By Paul Goble
Even Russians who accept the Kremlin line that Moscow will soon abolish and then absorb all or most of Ukraine are beginning to ask a question that highlights some fundamental concerns in Moscow – namely, how will Ukrainians react to the promotion of their integration with Russia and Russians?
According to Yury Apukhin, who led pro-Moscow demonstrations in Kharkiv four years ago and now works as a Russian commentator, in that event, “the vast majority of Ukrainian society will be wary of integration, and some will be openly hostile and ready to resist” (alternatio.org/articles/articles/item/105339-perspektivy-integratsii-ukrainskogo-obschestva-v-rossiyu).
How much success Moscow will have will vary widely from region to region in Ukraine. If Russia seeks to integrate only the Donbass and the east, it may be more successful. But the further west it draws the line, the more the balance of Ukrainian attitudes to it will shift against Russia and the greater amount of effort Moscow will have to devote to win out.
Otherwise, although Apukhin does not say this, although it follows from his argument, Moscow may discover that its ambitious program has left it with something too large and difficult to absorb and that adding Ukrainians to the Russian population will create more problems for Russia than this is worth.
Ukrainian and Western analysts have long insisted that Moscow would be setting the stage for an explosive disaster if it absorbs central or western Ukraine. What is noteworthy is that now committed Russian nationalist writers are making the same point, an indication of how the debate about where Moscow should stop in Putin’s war is proceeding.