Policy Memos

The Forced Choice Between Russia and the West: The Geopolitics of Alienation

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:




On Sunday of November 21, 2004, every half hour the news headlines of the British Broadcasting Corporation reminded listeners around the world that the voters in Ukraine were to make a crucial choice for their country on that day. The question, according to the BBC, was whether Ukraine would join Europe or remain with Russia. This rigid structure, placing Russia opposite the West and presenting Ukraine’s choice as an either/or alternative with no middle position, was behind most of the comments and analysis concerning the 2004 presidential elections. Political and intellectual elites in Ukraine, Russia, Western Europe, and the United States, despite their diametrically opposed attitudes toward the two main candidates, silently agreed that Viktor Yushchenko was a pro-western candidate who was going to steer Ukraine away from Moscow, while Viktor Yanukovych would strengthen the ties between Ukraine and Russia at the expense of improved relations with the West. Only a few experts disagreed with this black and white picture, but their voices were hardly heard outside a narrow circle of academics. [...]


About the author

Professor, EU–Russia Studies
University of Tartu, Estonia