Unfortunately, Russia has decided to expand its creeping invasion of Ukraine with a subversive campaign that is rather poorly disguised as a pro-Russian Ukrainian uprising. Although there are pro-Russian elements within Eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is focusing on the current Ukrainian government’s lack of legitimacy, which stems from the fact that the current leadership was appointed after a popular uprising forced the former pro-Russian President to leave Ukraine.
Clearly, an election must be held, but Russia’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine have nothing to do with legitimacy while the interim government is charged with stabilizing the situation through the use of force when necessary. What is driving Russia’s action has everything to do with Russia’s overly aggressive pursuit of its own perceived interests. As such, we need to understand why Russia is so aggressively pursuing what its leadership perceives to be a major element of its national security interests. One way of understanding Russia’s behavior is to understand it as part of a larger trend of resovereignization.
During the Cold War, all nations had to more or less align their national agendas toward two poles, i.e. the USA and the USSR, thus they largely forfeited their sovereign rights and were polarized. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States was the only true sovereign nation. During this time, the International Community began to rebuild while members states continued to forfeit their sovereign rights to the United States when it was in their best interests to do so, yet there was also a slow movement away from the monopolar International Community toward a multipolar International Community.
In the post Cold War era, the European Union, for example, was a result of a push to resist the hegemonic power of the United States, which existed in the monopolar world that arose. Relative US power and influence has waned with the strengthening of the multipolar democratizing International Community of democratizing nation-states. Consequently, arrangements like the European Union are becoming far more intrusive and burdensome. Under a global trend toward resovereignization, the Euro is becoming more and more an affront to the nation-state with the global financial crisis having helped fracture the political fault lines in the concept.
Under the context of resovereignization, Russia’s aggressive and domineering behavior toward Ukraine could have been predicted long ago. Unfortunately, the world was lured into a false sense of security due to the stable, peaceful nature of the post Cold War world. Where Russia’s power elite embraced democratic reforms and economic cooperation in order to serve the economic interests of Russia following the Cold War, they now feel compelled to recapture their ability to act without the consent of outside influences, i.e. they are asserting their sovereignty.
That said, Russia, as a world power, has never had to truly submit to direct US influence. As such, the resovereignization of Russia means a recapturing of former Russian territories and a reestablishing of Russia’s sphere of influence to fight Western dominance, i.e. the modern International Community. On the other hand, it could also mean playing a pivotal, constructive role in the International Community. Even though Russia’s attempt to pursue this course before Ukraine was abandoned months, because Russia’s leadership viewed such undertakings were no longer serving Russia’s interests, Western powers can still give Russia a way forward to help the former Soviet power reset its relationship with the world.