Sample Paper on Crisis in Ukraine Government in 2014

Crisis in Ukraine: A New US/Russia Cold War?

Abstract

The collapse of the Ukrainian government in 2014 resulted in the installation of a new pro-Western regime, a move that was met with resistance by Russia. On the other hand, The United States fully endorsed the new regime. This, along with other recent developments in Ukraine where Ukraine and Russia have been seen to clash, has led to talk as to whether the crisis could herald a new US/Russia Cold War. A historical review of the crisis in Ukraine reveals that the Crimea region was originally part of Russia before it was transferred to Ukraine in keeping with the due process. However, Russia still feels attached to the Crimea region emotionally. Based on the realist theory, it could be argued that Russia’s support for the seceding of the Crimea is an attempt to assert itself politically. The U.S government is however strongly opposed to Russia’s actions, and has gone to the extent of imposing sanctions on the country’s energy imports and financing of the energy sector. There have also been debates to the effect that Russia is against attempts by the U.S to impose imperialism on Ukraine, with the U.S also accusing Russia of exerting its socialist concept on Ukraine. All in all, the crisis in Ukraine is mired by diverse energy politics.

Introduction

Following the collapse of the Ukrainian government in 2014, and the subsequent installation of a new pro-Western regime, debates have emerged as to whether this could be an indication of a new US/Russian Cold War. While the Ukraine crisis possesses every characteristic of a Cold War, it is important to stress the fact that it is far from one. The Cold War was a period of global assertion between two almost equal powers – an Eastern blockade (led by Russia and her allies) and the western blockade (led by the United States and her allies). The rest of the world was divided along these two blockades based on individual countries’ inclinations. However, none of these events is true today with regard to the Ukraine crisis (Smale, 2015). While Russia and the United States may appear to have ideological differences over the plight of the Crimea, it is important to note that Russia seems to be all alone against the rest of the world in asserting for the annexation of the Crimea (Urban, 2014). Still, President Putin and Russia have been acting as if this were a true Cold War. Besides attacking Georgia, a former member of the Soviet Union, in 2006, Putin has also established a Eurasian trade union, ostensibly to rival the European Union. Consequently, the desire by the pro-West Ukrainian government to join the EU in 2008 sparked off the current crisis and amid all this chaos, Russia is seen to have escalated the conflict as a way of re-asserting its influence as a global power once more, as well as a legitimate competitor to the West. However, the present competition is nowhere near that of the former Soviet Union and the United States and her allies as was evidenced during the Cold War. Not only has Russia been weakened militarily and in terms of allies who are backing her, but her influence has also waned.

 

 

  1. Short history of the crisis in the Ukraine

While the crisis in Ukraine may have only erupted in 2014, its genesis spans as far back as 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev former leader of the Soviet Union, oversaw the transfer of the Crimea from the Russian SFSR to Ukrainian SSR.  As a matter of fact, the Crimea is a rather emotional issue for majority of the Russians. Between 1853 and1856, in what was known as The Crimean War, Russian, under Prince Menshikov lost its grip on the Black Sea region after being humiliated by the Austria-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires (Yekelchyk, 2014).  To-date, Russians resent their loss of power and prestige and the Crimea is a true reflection of this loss. In 1991, a referendum was held in which an overwhelming majority voted in favor of restoring the Crimea back to the USSR.

            However, after the USSR had been dissolved a number of countries that included Russia, the UK and the United States signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in 1994, effectively giving their assurance that the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the Crimea, would be respected. In 2008, the pro-Western Ukrainian government declared its desire to become part of NATO, and his acted as a trigger to the current crisis (McLaughlin, 2015).

Some NATO members were however opposed to this move. There have been reports of Russia’s attempts to pressure Ukraine against forging closer ties with the West. Russian’s hostility with Ukraine appears to have increased as it became increasingly clear that Ukraine was intent on joining NATO. But why is Russia opposed to Ukraine joining NATO, or forging ties with the West?

Russia is believed to favor a move whereby Ukraine would be part of the Eurasian Union. In this case, Russia is fearful that should Ukraine join NATO, this would give the West an avenue to gain access to and expand to Russia’s Western borders. Clearly, a disunited Ukraine is of more political importance to Russia than a peaceful one (McLaughlin, 2015). Not only would it give Russia bragging rights, but it would also be a statement to the West that Russia and her former allies in the now defunct USSR are in the east, not the west.

In many respects, the Ukraine crisis also reflects other underlying issues such the over-reliance of Ukraine on Russia, weak governance for over two decades, as well as sharp differences between the religiously, ethnically, and linguistically distinct western and eastern halves in Ukraine. In February 2014, after President Victor Yanukovich had been ousted, Russia moved swiftly and seized the Crimean Peninsula. This was meant to act as a strong statement by Moscow that it had every intention of retaining its influence over Ukraine (McMahon, 2014). This crisis has pitted Russia on one side, maintaining that the Crimea should not be denied its right to be enjoined with Russia, and the United States on the other hand, raising concerns over respecting the sovereignty of state borders and territorial integrity.

