The crisis in Ukraine has its origins in what many may deem to be a Cold War-style conflict. East versus West. When the February revolution in Kiev– supported in large part by Western countries– succeeded in pushing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power, the references to a Cold War standoff escalated.
While some argue that these references are obvious, others claim they are unfounded. In order to accurately evaluate the comparison, it is necessary to explore the reasons behind each side.
Why the crisis in Ukraine is Cold War II:
Ukrainian citizens revolted against the corruption and authoritarianism of their country’s government. In an effort to create a more free and democratic nation, Ukrainians fought for Moscow to relinquish its grasp on their internal affairs.
But with Russian troops patrolling the mostly ethnically Russian region of Crimea in Ukraine, Putin is sending a clear message from Moscow. With intentions of maintaining influence over much of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet bloc, Putin is asserting that defiance is dangerous.
Though the issue may in fact be economic, the matter at hand is that of the ensuing power struggle between East and West. However, this is debatable.
Why this is not another Cold War:
The Cold War, according to political scientist John Mueller, ended when the Soviet Union agreed to cease efforts to spread its ideologies. The fact that the Ukrainian conflict of East against West is economic and not ideological means it is an issue completely separate from the Cold War.
Whether or not Ukrainian citizens desired a change in the ideological foundations of their government, the revolts occurred as a direct result of Yanukovych’s decision to form closer economic ties with Russia and not the European Union. Likewise, in order for this conflict to be of Cold War calamity, Russia and the United States would have to be the only two economically powerful countries in the world. This is simply not the case. China and India have increasingly made moves on the world economic stage, and do not show any signs of interest in a war that could threaten their development.
On a more positive note, some have argued that what is going on in Ukraine is different from the Cold War specifically because both the United States and Russia have acknowledged that diplomacy and strategic conversations of equal import to all sides may very well be necessary in order to solve problems of this proportion.
The debate is ripe, and worth discussing. Because if there is to be a solution at hand, it’s viability is strongly dependent on the methods inherent in the present crisis.
– Jaclyn Stutz
Sources: CNN, Foreign Policy, NPR, Huffington Post