PROTESTS IN UKRAINE SPARKS RUSSO-WESTERN RIVALRY; YANUKOVYCH FLEES
By Bismellah Alizada
Three months ago, Ukraine exploded into violence after President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a far-reaching integration agreement with the European Union. Yanukovych, who recently escaped the presidential palace, announced in December that “he was going to join a trade union with Russia in return for $15 billion in loan and cut-rate gas,” prompting outrage from many citizens. The three-month protest movement has lead to violence, sent people to prison, and dragged the country dangerously close to a civil war. The Ukrainian Parliament called for Yanukovych’s trial in International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) recently accusing him of crimes against humanity.
In the “most dramatic period in the history of Ukraine since independence” from the Soviet Union in 1991, there are two significant issues that must be discussed: rivalry over a geo-strategic region between Russian and the U.S.-led West, and a threat of civil war in the country that has already suffered copious amounts of violence.
Ukraine’s unique strategic location has prompted both the United States and Russia to keep a close eye on the country since the end of the Cold War. Russia has consistently attempted to strengthen its dominance over Republics it once controlled, most central of which is the currently divided Ukraine. Eastern and Southern Ukraine are Russian-speaking and pro-Russia, while Northern, Western, and Central areas are pro-Europe. In the past, Russia has taken serious measures to control former its Soviet entities. In 2008, Russia stunned the international community by invading Georgia. The U.S. and its Western allies fear that Putin might repeat this armed intervention in Ukraine. Putin has recently been building up a military presence on “Ukraine’s doorstep.”
Many past leaders of Russia have seen Ukraine as an “economic colony and as a security buffer zone.” Moreover, Ukraine serves as a trade corridor that is especially important for Russia. On the other hand, the United States continues to strive to neutralize Russia’s influence in the region.
Since the country is suffering from a “regional divide”, the possibility of a civil war is fairly high. Should the protest, pro reformation movement be stifled by the Russian backed government, there is a possibility for more arrests and violence between east and west Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have toppled the government of Yanukovych but the situation remains fragile. The new Cold War, which is the present confrontation of Russia and the West, is becoming more serious in Ukraine. This East-West confrontation is affecting the ongoing conflict in Syria and is now impacting the aftermath of the successful protests in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people must devise concrete and calculated plans for post-Yanukovych era or chaos might ensue. The hopes of millions of people who were united against a common problem to meet a shared dream relies on the effectiveness of these plans.
Photo Credit: http://blogs.ft.com/photo-diary/tag/independence-square/