While Russia has demonstrated its intent to even go to war over the Crimea, should it become necessary, the United States and the rest of Europe have no intention of doing so. While there have been attempts to liken the current standoff over Ukraine with the Cold War, there appears to be more underlying issues at hand than we care to admit. According to Thieme (2014), the history of the Crimea, Russia, and Ukraine is very complex, buttressed by centuries of shared history, unique regional traits, and common culture.

 

  1. System level theories

Various system level theories have thus far been developed with the aim of studying and explaining the causes of wars. They include among others, realist theories, liberal theories, and class system theories. Traditionally, “realist” theories have dominated the study of causes of wars. “Realist” theories is a group of theories that hinges on the assumption that territorially defined groups (or sovereign states) act rationally as they seek to assert their power, wealth, and security in a chaotic international system characterized by lack of a lawful authority to enforce agreements and regulate disputes (Slaughter 37).

Anarchy, along with uncertainties regarding the deliberateness of the inauspicious results of the chaos culminates in a system of competition and insecurity. As a result, political leaders are more likely to concentrate on worst-case outcomes, short-term security requirements, as well as their relative position with respect to the system. Realists contend that power distribution at the systematic or dyadic levels act as the key originator of international outcomes. And while most realists acknowledge that war could erupt as a result of both inadvertent and deliberate processes, they seem not to be in agreement about which among the two processes is the most common (Slaughter 43). The issue of power distribution is also of primary concern to realist theorists. According to realists, states forge alliances to counter other states that pose a threat to their hegemony.

On the other hand, the Liberal Theory hinges on two fundamental assumptions: the assumptions of rationality and anarchy. In particular, political actors (or states) exist in a state of anarchy, and that in making decisions, they generally act rationally (Jahn 103). Liberals view the state as a representative institution that is periodically predisposed to construction and reconstruction, and capture and recapture, by domestically formed social coalitions.  Liberals are also of the opinion that most states compromise sovereignty or security with the intention of attaining other ends. They also do not pursue wealth uniformly but rather, strike varied and complex trade-offs among social, political and economic agendas.

 

  1. U.S. Government position

Ever since the current crisis in Ukraine started, The United States has been actively involved in campaigns to garner the support of other sovereign nations on the importance of supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and respect of its lawful right to choose its own destiny (The White House, 2014).  It is the position of the U.S. Government that Ukraine should not feel under pressure to forge any sovereign relations with her preferred neighbors and that contrary to the false narratives to which Russia subscribes to, EU’s Eastern Partnership would result in democratic and economic stability not just in Ukraine, but in the entire neighborhood (U.S. Department of State, 2014).

In addition, the United States has been in consultation with other global leaders from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, the Netherlands, and Italy, among others, in an attempt to increase pressure on Russia on account of her actions that are more than anything, seen to sabotage Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and the capability to choose its future destiny by making its own decisions. In this quest, the United States has forged a coalition with her European allies. The United States, along with her European allies, are of the view that diplomacy, and not war, is what is needed in order to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. In addition, the United States and her allies opine that an independent Ukraine would not pose any threat to Russia’s interests (The White House, 2014).

However, United States President Barrack Obama has at the same time intimated that should Russia carry on with its current activities, the United States shall “rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world” (The White House, 2014, n.p.).  As a statement of its intent,  on July 29, 2014, the United States imposed sanctions on vital sectors of the Russian economy namely, arms, finance, and energy.  Towards this end, the United States has blocked the export of specific technologies and goods that targets the energy sector in Russia. In addition, the U.S. Government has also imposed sanctions on additional Russian defense companies and banks (The White House, 2014), while financing of and advancing credit to Russian export sector remains suspended.

  1. Critical interpretations
  2. Anti-imperialism

In his quest to justify de-politicize Russia’s presence of military force in Ukraine, President Putin has been trying to paint a rosy picture of solidarity that ought to be there between the two nationalities as their rear enemy are the Western imperialists whose intention is to both assume control of Ukraine and oppose Ukraine’s oligarchs with little regardless for their political alignment. In this case, Putin is of the opinion that the Western imperialists are chiefly concerned with fighting for against capitalism that to their mind, Russia espouses, in favor of internationalism. Even as the prevailing situation ought to make this kind of solidarity somewhat hard to achieve, it is inevitable. For the moment, the Russian troops might be required to overturn the victory by Western imperialism. However, ultimately the only guarantee for victory in Ukraine’s struggle is the solidarity of the various nationalities in Ukraine.

Whereas the United States could be seen as helping to promote the EU’s interests in Ukraine, on the other hand, Russia’s aim is to promote capitalism as symbolized by the Ukraine’s oligarchs. Over the years, different forms of far-right groups have been created, nurtured and financed as vital tools in the attainment of certain economic and political aims (Koebner & Schmidt, 2010). The groups became using in helping to suppress opposition, protests, as well as business competitors. In the case of Ukraine, ever since her independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union various groups have been spreading their fascist and nationalist ideas across the country. It is not hard therefore, to imagine that a sizable number of Ukrainians are opposed to the interference of the United States and her allies because all along, they have come to associate the West with the concept of imperialism. Despite Russia’s support of the Ukraine’s elite and capitalist interests, its troops have not even attempted to contain the rebellion in eastern Ukraine. However, the Russian troops are ready to keep this rebellion in check.

