To its credit, the Obama administration has condemned the crackdown on demonstrators in Ukraine and is suggesting that further repression might lead to economic sanctions. There are signs that international support for the protesters, who are calling for a closer relationship with Western Europe, may induce President Viktor Yanukovich to recommit to an association agreement with the
At the same time, U.S. officials are rightly emphasizing that Ukraine can honor its people's European aspirations without rejecting a harmonious relationship with Russia. Victoria Nuland, the U.S. assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, who visited Ukraine this week, repeatedly has said that the future of Ukraine is not a "zero-sum game."
Contrast that approach with the view of former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who wrote in a Times Op-Ed article this week that the crisis in Ukraine demonstrated that the West should have brought that country into its "orbit," including by offering it membership in
Putin is an authoritarian and a bully, and he clearly is unreconciled to the loss of Russian influence — in Eastern Europe and elsewhere — that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it isn't surprising that he would regard Ukraine, a country of 46 million with linguistic and religious connections to Russia, as a special case. Even after independence, many Ukrainians, particularly those in the eastern part of the country, identify with Russia.