World News: The Weight of Putin’s Promise

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By maintaining a military and diplomatic threat on Ukraine's border, Vladimir Putin seeks to assert the Western promise made in 1990 that Ukraine would never join NATO. But this was without anticipating the geopolitical evolutions of three decades.

Suspended by Vladimir Putin's reaction, Europe is once again helplessly watching history, here its own, which is being played out on the border between Ukraine and Russia. However, at the time of the Old Continent and the European Union, it is not the current relations between East and West that are at the origin of the growing tensions.


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The roots of Vladimir Putin's attitude towards Ukraine go back more than thirty years, when the dying Soviet Union gave way to a constellation of countries freed from Moscow's tutelage. However, at the dawn of the nineties, Ukraine, like so many other countries of the former Soviet bloc, a veritable political cordon and ideological glacis, began to look timidly to the West where political Europe (we still evoked the European Economic Community) and NATO punctuate the life of peoples defeated by all tyrannical tutelage since 1945.

Promise and identity

Somewhat frightened by the acceleration of history, the Soviet leaders of the time and then the Russians, including Vladimir Putin, then an officer of the KGB, then of the FSB, turned in turn to the European authorities and especially to NATO to ensure that Ukraine, in direct contact with Russia, would never join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or that new strategic missiles would be implanted in Europe.


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The promise made then by the Western nations, led by the United States of George Bush and then Bill Clinton, confirmed the word given. The Warsaw Pact lapsed because of the implosion of the Soviet Union, the Russians were left with only the promises of the Westerners to ensure that the cordon sanitaire patiently built between 1945 and 1990 did not shatter.

Reassured by the agreement not to transgress the promise made, the Russians therefore approached the following decades without worrying too much about the desires of their close neighbors, whether they were Balts, Poles or Ukrainians. But in 2004, a wake-up call! Poland and the Baltic States join the European Union while NATO, gradually abandoned, seems to be heading towards brain death.

However, from the mid-2010s, Ukraine, pro-European but partly Russian speaking, became more and more pressing by wanting to integrate the European Union to the great displeasure of Moscow, stunned at the idea of seeing one of its former republics emancipate.


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Bowed to a Russian-Slavic identity deemed unmistakable with Western Europe, Vladimir Putin has therefore begun, through crude entryism and diplomatic maneuvers without finesse, to infiltrate Ukrainian society in order to discourage it from integrating one or the other of the institutions.

Strategic Weapons and Military Maneuvers

But the current fight, certainly worrying, is nothing equal because Russia, long an emerging country, is now only a second-tier nation whose GDP is lower than that of Spain (4.3% against 6.4%). Having been hit by heavy oil and gas resources necessary for Europeans, it presents via these two raw materials the only real economic-strategic weapons at its disposal, even if crude oil prices soar from top to top.

In the end, the Russian position is today only the fruit of a fear born in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR and animated by a Vladimir Putin on the margins of the international community, anxious to give Russia a place of first place in the concert of nations in order to extract it from the diplomatic and economic slump in which it is now vegetating.


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Reminding NATO members of the promise made more than thirty years ago seems ridiculous in view of the upheavals that the world has experienced since the fall of the Soviet Union. And hope to frighten Ukraine and the international community with maneuvers.

As Vladimir Putin knows, military action against Ukraine would cost Russia more than it would bring to it.

 

Bio: Olivier Longhi has extensive experience in European history. A seasoned journalist with fifteen years of experience, he is currently professor of history and geography in the Toulouse region of France. He has held a variety of publishing positions, including Head of Agency and Chief of Publishing. A journalist, recognized blogger, editor, and editorial project manager, he has trained and managed editorial teams, worked as a journalist for various local radio stations, a press and publishing consultant, and a communications consultant.

 

 

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