«Crisis in Ukraine» - Free Essay Paper

Crisis in Ukraine

At the turn of 2013 – 2014, in Ukraine, the wave of protests started; it was caused by the different views of political forces concerning the vector of the foreign policy of the country. “For the second time in nine years, anti-regime protesters have filled the streets of Ukraine” (Motyl, 2014, p. 52). One of the sides supported the full integration with the European Union while the other one stand for the closer relations with the Russian Federation. A few days before the signing of the documents with the European Union, the Ukrainian government suspended the preparations for signing the agreement. It entailed the discontent of people advocating the European integration; it escalated into the sharp protest actions directed mainly against the ruling elite. The result of the confrontation in Ukraine was the overthrow of the then government.

Nowadays, in Ukraine, there are disturbing and tragic events; the socio-economic crisis has escalated into an acute internal conflict. The situation has been aggravated by the political interference from outside. In such a way, eventually, the internal crisis in Ukraine has grown into a complex foreign conflict. The degree of tension between the conflicting parties is constantly increasing. The rhetoric of the politicians involved in the conflict is becoming more dogmatic and rigid.

One of the reasons of the researched conflict is a failure in the system of the economic relations between its participants: Ukraine, the European Union, the Russian Federation, and the United States. The importance of researching the causes of the political conflict is indisputable due to the fact that Russia is not just an outside observer in it, but a full participant, which represents and defends its economic and geopolitical interests. The paper analyzes the causes of the political conflict in Ukraine.

History of the Crisis in Ukraine

The armed conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine was preceded by the Russian occupation of the Crimea. On February 20, 2014 the Russian Federation started its intervention with subsequent occupation of the peninsula. “Pro-Russian demonstrations began in Crimea on February 23 and by March 1 Crimea was no longer under the control of the government of Ukraine” (Menon & Rumer, 2015, p, 83). In several weeks, the self-proclaimed authority of the Crimea announced realization of the referendum. According to its results, the peninsula became a part of the Russian Federation. Most countries have recognized the referendum illegitimate. After these events, in the Eastern Ukraine, the armed conflict began. “The annexation of Crimea had only deepened the divide between Kyiv and Moscow and stiffened the resolve of the new government of Ukraine to proceed with its plans for closer integration with Europe” (Menon & Rumer, 2015, p, 84).

The armed conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine began in April 2014. According to Vladimir Putin, the leaders of the organized People’s Republics tried to protect the Russian population from the encroachment of the Ukrainian government. “Each city is near the Russian-Ukrainian border and each has a sizeable number of ethnic Russian residence” (Belcher, 2014, p. 98). The combat operations are being conducted between the armed forces of Ukraine and insurgent groups, mostly by supporters of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. In addition to the armed forces of Ukraine, other militant and non-governmental insurgent groups are involved in the battles against the supporters of the People’s Republic. The Council of Europe, NATO, the European Union, Ukraine, the United States and other countries accuse the Russian Federation of interfering in the conflict – in particular, the use of regular troops on the rebel side, arms supplies, and financial support. The Russian leadership, on the other hand, denies any statements of its military intervention affirming that Russia is not a party to the conflict.

The confrontation of violence in the region began in mid-April 2014 when a group of the armed pro-Russian activists began to seize the administrative buildings and police departments in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. “The Ukrainian government let Crimea go without a fight; they were not, however, willing to let Luhansk and Donetsk go peacefully” (Belcher, 2014, p. 98). In response, the Ukrainian government announced the counterterrorist operation involving the national armed forces. April 7, 2014 is considered the date of the beginning of the conflict, when the Acting President of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov announced the creation of the crisis management headquarters and warned that anti-terrorist measures would be taken against those people, who took up the arms. Gradually, the confrontation escalated to a large-scale military conflict.

The political analysts assert that the mass seizure of administrative buildings in the Donetsk region was made by the diversionary subunits of the armed forces of the Russian Federation; using the weapons, the Russian saboteur occupied several state institutions and buildings of the security forces. The Russian Federation gave weapons and helped the separatists in undermining the situation in Ukraine. The Russian government has repeatedly stated its rejection of anti-terrorist operations and demanded its suspension and the beginning of negotiations with the militants (Kuzio, 2015).

Despite repeated evidence of the presence of the Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine, the Russian Federation officially does not recognize the fact of its invasion in Ukraine. However, from the Ukrainian side, this conflict is considered an undeclared war. A number of Ukrainian politicians called the war in the east the hybrid war of Russia against Ukraine. From mid-July 2014, the Russian Armed Forces began to take a direct part in the hostilities against the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Several units of the Armed Forces of Russia act both from the territory of the Russian Federation and directly in Ukraine.

