Ukraine Crisis: Is Russia Really At Fault?

The tale of two nations: Ukraine has deep ethnic and political divisions

The tale of two nations: Ukraine has deep ethnic and political divisions

Earlier this month, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond proposed the unthinkable, arming Ukrainian militias with ‘lethal aid’. Concluding his announcement, he stated: “Civilised nations do not behave in the way Russia under Putin has behaved towards Ukraine”. With this statement in mind, would it be considered civilised to fuel a proxy war in eastern Ukraine? Effectively, this would be the case, and if the Foreign Office was to make the decision to arm pro-Ukrainian forces, this would only intensify an already deadly conflict. It is not surprising that Britain was not involved in the Minsk peace plan, when it is perfectly clear that the Foreign Office appears to be more interested in using weaponry as a first resort. Interestingly, such rhetoric reminds us of when David Cameron lost a Commons vote on military action in Syria, a move Russia had welcomed for the most obvious of reasons. Who is to blame for the Ukraine Crisis? It was certainly not Russia, and the initiation of change in Ukraine happened internally without any Russian provocation. Viktor Yanukovych, an elected president, was toppled from power in the most undemocratic of circumstances, yet the most obvious western powers did nothing to condemn such actions- proving a clear bias against any political leniency towards Russia.

The US and the European Union are now very concerned about Ukrainian sovereignty, a concern that did not seem to be advocated prior to the 2013 ousting. The ‘change of tune’ came from the 2013 ousting of Yanukovych, which suggests an underlying desire for Ukrainian leadership to be allied towards the European Union and therefore the United States. Interestingly, while there has been much condemnation from the West in regards to the Russian troops sneaking across Ukraine’s eastern frontier, little has been mentioned in regards to the ‘foreign contingent’ of volunteers from European nations such as France, Spain and Sweden. Aside from military combatants, 387,000 Ukrainians have been received by Russia as refugees, which adds to the peculiarity of the situation as the west calls Russia an ‘aggressive state’.

On February 15th, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko agreed to a shaky ceasefire, mediated by German and French leaders Angela Merkel and François Hollande respectively. While such negotiations are welcomed by all sides, Vladimir Putin still has the right to suspect that the European Union (and the United States) are not entirely acting in good faith. There have been not only rumours, but also suggestions that American armaments could be mandated to the new Ukrainian regime to further add fuel to what seems like a proxy conflict.

Mutual mistrust: Putin and the EU are at odds over the Ukraine Crisis

Mutual mistrust: Putin and the EU are at odds over the Ukraine Crisis

There is another suspicion that Vladimir Putin might have to content with, and this with deals with the situations in the internationally unrecognised states of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, and the Lugansk Peoples Republic. There is little evidence that the ‘citizens’ of these states would want a return to rule under a pro-EU Ukrainian government, and this could be comparable; albeit controversially to asking people in Sarajevo during 1992 Yugoslav Wars to live under a Serbian regime. They do not want to live in a country that has been waging a war on them. Putin, of course did not wish for the new ‘republics’ in Donetsk and Lugansk to be independent, and the self-declaration of independence could best be interpreted as a push for some degree of legitimacy. To argue that portions of eastern Ukraine are under ‘Russian dominance’ is in fact quite the contrary, and the situation of these two breakaway regions are merely an attempt at self-determination against the wishes of Kiev.

At a glance, it would be wise to argue that Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine Crisis is merely a reaction, and the Kremlin is in no way to ‘blame’ for the situation at hand. Ukraine had maintained a political balance from independence in 1991, until the start of the crisis in 2013. There are huge differences between the east and the west of Ukraine, and since this political balance was toppled, there was no other way for people in the eastern Ukraine to defend themselves. Further polarisation has taken place under the encroachment of pro-Kiev forces into the east, when such forces were sent to quell the unrest. We also need to remember that Russia does not have much of a leverage against Ukraine, even as Kiev cuts ties with the Kremlin. Purely in an economic sense, a large amount of Ukraine’s industry is geared towards Russia. The products that Ukraine manufactured were largely exported to Russia, and with these links fast disappearing, the Ukrainian G.D.P is due to contract by 5% this year. Old economic ties are effectively being destroyed, which will be to the detriment of both Russia and Ukraine.

By Stuart Chapman, Senior Writer for Daily Political View.

Twitter: (@SP_Chapman)

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