Will Russia Invade?
BMI View : We still believe direct military aggression by Russia in Ukraine is unlikely at this stage . However, we cannot completely rule it out, particularly if the violence between Ukrainian and ethnic Russians increases over the coming days and weeks. We therefore assess what we believe the most likely form of military intervention would look like, and potential implications, before outlining why we believe an invasion remains an unlikely scenario.
Ukraine's Geopolitical Significance
Ukraine's geopolitical importance to Russia and the West stems from its status as a 'pivot' state in Europe. Despite 25 years having elapsed since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the West continue to view the relationship between them as a zero-sum game (see February 29, 2012, 'Can Russia And The West Ever Be Friends?'). Against this backdrop, Ukraine is a large country bridging Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) with Western Eurasia. It has a large population of 46mn people, and considerable natural resources. Essentially, a Ukrainian state that is aligned with Russia allows Moscow to be a major player in the CEE region, for it brings Russia's influence to the borders of south-eastern Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania, which are all NATO member states. Ukraine also provides a direct land route to the Russian-backed separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova. Furthermore, the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol is the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and the sea ultimately provides Russia with naval access to the Mediterranean, via Turkey's Bosphorous and Dardanelles Straits. Finally, Ukraine also holds psychological and cultural importance to Russia, because the first Russian state emerged in Ukraine in the ninth century, and because a quarter of Ukraine's population is ethnically Russian. For Russia, Ukraine's independence has been an historical aberration.