Russian Grand Strategy and the Ukraine Crisis: An Historical Cut

  • John Berryman


Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, as the Russian Federation struggled to find its new place as a reduced Great Power within post-Cold War Eurasia, its relations with the newly-independent state of Ukraine were a matter of prime concern to Moscow. What had been its chief partner in the 293 million-strong Soviet Union was now its largest post-Soviet neighbour with a population of around 52 million as compared to Russia’s reduced population of 154 million. Moreover 11 million (22%) of Ukrainian citizens were Russian, constituting almost half of the 25 million who then found themselves outside the borders of the new Russia, while Ukraine enjoyed a largely unregulated 2,063-km common border with Russia, not to speak of a 1,720-km Black Sea coastline. Unfortunately, Ukraine soon came to be seen as a geopolitical ‘pivot state’ on the Eurasian chessboard, its status derived not from its internal strength but from the deep divisions within its borders between communities enjoying different civilizational identities, its sensitive strategic position, and its vulnerability to manipulation by Great Power diplomacy (Chase, Hill & Kennedy, 1996, pp. 33–37; Brzezinski, 1997, pp. 40–41). The potential for Ukraine to become the focus of an international struggle for influence, with the risk that it might be torn apart by a combination of internal or external forces, was therefore high.


European Union European Security Grand Strategy Russian Soviet Federate Socialist Republic Ukraine Crisis 
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