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Before discussing how the West may engage Russia, in regards to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, I will need to expose the actual reasons (which happened to be strictly Realist) why this crisis occurred, in the first place.
The crisis’s actual roots date back to 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to allow the unification of Germany and to move 24 Soviet divisions out of the country, on a condition that NATO will refrain from expanding eastwards (towards Russia). Within the course of the next ten years, NATO accepted 12 Eastern-European countries as its members – thus, establishing its new Eastern ‘border’ in the immediate proximity to Russia. Even though this constituted a striking violation of the mentioned ‘non-expansion’ promise by NATO, Russia nevertheless ‘swallowed’ it, while hoping that this would satisfy the organization’s geopolitical appetite. This Russia’s hope proved in vain – in 2008, NATO declared that it was only the matter of time, before the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia join NATO.
By acting in this manner, NATO crossed the ‘red line’ – if Ukraine joins Russia, it will render Russian nuclear force useless, because after having their missile-defense systems moved to the country’s underbelly (Ukraine), Americans will be able to shoot down Russia’s land-based nuclear rockets within the matter of a few seconds, after they leave the ground. This, of course, will leave Russia defenseless in the situation when, let say the U.S. (NATO) declares that this extremely resource-rich country suffers from the lack of ‘democracy’ and sends planes to bomb it into the Stone Age, just as it recently did to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and now doing in Syria. What it means is that, for as long as the current situation in Ukraine is being concerned, one would be much better off talking about the aggression of the West that took place against Russia, as opposed to blaming Russia as the actual aggressor.
The validity of this statement can be well illustrated, in regards to the fact that there is a plenty of evidence available that Ukraine’s anti-constitutional coup of February 21, 2014, which allowed the formerly marginal Ukrainian Neo-Nazis (who openly fly swastika flags) to seize political power in the country, was organized and financed by the American embassy in Kiev. The U.S. top-officials do not even try to make any secret of it: “In a speech to the National Press Club on December 13, 2013… Victoria Nuland boasted that the US has ‘invested’ $5 billion in ‘organizing a network’ to give Ukraine ‘the future it deserves’” (“Defeat Neocon” 1). Thus, the situation with what is going on in Ukraine is indeed rather alarming – it may well escalate into the outbreak of the WW3, which in turn will result in the considerable decimation of the world’s population. In the paper’s following sub-chapters, I will discuss what may account for the West’s circumstantially appropriate response to Russia’s current stance on the issue in question, while referring to the provisions of the Realist and Liberal paradigms of international relations. I will also hypothesize how Russia may argue in favor of its stance, while invoking the conceptual conventions of Constructivism.
The philosophy of political realism is based upon the assumption that: “Among states, power is the predominant currency and self-interest the predominant motivation… (this) presupposes the negation of competing, moral outlooks” (Forde 143). Thus, in accordance with the Realist outlook on the essence of international relations, just about any country exists solely for the purpose of: a) increasing its geopolitical influence, b) ensuring the societal stability within, c) destabilizing rivals. This, of course, allows us to refer to the earlier mentioned Nazi-coup in Ukraine, as such that cannot be discussed outside of what happened to be the geopolitical agenda of the U.S. at the present time – namely, ensuring that the U.S. Dollar remains the world’s only universally recognized ‘reserve currency’.
This, however, is easier said than done, especially given the fact that by the year 2019, the U.S. budget-deficit is expected to reach $18 trillion. What it means is that America will continue finding it increasingly harder to ensure the investing appeal of the so-called ‘The U.S Treasury Bonds’, sold to the third parties – the practice that is currently preventing the collapse of the country’s economy, due to hyperinflation (Hudson par. 7). What adds to the problem even more is that, ever since 2010, Russia decided to become yet another major player in the arena of international politics. As of today, it grows increasingly allied with Brazil, China, India and South Africa (BRICS), while proclaiming its intention to ban the U.S. Dollar, as the only legitimate currency within the context of how BRICS members go about selling/purchasing natural resources, such as oil and natural gas.
Therefore, the U.S. did not have any other choice, but to try to undermine Russia’s growing geopolitical power by the mean of invoking the state of ‘organized chaos’ in this country – something that has already been done by the CIA in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Syria. However, since it would prove rather impossible to organize ‘orange’ revolution in Russia (President Putin enjoys the overwhelming popularity with ordinary Russians), the decision was made to try ‘killing three rabbits with one shot’. That is, by having organized the armed coup d’état in Ukraine, America expected to bring chaos to Russia through Ukraine and to ensure that the latter joins NATO – hence, rendering Russia’s nuclear-defense capabilities useless. Moreover, America also wanted to disrupt the steady flow of natural gas from Russia to the EU – this decision was dictated by the fact that the EU is one of America’s greatest economic competitors. However, Putin’s response to this was rather effective – since the U.S. crossed the mentioned earlier ‘red line’, Russia simply seized Crimea, populated by Russian-speaking people who refused to recognize the legitimacy of the ‘revolutionary’ neo-Nazi government in Kiev. The U.S. itself established a legal precedent for this to happen, by the mean of recognizing the independence of Kosovo from Yugoslavia in 2008.
