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Crisis in Ukraine


Today, Ukraine faces the main enemy of its freedom that is embodied in Kremlin authoritarianism, which unleashed unprecedented all-out war against Ukraine after the defeat of Yanukovych regime. Contemporary situation in Ukraine can be characterized as a systemic crisis. It is the crisis of basic relations in the political-legal and socio-economic areas, in which the model of development was built. Prolonged neglect of the need to implement social reforms, which were demanded by new challenges in the turbulent post-crisis world, has led to the degradation of the most important public institutions in Ukraine, aggravated the situation of ensuring the basic rights and freedoms of man and citizen, and threatened the sovereignty of the country. The society made an attempt of radical renewal through the system break. The tragedy of the changes that were caused by a deep precipice between the government and society was probably unexpected for all parties of the conflict. In turn, it caused deep informational and political disorientation of a large part of the population, brought the country to the brink of losing integrity, and made it sensitive to outside intervention. Moreover, Cloughley (2015) argues that “Russian aggression in Ukraine is an attack on world order and order in Europe”.


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For a long time, especially in the last three years, international politics of Ukraine took place under the sign of strengthening European integration. The President Victor Yanukovych held dozens of visits abroad and met foreign leaders at home. Everything went to the fact that Ukraine would become an associate member of the European Union. On November 21, 2013, when seven days left before the Vilnius summit where the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU was supposed to be signed, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a resolution, according to which preparation of this document was suspended (Parry, 2014). Resolution of the Government caused a great tension in the media, political environment and the European Union and led, as shown by further events, to a deep political and economic crisis of the international scale. The U.S. government supports Ukraine trough providing strict sanctions on a number of Russian leaders. These sanctions are targeted at Russian banking, energy and military sector (“Washington was behind,” 2015).

Ukrainian crisis can be analyzed in terms of three main theories: realism, class theory and liberalism. They pay much attention to the identities, interests and powers of both sides of Russian-Ukrainian conflict as well as the world’s response to Russian aggression. While Ukrainian crisis presents a significant stage and lesson in the history of the world as it deals with the war for independence and state’s ability to determine its future without outside interventions, it affects global community, leading to the Cold War that will have disastrous consequences for the whole world.

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Reasons for the Crisis

Analyzing the reasons for national indignation that exploded in Ukraine in late 2013 and continued in 2014, factors behind national characters as well as purely national quality factors that are inherent only to the Ukrainian society and state should be taken into account. The factors of an international character include significant stratification of the society, undeveloped economy and weak infrastructure. In Ukraine, not only these three factors became the ground for the crisis. A purely Ukrainian factor not only increased motivation to revolt, but contributed to the growth of explosion in the relationship of nation and power. Analyzing the political aspect, it can be seen that the development of Ukraine is influenced by the superposition of two conflicting and competing parties, which are created by the US-European and Russian centers of power and parts of the Ukrainian nation. As long as the interests of world powers that relate to these civilizations focus on Ukraine, it will feel the pressure of both civilization parties from outside and through the split in society. This factor proved to be fundamental cause of the events in Ukraine.

Moreover, during the authoritarian rule, the model of economic development appeared to be catastrophic. The aim of economic policy that meets this model was creating political and social conditions for unconditional victory of a powerful politician in the presidential election in 2015. The key features of this policy were keeping the stability of dollar. The only acceptable way to manage economy for this model was manual management. The consequences of these economic policies include the decrease in industrial production and the growth of external debt. A balance of payments deficit remains a chronic disease of Ukrainian economy. Balance of payments is a statistical report, which reflects all international transactions of residents of a country with non-residents in a particular period of time. It characterizes the ratio between the amount of money proceeds that are received by the country from abroad and the sum of payments.

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Negative trends in the economy give rise to tension in the psycho-emotional sphere of people’s life and promote anxious expectations among the population, which manifests itself as a cause of aggravation of old and new health problems. Infrastructure issues played a significant role in developing conflict situations. Last years were not marked by improving social infrastructure of the country. In the condition of a real budget deficit, material base conditions for teaching students and medical activities deteriorated. The number of pre-school and after-school facilities, institutions of physical education and sports were reduced. Road and rail connections, especially suburban, were in a crisis situation.

The increase in cost of education, reducing the number of seats in the kindergartens and nurseries, in health and after-school institutions, and the rising cost for consumer services led to the fact that capacities of educational and health institutions were not used properly. The deterioration of the material conditions of life considerably weakened health, contributing to the further reduction of the average life expectancy in Ukraine.

