The Russia-Georgia crisis spooked energy markets, helping to send oil above $120 again. The next target on Russia's newfound "Near Abroad" expansion list is likely Ukraine. A move on Ukraine would have a far more profound impact on energy prices.
Why would Russia target Ukraine? Since the rule of Peter the Great, Russian foreign policy has been predicated on two fundamental aims: capturing warm-water ports, and securing Russia's "Near Abroad" as a buffer zone against Western European powers. Ukraine satisfies both of these goals.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet is based at a port in Sevastopol, which Russia leases from the Ukrainian government. Ukraine's capital Kiev is under 500 miles from Moscow, which would be too close for comfort for the Kremlin if a radically pro-Western regime were to take root.
Ukraine is important to Moscow for another reason. 85% of Europe's gas supply is transported via pipeline through Ukraine. Maintaining some control over this distribution network provides Moscow with leverage over Europe. Thus, Russia is unwilling to accept a Ukraine under control of the West.
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