It has been a long month for the editors at RantAWeek, and free time to write posts has been hard to come by. But, there is currently a huge crisis developing in the Ukraine, so it is high time we wrote an article.
The general state of the crisis right now is this: after Russian-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was forced to resign as president and fled to Russia, the unidentified troops (which are likely Russian, and we will just call Russian) invaded the Ukrainian region of Crimea, taking over the semi-autonomous region. Okay, that is a lot, so let’s break it down.
Who is this Yanukovych guy?
Viktor Yanukovych rose to power by becoming involved in local politics and then became governor of an economic powerhouse of a state in 2000. He was appointed Prime Minister in 2002 and was elected to President in 2004. However, following those 2004 elections, huge protests broke out in the Ukraine, and, in what became known as the Orange Revolution, the elections were declared fraudulent and Viktor Yushchenko ended up winning the election. After serving another term as PM from 2006-07, he cleanly and clearly won the election in 2010. While his tenure as President was fraught with a few problems, such as the imprisonment of his political rival Yulia Tymoshenko, his Presidency was largely popular, mainly because of his attempts to garner closer ties with the EU.
So how did he fall from grace?
The issue of relations with the EU was exactly what made him fall from grace. In November 2013, days before he was supposed to sign a deal to increase economic relations with the EU, he rejected the deal, instead opting for a deal with Russia. This to public outcry and widespread protests. The Ukrainian people preferred the deal with the EU for two major reasons: first, they feared falling under the influence of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and second, the EU deal offered much greater, long-term economic gains. Because of this action, protests, which were bigger than the Orange Revolution protests, broke out across the nation, eventually becoming rather bloody, resulting in the deaths of 88 people. After increased pressure from the EU, Yanukovych agreed to pass power onto his Parliament and to hold elections early. However, soon after making this agreement, he fled Kiev (the capital of the Ukraine) to take refuge in Russia.
So how did this lead to Russia invading?
Because of the chaos that has ensued in the Ukraine since Yanukovych left the capital, Russia felt that Russians in the Ukraine (mainly in Crimea, more on that in a second) were in danger. Crimea became a hotspot because of its huge Russian population. Roughly 60% of the population of Crimea is made up of ethnic Russians. Russia has always felt a duty to defend those who claim Russian heritage in other countries, and has a tendency to flaunt its power to come to their defense. In this case, the actions Russia has taken are not unprecedented, but their scale is.
Where is the precedent?
In 2008, while many dumb Americans were fretting about Russians in Atlanta, Georgia, Russians were actually invading the Caucus nation of Georgia. In a region of Georgia, South Ossetia, a group of separatists took over and declared the region independent. The Georgian army invaded and Russia invaded retaliatory. The conflict ended days after when the EU brokered a cease-fire, and the region remains semi-autonomous and under supervision of both Russian and Georgian forces.
What makes Crimea different?
There are two key differences between South Ossetia and Crimea. First and foremost is the size of the two regions. Crimea has a population of just under 2 million, while South Ossetia has a population of just over 55 thousand. But, beyond the size of the two regions, there is also much more at play in Crimea on an international level. The reason for this is because of a document called the Budapest Memorandum, signed by the Ukraine, the US, the UK, and Russia. The Budapest Memorandum essentially states that in exchange for the Ukraine joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the other countries would stay out of the Ukraine’s business. Russia, by taking any action in Crimea, is clearly in violation of this, and the Ukraine is using this agreement to condemn Russia’s actions. While this is unlikely to cause the US or the UK to take any military action, it will certainly cause both parties to take diplomatic action, and the US has already come out and condemned the actions.
The future of this is incredibly uncertain, but if any other major events occur that require analysis, we will try to keep up with it! However, because of our small team, we are unable to have constant breaking news, so for that, try the great liveblogs that are put together at The BBC, The Guardian, and Reuters.