Take a look at the January 2012 briefing paper, “A Ghost in the Mirror: Russian Soft Power in Ukraine,” by two Kyiv-based analysts—Alexander Bogomolov and Oleksandr Lytvynenko. Bogomolov is president of the Association of Middle East Studies, while Lytvynenko is director of research projects at the Foreign and Security Policy Council. Neither is a “nationalist hothead.” Both are sober establishment men.
Here are the bullet points of their argument:
• “For Russia, maintaining influence over Ukraine is more than a foreign policy priority; it is an existential imperative. Many in Russia’s political elite perceive Ukraine as part of their country’s own identity.” The problem with existential imperatives is that they are “zero-sum games.” If Russia’s existence truly depends on Ukraine’s nonexistence, then compromise is impossible, at least as long as Russia’s rulers perceive Ukraine as part of Russia’s identity.