To divide a people in order to conquer them is an immoral strategy that has endured throughout recorded history. From Alexander the Great to Stalin the Cruel, variants of that strategy have been used to keep nations in thrall to the will of an emperor.
We are now seeing this strategy at work again as President Vladimir Putin stealthily seeks to restore Kremlin supremacy over the lands treated as “lost” when the USSR imploded in 1991. In so overplaying his hand in Ukraine’s recent election, however, Putin clearly revealed to the world his neo-imperialist designs.
In the wake of the euphoric mass protests in Kyiv, Russia’s president has since said that he can work with whatever government Ukraine’s people choose. These are mere words, for in mind and action Putin does not want anyone to rule Ukraine that he has not put in place. No price is too high to achieve that end, so traditional threats about dividing Ukraine have been used.
I speak as someone who has been on the receiving end of Russian imperialist designs. When Lithuania and then the other Baltic States – Estonia and Latvia – which were occupied by Stalin early in WWII, seized their opportunity for freedom in 1990-91, the Kremlin did not sit on its hands. It knew that the rest of Russia’s colonies – the so-called “Soviet republics” – would want to follow the ungrateful Baltic countries into freedom.