Confronting Russia’s new imperialism: the different fates of Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states

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Marcel Van Herpen

This chapter assesses how Russia’s neighbours – Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic states – cope with Russia’s new imperialism. Ukraine is the main target of Moscow’s neo-imperialist and annexationist policies because Russia’s leading political class has never accepted Ukraine’s existence as an independent state. Examples of this range from statements made in speeches and interviews by Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders, as well as actions which deny Ukraine’s statehood, such as rallies in Ukraine by the biker club the Night Wolves, whose leader Zaldostanov is a personal friend of Putin. The recent introduction of the name “Malorossiya” (Little Russia), the old tsarist name for Ukraine, by the separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko, is an even more serious threat. It fits into the Russian strategy to gain control not only over a part of Ukraine, but over Ukraine as a whole. The use of this provocative name has been supported, if not invented, by the Kremlin, and provides a key to understanding Putin’s remark that a division of Ukraine “is not necessary”.