International Affairs

Uneasy Ukraine: Implications for the World

The recent news of bringing down of MH17 in Donetsk has again brought the crisis in Ukraine to the forefront which essentially has taken shape into crisis in the East-West relations. The problem in Ukraine began when the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was removed from the post of President which he described as coup d’état. While the West supported this change in the govt., Russia termed it as illegitimate and unconstitutional.

The former president tried to grab the best of both worlds- he tried to profit by the relations with both West and Russia. He extended the agreement of granting lease to Russia to use the Sevastopol port as its naval base till 2042 in 2009.[1] At the same time, he maintained the existing talks with West to be the member of NATO. Though Ukraine is not a member of NATO currently but it was very much on the way to become one. The relations between Ukraine and NATO started right back from 1991 when it joined North Atlantic Cooperation Council.[2] In 2008, the Allied powers agreed that Ukraine can become a member of NATO.  Viktor Yanukovych in 2010 said that he wanted to maintain the existing situations however, did not actively pursue the membership.[3] This double play cost him heavily in terms of its removal from the post of President.

The new interim President showed its inclination towards the West. Fearing that Russia may lose Crimea which was an autonomous region under Ukraine and stations Black Sea Fleet of Russia, Putin reunited Crimea with Russia after a referendum – which has started standoff between West and Russia. The referendum is justified by Russia as the right of Crimea to make free choice of the govt., in the same way by which the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych is justified by West as the right of Ukrainians to make free choice of a democratic govt.[4] Crimea justifies its referendum on the basis of the precedent created by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia (which was recognized as legitimate by the West).[5] On March 21, 2014 Russia signed the treaty recognizing the union of Crimea with Russia.[6]

Crimea has a very large Russian population. The story began in the 13th century when tatars- a Turkic tribe in Central Asia came to occupy Crimea as they were pushed away by the expedition of Chengiz Khan. But when Russian occupied Crimea in 1783[7], these tatars faced oppression at the hands of Russians and slowly Russian population began to immigrate there and outnumbered the tartars. Russia also built a port in Black Sea- Sevastopol- which is an all weather port and does not freeze in winter unlike the rest of the Russians port. Crimea was always the part of Russia and not of Ukraine till Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine (when Ukraine was also a part of USSR).

Russia has several motives to annex Crimea. The apparent reason is to save the Russian population in Crimea from the excesses of new govt. The new govt. derecognized Russian language as one the two official languages of Ukraine.[8] So Russia defends its move as its moral responsibility and duty towards the Russians.

The other reasons are strategic in nature. Had Ukraine become member of NATO, then Moscow would have come within 425 kilometers[9] of range of NATO, a thing that Putin would never want to happen. Russia also wants its Black Sea Fleet stationed at Sevastopol which is all time port under its hold completely. Russia is a big country with vast sea boundaries but its ports are near Arctic circles which freeze in winter. Sevastopol provides it the base where it can place its military and allows it go beyond Mediterranean. Thus Crimea holds a very significant place for Russia.

Putin also wants that Ukraine should adopt federal structure which in turn would give more powers to south eastern regions which are pro- Russian areas. With this move, Putin want to maintain its hold over the area. This demand is important as it will give veto power to these areas over the foreign decisions to be taken by Ukraine i.e. if Ukraine tries to be the member of NATO, these regions can always stall the attempt.[10] This has resulted into the civil war between the govt. and pro Russian rebels present in these regions which has created instability in the Ukraine and World.

With support of Russian Parliament and people in Russia and east and south Ukraine, Putin has suspended a $ 15 billion aid package to Ukraine and discount on the gas prices supplied by Russia to Ukraine.[11]On the other hand, the West will be hesitant to actually support Ukraine with large sums of money seeing its failing economy- a factor in favour of Russia. Dismissing the suspension of its G8 membership as unimportant again reiterates the Russian stand that the world is now heading towards multipolar world and U.S. is no longer in the position to write the destinies of different countries solely. The reunion of Crimea and Russia has questioned and challenged the post Cold War era.[12] With the support of many important countries like China, India, BRICS, Argentina, Afghanistan etc. and dependence of European countries on the gas supply of Russia indicate that the Russia is very unlikely to move back from its position.[13]

The personal interests of these countries have threatened the peaceful existence of the world. This is not to say that the world should continue as a uni-polar world but in the quest of gaining power in International Political arena, large number of people, whether related or unrelated with this crisis immediately, are suffering very much. The wisdom lies in the peaceful negotiations between the two parties. Instead of resorting to the Realist ideology of gaining maximum power, the parties should come together on a platform on which they can solve the issue peacefully and save the world from any future upheaval.

About the Author

Kanchan Singla

Kanchan is a second year law student at National Law University, Delhi. Out of the subjects that she has studied till now, she takes interests in criminal Law. Her hobbies include painting, watching movies, listening to songs etc.

Endnotes 

[1] David Keys, Complex Crimea: the History Behind the Relationship between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea, May 2011 BBC History Magazine taken from http://www.historyextra.com/feature/complex-crimea-history-relationship-Russia-Ukraine-Crimea    submitted by Charlotte Hodgman on 17 March 2014 last accessed on 25 July 25, 2014.

[2] NATO’s Relations with Ukraine, North Atlantic Treaty Organization,  04 April 2014, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_37750.htm    last accessed on 27 July 2014.

[3] Id.

[4] Vladimir Radyuhin, Why Russia Needs Crimea? Frontline , http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/why-russia-needs-crimea/article5792952.ece    last accessed on  23 July 2014.

[5] John Cherian, U.S. Double Standards, Frontline, April 18, 2014  http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/us-double-standards/article5854567.ece   last accessed on  23 July 2014.

[6] Id.

[7]  Jawaharlal Nehru Glimpses of World History, 690, Penguin Books (2004).

[8]  John Cherian, Crimean check, Frontline, 4 April 2014, http://www.frontline.in/world-affairs/crimean-check/article5787696.ece  last accessed on 23 July 2014.

[9] Vladimir Radyuhin, Why Russia Needs Crimea? Frontline 17 March 2014 , http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/why-russia-needs-crimea/article5792952.ece    last accessed on  23 July 2014.

[10] Vladimir Radyuhin, Russian Riposte, Frontline 18 April 2014,  http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/russian-riposte/article5853752.ece last accessed on 23 July 2014.

[11]Id.

[12]  Id.

[13] Cherian, supra note 5.

 

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