The Ukraine Crisis!

Posted on March 28, 2014
Location: London
The Ukraine Crisis!

THE BACKGROUND:

A revolution in Ukraine took place in February 2014 after a series of violent events in the capital of Kiev culminated with the ousting of the then-President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. This was immediately followed by a series of changes in quick succession in Ukraine's socio-political system, including the installation of a new interim government, the restoration of an older version of the constitution, and the call to hold impromptu presidential elections within months. ​ Before the revolution, Ukraine had been mired by years of corruption, mismanagement, lack of economic growth, currency devaluation, and an inability to secure funding from public markets. Because of this, Yanukovych sought to establish closer relations with the European Union (EU) and Russia in order to attract the capital necessary to maintain Ukraine's standard of living without affecting the local population significantly.

One of these measures was an association agreement with the European Union which would provide Ukraine with the funds it needed contingent to several reforms in almost all aspects of Ukrainian society. Yanukovych, at first, considered the contingencies to be fair but ultimately refused to sign the agreement considering it too austere and detrimental to Ukraine. Instead, Yanukovych signed a treaty with Russia which sparked civil unrest in Kiev that ultimately led to violent clashes between protestors and law enforcement officers under unclear circumstances. As tensions rose, Yanukovych fled the country and has not returned ever since.

THE PAST:

  • Both Ukraine and Russia have much in common historically. The Ukrainians and Russians were both introduced to Christianity together, developed their Cyrillic script together and were essentially interchangeable before the rise of Moscow in the east. Under the guise of the Russian Empire from 1721 to 1917, and then the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1991, the two nations were merely parts of a greater whole. During both world wars, Ukraine was a battlefield where Ukrainians and Russians fought a common enemy. So for many, the current dispute is like a family squabble, and as such many Russians are indignant at being scolded by the West.
  • One of the first acts by Soviet leader Nikitia Khrushchev was to give control of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. An ethnic Russian with a Ukrainian wife, Khrushchev had roots in Ukraine and the gesture was meant to mark the 300th anniversary of the Ukrainian-Russian unification. "Giving" Crimea to Ukraine was nothing more than transferring administrative duties within a single country. Up until the 1920s Crimea was barely even European. The original Tatars who lived in Crimea were an Islamic people of Turkish descent who had lived as part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Under Josef Stalin, the Tatars were starved and deported to such an extent that they became a minority in Crimea. Russians moved in and became the majority. To that end, Crimea was never really very Ukrainian at all.
  • Gas pipelines have been huge issue between Russian and Ukraine recently. Russia sends vast amounts of gas to Europe through pipelines that pass through Ukraine. There have been numerous disputes between the two with Ukraine accused of, and admitting to, stealing natural gas from Russian pipelines for their own use. Russia has turned off the flow of gas during one of these disputes. Ukraine has also reneged on deals to buy set amounts. It is yet another reason the Russians feel a Russian-friendly government in Kiev is paramount to their best interests.
  • The Russian "sphere of influence" in the Soviet era was anything within the Iron Curtain. After the horrors of the Second World War, the Russians were adamant about keeping a huge buffer between themselves and the west, sending troops to quell unrest in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. With the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the control Russia had on its neighbours quickly vanished. By 1999, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland had all joined NATO, a definite repudiation of Russian influence. Ukraine and Georgia have made overtures to joining NATO, but were both thwarted by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose first term as president started in 2000. Russia sent its armies into Georgia to maintain its influence there.

THE PRESENT:

After the revolution, some members of the international community, such as Russia, India, and China, refused to recognize the new interim government. Russia, in particular, adopted a more drastic stance by calling the revolution a coup d'etat and seizing control of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine in order to protect its interests in the region. Internally, the newly appointed interim government of Ukraine ended up signing the aforementioned association agreement with the EU and committed to adopt reforms in its judiciary and political system, as well as in its financial and economic policies, in order to comply with the provisions set in the agreement. The interim government also adopted other changes as it was unable to fulfill several contractual agreements after the revolution but needed external investments in order to do so. The external investments came from the International Monetary Fund in the form of loans amounting to more than $18 billions of dollars contingent to Ukraine adopting reforms in almost all aspects of society. Today, Ukraine remains unstable due to protests in its eastern region, a dispute with Russia regarding the accession of Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation, as well as an amassing of Russian troops near Ukraine's borders, particularly those closer to Kiev.

THE FUTURE:

No;  NOT HIM!  Not this time!!! John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has upped the ante, warning of a sanctions package that would isolate Russia economically. That is an intriguing suggestion because the Russian economy is entirely dependent on raw materials, on oil and gas exports. Isolating Russia economically would entail quarantining, for example, the gas sector and the world's largest gas producer, Gazprom. But Gazprom is Europe's biggest gas supplier. The US would be barely affected by such sanctions. Europe and Germany would be hammered. All of the Baltic, and central and eastern Europe, including Ukraine itself, is utterly dependent on Gazprom, while Germany, Europe's biggest energy consumer, gets more than a third of its gas from Russia. More likely is Yugoslav-style western mediation, with "contact groups" of diplomats or UN envoys charged with running negotiations between the warring parties, monitoring ceasefires and dispatching observers under the UN or the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Ukraine will start to sound like Switzerland. There will be lots of talk of new arrangements entailing "federalisation" or "confederalisation", with the Russian aim being to maximise its control over much of Ukraine while arguing it recognises its territorial integrity. AT THE END; IT WILL BE PEOPLE'S VERIDICT; that will sustain in UKRAINE!!! They know what is good and what is bad for them; NOBODY can fool the people of UKRAINE.

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