anniversary of a baptism, the party became a front on the battle between Ukraine and Europe versus Russia and Eurasia.

TDAXP and others have covered the anniversary events but a short recap first. First, the president of Ukraine refused to hug the Russian Patriarch like he did Bartholomew I of Constantinople. Then Russian Patriarch Alexius II announced his belief that the Ukraine Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarch and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church are illegitimate while only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarch is valid. The party later ended and everyone went home miffed.

This incident is the latest in a long running battle between Russia and Ukraine over the fate of the former Soviet Republic so closely tied to the Motherland. The self-fighting former Orange Alliance of mostly ethnic Ukrainians favors European Union and NATO integration while the ethnic Russians and other groups in the eastern half favor somesort of alliance/union with Russia.

The first major public battle was the 200 election of Viktor Yushchenko as president of Ukraine. Yuschenko was poisoned by the Russians and had the election stolean with his lost to the pro-Russia candidate. International outcry allowed a revote and Yuschenko's victory. In 2007, Russia's state-owned oil company out off Ukraine when the Ukrainians announced intent to join NATO. Then during the NATO conference, Russia stirred up Russians in the Crimea to demand more independence. Ukraine decided to fight back on this account by telling Russia to start moving its fleet out of the Crimea so NATO can one day move in.

Russia has always seen itself apart kind of like the English. Geographical distance from the center of Europe, strong cultural influence by non-Europeans, and being the standard bearer of Orthodoxy for 500 years has created a unique identity. Add on to this that while European countries kept the colonies influence outside the homeland, Russia just absorbed more tribal and Muslim territory into Russia proper. The result is an odd mish-mash of Eastern Rome meets the Khans where strong man tactics carries the day a la Belarus. Ukraine on the other hand wishes to be part of a European system of liberal rights and freedoms. Where the buzz words are "cooperation" and "alliances."

Ukraine is a front in the Europe versus Eurasia war. Other places like Georgia and Estonia are battlegrounds also. The European alliance is not united though. Countries like Germany play realpolitik and see appeasing Russia as best for everyone. Time will tell us a victor, for human rights sake let us hope its a European Ukraine.

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