Image via WikipediaThe loss of Ukraine to Russia following the election of Yanukovich on Sunday will significantly change the geo-political map in Eastern Europe and the Caucuses.
Assuming that the recent election process change by the Party of Regions in the Rada repealing the requirement that representatives of both candidates be present to supervise vote counting at polling stations is exactly what it seems - an effort to forestall any challenges to the vote due to fraud and the final destruction of the Orange Revolution forces - then the game is over.
In Eastern Europe, Poland and the Baltic States have good reason to become alarmed as Russia regains its historical base in Ukraine. A new line will be drawn and without support from their EU counterparts in Western Europe - particularly Germany -these NATO countries will be looking toward a virtually bankrupt Britain and the overstretched United States for bilateral support. Other than words, the US has committed to major military games in the Baltics during 2010 - a not so subtle hint to Moscow that the annexation of territory from Georgia is significantly different from similar attempts in the Baltics - all of which are NATO members.
The role of non-EU members will need to be ramped up in Eastern Europe to fill the compromised economic positions of Germany - dependent on Russia for energy - and France - whose President is more than easily persuaded to follow purely economic interests (e.g. potential sale of a Mistral class ship to Russia). After Sunday, Europe will be looking at a resurgent Russian Empire in the east - and not a democratic one.
In the Caucuses Georgia now stands alone following the loss of Ukraine to Russia. Previously an important ally, the two countries worked in tandem in opposing Russian expansionism. The relationship now could turn confrontational. Yanukovich was fiercely pro-Russian regarding the invasion of Georgia. When Yanukovich is elected it is likely that he will follow through on a promise to recognize Georgia's rebel regions as independent states. Moscow recognized South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent after the war, a move that has so far been followed by only Nicaragua, Venezuela and the Pacific island state of Nauru. This would be an easy foreign policy decision for Ukraine and would be an immediate sign that Ukraine will cooperate with Russia's foreign policies. Even Belarus has refused to take this step, to the annoyance of Moscow.
Turkey will also need take a deep breath as it is Russia's only strong regional competitor. Russia has been calling the shots in the Armenia/Azerbaijan talks. Armenia is already a client state of Russia and Azerbaijan is furious with its cultural brother, Turkey, for attempting to normalize relations with Armenia without resolution of the Ngorno Kharabach dispute. Turkey will need to balance its economic interests with its now much more powerful neighbor in the north against US hopes that Turkey would be a powerful buffer. Also, the Armenia normalization issue will be put on the back burner simply because of Russian control of the negotiations will push Turkey to expand its considerable influence in the Middle East. The continuing opposition to EU membership by France and Germany will add to a Turkish foreign policy emphasis away from Europe and a geo-political settlement in the Caucuses with Russia.
Distant from the borders of Russia and Ukraine, expect the acceleration of NATO membership of Montenegro which will leave Russia's sole ally in the region, Serbia, completely surrounded by NATO members. Additionally, as a move to protect the Baltic States, Sweden will likely move closer to NATO and increase its influence in the Baltic region while the US Defence Department has announced a realignment of forces in Europe to account for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s changing role and security issues such as events of the last couple of years in Georgia.
Following Sunday the map changes, which will mean a realignment of foreign policy objectives by Europe and the United States.
Aside from that it is a very sad day for Ukraine as under Yanukovich, a man with a criminal record who was unfortunately allowed to remain free after 2004 by the now disgraced Yushchenko, expect the media to be suppressed to please Moscow and for future elections to model themselves after the political structure of Russia.