There is little doubt that the August 2008 crisis in Georgia affected relations between Russia and Ukraine. At the time, a number of analysts voiced serious concerns that Ukraine would be the next addressee of Russia’s growing neoimperialist assertiveness. These concerns now look even more justified. Since the beginning of autumn (and de facto for far longer) Ukraine has been in a state of political crisis and lacking an effective and responsible system of governance. It indeed appears to be a lucrative target for outside influence.
Surely, Moscow is tempted to exploit the weakness of its neighbor and take revenge for the Orange Revolution, the biggest foreign policy debacle that Vladimir Putin has experienced throughout his years in power. Yet, many factors place constraints on Russian behavior. The real situation, and consequently the decisionmaking process, is far more debatable than alarmist accounts about “Ukraine being next” are comfortable to admit.
However, “debatable” does not mean unpredictable. It can be argued that the continuation of the status quo — a process of muddling through — is more likely in the immediate future of Russian-Ukrainian relations than a revision resulting from Russian actions. This status quo is far from the “strategic partnership” rhetoric that parties still occasionally use to describe their mutual relationship, but it is even further away from open confrontation, notwithstanding the wide range of economic and political issues that are constantly surfacing. […]