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Ukrainian Crisis in the International Relations Theory Essay

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Abstract

The current political situation in Ukraine laves much to be desired. Because of the changes made to the state on a range of levels, including the political, the economic and the sociocultural one, Ukraine is currently facing a major crisis. Though a range of media attempt at portraying the situation as objectively as possible, emotional responses towards the political strain and the cultural issues leap through the cracks quite a few times. The specified phenomenon may be related not as much to the necessity to convince the audience to interpret the situation specified above from a certain viewpoint, but the necessity to introduce the problem based on a certain theoretical framework. Seeing that the conflict in question incorporates the cultural issues together with the political and economic ones, the theories of nationalism and liberalism pertain among the methods of analyzing the Ukrainian crisis, which defines the emotional fuelling of the sources in question, yet reduces their credibility to a considerable extent.

Introduction

Though the events that have led to the current problems in Ukraine occurred at an incredibly fast pace, the premises for the conflict have been brewing for quite long and were predetermined by both the differences in the economic principles that the Western and the Eastern parts of Ukraine were governed by, as well as the cultural specifics of the two ethnicities. The course for the European integration, which was supported largely by the residents of the Western part of Ukraine, was postponed by Victor Yanukovich, who was the Ukrainian president at the time. The following wave of civil unrests on Maidan Nezalezhnosti was threatening to grow out of proportions and required immediate actions to be taken. Instead of providing people with the agreement for the European integration, Yanukovich attempted to silence people with the help of military forces, yet with little effect. Forcing the president to retreat, the protesters installed a new government, which triggered a discord with the Eastern citizens. The latter announced the creation of Donets People’s Republic, yet the latter has not been recognized as a political unit, and the people defining it as such are viewed as separatists. With the intervention of Russia and the annexation of Crimea, the issue has become especially convoluted.

Individual Level of Analysis

The sources in question choose to focus on specific individuals in order to provide a clear perspective of the issues in question. The individual level of analysis of the above-mentioned concern allows for applying the theories of war, hegemony and unipolarity to the content displayed by most modern media sources.

Political

One of the major weaknesses of the existing sources depicting the situation in Ukraine concerns the lack of prospect on the personal awareness concerning the political forces and their intentions among the residents of the Eastern part of Ukraine. None of the articles mention either the awareness rates, or the reasons for them to remain so low even in the wake of major social, economic and political changes within the state.

Economic

When it comes to an economic analysis of the current situation in Ukraine in general and in the Donbas region in particular, a range of sources listed above view the former from the key tenets of the war theory, and for a good reason – the military conflict, which is taking place within the specified area, incorporates a range of characteristics of a war. Consequently, some of the sources that the modern media has to offer recognize the ATO process launched in Ukraine, as well as the political aggression that Russia is directing at the latter, as a military process.

The attempt of the specified media to view the situation in Ukraine solely from the political perspective, however, fall flat, as they fail to identify the key reasons for some of the Ukrainian people to support the Russian policy and welcome the creation of the DPR and LPR. To be more specific, most of the articles, while portraying the position of Russia and the Russian government quite precisely, still fail to capture the significance of economic ties that the Donbas region and the related areas have with Russia. The articles written by Baker, Chikhi and Niblett, therefore, lack in their insight on the nature of the problem and fail to pinpoint the key consequences that DPR and LPR are most likely to suffer in the nearest future.

Indeed, considering the history of Donbas in general and Donetsk and Lugansk in particular, one must admit that the region in question incorporates a vast variety of characteristics that pertain to the Russian economics due to the close proximity of these regions to the latter. Most of the modern media, however, lets the fact of the economic connection between Russia, LPR and DPR slip, therefore, leaving a major gap in the description of the conflict, and the reasons for its development specifically.

Sociocultural

As it has been stressed above, very few articles shed any light on the cultural specifics of the regions mentioned above, which is a major omission in the case in point. Apart from very strong economic ties with Russia, Donbas and Lugansk have a very distinct Russian cultural heritage, and the lack of attention that the specified detail gets from modern media is beyond upsetting. Very few of the articles chosen for the analysis display any awareness concerning the cultural connection between the DNR and LNR people and Russia. Hence the ambiguity of the solutions proposed by the authors of the articles, as well as the critique of the situation itself stem from. Even the sources that shed some light on the cultural connection between Russia and the rebellious regions of Ukraine, do so in a very subtle manner, therefore, making the information concerning the cultural and ethnic issues barely noticeable. However, on a number of levels, the aforementioned piece of information concerning the cultural link between Donbas and Russia may not only help understand the implications of the current policies adopted by Petro Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, but also provide a deeper insight onto the possible approaches towards solving the subject matter:

