Using their own people against them: Russia’s exploitation of ethnicity in Georgia and Ukraine
Kendall, Kyle Oliver
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Russia consistently exploits ethnic divides in its foreign policy strategy, specifically against states in its near abroad. Georgia and Ukraine have been on the receiving end of this strategy for most of their post-Soviet history. As a result, the sovereignty of both has been systematically and repeatedly violated by Russia. A comparative study of Georgia and Ukraine, two countries that share a unique historical relationship with Russia but are now ideologically moving outside its orbit, permits a more nuanced view into two distinctive aspects of Russia’s exploitation of ethnic divisions: Georgia as an ancient and unique nation located in the crossroads of three continents, and Ukraine as a fellow Slavic country with a shared Russian history fighting to create its own identity. Russia’s efforts to exploit ethnic divides fall into six categories: exporting propaganda, manipulating identity, arming insurgents, supplying fighters, exploiting presence, and freezing conflicts. Though Russia has successfully weakened Georgia and Ukraine through these six strategic methods, Russia has struggled to achieve its long-term goals of limiting Western influence, creating a Russian hegemony, and restoring Russia to great-power status. In pursuing these goals, Russia not only irreparably damaged ethnic relationships in Georgia and Ukraine, but also severely tarnished its international reputation.
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