Ukraine Neutrality

The situation in Ukraine is a complicated one. Some might say that it is good that the country is moving closer to western countries and a western style of government. A more liberal government with a more liberal style of thinking. Others might say that this changing in government is not a smart move for neither the citizens of Ukraine nor the western countries encouraging the government to make this change. The two sides of this argument deal with Russia, the elephant in the room. Russia has very good reasons for not wanting Ukraine allied with western countries. It is also understandable why western governments would want Ukraine to have a more liberal government.


The Ukraine Crisis


Ukraine’s crisis began with the end of the Cold War and the situation endures because of the history Russia has had with European countries. The United States is not helping the situation either by encouraging the country to continue on its current path.

  • The whole situation started way back in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nothing special happened with Ukraine that year, but what happened between Russia and the West plays a big part.
  • Then in 1991 Ukraine separated from the USSR, while this is significant in Ukraine there was no violent reaction from any country.
  • Fast forward to 2004 there was the Orange Revolution and Viktor Yanukovych. There were allegations of the vote being rigged. Viktor Yanukovych won the rigged vote. Mass street protest ensued led by the Viktor Yushchenko. The Ukrainian Supreme Court annulled the vote. Elections were held again where Viktor Yushchenko won.
  • Fast forward again to 2010. Viktor Yanukovych won the election fairly
  • 2013
    • Yanukovych’s cabinet abandons an agreement with the EU
    • Protest breakout in the streets
    • By December the protest were a lot bigger and City Hall in Kiev was occupied by the protestors
    • Also in December Russia gives Ukraine a $15bn agreement along with reducing the price of Russian gas
  • 2014
    • January
      • Anti-protest laws are passed
      • The first deaths of the protest are reported
      • Protestors begin storming regional government offices
      • Later that month: the anti-protest laws are annulled and amnesty is promised if the protest stops
        • The opposition rejected this
    • February
      • Protestors that were arrested are released
      • Protestors also leave all government buildings
      • February 18
        • Clashes erupted again probably because the government did not pass reforms limiting the president’s power
        • Government buildings are re-occupied
      • February 20
        • Kiev sees its most violent day in 70 years with 88 people killed in 48 hours
      • February 21
        • Yanukovych signs a deal with the opposition
          • Agreeing to form a new government
        • The deal fell apart for some reason
        • Yanukovych’s powers are diminished
        • Yulia Tymoshenko is released from prison
        • Yanukovych leaves Kiev after the protestors took the capital
      • February 22
        • The government voted to remove Yanukovych from power
        • May 25 is set as the date for new Presidential elections
        • Former President Yanukovych appears on television and denounces the coup
      • February 23-24
        • Olexander Tuchynov is appointed interim president
        • Arrest warrant issued for Yanukovych in Ukraine
        • Berkut police unit is disbanded
      • February 25-26
        • Crimea votes Aleksey Chaly as mayor
        • Crimean Tartars clash with pro-Russian protestors

This is where it stops, because, probably, up to this point it was solely Ukraine dealing with Ukrainian problems. After this Russia became involved with the conflict. The pro-Russian rebels in Crimea, along with the Russian forces stationed there and Russian forces from Russia get involved. Crimea separates from Ukraine and joins Russia. President for a tiny moment does not agree with this, but of course changes his mind. Crimea then becomes a part of Russia.

NATO and European Union Expansion


The fall of the Berlin Wall probably had very little to do, if anything to do, with the troubles of Ukraine. It wasn’t until President Vladimir Putin, President Barack Obama and the European countries became involved that the fall of the Berlin Wall became important at all. Also that agreement that Yanukovych rejected with the European Union probably also had something to do with the fall of the Berlin Wall. First things first, Ukraine is not strategically important to the West, whereas, it is strategically important to Russia. When Napoleon and Hitler along with others decided to attack Russia, they went through Ukraine. This is what is meant by, Ukraine is not strategically important to the West, but it is strategically important to Russia. This is the point where the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall become very key to what is going on in Ukraine after February.


The Spoken but Not-In-Writing Agreement


Reunifying Germany was a great moment in history. It signaled the end of the Cold War and Germany was once again a single country. The problem is what should happen with this country. The western half of the country was included in NATO and part of the European Union where East Germany was not. So the question became what to do about that, should East Germany join both the EU and NATO or not? How would it work if it had not? Maybe all of Germany should be excluded or included as part of NATO? What does all of this mean for both the Russia and the West?

It was suggested that NATO would not expand eastward if Russia allowed for the reunification of Germany. Also it was suggested that Germany would remain half in and half out of NATO. This is what was suggested to Gorbachev, but no written agreement was made. Later, President George H. W. Bush decided to change that line of thinking and decided on another course to get Russia to allow for the reunification of Germany. What eventually happened is Gorbachev received money from West Germany, Germany was reunited and there was no agreement reached about the eastward movement of NATO or the EU.


Expanding Anyways


President Bill Clinton pushed for NATO expansion in the mid-1990s. The problem is that President George H.W. Bush had the first Iraq War and didn’t really bring up the issue of NATO expansion and Russia to his successor. That is what led to the first group of countries added to NATO in 1999: Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Russia protested, but was not in a position to do anything about it. The next group entered NATO in 2004 with Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The last group was Albania and Croatia in 2009.

April of 2008 NATO held a summit in Bucharest. During this summit it was suggested that Georgia and Ukraine should be admitted into NATO. France and Germany opposed because it would most likely frustrate Russia. So instead of admitting them a statement was issued basically saying that Ukraine and Georgia will one day become members. Then Russia issued a statement basically saying that if these countries were admitted it would cause serious problems for European security. Also in 2008 the EU introduced its Eastern Partnership Initiative, Russia did not like this idea either. Some might even suggest that Russia responded with the Russia-Georgian War.


Russia, the United States and allies


What comes next for Russia and the West? If this continues at its current pace. Ukraine will be divided between the part that joins Russia and the part that joins the EU. This will also sour, an already sour relationship between Russia and the West. The implications of this could be catastrophic for problems that arise in the world. The Ukrainian crisis could have been contained and lives could have been saved if the two parties were to work together. Instead, President Putin annexed Crimea, for good reasons, and helping the pro-Russian opposition. While the West is helping Ukrainian forces fight for control of Ukraine itself. The big question isn’t why is President Putin acting, rather why is the West?

Ukraine and its citizens have to understand that they no longer control this civil war, rather it is the United States and Russia arguing using the Ukrainian people. A proxy war. The truth is that Russia as well as the United States need to step down and allow the people of Ukraine to choose their own fate. The people of Ukraine should opt not to be close to either side of the conflict, but realize their location in the world. The government does not necessarily need to be pro-Russia, also it should not join the EU or NATO. Ukraine could probably find a way to keep ties with the West while maintaining ties with Russia. This way Ukraine doesn’t lose in the end, because if this continues it will.