So why isn’t this a Russian success story? Because, at the same time, the idea of Ukrainian independence is going strong. The same polls that show all those encouraging sentiments about Russia also underline the point that Ukrainians — even those who live in regions ethnically and geographically close to Russia — are less inclined than ever give up their own state or their own policies. For example, one recent survey showed that 70.2 percent of Ukrainians had a favorable view of Russians — but that only one in 10 of them wanted closer relations with Moscow. A mere 13.7 percent supported the idea of formulating joint foreign policy with the Russians, and only 9.3 percent liked the idea of a common currency. As a result, say some analysts, if Moscow’s preferred candidate Yanukovych wins the presidential election in January 2010, his actual policies may turn out to be considerably less pro-Russian than the cliché would have it — since, once in office, he’ll be the defender of Ukrainian sovereignty . . .
Russia’s ability to get in its own way remains a cause for much head-scratching in the region. “When they tried to stop NATO enlargement, whom did they discuss it with? The United States and Germany,” notes Kadri Liik, Director of the International Center for Defense Studies in Tallinn, Estonia. “But in fact the biggest driving force of NATO enlargement [was] the countries themselves. Russia tried to discuss these countries over their heads, and it backfired. (photo: Foreign Policy)