While the Ukrainian corruption business prospered, the country weakened. Eternal shortage of finance for social necessities and the development of public key institutions generated political consequences through people’s minds. Disrespect, contempt and hatred towards power corruption businessmen appeared to be the driving force of the social riots, which began in autumn 2013. At the dawn of Ukraine’s independence, its people made a mistake by admitting people who were characterized by plume of corruption to power. Nevertheless, events of 2004 and 2013-2014 indicated that genes of Ukrainian national character have done their job: the nation began to reborn and stop its suffering from corruptionists.

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Precursors of the Crisis

The first precursor of the crisis in Ukraine was the decision of the Ukrainian Government to postpone signing the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. One of the reasons was unwillingness of the European Union to compensate losses that Ukraine would suffer after signing the Agreement. The main argument of the Ukrainian Government was that the Association Agreement with the European Union will lead to the closure of hundreds of businesses, mass unemployment and collapse of the Ukrainian economy. A prerequisite for adoption of the resolution was an analytical paper entitled Social Consequences of European Integration of Ukraine that was prepared by the leading economic institutes. It was believed that Ukraine was ready to enter the European energy market due to the high energy consumption. Another factor dealt with the fact that import of agriculture would be significantly reduced due to the mismatch of significant domestic production to European standards (Petrova, 2014).

Mass protests in Ukraine that began in late November 2013 required a thorough analysis of the contemporary situation. Europause became unexpected for a huge number of Ukrainian citizens. There was absent any background information of intent to suspend preparations for the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association. This was one of the reasons why people came to the Independence Square.

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Timeline of the Crisis in Ukraine

Euromaidan 2013

The peak of public discontent was at the end of 2013. Gradually, it acquired the features of military confrontation between the government and organized civil society. Unexpected refusal of the government of the Prime Minister Azarov to prepare for the Association Agreement provoked mass protests in Ukraine. It is noteworthy that Euromaidan united supporters of EU integration, skeptics from the political opposition and completely apolitical citizens.

An important factor of destabilization was the use of force against peaceful actions that took place in the capital. After the brutal police actions against the members of student protests on November 30, 2013 at Independence Square, the government did not give a proper evaluation of actions of law enforcement officers. In addition, its further actions led to the escalation of the conflict. On January 16, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a series of laws that essentially declared any citizen protesting against the government, even in a peaceful manner, outside the law (“Timeline: Ukraine's,” 2014). Further radicalization of protests took place as a result of the following factors:

  • Failure of the parliamentary opposition to achieve their goals (the government's resignation, call early presidential elections of the President and the Verkhovna Rada) and oppose curtailing political freedoms;
  • Reluctance of the parliamentary majority to make concessions through tough position of the President of Ukraine and his surroundings;
  • Loss of expectations of the possibility of fair changes in the country's leadership as a result of elections.

The protest, which began as a disagreement with the authorities’ refusal of the European integration of Ukraine, turned into a fight with the government and corrupt law enforcement system that was in its defense. In this situation, there was a growing influence of non-parliamentary political forces, including Self Defense Square, Right Sector, etc. Unprecedented scale and unique institutional forms were reached by the volunteer movement that was aimed at providing utilities, medical, legal, security and even intellectual and educational needs for the participants of Euromaidan.

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On January 19, 2014, the most stringent clashes between the radical part of protestants and police officers took place on the Grushevsky Street (“Timeline: Ukraine's,” 2014). January 22 was marked by the first victims. In the regions, the seizure of office building occurred. After a series of negotiations under the international mediation, mutual agreements on the cease of harassment of participants of protests and cancellation of laws of 16 January as an exchange for the release of administrative buildings were achieved. However, this did not stop the transition of the conflict into the armed form: on February 18-20 there was the largest number of killed and injured people during the whole period of protests (“Timeline: Ukraine's,” 2014). Escalation of violence resulted in the escape of Victor Yanukovych and the refusal of many former deputies of the majority of support for the regime.

Annexation of Crimea

After winning in the Euromaidan in February 2014 and an unsuccessful start of the new government in the Ukrainian society, a new split occurred. One of the first steps that made the new government was the abolition of the law on the second official language. Russian media used this situation as a political propaganda in the eastern territories and Crimea. This resulted in the annexation of Crimea.

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During the confrontation that began on February 23, 2014 in Sevastopol and continued on February 26-27 in Simferopol, there were clashes between pro-Russian activists on one side and pro-Ukrainian forces and the Crimean Tatar community on the other (“Timeline: Ukraine's,” 2014). These events were followed by trapping and blocking office buildings and airports in Simferopol and Sevastopol and communication facilities, including television channels, by unknown people in the military uniform of the Russian forces. The executive authorities of Sevastopol and Crimea were changed (Beese & Kahn, 2014). The new self-proclaimed government of Crimea did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government and asked the leadership of the Russian Federation for support and assistance. As a result, on March 18, 2014, an agreement on the acceptance of Crimea to Russia was signed between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea (Beese & Kahn, 2014).

