The Ukraine Crisis: A Brief History • November 2013: President Viktor Yanukovych backs away from a trade deal with the European Union in favor of a trade deal with Russia. • Note: Ukraine achieved independence from Soviet Russia after the end of the Cold War. There is a significant ethnic/linguistic Russian minority in Ukraine. Tensions have long existed between Ukraine and Russia.
The Ukraine Crisis: A Brief History • November 2013: Ukrainians who fear Russian influence (and want to join the European Union) launch major protests in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Police are called out and protesters are beaten and killed. • December 2013: Russia offers Ukraine a bailout to stabilize its economy. Anti-Russian protesters continue their occupation of Independence Square in Kiev.
The Ukraine Crisis: A Brief History • February 2014: After two months of intense protests, government crackdowns, and international pressure, Ukrainian president Yanukovych resigns his office and flees to Russia. The parliament issues a warrant for his arrest. • February 2014: Pro-Russia forces seize government buildings in Crimea, a Russian-speaking region of Ukraine. They claim that the government in Kiev is not legitimate because it overthrew President Yanukovych illegally.
The Ukraine Crisis: A Brief History • March 2014: The Crimean parliament votes to secede from Ukraine, aided by Russia (which is accused of sending secret troops to Crimea to agitate for secession). Eventually a public vote is held which ends up favoring secession. • Russia’s parliament passes legislation absorbing Crimea into Russia, the first addition to Russian territory since the second World War.
The Ukraine Crisis: A Brief History • April 2014: European nations and the United States isolate Russia politically and financially. They pass sanctions meant to weaken Russia’s economy. However, without Russian investment, western economies themselves would suffer (Great Britain being a major example). • What happened in Crimea appears to be happening in Eastern Ukraine, as Russia threatens to take military action if it feels that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are being harassed.
The Basic Issue • Russia contends that it has the authority to defend the rights of Russian-speaking peoples in a nation whose government was stolen by pro-western protesters. It does not recognize Ukraine as a legitimate nation. • The United States contends that Russia is violating international law by interfering in the affairs of the Ukraine and annexing its territory. • The two nations are each vying for influence over the region. Western Ukraine (including the capital) are asking the United States to help. A Russian-speaking population within Eastern Ukraine is looking to Russia.
“Kiev’s Message to Moscow” (NY Times 3/1/2014) by OleksandrTurchynovInterim President of Ukraine • Today, the people of Ukraine are united as never before in the idea of collective security and European values. We choose Western standards and reject this neo-Soviet imperialism. We will no longer play the game of “older and younger brothers.”Moscow must understand what we discovered at [Independence Square] in Kiev: The use of force will backfire and, more often than not, yield the opposite of what was intended. Ukraine and Russia are two sovereign states, and the Ukrainian people will determine their path independently. The refusal to accept this fact will lead, at the very least, to a new Cold War.
Essential Questions • How does what is happening right now in Ukraine a direct reflection of the lead-up to World War I? • What warnings could we issue to the United States, Russia, and Ukraine with regard to their respective roles in the Ukraine crisis? • Does Nation A ever have the right to violate the borders of Nation B if Nation B is recognized as legitimate by a majority of the world’s governments? • Does an ethnic group have an inherent right to it own sovereign nation? Did ethnic Russians have the inherent right to allow Russia to annex Crimea away from Ukraine?
Vladimir Putin on the Ukraine Crisis • [0:00 – 4:00]
Barack Obama on the Ukraine Crisis • [6:12-10:50]