Concerns are growing over Russia and its President Vladimir Putin continuing to push for greater influence over countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union.
Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland spoke to Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of the Republic of Georgia, about Russia’s influence in Eastern Europe. Georgia is a small country bordering Russia to the south on the Black Sea.
Saakashvili is widely known for leading Georgia in 2008 on a campaign to regain control of two breakaway provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, run by rebels loyal to Russia. But a military campaign organized by Moscow prevented them from gaining authority back.
He warns Ukraine the same Russian intervention his country faced several years ago could happen again now in Kiev.
“Russians have already managed to do exactly what they’ve done in Georgia – by forcing regions of [Eastern] Ukraine to secede [and support Russia],” Saakashvili said. “Vladimir Putin clearly knows if Ukraine is democratic … then Russians will ask why we can’t do the same.”
Saakashvili believes the nations bordering Russia must stand united against Putin. “It’s a joint fight – it is not only about Ukraine … if Ukraine breaks free then all of us get a chance.”
The former president sees the unrest as a turning point for not only Ukraine, but also Russia.
“The Cold War might be over, but it’s not for Vladimir Putin,“ said Saakashvili. “He can’t seem to grasp the main reason why the Soviet Union faded away – failed to modernize, failed to give more freedom … same premise is happening right now.”
Saakashvili says moving toward Europe can also help Ukraine economically. Their economy has a current account deficit of about 8 percent of GDP and its foreign reserves are dwindling. By choosing the West, he believes Ukraine can help to reverse negative economic trends caused mainly by widespread corruption.
He hopes that Ukraine will use Georgia’s stance against Russia over the past decade as a model to remain independent from the Kremlin.
Chris Snyder is a producer for Fox News based in New York. Follow him on twitter: @ChrisSnyderFox.