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Ukraine-Russian Crisis Causes and Predictors Research Paper

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Updated: May 4th, 2022

The huge political crisis that erupted in one of the European countries in 2014 shook the world and affected a great deal of countries and people. Currently, the conflict has been going on for over a year and resulted in a variety of tragic events, numerous casualties among the civilians, an ultimate division within the Ukrainian nation and a major political and geopolitical confrontation between Ukraine, the European Union, the United States, and Russian Federation. During the conflict, Ukraine has lost a part of its territory that was annexed by the Russian Federation and a large portion of Eastern Ukraine remains under the control of pro-Russian separatists and rebels. Many different perspectives on the armed conflict are tearing Ukraine apart at the moment and there are more than two sides involved. Causes of the crisis are also multiple and date several decades back. This paper provides an evaluation of the Ukraine-Russian crisis and argues that the conflict that emerged was inevitable due to the weak statehood of Ukraine and its significant national, regional and cultural division that has been growing over the past decade.

Conflict Description

The first protests began in Kyiv at the end of 2014 when President Yanukovych and his government made an official decision to stop the preparations to sign the association with the European Union (EU) (Manni, 2014). The protestors gathered in the main square of the Ukrainian capital city to express their dissatisfaction with the political course chosen by the President. The protest led by some of the opposition politicians escalated very quickly and soon the number of the dissatisfied people included a hundred thousand (Manni, 2014). Protest escalation brought violence, riots, destruction of private properties, fires, occupation of buildings. The president unable to cope with the chaos fled the country. The wave of protests moved to other cities, city halls were occupied, local authorities – overthrown. The only regions safe from government overthrowing were the East of Ukraine and the Crimea that recognized Yanukovych as their leader (McLaughlin, 2014). When in Kyiv the protestors and politicians who led them assigned a new government consisting mainly of the members of the former political opposition – the East and the Crimea reacted following the footsteps of Kyiv protesters – local authorities were overthrown not to let the new self-assigned power penetrate the regions.

Crimea quickly found the support of the Russian Federation, conducted a referendum and based on its decision stopped being a part of Ukraine. The Eastern areas initiated their referendum which found no recognition due to the lack of autonomy in the region. The rest of Ukraine held presidential elections and assigned a new President Poroshenko who was at power to stop the armed conflict and start a diplomatic dialog with the leaders of the rebellious territories, but instead, he announced a “war on terrorism” and engaged a powerful armed conflict which resulted in hundreds of deaths of civilian people. The clash is still going on, the dialog between Kyiv and the East of Ukraine is going on but it brings no resolution. While the conflict has the character of civil war, in Ukraine it is presented as the struggle against Russian aggression. The mass media of the world also emphasize that the evil genius behind it all is President Putin who is said not only to support the rebels in the east of Ukraine but also to secretly send his troops to assist and also to sell the weapons to the Ukrainian separatists, his purpose is believed to be the creation of Eurasian Union composed of the former Soviet countries (Liddy, 2015; Gonzalez, 2015; Saunders, 2014).

Sides and Perspectives

From the description, it is obvious that the evaluation of the conflict in Ukraine is difficult due to the presence of multiple sides to it. The identification of all the key players is complicated by the powerful propaganda as information war is one of the dimensions of this conflict. The sources that try to stay unbiased count “two sets of corrupt oligarchs, two sets of disillusioned and frightened common folk, and unfortunately powerful fringe and two main external groups involved in the conflict” (Understanding All Sides To The Conflict In Ukraine, 2014). The Ukrainian oligarchs are divided into those who support orientation to the EU, and those who want to be closer to Russia. The common folk have the same division, but it is complicated by multiple subcategories such as ultra-nationalists, militant separatists, and intellectuals. All of them are united by the same goal – the end of corruption and an ultimate democratic state – but they look for it referring to different sources. The external powers involved include Russian Federation and what is referred to as “the West” (the United States and the EU namely). The Western powers intend to promote democracy, President Putin views the conflict as a violation of the rights of the population of the East of Ukraine and compares the revolutionary overthrowing of the legitimate President to Russian Revolution of 1917 (Yakovenko, 2014). Each of the external participants of the conflict is under the impression that their values are threatened.

