Russian President Vladimir Putin has gone on record stating that the breakup of the Soviet Union was one of the worst catastrophes of the 20th century.
Putin’s statement—which is ominous in its own right—takes on an even more menacing tone in light of recent events in the nations of the former Soviet Union. The most obvious example is Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, which perhaps more than any other recent event in the region, has seized the attention of the West.
During the last year, the conflict in Ukraine has come perilously close to a state of full-blown though undeclared war.
Looking back over the past 12 months, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the political makeup of the region. Russia has effectively annexed the Crimean Peninsula, which includes the city of Sevastopol, home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet—and critically, the Russian Navy’s only warm-water port. In the political sphere, Ukraine’s unpopular president, Viktor Yanukovych, abandoned his vast estate along the Dnieper River, fled into exile in Russia, and was soon after impeached by the Ukrainian parliament.