The recent referendum in eastern Ukraine reflected far more a desire of the region to achieve a degree of independence than any real will to be ruled by Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin leadership in Moscow. World Policy Journal editor David A. Andelman said on Al Jazeera America that, given the country's hostile political climate, the poll's results would over-represent the pro-Russia vote. When it comes to what's driving the referendum, Andelman argues that the region's deep cultural roots with Russia are the leading factor.
At the same time, Andelman argued, Putin would scarcely welcome eastern Ukraine with open arms. While Putin was eager to snatch Crimea for strategic reasons, eastern Ukraine is not as attractive to the Kremlin. Unlike the prime military port of Crimea-—Russia's only year-round warm-water naval facility—acquiring underdeveloped eastern Ukraine would be a financial burden to Russia. In short, the referendum is a statement by Ukrainians that they want to make their own choices about their government.