The mentioned move benefited Russia in the following ways: a) The NATO targets in Europe can now be reached by Russia’s medium-range ballistic missiles and by Tu-160 strategic bombers, based in Crimea, b) Ukraine will never be able to join NATO, as a country that has a number of unsettled territorial disputes with other countries, c) Russia showed to the whole world that it will not hesitate protecting its national interests in the area. It is understood, of course, that Russia’s economy is being negatively affected by sanctions, imposed by the U.S. and its Western allies. In the long-term, however, these sanctions will prove more beneficial than impending to Russia, as they will naturally boost the development of the formerly depressed sectors of Russia’s economy. Being the largest country in the world, Russia cannot be effectively ‘sanctioned’, by definition. What can also be deduced from the above-stated, is that it would be quite impossible for the West to engage Russia in the unified manner, because it ‘consists’ of the U.S., on the one hand, and of this country’s another geopolitical rival (although presently subdued) – the EU, on the other.
Thus, when assessed through the conceptual lenses of the Realist paradigm of international relations, organizing an anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine, on the part of the West, did make a perfectly logical sense. The reason for this is that Russia has grown powerful enough to demand its own place under the Sun, which is severely limited. However, in light of happened to be actual consequences of this turn of events, there could be only a few doubts that, while continuing to engage Russia, the West should in fact become completely ‘disengaged’. The least it can do, in this respect, is to stop supporting the Ukraine’s new neo–Nazi government, which after having declared 5 million of its own Russian-speaking citizens ‘terrorists’, began to exterminate them en masse in the country’s East. It is understood, of course, that the considerations of morality have very little to do with the proposed course of action for the West. Rather, the mentioned advice has to do with the following:
- Applying more economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia can trigger the outbreak of the WW3, in which there will be no winners. Only the mentally inadequate individuals, such as Senator McCain, may believe in the otherwise. The validity of this suggestion appears especially self-evident in light of the fact that the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. is equal to that of Russia in terms of quantity and quality – in fact, Russians happened to be slightly ahead.
- Continuing with these sanctions is like trying to stick a nail into a person’s body, while pushing on the pointy end – as a result of it, the gas-dependent economy of the EU countries will collapse much sooner than that of Russia. There would be only one beneficiary, in this respect – the U.S. However, the ‘West’ is much bigger than the mentioned country alone.
- If the West persists with its sanctions, Russia will no longer be willing to act passively, while dealing with the accusations that it is responsible for the downing of Malaysian Boeing 777 over Ukraine. After all, even at this stage, all available evidence points out to the fact that this passenger plane was shot down by a Ukrainian jet-fighter (Zuesse par. 3). That is, by continuing to pledge its support to the Ukrainian current government, the West will be eventually exposed, as such that has been supporting terrorists all along. The West, of course, cannot afford to let it happen.
Probably the main provision of the Realist theory of international relations is that, while interacting with each other in the arena of international politics, countries should proceed with doing it in the thoroughly lawful manner (Van De Haar 36). While keeping this provision in mind, one will again come to conclude that the West should reassess the appropriateness of its current hostile stance towards Russia. The reason for this is that this stance is being utterly inconsistent with the very principle of a lawful legality, which presupposes that there must be a sufficient amount of evidence to just about any legal claim, made by a country.
For example, Russia is now being accused of having invaded Eastern Ukraine. Some Western leaders, such as the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, go as far as demanding from Putin to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine in the form of an ultimatum: “When Harper shook Putin’s hand (during the recent G-20 Summit in Australia), he told him, ‘You need to get out of Ukraine.’ This earned Harper plaudits from the Australian media” (Goldstein par. 2). However, throughout the course of Russia’s recent Media-driven defamation, due to its presumed ‘aggression’ against Ukraine, not even a single more or less credible proof has been presented to the public, as to the fact that this ‘aggression’ did take place. As of today, the mentioned accusation continues to be based on Jenifer Psaki’s (who represents the U.S. State Department) personal impression that there are too many bearded men among the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine. In her opinion, this effectively proves their affiliation with ‘evil’ Russia. Another ‘proof’ that Russia did invade Ukraine, Psaki considers the hazy images of presumably Russian tanks, posted on Facebook. It is understood, of course, that this kind of ‘evidence’ would not have even a slightest chance of standing in the court. Yet, the West continues to refer to it, as the excuse to for trying to cause Russia as much damage, as possible, which in turn raises doubts about whether Western politicians can be considered perfectly sane.