Culturally, the leaders of these states are the result of the formal education they had under the former colonial power educational system. This usually translates in their ideologies and in the way they conduct the state’s affairs. From an economic perspective, such countries remain bound by former accords with the central government of the former colonizer, or have preferential economic agreements in areas like trade and joint cooperation. For this reason, Harshe considers neo-colonialism as a “particular phase of imperialism and its associated web of domination and control.”1

Chikhi’s article, therefore, can be considered the source that allows for a better understanding of the processes that take place in Ukraine at present, as well as explain the reluctance of the Donbas and Lugansk people to cooperate with the Ukrainian army and comply with the orders that come from the Ukrainian government. Chikhi, therefore, creates a very clear portrayal of the attitudes towards the present day political situation in the regions under consideration, tapping on such theories as neo-colonialism and nationalism.

The idea of incorporating the theory of neo-colonialism into the analysis of the problem obviously makes the source much more credible, as it does not simply blame the Russian government and the people, who support it, for carrying out and supporting aggressive policies, but also explains why the phenomenon can be observed. Unfortunately, most of the sources tend to overlook the cultural dilemma, which the Ukrainian government is facing at present.

State Level of Analysis

Political

Weirdly enough, none of the sources outlines the drastic political situation, which Ukraine is currently in. Though a lot of discussions are steered towards proving the negative effect of Russia’s policy in Ukraine, none of the articles mentions that the state has literally become torn apart between the people supporting the current state leader, and the ones that are against the latter, considering Poroshenko’s inauguration illegitimate. In other words, the fact that a great chunk of the state is in a political discord with the rest of the citizens seems to have been ignored in each of the sources; instead, the political strategy used by Putin in order to spread his influence further across the Eastern part of Ukraine is mentioned consistently. From the perspective of the balance of power theory, the given strategy is perfectly justified; however, adopting the theory of balance of power as the key tool in identifying major problems with Ukraine, one will inevitably realize that the sources mentioned above fail to convey the key reasons for the discord between different regions of Ukraine. The fact that at present, Ukraine also needs reconciliation between the West and the East has been dismissed, which makes one question the feasibility of the information provided in the sources.

Economic

Each of the sources in question renders the economic issues triggering the conflict in Ukraine on the state level quite well. Most of the articles outline the complicated economic situation triggered by the dependency on Russia, which Ukraine has no longer any economic ties with; as a result, the objectivity of the sources in question rises.

Sociocultural

As it has been stressed above, the discord between the Ukrainian West and East, which is the result of years of Russia’s dominance in the Eastern territories, tops the list of the factors that spur the military conflict. Clinging to the heritage left by Russia to the Donbas people, however, is only one side of the problem, whereas the nationalism prospect is the other one. It is remarkable that most of the sources avoid mentioning the nationalist issues directly, yet take an obviously nationalist stance when talking about the situation in Ukraine. Indeed, from the perspective of the nationalism theory, the alterations that Ukraine is undergoing at present, can be viewed in several ways. From the viewpoint of nationalism concepts, the articles listed above tread a very thin ice, as they both sour the nationalist feelings of the residents of the Western part of Ukraine and at the same time tackle a very delicate material when talking about the Eastern territories.

Based on the tenets of the nationalism theory, the information represented in the articles is supposed to enhance the feeling of strength and cohesion among the people that identify themselves as Ukrainians. The residents of Donbas and Lugansk, in their turn, have a very heavy lean towards the Russian culture and traditions, which makes them fear that their culture may suffer as a result of the enhancement of the new cultural principles and the use of the Ukrainian language. At this point, the weakness of the Nationalism directed argument rendered in each of the articles, comes in full blue. In the time of discord between the representatives of different subcultures, it is absurd to foist the key principles of nationalism onto the one that identifies itself as mixed. Avoiding the above-mentioned fact is a huge dent in the overall solid arguments of each of the authors. It is quite peculiar, though, that the nationalism issues pertaining to the Western part of the Ukraine and the fears of the Western part of the population regarding the dominance of the Russian language have been addressed quite promptly and, therefore, can be seen a major steering power in the course of the Ukrainian policy towards its citizens:

His embrace of Russia in favor of the European Union (EU) enflamed Ukrainian nationalism. Many in Ukraine became fearful that a renewed relationship with Russia would threaten Ukrainian sovereignty and identity. This fear led, in part, to the protests that overthrew Yanukovych.2

The extract provided above shows that the nationalist issues have been explored rather thoroughly in the article by Spencer. One could argue, though, that the problem in question was not as one-sided as the author showed it to be; instead, the issue of nationalism could be observed within the state itself, as the local residents were in a continuous search for their national identity years after suffering the oppression of individuality by the USSR.

