The Ides of March woke the Russian bear salivating at the prospect of Ukraine losing its sovereignty and falling apart. That’s understandable and even predictable when it comes to the country’s largest neighbor to the north and east. More alarming is that Ukraine’s disintegration is waking appetites in the belly of Romania to the south west, who also happens to be a NATO member.
While Russian strategists declare Ukraine “a failed state” on the verge of losing its sovereignty, some Romanian officials and media are suggesting that only part of Ukraine, with its capital in Lviv, can ever come under the alliance’s euroatlantic umbrella. In addition to delivering the informational wedgies, both Romania and Russia are handing out passports to Ukrainian citizens in their bids to restore territorial glories of eras gone by.
Unfazed by the reset relations with the new US administration, Russian Cold warrior and imperial policy guru Sergei Karaganov recently said that Ukraine will inevitably join the list of failed states – a list that currently numbers a dozen countries, but will grow in geometric proportions across the globe. Karaganov argued that the process of “desovereigntization” of one state can be managed by stronger states in times of stability, but the global financial mess only compounds problems.
“As a result of the Ukrainian government’s loss of control over their own territory, mad desuverenizatsiya is occurring there, but not to the benefit of some foreign force. It’s simply the breakdown of the state. That is completely obvious. And the situation is unacceptable – on its own the state is a little too large.”
Karaganov said that Russia and Europe do not have the right to let Ukraine fall apart. “I think the process will be drawn out and can be controlled, influenced in some way. But it’s completely unacceptable to let affairs spin out of control. I do not see any chance that Europe will give Russia the carte blanche to occupy Ukraine, as a whole or in parts, in the near future. However Russia does not want to see a completely unmanaged territory at its side… and Russia will not allow anyone to display excessive activeness. That’s because the Cold War is not yet over and the level of mistrust still runs high and the super powers cannot work together to deal with existing challenges.”
In wake of already strained relations (Serpent Island territorial dispute, Danube delta shipping dispute, Romania and Ukraine expelled diplomats on espionage charges earlier this year and Romanian president Traian Basescu indefinitely postponed a visit to Ukraine) Romanian and Russian media circulated a sensational statement concerning Ukraine’s future by Romanian army general and elected senator Ioan Talpes (head of the Romanian SIE Foreign Intelligence Service from 1992 to 1997):
“In conversation, a high-ranking NATO official confessed that the North Atlantic Alliance can be joined by a part of Ukraine with the capital in Lviv, meaning the division of the country into the western and eastern parts. …”
So now Ukraine is surrounded by two countries subscribing to Vladimir Putin’s vision of Ukraine’s division. The Ukrainian Center's for Independent Political Research Ilona Bilan provided a great report on the state of Romanian-Ukrainian relations:
“… According to Moldovan political scientist [Oles] Stan, the international community represented by the West has assigned Ukraine the role of not only ‘loser’ but also ‘victim.’ The process of Ukraine’s disintegration will occur according to the same principle as the split of the USSR and Yugoslavia, since Kyiv allowed the challenge of its borders inherited from the Soviet Union. He also underscored Romania has no intention of limiting its interests to Snake Island, as seen from behaviour of official Bucharest, which assures Ukraine support for EU and NATO integration on the one hand while meddling with its internal affairs on the other.”
“A deputy of the European Parliament from Romania recently registered a bill on preferences for Romanian national minorities up to the creation of ethno-cultural autonomies. In addition, the media reported that positioning himself as the collector of Romanian lands, [president Traian] Basescu has publicly challenged the borders established by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, under which Romania lost a part of its territory - Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. … the idea of ‘Greater Romania’ is deeply ingrained in the head of the Romanian ruling elite. Taking small steps, Bucharest is realizing its plans by giving out Romanian passports to residents of the Odesa region and Bukovina and trying to integrate these territories not only economically and culturally but also politically.”
“The Romanian minority in Ukraine enjoys much broader rights than the Ukrainian one in Romania. In the Chernivtsi region alone, there are some 140 schools and kindergartens providing tuition in Romanian; periodicals are published in Romanian; TV and radio programs are broadcast in Romanian; Ukrainian citizens study in Romanian higher institutions on preferential terms. According to data of the 2001 Census, more than 50 percent of Ukrainian Romanians do not speak the national language…”
“Nevertheless, Bucharest regularly attempts to accuse Ukraine of violating rights of citizens of Romanian origin and engages in open anti-Ukrainian propaganda. Romania is doing its best to convince Moldovans who live in Ukraine that they are Romanians, because if 20 percent of the population of a certain region represents a national minority, this gives grounds to demand the creation of an ethno-cultural autonomy. Hence, while Ukrainian authorities try to oust Russian TV channels from the Ukrainian information space and to reduce the number of education establishments offering tuition in Russian, on the territory of Ukraine Romania insistently creates its information and cultural space that has long ago expanded beyond the bounds of the Romanian border and has taken on political overtones.”
‘Nikom ne nuzhni chudishcha: desuverenizatsiya Ukrayiny,’ Interview with Sergei Karaganov, Russki Zhurnal, March 20, 2009
‘Unfriendly Steps of a Friendly Country,’ by Ilona Bilan, Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research Update, March 24, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 8(568)