The Moscow Times: How Putin lost Ukraine

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Aug. 21, 2013, 7:28 a.m. | Op-ed — by The Moscow Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Navy Day in Sevastopol, Crimea in July 2013.

President Vladimir Putin's policy on Ukraine is tragicomic. It is as aggressive as it is unsuccessful. Although Ukraine is high on his political agenda, Putin seems to get it all wrong. His latest mistake is to toy with a trade war. His adviser, Sergei Glazyev, said, "We are preparing to tighten customs procedures if Ukraine makes the suicidal step to sign the association agreement with the EU."

In 2003, Putin started working hard on Ukraine, launching the Common Economic Space of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Shrewdly, then-President Leonid Kuchma went along, and in 2004 Putin saw Kuchma literally every month. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Putin went to Ukraine twice to campaign for his preferred candidate, Viktor Yanukovych. Despite gross election fraud, Putin congratulated him three times on his victory. Even so, he did not think much of Yanukovych.

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