The validity of the suggestion that the West should stop ‘poking the bear’ can be illustrated, in regards to the Western claim that the Crimea was illegally occupied by Russia. Yet, in the legal sense of this word, this Russia’s move was thoroughly appropriate. Apparently, it never occurred to Western politicians that, while in Ukraine, Crimea enjoyed the status of an autonomous republic, which means that it had its own legislative body – the Parliament. In the aftermath of the neo-Nazi seizure of power in Kiev, the Crimean Parliament announced that there will be held a public referendum, in which Crimean residents would vote on whether they would like to stay with Ukraine, or to join Russia. After all, even though it used to formally belong to Ukraine for 23 years, Crimea never ceased being de facto Russian ever since the end of the 18th century – long before the term ‘Ukraine’ came into existence. During the course of this referendum, 96.9% of Crimeans voted in favor of joining Russia, which in turn prevented Crimean cities and villages from being shelled by Ukrainian heavy artillery, as it is now being the case with cities and villages in Donbas. Another indication of the full legality of Russia’s annexation of Crimea is the fact that it proceeded in accordance with the Part Two of Article One of the U.N. Charter ‘The Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, which used to be mentioned obsessively by the West, when it was in the process of recognizing the independence of Kosovo from Serbia in 2008. As Putin noted: “I do not understand why people living in Crimea do not have this right (to independence from oppressors), just like the people living in, say, Kosovo?” (“Meeting of the Valdai” par. 65). Obviously enough, while supporting the independence of Kosovo and simultaneously denying Crimeans the right to self-determination, the West clearly applies double standards – something that stands in striking contradiction to the principle of legality. Therefore, it should be reinstated once again – the West should leave Russia alone and take care of its own domestic problems, which continue to multiply, as time goes on.
Russian perspective (Constructivist)
One of the main conceptual premises of the Constructivist outlook on what represents the main discursive significance of international relations, is that the factor of identity plays a crucial role, within the context of how countries go about forming their geopolitical attitudes towards each other. As Hopf noted: “A state understands others according to the identity it attributes to them… (international) choices are rigorously constrained by the webs of understanding of the practices, identities, and interests of other actors that prevail in particular historical contexts” (177). Therefore, Russia’s would-be Constructivist response to the accusations of the West can be formulated as follows:
The reason why Russia decided positively, with respect to Crimea’s plea to be allowed to join Russia, is that President Putin had a good reason to believe that the undertaken course of action, on Russia’s part, would be fully consistent with the discursive identity of Western countries. After all, throughout the course of history, these countries proved themselves fully comfortable with the idea of drawing new borders on the world map, as if they were ‘divinely ordained’ to do it, while the others were not. The fact that, despite being repeatedly warned by Russia not to pursue with destroying the territorial integrity of Serbia in 2008 (because it would create a legal precedent), the West nevertheless persisted with it, was taken by the Russian government as the indication that there is no more ‘international law’ to speak of. This, of course, naturally prompted Russia to be driven by the considerations of ‘necessity’ (as opposed to be driven by the considerations of ‘law’), when dealing with the plea of Crimean people. Therefore, it is specifically the West, which should be held ultimately accountable for what happened.
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The Constructivist paradigm of international relations allows Russia to come up with yet another discursively sound justification of its annexation of Crimea. After all, as it was mentioned earlier, Crimea has been incorporated as the part of the Russian Empire in 1783 – the land was taken away from the Turks. Ever since then and until the year 1954 (when Nikita Khrushchev assigned the Soviet Republic of Ukraine with the formal jurisdiction over the peninsula), Crimea and the Russian Black Sea fleet, (based in the Crimean city of Sevastopol) never ceased to remain the integral part of Russia’s national identity. Therefore, the annexation in question should not be discussed as the act of aggression by Russia, which would have been the case if, let say Russia occupied Finland, but as the restoration of historical justice. In its turn, this implies that West is being in no position to continue accusing Russia of ‘aggression’ – aggressors are not being greeted with flowers by those that they came to submit to their rule. If Western politicians experience an acute need to find ‘aggressors’, they would be much better off taking a good look in the mirror. This, of course, once again suggests that the West should stop acting arrogantly towards Russia and to recognize the country’s right to defend Russian people from being subjected to genocide, regardless of what country they happened to reside in. This especially happened to the case, if the country in question happened to be a classical ‘failed state’, whose continual existence does not make any historical, cultural or political sense, and which will soon fall apart – the fate of just about every artificially created geopolitical entity.
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Zuesse, Eric 2014, Evidence is Now Conclusive: Two Ukrainian Government Fighter-Jets Shot down Malaysian Airlines MH17. It was not a ‘Buk’ Surface to Air Missile. Web.