It is evident that Ukraine, the Eastern European country that is home to 46 million people, has been all over the news, as images of protests and violence have surfaced, in the past few weeks, displaying the country’s dire situation.
It is important for the average American citizen to understand the situation as it has potential implications all over the world.
The protests began when the Ukrainian government rejected a trade deal with the European Union (EU) to help save their crumbling economy, in part because of Russian pressure to accept a $15 billion bailout from Russia instead of receiving a bailout from the EU.
This led to hundreds of thousands of people engaging in protests that quickly turned into a full-scale protest against the government leadership under President Viktor Yanukovyh. The government and police force clamped down on opposition and enacted anti-protesting laws to no avail, as the protests grew and led to the ousting of President Yanukovyh.
It seems the people of Ukraine have rejected the idea of cozying up to Russia and are seeking more independence from their neighbor to the east. However, their heavy dependence on Russian oil is causing fear that a split might put their economy deeper into a recession.
Despite this opposition, Vladimir Putin (President of Russia) does not want the Ukrainian leadership turning to the west for aid, as he fears this will only draw western influence closer to Russia. Russia, in turn, decided to invade the region of Crimea in Eastern Ukraine, with the guise of protecting the Russian-speaking citizens in the region, as they view the political environment has grown volatile and unsafe under the opposition leadership.
The United States has condemned this act of invasion but, as of yet, has not taken any steps to punish Russia for their actions. President Obama has argued that Russia’s invasion of Crimea is a breach of their sovereignty. Yet, Putin has defended his right to intervene in Crimea, as they are a predominately Russian-speaking region, but according to Gallup polls only 23% of the people in the region want to be a part of Russia.
Since the invasion of Crimea, the new government of Ukraine has requested NATO help to protect their sovereignty; but, so far, no NATO military options are on the table.
Putin’s true motives are yet to be revealed, but one thing is sure; this situation has major implications for the geo-political relationship between the United States and Russia and has swiftly brought Russia back to the forefront of policy focus.
WE at Follow My Vote want to know what you think. What should the United States next step be?