Fareed Zakaria makes a point I hadn’t seen before regarding how Putin has, to his own detriment, stoked Ukrainian nationalism and taken pro-Russian voters out of the equation:

“When Putin took Crimea in 2014, he lost Ukraine,” as Owen Matthews writes in a thought-provoking essay. After it declared independence in 1991, Ukraine was divided between an unabashedly pro-Russia segment of its population and a more nationalistic one. But by annexing Crimea and plunging eastern Ukraine into open conflict, Matthews writes, Putin has energized Ukrainian nationalism and fed a growing anti-Russia sentiment. And the math does not help. Putin took millions of pro-Russia Ukrainians in Crimea and Donbas out of the country’s political calculus. (Those in Donbas don’t vote in Ukrainian elections because the area is too unstable.) As a result, a Ukrainian politician estimated to me that the pro-Russia seats in Ukraine’s parliament have shrunk from a plurality to barely 15 percent of the total.

In retrospect, if Putin’s aim were to keep Ukraine unstable and weak, it would have made far more sense to leave those parts of Ukraine within the country, supporting the pro-Russia forces and politicians in various ways so that they could act as a fifth column within the country, always urging Kyiv to forge closer ties with Moscow. Instead, Ukraine is now composed mainly of a population that is proudly nationalist and that has become much more anti-Russia.

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January 28, 2022 7:23 pm

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