Fulbright-Kennan Scholar; Professor, International Relations, Chernivtsi National University, Chernivtsi, Ukraine
On May 9, President Biden signed a law on military assistance to Ukraine on a lease basis, the second time in the history of the United States. The significance of this goes far beyond the supply of arms and military equipment: Ukraine is not just receiving unprecedented assistance from Western countries, it is becoming part of the West itself, moving to the top political league.
At first glance, this statement may sound like an exaggeration, but it is not. To prove it, we need to turn to the legacy of the prominent American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski. In 1997, he published one of his most fundamental works, The Grand Chessboard: American Dominance and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. Analyzing the leading participants of the game on the world political chessboard, Z. Brzezinski identifies two groups of important states: geopolitical players and geostrategic centers. The first have the ability and national will to influence the geopolitical situation. The importance of another group of states is determined not by power characteristics, but by geographical location, which makes them vulnerable to geopolitical players. Brzezinski identifies five geopolitical players (USA, Russia, China, India, Germany and France), as well as five geostrategic centers, namely, Azerbaijan, South Korea, Turkey, Iran and Ukraine.
Why is Ukraine in this group? According to Brzezinski, the existence of Ukraine as an independent state helps to transform Russia, preventing it from remaining a Eurasian empire. Without Ukraine, Russia will remain a largely Asian imperial power, likely to be embroiled in debilitating conflicts in the increasingly Islamized Central Asia region. That is, in fact, it depends on Ukraine whether Russia will become a normal democratic state or remain an Asian sub-empire.
The Russian-Ukrainian war increasingly confirms the validity of this thesis of
Z. Brzezinski. Fierce resistance to Russian aggression demonstrates Ukraine’s growing ability to influence the transformation of its geopolitical space. The point is that Ukraine is showing the ability to change the geopolitics of the European continent and especially Central and Eastern Europe, acting as a power to shield itself from Russian imperial aggression, as well as a center of gravity for the post-communist and western newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Attempts to keep Ukraine out of Western institutions continue due to inertia. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the United States and Europe already understand not only the strategic importance but also necessity of Ukraine for the future survival of Western civilization. Figuratively speaking, Ukraine ceases to be a cell of the big chessboard field and becomes an active figure in this field.