Exploring the Depth: NATO, EU and the troubled Kiev

April 2, 2015 OPINION/NEWS

A pro-Russian man holds a Russian flag behind an armed servicemen on top of a Russian army vehicle outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava

 

By

Anant Mishra

Introduction

2014 saw a political overspill that created chaos in Ukraine and drew the line in the Russian–Western relations, which essentially began in the aftermath of the fall of Berlin in 1989.

The crisis resulted in the end of a somewhat friendly, yet cooperative phase of relationship. These recent events have made Ukraine Russia’s enemy number one, the once friendly relationship now escalating to confrontation between the two former Cold War nations.

The ongoing fighting in the Eastern Donbass region has claimed more than 4,317 deaths to date, of which 957 were a result of crossfires, a direct violation of the September 5th ceasefire.

In addition to almost 9,952 people being wounded, an estimated 466,829 have been displaced internally in Ukraine, while 454,339 refugees were forced to leave the nation.

The Western regions of Ukraine are in desperate need of international attention. These regions are currently suffering from harsh economic conditions, institutional failures and governmental incompetency. The topic has been discussed over 26 times in the United Nations Security Council since February 2015, but an effective solution is still nowhere to be found.

 

 

Background

 

The origins of the Ukraine crisis lie in the geopolitical rivalry of the east and the west, igniting the competition between the EU and Russia over geo economic support of Ukraine. The roots of this crisis can be traced back to the Cold War, the fall of the Warsaw Pact and the formation of the new order in Europe.

After struggling for influence in the world, the newly formed Russian Federation was always regarded as a power vacuum in Eastern Europe, this along with the grave threat that Western powers possessed. As the European Union and, in particular, the NATO command, became close enough to the Russian border, Moscow became haywire as the vacuum was swallowed by Western economic and military monopolies.

 

With NATO’s expansion in 1999 (as European nations Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined) and 2004 (when Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltics joined) the Kremlin couldn’t handle this major blow, and both EU and the NATO’s actions were condemned by the then president Vladimir Putin.

During the Bucharest Summit in 2008, NATO hinted that a further expansion of members would be possible by the fall of 2008 as Georgia and Ukraine could be invited for membership. Moscow retaliated, this time not with just words, but retaliation through arms.

Russia didn’t lose any time in provoking Georgia, which left behind thousands killed, displaced and maimed, along with a “frozen conflict” that ended Tbilisi’s hope for alliance. The aftermath of these incidents brought the entire global economy on its knees, which led to numerous financial institutions becoming bankrupt, low job security and the fall of big financial players in powerful continents.

The EU and Russia reached dissimilar conclusions from such occurrences, showcasing different solutions as regards a way out of the crisis. The Europeans initiated the Eastern Partnership program in 2009, looking to gradually associate with the Union, economically and politically, Ukraine, along with five other former Soviet republics.

This step was taken as a measure to institute a “zone of comfort”, which had Western presence written all over it. However many experts still deny it all. Surprised by the sudden EU moves, the Russian Federation lured Ukraine and many remaining nations of the Soviet Union. However by 2014 the European Economic Project was ready to go. This was widely seen as an improved EU modelled scheme of economic and political integration. Despite not denying the facts and figures, President Putin was admired by Ukraine.

 

In the beginning Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration was confident towards the Association Agreement with the EU, and was ready at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013. Amid speculation of conflicting interests, Ukraine shocked the world by refusing signatory of the EU–Ukraine deal, acting heavily under Russian influence. This triggered massive global criticism, and brought thousands of protesters on the street, which later came to be known as Maidan Revolution.

Fearing another Arab spring, Yanukovych ordered crackdown of the protest, as protesters and policemen came face to face, many becoming injured. As days passed the resistance became strong and the number of protestors grew rapidly. With a hostile parliament in one end and thousands of protestors on the other side, President Yanukovych resigned and took asylum in Russia. Amid civil unrest in certain regions the Kremlin played a “covert call” as troops “looking like Russians” infiltrated Crimea, the region which was then annexed on the March 16 referendum.

Not long after the Maidan revolution, Ukraine successfully held presidential elections and Pedro Poroshenko won a major victory. An oligarch, he was principal sponsor of the Maidan. By the time elections were over, unrest moved to other parts of Ukraine, other “Russian speaking” parts.

This is where we are standing today, with a “frozen conflict” in Eastern Ukraine. Fighting is still ongoing, especially in the Eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, between the Ukrainian forces and pro Russian separatists.

 

 

Current Situation

 

With regard to the international community, global leaders should focus on both the Ukraine’s Eastern and Western regions. Both are in need of urgent assistance, although the situations are a bit different. As peacekeeping and conflict resolution is a priority during the clashes between separatists and Ukrainian forces in Donbass regions, the Kiev government is in urgent need of institutional building, financial assistance and democratisation. The Kiev government is facing a diverse range of issues, from political, economic and social to those of the military.

 

Kiev is not only fighting a war against Russian aggression, it is also fighting a war for its survival. Experts are more worried for the Ukraine’s fight against the “culture sleaze”, a disease that has crippled the government along with development.

Battling an endless war against corruption within the Kiev’s central government is the biggest challenge, bigger than the Middle East. International communities should therefore focus their strength on finding a systematic solution to Ukraine’s problems, in an effort to stabilize this troubled nation. The EU has however started its “Assistance to Ukraine”, in an attempt to bring financial stability to Ukraine.

 

Christine Lagarde, head of International Monetary Fund, in a statement to the local media has expressed concerns over financial stability in Ukraine while promising an IMF extended financial plan for conflict gripped nations.

The separatist have controlled the industrial regions of Donbass, disrupting Russia’s export markets while economically slowing Ukraine. The shortfall is a staggering $15 billion). The Ukrainian government is facing a tough challenge as the only option left with them is either to impose harsh cuts on Ukrainians, or default on its sovereign debt, which could hold Ukraine stable for a year or so.

 

Military sections of the international communities should give more attention to the Eastern Ukraine. In an effort to bring peace in the region a ceasefire took place between Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces on September 5th. However the military campaign that has been going on for some time does not seem to end.

Western leaders at the NATO summit in Wales rhetorically supported Ukraine’s efforts to regain control over its eastern reaches, but the organization avoided committing any form of significant aid. The promise of €15 million to aid the Ukrainian government in areas such as logistics, command and control, communications, and rehabilitation of wounded troops is a comparatively tiny amount. A new round of peace talks in Minsk between the Ukrainian government and rebels from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics were held on Dec. 12, which turned out to be inconclusive.

 

The situation in Ukraine is complicated due to the large number of stakeholders involve in this conflict. One such actor is the instigator, the Russian Federation, which almost has a grip over Kiev government due to its monopolistic energy involvement in Ukraine.

Furthermore, the West, EU, NATO and the US have been involved in the crisis, giving various levels of aid, guidance and assistance to the Kiev government. Additional international organizations such as the UN, the IMF or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been engaged in monitoring and supporting initiatives for the stabilization of Ukraine. Many international aid organizations and private entities are involved.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Today, the Ukraine crisis remains a vital issue that is yet to be addressed by international communities, and needs to be before it creates a negative impact on both the nation and regions around it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anant Mishra

Anant Mishra is a former Youth Representative to United Nations. He is an Associate Member of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi specializing in counter terrorist operations and foreign policies in Africa and Middle East.

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