In a 1994 article for Foreign Affairs, former US national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezisnki famously argued that “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire.” His analysis is no less valid today.

At the time, Brzezinski was arguing against the United States pressuring Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons. It seems reasonable to say that there would be no war in Ukraine today if the country had not done so under the terms of the flawed Budapest Memorandum.

It is striking just how little has changed in Russia’s strategic thinking since 1994. Brzezinski noted a “widespread feeling in Moscow that Ukrainian independence is an abnormality as well as a threat to Russia’s standing as a global power.” Three decades ago, he saw the Kremlin using its economic leverage in the “hope of destabilizing [Ukraine] to the point that a sizable portion of the population will begin to clamor for a closer connection with Moscow.”

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