  1. Energy politics, oil and natural gas

The Ukraine crisis that has since resulted in the annexation of the Crimea region is a very heated affair involving energy politics, natural gas, and oil. It is important to note that the EU largely depends on Russia for its supply of natural gas, to the tune of a quarter of all the consumption in this region coming from Russia. More importantly, 80 percent of the natural gas and oil finds its way to the EU from Russia via Ukraine. Therefore, by intervening into the Ukraine crisis militarily, President Putin and Russia are effectively demonstrating their ruthlessness at ensuring that they do not lose their stronghold over Ukraine and possibly permit the EU to gain a foothold in the country and possibly control over the crucial energy pipelines in Ukraine (The Guardian 2014) In the past few years, Ukraine and Russia have been involved in various gas disputes between Russian gas suppliers and Ukrainian gas and Oil companies over prices, debts, and supplies.

Over the years, these disputes have slowly ceased from being just business disputes and assumed the form of transnational political issues in which several countries and political leaders have had to get involved. Amid all of these disputes, Russia feels that by getting involved, The United States and her allies aim to align themselves with Ukraine because it is a pivotal country from a geostrategic point of view (The Guardian 2014). On the other hand, The United States and her allies feel that Russia’s invasion and its subsequent role in facilitating in the annexation of the Crimea is informed by the desire not to lose a grip of its hold on Ukraine.

In a recent report that the US State Department helped to sponsor, it was noted that Ukraine is a potentially key player in energy transit in Europe because it is strategically situated between two major energy producers namely, the Caspian Sea area, and Russia. More importantly, Ukraine the large underground natural gas storage capacity and transit network in Ukraine is not only of economic and political importance to the Eurasian region, but to the rest of Europe as well. Further, the report noted that as an increasingly larger number of countries in Western Europe continue to increase their demand of oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea are and Russia, the geopolitical importance of Ukraine can only be expected to grow further.  However, the fact that Ukraine is overly reliant on Russia’s energy imports has not helped to support the United States strategy of “supporting multiple pipeline routes on the East–West axis as a way of helping promote a more pluralistic system in the region as an alternative to continued Russian hegemony” (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, as cited by The Guardian 2014).

Looking at the Ukraine crisis from the lens of a neutral party, it is quite clear that both Russia and the United States have vested interests. Therefore, we could argue that politics on energy, oil and natural gas has been the main factor fueling this crisis. Abroad, Russia’s energy strategy has been geared towards upholding and intensifying Europe reliance on her energy supplies. This move is aimed at enhancing Russia’s geopolitical and economic influence, in addition to reducing significantly, any risk associated with her national security (Ebinger & Verrastro, 2014).

Elsewhere, Western energy and economic experts have time and again maintained that a mutual interdependence exists between Russia and the EU. While Russia depends on the EU as a key market for her gas, the EU on the other hand depends on Russia for energy exports namely, oil and gas.  However, Russian is aware of the expanding market for its energy exports mainly in Asia and so holding its grip on Ukraine would give it the upper hand over the West.

III. Conclusion

While the ongoing crisis in Ukraine bears resemblance to a Cold War, this is far from the case. In this particular crisis, Russia appears to be a lone ranger in a quest to have the Crimea secede from Ukraine, while the United States has rallied the support of her allies, who include NATO forces, the UK, and France, to campaign for a sovereign Ukraine state. The crisis in Ukraine has a historical angle about it, stemming as far back as 1954 when Nikita Khrushchev oversaw the transfer of the Crimea from Russia to Ukraine. Nearly a century earlier, between 1853 and 1856, Russia had been humiliated at war by the Austria-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires in what was known at the time as The Crimean War.

Therefore, the Crimea region bears a lot of emotional value for the Russians. Thus, by having a grip on the Crimea, Russia would be effectively declaring its intent to assert its economic and political influence over the West. While there are several system level theories that can be used to explain the crisis in Ukraine, the realist theory is perhaps the most ideal. On this, Russia could be seen as asserting itself to oppose a threat to its hegemony by the West. On the other hand, the U.S. Government is totally opposed to the occupation of Russian troops in Ukraine. Accordingly, the U.S has been rallying other Western nations to garner support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and respect of the right of Ukrainians to choose their own destiny. So far, the U.S has imposed sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy namely, energy, arms, and finance. From a different viewpoint, the crisis in Ukraine could be interpreted as Russia’s fight against the assertion of the West and her imperialism ideals, while the West is opposed to Russia’s imposing of capitalism on Ukraine. Still, energy politics could also explain the current stalemate between Russian and the United States on the Ukraine Crisis.

 

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