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International Relations: Ukraine Crisis Essay

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Players and Stakeholders

The major players and stakeholders in the current Ukraine crisis are the residents of Russia and Ukraine. The secondary players and stakeholders are the residents of the following countries: 1) the United States of America; 2) Bulgaria; 3) Romania; 4) Poland; 5) Germany, and 6) France. These countries are included in the list because the events that transpired in the region since February of 2014 had an indirect effect on the economy and political governments.

The United States, as the perceived leader in the creation of international policies, wanted a stable Europe. Neighboring countries, on the other hand, are mindful of the economic and political consequences of Russia’s decision to annex Crimea.

Interdependency

The United States government continues to experienced relative levels of success in applying the “containment” policy towards Russia (Rose, 2014). Since the days of the Cold War, the U.S. is wary of Russia’s desire to extend its territories (Rose, 2014). It is to the best interest of the United States to support Ukraine to contain Russia’s military expansion. However, the U.S. has to acknowledge the importance of Russia when it comes to stabilizing the supply and prices of oil.

On the other hand, Ukraine cannot afford to burn bridges with Russia. Ukraine profits from its economic relations with Russia. In the same manner, Russia understands the strategic value of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine must work together. In the business relationship between these two countries, it is Ukraine that will benefit the most. Ukraine is the transit point for significant amounts of Russian petroleum products. The same thing can be said of neighboring countries.

Elimination of Options

Trouble started when the Ukrainian people demanded closer ties to the European Union and the resignation of former President Victor Yanukovych (Dolzhenkov, 2014). Russia exploited the tense political situation by seizing Crimea. Thus, the first option that comes to mind is to deal with the situation with the use of force.

Russia used force to annex Crimea, and made it one of the territories under the control of the Russian government. The first option is to retake Crimea. The second option is to declare war with Russia to project strength and to push back Russian military forces outside Ukraine’s territories.

The use of force and the use of arms is not the best option to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. The country’s armed forces are no match against the well-equipped Russian military power.

To foresee the consequences of a head-to-head battle with Ukraine and Russia, one only has to revisit the events leading to the capture of Crimea. Russian military forces and Russian military hardware were used to carry out the annexation of foreign territory. The mission was accomplished with very little resistance from Ukraine. Therefore, it is not practical to retake Crimea by force.

The second option is to persuade NATO to intervene. This is not a practical solution because it will lead to a full-blown war in the region. To understand the folly of this suggestion, one only has to revisit NATO’s intervention strategies in countries like Serbia and Sierra Leone (Carpenter, 2000). NATO’s officials will quickly realize that Russia is not comparable to Serbia. Russia has the resources to fight back. The ensuing conflict will lead to the horrendous loss of lives.

It is not only Russia’s military might that will discourage a military solution to the present crisis in Ukraine. The most problematic aspect is the possibility of forcing Russia’s allies to join the conflict. Russia’s perceived allies are: 1) China; 2) North Korea; and 3) Iran (Wilson, 2014). It is horrifying to envision a military conflict that includes these three countries. Although the loss of life and property is the main deterrent for military action, the secondary reason is the fear of disrupting the flow of crude oil from Russia to European markets.

Military intervention may not be the appropriate response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. However, it is also foolish not to do anything. Russia wanted to create more breathing room in a political situation that can be described as claustrophobic after the fall of the Union Soviet Socialist Republic (Rose, 2014).

Russia wanted to establish a buffer zone between Russian territories and those that are under the influence of NATO. This is the reason why Russia was compelled to grab Crimea from Ukraine. Russia annexed the province when the Ukrainian government was at its weakest state. Russia was successful in grabbing Crimea. The relative ease of annexing foreign territory may encourage Russia to grab more land.

One of the promising solutions to the crisis is the application of a well-developed economic embargo against Russia. Economic sanctions can force a stubborn leader to give up its hardline stance for the sake of his people. The only problem with an economic embargo is that the products are not coming into Russia.

The prized commodity that the European markets needed is coming from Russia. Without a doubt, the Russian economy will suffer if vital imports are not allowed to enter Mother Russia. However, the inability to purchase Russian oil will hurt countries that are members of the NATO alliance. It is therefore important to exhaust other forms of diplomatic solutions to the said political crisis.

Issues and Limitations

An economic embargo will negatively affect the Russian economy. But at the same time, it will hurt the Ukrainian economy. It is almost impossible to fully map out the consequences of an economic embargo on Russia. It is also difficult to predict how Russia will retaliate.

