This is Putin’s response to Ukraine’s attempt to build a new nationhood that combines a leaning toward the Western world with the nationalism of Ukraine’s own west; both “wests” are regarded by Putin as utterly hostile to Russian interests. In the words of Dmitry Trenin, an expert on Russian foreign policy, the fear in Moscow is that “the new official Ukrainian narrative would change from the post-Soviet ‘Ukraine is not Russia’ to something like ‘Ukraine in opposition to Russia.’ ”
The anti-Western nationalist trend has been on the rise in Russia for nearly a decade; it has become an engine of aggressive and expansionist action. This presages some powerful shifts at home, particularly a division of the Russian citizens into “friends” and “foes,” and a shift toward a more dictatorial, police-state mode of dealing with dissenting opinion. Today, over one thousand Muscovites dared to protest against the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, chanting, “No to war.” Police detained over three hundred people. The feelings among the liberal minority in Russia are of anguish, fear, anger, and shame. But they are powerless to stop the invasion taking shape in Crimea.