It is not a trivial question, for the idea of Russian intervention in the ongoing street protests in Ukraine is the subject of growing speculation in Moscow. Should Russia intervene in Ukraine depends on your definition of Ukraine.
If Ukraine is simply a part of the Russian Empire that can’t get along without guidance from Moscow as some say, then Russia may feel justification in moving to intervene under the guise of restoring order, protecting Russian citizens, and a return to historical borders of the old Empire.
When Dmitry Peskov said early this week that Moscow is concerned about growing Russophobia in Ukraine, one should listen. Peskov is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman and has considerable influence as a key adviser to Mr. Putin. When Peskov speaks to an issue one can almost be certain that it has been vetted by his boss. Mr. Putin himself has articulated the doctrine of Russia’s right to protect Russian citizens anywhere in the world and there are a lot of Russian passport holders in Eastern Ukraine.
Yesterday Sergei Glazyev, another key adviser to President Vladimir Putin, accused the USA of staging a coup against Yanukovich’s pro-Russian government and warned that Russia held the right to step in and “maintain security” for Ukraine. Glazyev told Kommersant newspaper that U.S. “interference” had breached the 1994 treaty on Ukraine between Russian and the USA which guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty.
In the Kommersant article Glazyev expressed support for what he called the “federalization” of Ukraine which would break up the country into smaller Russian controlled regions and that the area of Eastern Ukraine should be brought under the new Customs Union with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia. The percentage of Russians in Eastern Ukraine can be seen in the map below.
Ukrainian President Yanukovich and Russian President Putin will meet tomorrow, 7 February, during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Several key Russian advisers are saying that the USA and EU are blackmailing Yanukovich with threats of economic sanctions and seizure of assets outside of Ukraine.
President Putin last year admitted in an interview on Russian television that Russia had used the cover of the 2008 Olympics to intervene in Georgia. Previously Russia had argued that Georgia started the fighting. That short war led to the creation of the internationally disputed countries of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, carved from what had been Georgian territories.