On April 17, 2014 in Geneva, with the participation of the higher diplomatic representatives of Ukraine, the EU, the US, and Russia, the quadripartite negotiations concerning the de-escalation of the armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraie took place. The Ukrainian side demanded the implementation of five basic requirements:

  1. To stop supporting the terrorists in the eastern regions of Ukraine.
  2. To withdraw the commandos.
  3. To withdraw the special appointees.
  4. To cancel the decision to permit the use of Russian troops in Ukraine.
  5. To return the annexed Crimea.

However, none of these requirements were met. On April 28, 2014, the governments of European, North American, and Oceania countries, as well as the international organizations, introduced sanctions against some individuals and entities from both the Russian Federation and Ukraine, which were directly involved in the military aggression against Ukraine. “The West tried sanctions that certainly impacted Russia adversely but appeared to stiffen Putin’s resolve not to change course” (Stent, 2015, p. 305). The sanctions, however, have not changed the policy of Russia, but substantially weakened its economy. As a result of the U.S. policy toward the Russian Federation, the RUB fell by 50%, and the capital outflow from Russia amounted to 151 billion dollars. According to the forecasts by some economists, even this year, the Russian economy can experience recession. In the long term, the Russian leadership will face serious economic problems.

The present day, the armed conflict in Ukraine continues. According to the UN data, since the beginning of the conflict, 5187 civilians became the victims of the conflict in Donbass and 11,515 people were injured. Approximately one million people were forced to flee their homes. They moved to other Ukrainian and Russian cities and became refugees (Kuzio, 2015).

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The Realism Theory

An American political scientist, Kenneth Waltz, in the book Man, the State, and War, suggests three levels of causality of the wars. According to the first level, the causes of war are rooted in the human nature. An individual is a mixture of prudence and passion. By referring to St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and Thomas R. Malthus, Waltz diagnoses war as a repeating triumph of passion. Violation of peace is caused by aggressiveness, personal motives, and delusions of grandeur of the world rulers. However, for the emergence of the conflict, the human selfishness is not enough. The political analyst writes that, according to Rousseau, for the most part, the human behavior is a product of society, in which he or she lives. Kenneth Waltz identifies the second level – the state. Here, the system of government, the form of government, and the socio-economic context is of key importance. As an example, a scientist introduces a theory of democratic peace. According to the theory, the countries with a democratic form of government are less likely to wage war. However, even if a person is obsessed with passions and the political system is favorably inclined to the conflict, there is another restraining factor. Kenneth Waltz calls it the international system, in which the behavior of the state depends on its relations with the other countries. There is the so-called logic of consequences – a country, which starts a war, should take into account the possible reaction of other countries (Waltz, 2013).

One can analyze the current events in Ukraine according to the levels of causality. At the first level, the personality of people making decisions in foreign policy is extremely important. As it can be seen, the personality of the Russian President plays a key role in the current war. He is a mixture of passions, which lead him to the armed conflict. His delusions of grandeur and personal motives play not the final role in the situation in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is driven by a thirst for the imperialism and conquest of the new territories (Mankoff, 2011). The second level is the form of government. It is known that de jure, the Russian Federation is a democratic country. However, de facto, it possesses the features of totalitarianism – monopoly of power on the information, centralized control over the economy, and militarization of the country. In order to complete the picture, the third level of causality is necessary. With recognizing that the driving forces of the war are the state structure and the rulers, Kenneth Waltz wrote that, without the third element – the international context, it is impossible to assess the importance and predict the results of the war. In the policy of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine, a restraining factor is absent. “Putin was well aware of the dangers of being sucked into a war over Ukraine, which would be unwinnable and disastrous” (Sakwa, 2014, p. 215). Despite all the sanctions and threats of the world leaders, the Russian authorities continue the war in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Position of the U.S. Government

The relations between Moscow and Washington has reached the lowest point since the beginning of the 1980s when Leonid Brezhnev was the president of the USSR. The problems in relations between the two countries have existed for some time already. Nevertheless, a sharp turn for the worse occurred because of the disagreements about the reaction to the events in Ukraine. The conflict in Ukraine has revealed the fundamental differences over the balance of power in Europe after the Cold War. The strained relations between the United States and the Russian Federation have reached the crisis precinct during the conflict in Ukraine. Nowadays, the situation between the two countries is the worst since the Cold War. The annexation of the Crimea by Russia and its support of the militants in eastern Ukraine finally forced the US to introduce a range of sanctions that could bring the Russian economy to the crisis. At the same time, the US needs the cooperation with Russia in the nuclear negotiations with Iran and fight against the Islamic states. “Russia cooperated with the US in Afghanistan and to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons” (Sakwa, 2014, p. 216).

When Barack Obama came to power, he hoped to improve the relations with Russia believing that the leader of the Russian Federation no longer perceived the world through the prism of the Cold War. However, these hopes vanished as soon as Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in 2012. Prior to Putin’s return for the third time, Obama considered the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev a strong leader and partner in the political cooperation. He met him outside the official receptions and hoped for a joint struggle against terrorism. When Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate for the presidency, said that Russia was a geopolitical enemy number one, Barack Obama did not agree with him. The President said that Romney still lived in the past of the Cold War. Nevertheless, Mitt Romney was right in his statement.