International Level of Analysis

Political

When viewing the articles describing the current military conflict in Ukraine through the lens of the globalization theory, one will notice that two major political powers are integrated into the analysis, i.e., the United States and Russia. There are reasons for choosing the above-mentioned states as the key factors channeling the development of the Ukraine military conflict various directions, the first one being that the given states are obviously aiming at implementing different goals in the course of the conflict resolution.

Interpreting the information provided by most modern media sources on an international level, one will inevitably spot the fact that the political elements of the analysis outweigh the rest of the characteristics of the articles in question. Indeed, a brief overview of the data provided by the authors of the media content mentioned above will reveal that the issues regarding political relationships prevail in the aforementioned modern media specimens.

To be more specific, most of the media sources that analyze the concern in question seem to relate the current conflict within Ukraine to the realm of the foreign policy; to be more specific, the relations between Ukraine and Russia are often brought up in the context mentioned above. As a brief overview of the sources mentioned above shows, it is traditionally assumed that the political strategy chosen by Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, lacks insight and must finally drive both Ukraine and Russia to an economic, cultural and political collapse. It should be noted that the above-mentioned conclusion is conveyed in different manners in the sources listed above. While some media specimens state quite blatantly that Putin’s current political stance borders an international crime and can be interpreted as encouraging terrorism, other articles are more cautious in their conclusions. For instance, the allegations that Murray and Herrington make in their article stretch far beyond what can be seen as justified criticism: “So while Putin is acting aggressively in Ukraine, an actual war may not prove to be in his interest.”3

The attempt at viewing the situation in Ukraine through the lens of political realism is made by the news sites that try to provide an objective evaluation of the conflict. The aforementioned approach, however, does not seem to render the current state of affairs in Ukraine quite precisely, though. It seems that the approach involving political realism demands a very rough approximation of the challenges that Ukraine is going through at the moment and, therefore, does not provide a full picture of the difficulties that the state has to face in order to retain a political, economic and cultural balance.

Economic

Instead of focusing solely on politics, it is much more reasonable to pay closer attention on the economic situation in Ukraine, as the article by Baker does. Much to the author’s credit, the specified source sheds some light on the economic concerns that do not allow Ukraine to break the ties with Russia and blow the conflict out of proportions. The fact that Russia had been supplying several essential natural resources to Ukraine up until the conflict, including its ample resources of natural gas, presupposes that breaking the economic relationships between the two states will inevitably lead to major problems with the supply of energy sources for a range of industrial institutions in Ukraine: “Leaders in Europe, a region dependent on Russian natural gas and with far deeper economic ties to Russia, have expressed reluctance to go along with the toughest sanctions.”4 The attempt to analyze the issues faced by Ukraine from a different economic stance and display the problems that the state will encounter right after terminating its economic and political communication with Russia makes the above-mentioned media specimen quite credible and trustworthy.

The Hegemonic Stability Theory, which Murray and Herrington incorporate into their analysis, does not facilitate an immediately unbiased interpretation of the current events in Ukraine either, though. Instead of focusing on the lack of hegemonic power within Ukraine and point at the necessity for the state to develop one, therefore, becoming more economically potent and politically strong, the authors claim that hegemonic power of Russia has become immensely strong in Ukraine, thus, gearing the state towards a rapid economic demise. Much to their credit, though, the authors do not spend too much time to exploring the subject in question and move onto discussing the possibility of establishing the American hegemony within the Ukrainian state as an alternative to the existing state of affairs.

