As Russia flexes its muscles, the EU falters
Europe's recovery faces a serious setback if the West fails to contain the crisis in Ukraine, says Colm McCarthy
The stand-off between Russia and the West over Ukraine has already resulted in economic sanctions, is likely to bring more, and has the potential to disrupt Europe's fragile economic recovery.
Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt once described the Soviet Union as "Upper Volta with rockets". He was trying to emphasise the economic insignificance of the nuclear-armed communist superpower in its declining years.
Shorn of its satellites and most of its constituent republics, the successor state to the Soviet Union is Russia, and apart from its oil and gas exports, Russia is not economically too significant either. But it retains its geopolitical importance (and its nuclear weapons) and is capable of an extremely disruptive role in world affairs, most especially in Europe. Russia has already destabilised Georgia through the establishment of two puppet breakaway pseudo-states on Georgian territory bordering Russia; has purported to annex the Crimean Peninsula - part of the sovereign territory of the Ukraine - and is arming a breakaway 'republic' in the eastern part of that country.