The Foreign Service Journal, March 2020

22 MARCH 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL T he breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 was one of the great strategic inflec- tion points of our time. It brought a formal end to the Soviet empire, but did not change the desire of Russian leaders to maintain a strong sphere of influence in the new independent nations on its periphery. In doing so, Russia confronted a resurgent national patriotism in some of those countries, along with a strong desire to integrate into Western political and security organizations. Ukraine, along with Georgia, has been the primary battle- ground, literally and metaphorically, for this struggle. Ukraine shares a common historical heritage with Russia. Its leaders both competed and worked together with Russia for centuries. Both Russia and Ukraine initially managed the breakup of the Soviet Union and the reemergence of Ukraine as an independent coun- try reasonably well, but tensions over what Russians call their “Near Abroad” were present from the start. Those tensions grew over time as Russia sought to reestablish its hegemonic control over an increasingly assertive and nationally conscious Ukraine. This culminated in late February 2014, when Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to seize Crimea and foment a hybrid war in Ukraine’s eastern oblasts of Donetsk and Lugansk, the Donbas. The war has been fought by Russian and Russian- proxy forces with Moscow providing the direction, financing and Russia , Ukraine and the U.S. John F. Tefft is a retired Senior Foreign Service officer, who completed his more than 45-year diplomatic career as the U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2014 to 2017. Earlier he served as ambassador to Lithuania (2000-2003), Georgia (2005-2009) and Ukraine (2009-2013). From 2004 to 2005, he served as the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs. He has also served in Jerusalem, Budapest and Rome, and as deputy commandant of the National War College in Washington, D.C. He is now a senior fellow at the RAND Corporation. The struggle between Russia and Ukraine, in which the United States has been involved for three decades, reflects the challenges of the continuing post-Soviet transformation. BY JOHN F. TE F F T FOCUS ON DEALING WITH RUSSIA & UKRAINE Reflections on in the Post-SovietWorld