Ukraine: The Next Crisis?

Georgia's pro-Western orientation never posed a serious strategic threat to Russia, but Ukraine's NATO ambitions clearly do. Aside from energy leverage, Russia could use Ukraine's Crimea region, with its majority Russian population, to pressure Ukraine into changing course, in the same way that it used Abkhazia and South Ossetia to justify its invasion of Georgia.

The Russian invasion of Georgia has sent shock waves throughout the West and the former Soviet space - especially Ukraine. Indeed, Ukraine could be the next potential crisis.

Georgia's increasingly pro-Western course, including growing ties to NATO, has been a thorn in Moscow's side. But it did not pose a serious threat to Russian security. Georgia's army is small, ill-equipped and no match for Russia's, as was amply demonstrated this month.

Ukraine's integration into NATO, by contrast, would have far-reaching strategic consequences, ending any residual Russian hopes of forming a ampquot;Slavic Unionampquot; composed of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine - a dream that still beats in the breast of many Russians. It would also have important implications for the Russian defense industry, notably air defense and missile production.