The Ukrainian crisis has shown some cracks in the relationship between the two countries. “The Ukrainian crisis led to unprecedented levels of rhetorical antagonism between the two presidents” (Stent, 2015, p. 305). First of all, it is a fundamental difference in the understanding of the basic facts – who was behind the first demonstrations on the Maidan in Kyiv, how and why Viktor Yanukovych escaped, of what nature the support of Yanukovych’s opponents from the United States was, legitimacy of joining the Crimea to Russia, what role Russia plays in the hybrid war in Donbass and who is responsible for the crash of the Malaysian Boeing. “President Obama, in his initial statement, made it clear that he held Russia responsible” (Stent, 2015, p. 297).

From Washington’s perspective, Moscow hides its intervention and creates a frozen conflict in the south-eastern Ukraine. Consequently, it complicates the functioning of the new government in Kiev. Moscow has a very different point of view. At the press conference, President Putin has affirmed that the West is waging a campaign in order to weaken Russia and seeks to bring NATO to its borders.

The U.S. reaction to the conflict in Ukraine was implemented in the series of sanctions coordinated with the European allies in response to Russia and separatists, which it supports in Ukraine. In the foreseeable future, these sanctions will remain in force unless the separatists leave Donbass. It will allow Kiev to regain control over this territory. The United States believe that the sanctions have already hurt the Russian economy and will continue to cause harm. At the same time, the U.S. administration recognizes that the sanctions do not seem to have affected Russia’s policy towards Ukraine. However, considering the fact that the tools of Washington in this crisis are limited, the sanctions remain a key element of the U.S. policy towards Russia.

Barack Obama believes that, because of the situation in Ukraine, Russia found itself in the diplomatic isolation. According to U.S. President, Europe have changed its relations with the Russian Federation. Many times, the U.S. government accused Russia of supporting the militias and supplying weapons to the Eastern regions of Ukraine. Washington provides financial assistance to the government of Ukraine and is going to strengthen the diplomatic and economic pressure on Russian the nearest future (“Obama’s address to 69th U.N. General Assembly,” 2014).

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Samuel Charap, Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington, affirms that Ukraine was not a catalyst in the conflict between Russia and the West until Victor Yanukovych put the country at the Kremlin’s orbit. The emergence of the new political forces in Ukraine that have been considered to cooperate with the EU and the US resumed in Putin the old fears of losing his power (Wilson, 2014). The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, accused the authorities of the Russian Federation in violation of the international law. The politician also added that he was ready to restore relations with Russia in the case of de-escalation of the conflict in Ukraine (“Kerry on attacks in Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists,” 2015).

Nowadays, the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 turned out to be questionable. The Memorandum was signed by Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and United Kingdom; it guaranteed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for its renunciation of the nuclear weapons. If this principle is not observed, the results for the other post-Soviet states can be extremely serious. Moreover, in the future, President Putin’s argument that the duty of Moscow is to protect the Russian world may have an impact on Kazakhstan and Baltic countries, in which there is also a significant Russian population. Therefore, another element of the U.S. policy will be a tendency to hold back the possible attacks of Russia in the future (Wilson, 2014).

Now, when RUB has devalued, and the oil prices have fallen, the politicians and experts in the United States are trying to predict the future policy of Russia. It is about the compliance of the Minsk ceasefire agreements, Russia’s refusal to support the separatists in Donbass and its participation in a continuous and effective dialogue to de-escalation. Some politicians expect that the Russian Federation will take a more confrontational stance on Ukraine.

The Russian Imperialism

Ukraine has an only external enemy – the Russian imperialism that tries to destroy it. The imperial policy of the current Russian authorities, which led to the invasion of Ukraine, has deep cultural and historical roots. The Russian bourgeois parties, not only the conservatives but also the liberals, have always regarded Ukraine as a Russian colonial province. On the other hand, the socialists (social revolutionaries and democrats) and the anarchists advocated the self-determination of Ukraine. Stalin’s policy was a continuation of the imperial Russian tradition (Bugajski, 2004).

While trying to get away from Stalinism as far as possible at the end of the XX century, Russia, in fact, returned to it again. Stalinism was a reactionary, conservative, and imperial system. However, it pretended to be a successor of the Russian revolutionary-democratic tradition (Wilson, 2014). “In 1992, the United States and its allies had hoped that the newly emerging Russia would cast off its imperial and Soviet legacies, become a post-imperial, modern state and join the European family of nations” (Stent, 2015, p. 301). Putin became a faithful follower of Stalin’s imperial policy. The imperialism associates the idea of a united and indivisible Russia with the Stalin’s USSR.

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