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Is the Ukrainian crisis really a leftover from the Cold War?

In today's New York Times($) David Herszenhorn concludes that, in part, the current crisis and violence in Ukraine is a leftover from the Cold War.  I find the argument thoroughly unconvincing.

In fact, I think that his whole 'primer' does a pretty lousy job at explaining what is going on in Ukraine, missing as it does the key structural, demographic and cultural drivers that divide the nation.

But I'll begin with 'core factor' number two, as this was the one that initially caught my eye.

Second is a lingering Cold War-era fight between Russia and the West for influence over countries in Eastern Europe still suffering from political and economic problems rooted in the Soviet era... Perceiving a threat to its big military and economic interests in Ukraine, Russia exerted enormous pressure to scuttle the accords with the European Union.

The are a number of problems with this analysis.

Firstly, during the Cold War Ukraine was the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union and in no way shape or form part of any fight over influence in Eastern Europe.

(Fun fact: Ukraine, even when part of the Soviet Union, was a founder member of the United Nations and had a seat in the United Nations General Assembly, agreed by accident during discussions between the USSR and USA as WWII came to a close).Read more »