It is interesting to know how Russia perceived its current status after it successfully annexed Crimea into the fold of the Russian government. The free world condemned its actions (Birnbaum, 2014). But this does not mean that President Putin feels threatened or ashamed as a result of the decisions he made.

It is also difficult to speculate what will happen to neighboring countries, especially the European countries dependent on Russian gas and oil. If Russia retaliates by cutting off the supply and oil, these countries may experience economic recessions that will lead to high unemployment rates. It may cause political and economic instability that is far greater than the current crisis.

A diplomatic solution is needed. However, the Western mind may find it difficult to understand the Russian mindset. The greatest worry in crafting counter-strategies and potential solutions to the crisis is the fear of creating something that will make things worse. The history of the Cold War provided enough evidence of how the American government misjudged the intentions of the Russian leaders. The same thing can be said about Russia’s failure to comprehend the context of the American strategy.

A soft stance can also backfire. Consider the following report coming from the heart of Russia: “Newspapers and television and radio stations have been shutdown or taken over by the government and its allies. Kremlin cronies have replaced elected regional governors, and Russia’s parliament has been emasculated as part of the Kremlin’s drive to monopolize all state power” (Rose, 2014, p.20). It is important to send a strong message to the Russians.

Recommendation

The negotiating team must focus on the symbiotic relationship between Russia and Ukraine when it comes to dependence on revenue coming from the sale of petroleum products. Russia needs the help of its neighbor to sell petroleum products to countries that are situated west of Ukraine (Pifer, 2009).

Russia must never use petroleum resources to blackmail Ukraine into submission. Russian leaders are aware of the fact that Ukraine’s bitter winter will make people desperate for Russian oil and gas. However, if they use heavy-handed tactics, a full-blown war may ensue. It is to the best interest of Russia to continually supply petroleum products to Ukraine.

The entry of NATO and the United States to the escalating political crisis may cloud this fundamental economic issue (Pifer, 2009). However, it must be made clear that this economic situation will not change in the next few years. The petroleum business provides a lot of common ground to facilitate communication between the two countries.

President Putin makes controversial decisions with a lot of confidence because he enjoys a high approval rating. Nonetheless, a great leader must realize that his approval ratings will go down as soon as economic conditions within Russia continues to decline. President Putin understands the impact of economic depression to his presidency.

He is familiar with the events of the 20th century to realize that he does not have an eternal claim to the Russian presidency. The Russians will boot him out of office if he does not have a concrete strategy to counteract the economic embargo that NATO and the United States government will impose on Russia. Therefore, it is to the best interest of Russia not to burn bridges with Ukraine. The communication lines must stay open.

NATO and the United States government must work behind the scenes to support Ukraine’s desire to build a stable, independent, and democratic society (Pifer, 2009). Also, NATO and the United States government must work feverishly to integrate Ukraine into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions (Pifer, 2009). Although Ukraine needs Russia, the Ukrainian government must never become dependent on Russian business.

NATO and the United States must send a strong message through the implementation of a well-crafted economic embargo. President Putin’s greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. His high approval rating among his constituents is his kryptonite so-to-speak. Several Russian leaders in the past were booted out because they had no practical solution to unemployment and other problems related to the economic recession.

The United States government must never project a soft stance in dealing with the shrewd Russian President. However, it is prudent to send negotiators and analysts who will attempt to understand the thinking process of Russian leaders. History is filled with stories of wrong assumptions. Leaders in the past made wrong decisions based on faulty information. These wrong decisions did not only cause economic recessions.

The poorly crafted strategies resulted in the severe loss of life and property. It is important to gather pertinent information before crafting an appropriate policy focused on resolving the Ukrainian crisis. Diplomatic solutions must be exhausted before considering a military strike against the Russians. It is foolish to engage the Russian army in a full-blown war. Even the revival of the Cold War is unthinkable.

References

Birnbaum, M. (2014). Eight months after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, a complicated transition. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/sdCbWZ.

Carpenter, T. (2000). NATO’s empty victory: A postmortem on war. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute.

Dolzhenkov, S. (2014). Ukraine: Chronology of coverage. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/qMsLb.

Pifer, S. (2009). Averting crisis in Ukraine. New York: Council of Foreign Relations.

Rose, G. (2014). Crisis in Ukraine. New York: Foreign Affairs.

Wilson, A. (2014). Ukraine crisis: What it means for the west. UK: Hobbs the Printers.

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