In a Cold War-style competition between the U.S. and Russia, Ukraine’s ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych insinuates that the West, for now, holds the upper hand. Yet saying so could fuel the Russian fire to turn back the current state of affairs.

The conflict began when Yanukovych refused to sign a free-trade agreement between Ukraine and the E.U., instead leaning on inevitable trade ties with its Russian counterpart to the East. Many Ukrainians did not see the appeal. On February 21, in response to violent protests and backlash, Yanukovych gave up responsibility for his country.

Purporting to support a peaceful transition in Ukraine, President Barack Obama and senior officials discussed the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aides. The main effort emphasized a multibillion-dollar aid package for Ukraine with the International Monetary Fund. Various governments in the European Union support this endeavor, or at least intend to contribute economically to peace in Ukraine.

Ultimately, the goal is to keep Russia from sending troops into the country. Interference by Russia in order to restore a pro-Russian government in Ukraine would be detrimental to all parties involved. United States national security advisor Susan Rice emphasized on an episode of Meet the Press that Russian interference “would be a grave mistake.” Likewise, British Foreign Secretary William Hague stressed the importance of persuading “Russia that this need not be a zero sum game.”

The U.S. and Russia, according to Rice, share hopes for a unified, independent Ukraine that is capable of exercising freedom amongst its people. Obama and Putin jointly aim to see the agreement of February 21 carried out in peaceful terms. Constitutional reforms, near-term elections and a government to bring together the unified desires of the Ukrainian people shall be implemented in due process. These efforts shall reflect “the will of the Ukrainian people and the interests of the United States and Europe,” said Rice.

While Rice did not mention Russian interests, one might hope that continued violence is not among them. Perhaps diplomacy can win this war.

– Jaclyn Stutz 

Sources: Businessweek, Foreign Policy, New York Times, Wall Street Journal
Photo: BASIC

Gunshots. Rifles. Rocks. Molotov Cocktails. The state of political unrest in Ukraine continues unabated.

Protestors have long since expressed discontent with President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime since economically tying Ukraine to Russia in lieu of the European Union.

Closer ties to the European Union would have boosted the Ukrainian economy as well as being welcomed into the E.U. fold. On the other hand, Russia threatened economic sanctions and a rise in oil prices. In the end, Yanukovych chose the former head of the Soviet state. As a result, Ukranians took to the streets in protest. For the past three months, protesters and Kiev police forces have clashed in the streets of Independence Square.

The narrative turned ever darker once Yanukovych passed the anti-protest law, barring demonstrations unless a permit is obtained from local police.

The law was eventually repealed, but the damage was done. Discontent spiraled further when opposing forces attempted to draw power from the presidency towards the parliament.

The opposition forces, among them led by the Ukranian Democratic Alliance for Reforms party, then wanted tangible reforms that would come in the form of constitutional amendments. Yanukovych, with pressure mounting on his presidency, offered opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the post of prime minister as well as the power to dismiss the parliament.

These concessions, however, proved futile. Violence erupted on February 18, with 28 individual deaths as a result. A truce soon followed, but brutality reignited on two days later; that day’s conflicts yielded at least 100 deaths.

An emergency triage focalized at the Hotel Ukraine where numerous wounded were taken. The Ukranian military has yet to take action, but tensions are high. Foreign leaders have reacted by proposing sanctions. The E.U. has proposed freezing the assets of key Ukranians, around 20 involved.

Since the onset of the drama, Ukraine has been at the crossroads of Western powers and the eastern dominating Russia. The following steps rests on Yanukovych, but it appears the president is even losing influence in parliament.

Yanukovych’s party, Party of Regions, even sided with those voting against the president in a recent ruling for anti-terrorist measures. Regardless of the outcome, human lives have been split. Whether more violence is to come remains to be seen.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: CNN, The Globe and Mail, CNN, Kyiv Post
Photo: BBC