Indeed, at the first glance, the demand that is voiced in a range of articles in modern media and that concerns the necessity for the USA to intervene immediately and stop the situation from turning for the worse is quite legitimate. On the other hand, from the position of the Hegemonic Stability Theory, the USA, as the state currently retaining hegemony in the realm of global economy, does not have the actual right to intrude into the political conflicts within Ukraine:

The problems with these arguments—that President Obama is not doing enough to meet these crises, or that the US ought to do more because it can—are many, but they fundamentally misunderstand unipolarity (or polarity in general) on one hand, hegemony on the other, and the relationship between the two—a problem itself derived from the neo-Reaganite/neoconservative misunderstanding of hegemony and hegemonic stability.5

This is a very sober and quite legitimate point of view, which makes the source in question a rather credible and trustworthy. Indeed, it will be a mistake for the state that is currently considered the world hegemonic power, to alter the situation in Ukraine drastically, even for the sake of restoring balance within the country.

At this point, the aforementioned relationship between hegemony and unipolarity must be brought up. What Murray and Herrington’s article must be credited for is tying in the concepts of hegemony and unipolarity and, therefore, making the link between the domestic and the foreign policy of the state more obvious. Indeed, according to the existing definition of hegemony, it is “based on command and obedience is the institutional bottleneck of the transition from socialism to capitalism.”6

Sociocultural

As it has been stressed above, Russia controls the media that is available to the Eastern Ukrainian people. Consequently, people’s opinion is shaped against the Ukrainian government: “Putin has tightened his control over the media and political opposition.”7 This results in the Eastern Ukrainians being temporarily deprived of objective information, the articles in question claim. The authors of the articles, therefore, display a keen grasp of the phenomenon of polarity, as well as the way in which modern media may enhance polarity within a specific region.

Conclusion

A brief overview of the sources that detail the current situation in Ukraine has shown that most of them tend to adopt the theories of nationalism and liberalism when considering the problem, which blurs the lens of objectivity considerably. Even when diametrically opposite opinions are introduced in the media, the articles still render the issue from the same perspective, therefore, blocking the readers from considering alternative methods of solving the crisis.

One must admit, though, that the problem in question is beyond complicated – involving a variety of factors, starting from the culture clash and up to the financial bankruptcy that the state is on the verge of, the conflict within the state needs an elaborate plan for addressing it. Hence the necessity to view the problem from different angles emerged. It would be wrong to dismiss the cultural aspect, therefore; instead, it is imperative to incorporate other ways of analyzing the issue to the collection that the modern media has at present.

With the adoption of appropriate tools for the situation analysis, one will be able to shed some light on the crisis that Ukraine is witnessing currently. By displaying other ways of interpreting the social, economic and political concerns of Ukraine, modern media will be capable of providing a more objective and detailed interpretation of the current situation in Ukraine.

Bibliography

Baker, Peter. New York Times. Web.

Chikhi, Sabrina. Peace and Conflict Monitor. Web.

Krasnozhon, Leonid A. “Political Economy of Agricultural Market Reform in Ukraine: ‘Good Bye Lenin.’” Political Economy of Agricultural Market Reform in Ukraine: “Good Bye Lenin.” The Journal of Private Enterprise 29, no. 1 (2013), pp. 119–140.

Murray, Robert W. and Luke M. Herrington. E-International Relations. Web.

Niblett, Robin. CNN, Web.

Spencer, Christopher. “Ukraine Crisis: The Theories Involved.” Liberty Voice. Last modified March 5, 2014, http://guardianlv.com/2014/03/ukraine-crisis-the-theories-involved/.

Footnotes

1. Sabrina Chikhi, “Ukraine Conflict: Resolution through Negotiation,” Peace and Conflict Monitor, Web.

2. Christopher Spencer, “Ukraine Crisis: The Theories Involved,” Liberty Voice, Web.

3. Christopher Spencer, “Ukraine Crisis: The Theories Involved,” Liberty Voice, Web.

4. Peter Baker, “No Easy Way out of Ukraine Crisis,” New York Times, Web.

5. Murray, Robert W. and Luke M. Herrington, “Russia, Ukraine and the testing of American Hegemony,” E-International Relations, Web.

6. Leonid A. Krasnozhon, “Political Economy of Agricultural Market Reform in Ukraine: ‘Good Bye Lenin’,” Political Economy of Agricultural Market Reform in Ukraine: “Good Bye Lenin,” The Journal of Private Enterprise 29, no. 1 (2013), p. 120.

7. Robin Niblett,”The West Must not Blame Itself for Putin’s Revanchism,” CNN, Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Ukrainian Crisis in the International Relations Theory." June 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ukrainian-crisis-in-the-international-relations-theory/.

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