Many years ago I sat through the most fascinating lectures on Soviet studies delivered by RMA Sandhurst professor Chris Donnelly. In those far off days as a subaltern, I used to peer through the wire on the inner German border and wonder what they thought as they peered back. By the end of my Soviet Studies course, I had a good idea.
I wish western politicians would study Russian history; understanding why other countries react in a certain way would be a big step towards the peace that most of us want. I made my case for a bottom-up review of NATO last year. I make no apology for re-emphasising the danger of treaty expansionism here. This time not the NATO treaty but the Treaty of Rome.
The Russians have always regarded their vast land mass as their primary defence mechanism, in much the same way as Great Britain regards the sea. In addition, they have historically preferred to add buffer States to their own borders. The Soviet experience, in what they call the Great Patriotic War, re-enforced this geopolitical strategy and viewed from a Russian perspective it is understandable. The same war conceived the European Union, it would be disingenuous to pretend there is any difference between the two conceptually, only the degree of electoral structure is different.
A look at an immediate post-war map of the Warsaw Pact and NATO countries shows the massive expansion of the latter compared to the former. When you study it try to imagine you are a Russian. Then look at the Ukraine, you cannot fail to notice the impact of a potentially hostile salient in the heart of the Russian Federation.
The Ukraine was part of the czarist Russian Empire and it came under Russian protection at their own request in the sixteenth century. They feared Poland all those years ago. So the relationship with Russia goes back much further than the birth of the Federal Republic of Germany or indeed Italy historically. No surprise, therefore, the electorate is split between Ukrainian and Russian speaking people. Their electoral representation unsurprisingly reflects this. No clear or permanent majorities, therefore, manifest themselves at election time. When they do they are short lived.
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