According to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine Prime Minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin is making a move to bring back the Soviet Union in a new twist to the events taking place in the region. Currently in a standoff with Cold War opponents over the conflict in Ukraine, Russia has promised a swift response to the latest sanctions from the United States and the European Union (EU).
At the annual meeting for the Yalta European Strategy, Yatsenyuk stated the belief that Putin is not happy with the idea that Ukraine could become part of the EU. However, no matter how much the Russian leader denies any involvement in Ukraine, the Russian President’s goal, according to Yatsenyuk, is to restore the Soviet Union. If true, the Russian leader potentially would need all of Ukraine to move further into other former Soviet states. A fear in the region appears to be the idea that Putin could use Ukraine as a launch pad into other former Cold War Soviet Union member countries.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine against pro-Russian separatists has claimed nearly 3,000 lives since the start. While Putin repeatedly denies any military support of the separatists or fighting by Russian military alongside the rebels, the U.S. and EU feel there is more going on. In response to the perceived support to the Rebels and continued posturing by the Russian military along the eastern Ukrainian border, the U.S. added new sanctions on Russia. The new sanctions include OAO Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. The EU also added 24 people and 15 companies to their own sanction and restricted list.
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to the new sanctions by calling them anti-Russian and short sided and that it is a hostile step by the U.S. administration. Responses that appear very similar to the era of the Cold War and may back up the Ukraine’s belief that Putin is attempting to build a new Soviet Union.
While the sanctions, which have appeared to already taken a toll on the Russian people, continue to be set against Russia, Ukraine is also struggling, and the comments by Yatsenyuk could be out of frustration. The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has put a stress on the country’s economy to a point that they fear as much as a 10 percent drop this year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) sees a drastic change in the economy of Ukraine, with a 6.5 percent to 10 percent shrink in the gross domestic product. IMF recently approved a loan of $17 billion to help bail out the struggling Ukrainian economy.
While Russia continues to deny any involvement in the Ukraine and lashes back against sanctions from the West and the Ukraine is in a conflict that has led to the current economic crisis, another convoy of Russian vehicles crossed the border into Ukraine. According to Russian officials, the convoy of 220 vehicles is transporting only food, however, none of the vehicles faced any kind of inspection by customs officers, officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross who were on site, or Ukrainian border guards. The move across the border without inspection expands the frustration by Ukraine officials, the EU and the U.S. over Putin’s refusal to cooperate and abide by Ukraine’s requests.
Lavrov stated that Russia wishes that Ukraine be a neutral country, a friend to their neighbor. This appears to be Russia’s way of telling Ukraine to stop talking with the West. Combined with the consistent refusal by Russia to abide by requests from Kiev and the West to not cross into Ukraine, whether for humanitarian support to pro-Russian citizens in Ukraine, or as military support for the rebels fighting against the Ukrainian military, the idea of a new Soviet Union formed by Putin upon first glance, appears to hold a bit of merit. U.S. President Barack Obama has re-emphasized that these U.S. sanctions against Russia can be rolled back or removed if Putin and Russia seeks peace in the eastern part of Ukraine and allows the country to remain separate from Russia.
By Carl Auer