Even 'Novorossiya' Isn't that into Russia Anymore
Ukraine's East-West divide has been bridged in at least one respect: From the Black Sea to the steppes, Ukrainians of every stripe have turned their back on Russia.
Gallup went to work in Ukraine - everywhere except the separatist-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as Russia-annexed Crimea - to ask the citizens of that unsteady nation what they think about the leadership of the European Union, Russia, and the United States. The findings reveal that no matter what their feelings are toward the EuroMaidan movement that toppled Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainians have no appettite for further Russian interference.
As Julie Ray and Neli Esipova put it: "Any kinship Ukrainians used to feel with Moscow's leadership is gone after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March."
In a companion survey, Gallup found that Ukrainians by wide margins prioritize relations with the European Union and the United States, even at the cost of hurting relations with Russia. Here regional preferences shade the results, but even in South and East Ukraine - the area Moscow has relabeled as Novorossiya - only one in four respondents favored closer relations with Russia if this came at the expense of Ukraine's relationship with the West.
If Gallup's snapshot is correct, such a notable change in sentiment means that any surprise Putin has in store will probably not involve a military effort to lay claim to "Novorossiya." It seems far more likely now that an already difficult military advance would be further complicated by a broader insurgency. As Stratfor analyst Lauren Goodrich pointed out in March: "The population in eastern Ukraine may be pro-Russian at this moment, may be talking about annexation themselves, but once you have Russian tanks roll down your street, you're not so pro-Russian anymore." Funny how an invasion will do that.
If the window for military action is closing, political instability in Kiev leaves plenty of openings for an opportunist Moscow to exploit. Russia after all doesn't need to overtly control Kiev, only to keep it weak and pliant. Gallup further found that views of the West - in particular of Germany - remain ambivalent, as Ukrainians wonder whether the West has the will to firmly back Ukraine against Moscow.