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Russia is getting its 'sphere' back

Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia – Russia is making progress in keeping its neighbors within its 'sphere of influence.'

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This week Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made his first state visit to Ukraine. After five years of cold relations between the two countries, this trip was meant to cement much warmer ties with Ukraine’s new, Moscow-friendly leader.

“Finally,” Mr. Medvedev told journalists, “there is a worthy Ukrainian partner.”

In case you haven’t noticed, Russia is making progress in bringing former Soviet satellites closer to its orbit. Ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia has worried about Western encroachment on its geographic “sphere of influence.”

Part of this concern has to do with feelings about lost empire. That’s understandable. Britain, too, struggled with diminution when the sun set on its empire, and there’s much hand-wringing in the US about the limits of its superpower clout.

Another Russian worry is deeply-rooted anxiety about strategic vulnerability. That’s understandable, too. It’s hard to forget the gruesome battle of Stalingrad, or even a cold war.

Still, there’s nothing for Russia to fear in former client states choosing membership in the democratic European Union or NATO alliance, which includes Russia in a special joint council. Moscow, however, still thinks otherwise, and that perspective drives its foreign policy.

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