Background and Causes

Among the main causes of the present civil conflict in Ukraine is its national, cultural and regional division. Ethnically, based on the data of 2001 the percentage of Russian descendants in the East of Ukraine reaches 30-40%, in Crimea, it is above 45%, whereas in the West of the country is it less than 5% (McLaughlin, 2014). The West has always been oriented towards Europe, while the East looked up to Russia as to a “big sister” (Kravchenko, 2014). Some of the experts trace the Ukraine-Russian conflict back to the end of the Soviet Union when Ukraine declared its independence for the first time (Rozin, 2014). Regardless of the independence, Ukraine and Russia continued to have very tight political and economic connections. Yanukovich’s suspension of the development of the association with the EU was influenced mainly by Russia’s opposition to the “Eastern Partnership” of the EU directed at Ukraine (Ahmed, Botelho & Gumuchian, 2014). Besides, it is important to remember that political division in Ukraine also has territorial character – the East has always been supportive of Yanukovych, while the West preferred his opposition. The previous massive domestic conflict based on political preferences and division in Ukraine happened in 2004, it is known as Orange Revolution during which the protests against Yanukovych in Kyiv resulted in re-elections (Manni, 2014).

Evaluation

Currently, pro-Russian elements are still in control over territories and buildings in several Eastern Ukrainian towns. The government of Ukraine keeps sending the troops to take back these territories. The United States keeps blaming Russia for disguised participation in the conflict forcing more sanctions as Putin mentions that Russia might have to take action to protect the civil population of Eastern Ukraine trapped in the middle of an armed conflict. Sanctions involve the participation of the EU and its economic confrontation with Russia (Marcus, 2014). The world’s community starts to fear a bigger armed conflict, which is not a predetermined inevitability. At the same time, the conflict affecting Ukraine has been inevitable for a while. It gradually got heated up by such factors as cultural and ethnic division, the disagreement of the political powers in relation to the status of Russian as a second state language, regional political preferences, Orange Revolution of 2004, and orientation to opposite directions (the EU and Russia).

The roots of the conflict are traced back to the dissolution of the USSR and Cold War, and even to the policies of George Bush who planned NATO expansion to Georgia and Ukraine forcing Russia to respond (Saunders, 2014). A pressing question today is whether or not it is possible to put Ukraine back together after all the damage caused to the east of the country and all the deep resentment the two sides developed towards each other. Besides, the end of military operations would lead tens of thousands of combatants back home, and these people would pose a serious, uncontrollable armed threat (Timofeev, 2015). Besides, war serves as an excellent cover for economic troubles in Ukraine, the end of military conflict would immediately move the focus towards the unsuccessful politicians.

Conclusion

The current conflict in Ukraine has a number of causes and predictors which determined the course of its development many times throughout the last decade. The conflict was caused not only by the weak statehood of the country and multiple dimensions of its internal division but also by the surrounding forces such as Russia, the US and the EU whose clash automatically put Ukraine in the middle.

Reference List

Ahmed, S., Botelho, G., & Gumuchian, M. (2014). Web.

Gonzalez, S. (2015). . Web.

Kravchenko, V. (2014). . Web.

Liddy, M. (2015). Explained: Ukraine conflict in maps. Web.

Manni, M. (2014). . Web.

Marcus, J. (2014). Web.

McLaughlin, L. (2014). The Conflict in Ukraine: a Historical Perspective. Web.

Rozin, I. (2014). The root causes of the Ukraine crisis go all the way back to 1991. Web.

Saunders, P. J. (2014). How Russia Sees the Ukraine Crisis. Web.

Timofeev, I. (2015). . Web.

. (2014). DailyKos. Web.

Yakovenko, A. (2014).. Web.

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