War in the East of Ukraine

The desire of Donetsk elite to independently manage the economy in the region under the wing of Russia and the ease with which this was achieved in Crimea were the main motives to start fighting against the current legitimate authority. The leader of DNR Pushilin announced the creation of Donetsk People’s Army. In both regions of Donbass, the preparation for the referendum took place (Beese & Kahn, 2014).

The Acting Ukrainian President and the Chief Commander of the Armed Forces Turchynov announced a power phase of counterterrorist operation. This data can be considered as the beginning of the war in Eastern Ukraine.

Despite the repeated evidence of presence of Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine, Russia does not officially recognize the fact of its invasion of Ukraine (“Russian fiction the sequel,” 2014). Therefore, the war is considered as undeclared.

System Level Theories

Several influential theories of international relations and politics can be involved in analyzing the Ukrainian crisis. The first one is the class system theory. According to it, belonging to a particular class defines the social status of people living and working conditions, social psychology and ideology, as well as the objective interests. This is related to the division of Ukrainians into the West and East. Specifically, people in the East of Ukraine feel specific distinctions from the rest of population, considering themselves as working class. Each class has its ideologues, who produce its fundamental interests of ideology and politics. The contraries of fundamental interests of classes found its reflection in the struggle and division of the society. However, class system theory is only one of the theories that influence the Ukraine crisis.

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Another theory that is useful to consider is liberalism. This theory deals with the world response to the Ukrainian crisis. According to it, the community of nations should cooperate to respond to the crisis. Liberal theory considers economic sanctions more effective than a military response (Chikhi, 2014). Liberalist supporters believe that the world can be changed in a safe and peaceful manner. Nevertheless, there is one contradiction in regard to the Ukrainian situation. According to Mearsheimer (2001), one of the theories that were developed under tent of liberalism states that “high levels of economic interdependence among states make them unlikely to fight each other”. Nevertheless, Russia, which felt all the threat of American and European sanctions that affected its economic stability, did not stop its aggression towards Ukraine.

Realism is another theory that can be used in analyzing the crisis in Ukraine. Moreover, this theory has most validity in describing this conflict. Mearsheimer (2001) argued that political realism made the biggest emphasis on power. In the realistic perspective, the comprehension of the crisis can be understood through analyzing the interests of both sides. Thus, Ukraine is generally aimed at preserving its territorial integrity due to the economic significance of eastern regions. Russia is interested in preventing trade and military alliances of Ukraine with NATO or the EU to maintain its influence. Many citizens of Russia wanted to see Russia as the most powerful state. To achieve this, they desired to return control over Crimea and even Ukraine (Spencer, 2014). The same concept refers to the lack of a unified position on sanctions against Russia. Some countries are reliant on the energy supplies from Russia and cannot support sanctions. Realists-theorists believe that there is no ethics in dealing with countries. Thus, Russia supports separatists through the desire of annexation of East Ukrainian regions and its military presence (Chikhi, 2014).

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The U.S. Government Position

The U.S. government, as well as its allies, became active participants in the resolution of the Russian- Ukrainian conflict. “The international community has been unified in its position that Russia must cease its illegal intervention and provocative actions in Ukraine” (“Russia and Ukraine sanctions,” n.d.). In particular, the U.S. government responded Russia’s illegal intervention in Ukraine and provocative acts, which undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and democracy as well as territorial integrity. In Geneva, Russia, Ukraine, America, and the EU agreed to take a number of measures for deescalating the situation in the East of Ukraine. Nevertheless, "Russia has done nothing to meet its Geneva commitments and in fact has further escalated the crisis" (“Statement by the Press,” 2014). Consequently, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on certain Russians and restricted licenses for particular exports to Russia. According to Mercier (2015), “the economic cold war against Russia has been the number one priority on Washington’s foreign-policy agenda”. Such European and American position can result in the Cold War. Although the sides of conflict do not wish to return into the times of the Cold War because of possible threat to economic and social welfare, there is a great possibility that further Russian aggression will inevitable cause a global conflict.

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The American government works closely with European partners and is to impose more sanctions if the Russian leaders continue provocations and do not take measures to deescalate the Ukrainian situation. These actions are coordinated with the EU and other international partners. They send a clear and strong message to Russia that its actions, which pose a threat to the Ukrainian sovereignty and unity, will have tremendous consequences. “The United States, together with international partners, will continue to stand by the Ukrainian government until Russia abides by its international obligations” (“Russia and Ukraine sanctions,” n.d.). Ukrainian security, its integration with Europe, and good relations with its neighbors have a great significance for the U.S. and Europe. U.S. government also provides financial support for Ukraine in order to contribute to providing economic and political reforms and strengthening their partnership (“Fact sheet,” 2014).



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