Last Wednesday, in a phone conversation with Mustafa Dzhemilev, a leader of the Muslim Tatar minority in the Crimea, Vladimir Putin raised a chilling possibility: According to Ukrainian media reports, he questioned the legality of Ukraine's secession from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Back then, the world also feared war and prolonged conflict between Russia and Ukraine. If the Russian president's current takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region succeeds, it may be followed by Russian efforts to seize other chunks of Ukraine—and beyond that, perhaps pieces of Moldova and the Baltic states too, which also house substantial numbers of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking minorities.
The roots of today's crisis go back to the last days of the Soviet Union, whose demise Mr. Putin has lamented as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." Moscow has long cast an acquisitive eye on Ukraine—now the second-largest Slavic state, previously a vast part of the Soviet Union and always Russia's uneasy neighbor. The current Ukrainian crisis and Russia's occupation of the Crimea are directly linked to Moscow's project of reintegrating the space of the former Soviet Union into a comprehensive economic, political and military Eurasian Union.
December 14, 2013. Appeal to EuroMaidan (in Ukrainian): Григорій Грабович, професор кафедри української літератури Гарвардського університету, головний редактор часопису «Критика» (Київ), голова Наукового товариства Шевченка в Америцї.