Ukraine’s opposition has seemingly found an ally in Western countries. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, EU President Herman van Rompuy proclaimed that Ukraine’s future lies in Europe. The country plunged into chaos last November after President Viktor Yanukovych failed to implement a free-trade deal with the European Union. Russia subsequently issued Ukraine a $15 billion economic bail out package which enraged many of the protesters wanting closer ties with the EU. While revolution is underway, a stout geo-political battle between East and West appears to have erupted.
Russia has accused the West of meddling in the affairs of the Ukrainian people. President Vladimir Putin speaking at a conference earlier in the week stated his country would not interfere, mentioning that Ukrainians could solve the crisis on their own. He warned more intermediaries would only cause more problems and his government was willing to work with whatever political faction was in charge of the country, as long as it was stable. However, many Ukrainians have come forth with allegations stating that Russia is deeply involved with keeping Yanukovych in power.
In Munich, United States Secretary of State John Kerry pledged his country’s support for the Ukrainian people and noted “Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine.” He stated that Ukrainian citizens’ rights are being undermined by the political elite in the country and that most want to live in a free, safe, and prosperous country. The White House has since confirmed it was discussing possible sanctions against Ukraine’s government with Congress.
In an apparent shot at Russia, Kerry stated revolutionaries are fighting to be able to associate with partners who help them achieve these aspirations. He proclaimed “their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced.” The opposition has seemingly found an ally in the West because of their mutual goal of opposing Russian influence. Kerry is scheduled to meet today with Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko, two prominent members of the opposition who have just turned down key positions in Yanukovych’s administration.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asked why EU politicians were encouraging the unrest when they would suppress any violations of the law in their own countries. He stated “What does incitement of increasingly violent street protests have to do with promoting democracy?” Lavrov was especially critical of Kerry’s remarks and declared that Ukraine did not have to choose between relations with Russia or the rest of the world.
As Ukraine’s opposition is seemed to be backed by the West, the momentum on the ground has drastically shifted in their favor. Yanukovych, currently on sick leave, has already offered significant concessions, which were ultimately rebuked. The anti-protest laws that arguably resulted in the current situation have been abolished and members of his administration more critical of the revolutionaries have resigned. Saturday’s meeting between Kerry and opposition members shows the West is deeply involved in this crisis and is willing to help facilitate a transition of political power.
By Peter Grazul