Serhii Plokhii on Ukraine’s Political FrontiersHistorians in the News
tags: Russia, historians, Ukraine, Trump
Professor Plokhii is the Mykhailo S. Hrushevs'kyi Professor of Ukrainian History. Fifteen Minutes sat down with him to discuss Ukranian history, the Trump-Ukraine scandal, and the roles that both Russia and the United States have played in shaping the country’s politics.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
FM: Ukraine is situated so that it is caught between the interests of Russia and the West. Furthermore, in an interview with The New York Times, you referred to the country as a “battlefield.” Why do you think the location of Ukraine is important to its history and its relations going forward?
SP: Ukraine turned out to be important for the history of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union officially fell apart in December 1991, which was one week after the Ukraine referendum for independence. The question that Ukranians were asked at the referendum was whether they wanted their country to go free, not whether they wanted the Soviet Union to continue. But by voting more than 90% for independence, they almost automatically finished off the Soviet Union, because Ukraine was the second largest economy.
Now Russia is trying to reassert its role in the region, [and] Ukraine again becomes a key element. Just how the Soviet Union could not continue in ’91 without Ukraine, today a reassertion of Russia’s role in the region without Ukraine being on board is a major problem. That is why this is one of the only regions other than Georgia where you see military action happening, with the annexation of territory taking place.
FM: Especially with the Trump-Ukraine scandal, we were wondering if corruption plays a role in this situation. Why are U.S. politicians so interested in getting involved in Ukraine?
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