A century and a half ago, there was already a country in Europe whose fate was actively concerned and whose success was admired. It was Poland — constantly either in the status of a buffer from the eastern autocracies, or divided between several states. The "Polish Question" provoked heated discussions in Europe and excited French, Italian and British intellectuals. Especially during the uprising of 1863 and more recently — with the rise of the Solidarity movement in socialist Poland. It also led to instability that could not be overcome even with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The destruction of the Iron Curtain did not determine the fate of Poland — only in 1999, with the accession to NATO and the EU, the countryʼs status became obvious: it is not a "no manʼs land" between East and West, but a full-blooded part of the West. Since then, Poland has been characterized by rapid development, and this region of Europe has been characterized by peace.
Politico editor-in-chief Matthew Kaminski begins his article with this, but it is not devoted to Poland. This country is just an example of what Ukraine is now. For a long time, the West perceived it as a border territory, from time to time admiring the brave steps of the Ukrainian people — during the revolutions of 2004 and 2014 and now. At the same time, the West consistently avoids accepting Ukraine, although, according to Kaminsky, this is precisely what can bring long-term peace to the region.
The current conflict between Russia and Ukraine began not a year ago and not even in 2014, the editor-in-chief of the publication is confident. Its starting point can be considered December 31, 1999, when the peculiar, often ineffective, but still pro-democratic president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, handed over powers to Vladimir Putin. And he turned out to be simply "the tsar of the 21st century, who first dealt with the opposition, and then began to restore the Russian Empire" and, accordingly, the network of its colonies.
Indeed, Ukrainians have similarities with Russians, admits Kaminski. Many of them — and in the early 1990s, almost the majority — did not just talk Russian, but chose it as their main language. However, "after scratching this Soviet cover off, the will of Ukrainians for freedom, which could not be eradicated for centuries, will become visible." One of the proofs of this is the fact that in the 30 years of independence, 6 presidents have changed in the country, while in neighboring Russia and Belarus, the rulers have been virtually the same since the beginning of the century.
Kaminski also refutes the Russian thesis that the war started because of the expansion of NATO. "In the Kremlin, the decision of neighboring Finland to join NATO was merely shrugged off," the author ironizes. And the main reason for Moscowʼs current fury is that the very fact of the existence of a democratic Ukraine is a great threat to the current Russian dictatorship.
Obviously, the West has given Belarus over to the Russians and their new empire. It is also clear, Politicoʼs editor-in-chief writes, that at least part of the West is not against giving Russia and Ukraine. Only the Ukrainians themselves will not allow this event to take place. Fortunately, they are successful. The West is gradually realizing that the desire "not to provoke Russia" both in 2008, when Ukraine and Georgia did not receive a clear prospect of NATO membership, and in 2014, when Barack Obama was looking for a way to "save face" for Putin after the annexation of Crimea, led only to more trouble and more blood. In fact, Western countries restrained themselves, not Russia, writes Kaminski.
The West is gradually approaching the realization that Ukraine should become a part of it. It will not be easy, it will cost hundreds of billions of euros of investment and will require complex reforms. However, only this, together with Ukraineʼs victory in the war and the change of power in Russia, can bring lasting peace and stability to Eastern Europe, as the integration of Poland once did to Central Europe.