KYIV – Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has seemed that new rules were being established for the conduct of international relations in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The watchwords were independence and interdependence; sovereignty and mutual responsibility; cooperation and common interests. They are good words that need to be defended.
But the Georgia crisis provided a rude awakening. The sight of Russian tanks in a neighboring country on the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia has shown that the temptations of power politics remain. The old sores and divisions fester. Russia remains unreconciled to the new map of Europe. Russia’s unilateral attempt to redraw that map by recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia marks not just the end of the post-Cold War period; it is also a moment that requires countries to set out where they stand on the significant issues of nationhood and international law.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says that he is not afraid of a new Cold War. We don’t want one. He has a big responsibility not to start one.
Ukraine is a leading example of the benefits that accrue when a country takes charge of its own destiny, and seeks alliances with other countries. Its choices should not be seen as a threat to Russia, but its independence does demand a new relationship with Russia – one of equals, not that of master and servant.