Ukrainian Revolution Can Be a Blessing in Disguise for Russia, but Dangers Remain

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Ukrainian Revolution Can Be a Blessing in Disguise for Russia, but Dangers Remain
Published 24-02-2014, 08:12

Dmitriy Trenin

Dmitriy Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, has been with the center since its inception. He also chairs the research council and the Foreign and Security Policy Program.

Ukraine's "February revolution" is sometimes described as a major blow to Russia, and to President Vladimir Putin, personally. In fact, it may be a blessing in disguise for both.

Third, the European Union will now have to help bail out Ukraine and start paying for Ukraine's modernization, which eventually would improve business conditions there for all, including for Russia.

Fourth, since Russia does not owe anything to the new would-be rulers in Kiev, it can disburse its promised financial assistance to Ukraine more wisely.

So much for the upside. The situation in Ukraine, however, remains highly uncertain.

A new power balance—whether in Kiev or between Kiev and the regions, or among the regions—will not shape up for months at least.

The threat of a civil war continues to exist. Radicals of various stripes are getting armed and are becoming more aggressive.

Crimea is a sore point. A conflict there can serve as a gateway to Russia's direct involvement in Ukraine. Moscow would need a lot of sang-froid to protect its interests there and avoid being trapped.

In terms of Russian domestic politics, the ouster of Yanukovych is not necessarily writing on the wall for Putin.

True, the crisis in Ukraine has demonstrated the brittleness of relative stability which exists in Russia. Still, "Russia is not Ukraine," to use Leonid Kuchma's famous phrase, in terms of political culture, competing national narratives, or the level and structure of personal income. Ukraine's February revolution may inspire some Russians, but it will definitely scare many more—especially as the dreams of Ukrainians to be admitted to the EU and see their standard of living substantially improved are unlikely to come true for quite some time. Conversely, the toppling of the notoriously kleptocratic regime next door can strengthen the hand of those within Russia who want both a stronger and a cleaner state.

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