Europe’s Ukrainian Soul

BERLIN – This November marks the first anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising in Kyiv. Large parts of Ukraine’s population – and young people in particular – rose in opposition to then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the country’s European Union association agreement (finalized after many years of negotiations), in favor of joining a customs union with Russia. This would have amounted to an eastward shift for Ukraine, with accession to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Union ruling out any possibility of ever joining the EU.

In view of Ukraine’s ongoing crisis, this starting point – the first pro-European revolution in the twenty-first century, brought about by opposition to Russian influence and post-Soviet corruption and inefficiency – is important to bear in mind.

A lot has happened since: Russia launched an undeclared war, first occupying and then annexing Crimea. In eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin continued the war – which, in military terms, seems unwinnable for the Kyiv authorities – in the Donbas region.

Russia’s aim is not to occupy Ukraine militarily, but to prevent political and economic stabilization – a strategy that could include the de facto secession of significant parts of eastern Ukraine. Moreover, Putin will use the full range of tools at his disposal – including, of course, energy supplies – to pressure and extort Ukraine this winter.