As tension and confusion continue to grow over the crisis in the Ukraine, with no change in Russia’s military involvement, and frustrations building in Europe and the United States, news sources are referring to this as the most significant international stand off since the cold war. With new information and updates streaming in minute to minute, an overview of the crisis in the Ukraine might help bring understanding to the escalation that has many people wondering what exactly is going on, and the role that Russia and the U.S. play in the matter.
To backtrack, tension in the Ukraine began in November of last year when President Yanukovych’s government decided to abandon its agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union and seek closer ties with Russia instead. From that point on violent protests ensued as the country was split in two, half of the country supporting greater ties with the EU and the other half fiercely dedicated to establishing a solid relationship with Russia. Two months later, with protests still a fury, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was seeking to buy $15 billion in Ukrainian government bonds and cut the price that Ukrainians were paying for natural gas.
Violence continued to unfold from December 2013 through the end of February 2014, between citizens and police as the government established harsh anti-protest laws, setting riot police out to violently suppress mass public upheaval. With death tolls rising, the Prime Minister resigning and opposition activists occupying Kiev City Hall, in late February, Europe stepped in to help mediate a plan between protesters and Yanukovych’s government, leaving both sides in agreement to start a new government and hold elections.
Days after the truce, the Ukrainian parliament released President Yanukovych’s rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. Protests errupt yet again and Yanukovych flees the capitol. Elections were held and Yulia Tymoshenko’s close ally was elected to office of the Presidency. The new government asked for loans from the West to avoid bankruptcy causing pro-russian protestor to rally against the new government in the Crimea Republic, where the Russians have a large naval base.
Protests continued on and the new government issued a warrant for former president Yanukovych’s arrest, provoking Putin to begin military exercises at the border in preparation for potential military engagement and permitting Yanukovych asylum within Russia. With a declaration of support from the West, the new government tries to prevent the country from collapsing, while Russia steps in to establish a military presence in Crimea, with more than 6,000 troops said to be mobilized there.
Holding less than two weeks in office, the new government has had little opportunity to establish its power in the country. In response to the new governments plea for international support, the United States has requested that Putin pull his troops from the Crimean peninsula, but Putin has yet to abide.
On Wednesday, newly appointed Prime Minister Arsenly Yatsenyuk gave his first interview since he began his term. While Yatsenyuk blamed Putin for creating a crisis that many see as parallel to the cold war, he asserts that he still believes that negotiations are possible regarding more autonomy for the Crimean region and their pro-Russian population. He stated in his interview, “First we need to stop the invasion,” and continued on to say that he hopes that the new government and Russia can build a lasting partnership in the future once real talks between the opposing governments have begun.
An overview offers only a brief understanding of the developing crisis in the Ukraine. With all of this political back and forth it is hard for anyone to know what is next. The U.S. has, over the past few days, suspended military cooperation with Russia and will probably end up seeking economic sanctions against them if they do not deescalate the crisis. Obama has also threatened to remove Russia from the G-8. As for the Ukraine, Vice President Kerry stated on Tuesday that the U.S was going to provide the country with $1 billion in aid, to save them from bankruptcy. They are also expected to receive $15 billion in financial aid from the EU. Putin is unfazed by Western attempts to derail his position and, while he intends on military action only as a last resort, maintains the need to keep troops in Crimea and defend Russian interests there.
By Natalia Sanchez