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From the Frying Pan to the Fire: What Russia Wants With Ukraine

Today’s Ukraine is a country in limbo. Multiple claims to legitimacy cloud the political landscape and further divide the nation along ethnic Ukrainian and Russian lines. Vulnerable and under the loose control of a new interim government headed by Arseny Yatseniuk, the country is currently ill-equipped to handle any level of conflict.

Currently Russia is in control of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula, an intervention which has drawn criticism from both the United States and the United Kingdom. Putin has claimed that the move is purely to protect Russians living in Ukraine from the current disorder. Counter to this claim, the Russian troops deployed on the Crimean mainland have behaved more like an invading force; aimed at neutralizing  military resources and local supply lines. President Yatseniuk has warned Russia against the plundering or annexing of Ukraine, clearly uncertain of Putin’s motives.

Russia would certainly benefit from annexing the predominantly ethnic Russian half of the Eastern European country, assuming control of massive agricultural and industrial potential while ‘repatriating’ many ethnic Russians which are unhappy with the removal of former president Viktor Yanukovych. There is also the possibility that Russia has no interest in controlling the Ukraine, but simply does not want a more powerful EU with yet another member resting on their doorstep.

The only possible disincentive the Russians have for the invasion of Ukraine is the certainty of diplomatic fallout, something which Putin has proved time after time to hold at a very low priority level. Although no shots have been fired, there have been no signs that escalation will cease in the near future. Russia has issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian warships in the Crimean sea to either back down or be intercepted. The new Ukrainian government is covertly mobilizing troops and there are clear signs of preparation for large-scale defence. “Any attempt of Russia to grab Crimea will have no success at all. Give us some time.”, said Yatseniuk during a press conference.

The big question that needs answering remains: what is Russia waiting for? Every day that they do not attempt further action Virility Pills in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military has more time to strategize and mobilize- as weak and disorganized as they might be. The best explanation is that Russia is gauging foreign reaction, and determining if intervention is likely from other Western powers. While members of the EU, the UK, the US and Canada have expressed discontent with Russia’s actions, the general consensus is that a diplomatic solution can be reached. If there is an absence of extreme diplomatic pressure from other nations in the coming weeks, Russia will make their move, and we could potentially be looking at a very different map of Eastern Europe in under a year.

Although the current Ukranian leadership has voiced a stubborn stance in regards to Russian expansion into Ukraine, the truth is that the country simply does not have finances to allow for sustained conflict. The outcome of this crisis depend on two factors. Firstly, the reaction of western powers to continued aggression by Russia, and secondly the outcome of an IMF fact-finding mission to take place in the Ukraine this week. Ukraine has asked for rescue loans from the IMF totalling 35 billion- a plea of desperation that if unanswered could have disastrous consequences. Ukraine’s financial state has become a dividing line for foreign powers, any sort of financial support will no doubt be seen as siding against Russia, an action which no country has been comfortable making yet.

Saying that the situation is delicate would be a gross understatement. Major western powers need to reassess what an independent Ukraine means for their national interests, and act accordingly. Russia will not leave Crimea without either extreme diplomatic or military intervention. It seems unlikely that crimea will return to Ukranian hands anytime soon; the most interesting development will be whether Russia will attempt expansion into areas of Ukraine which  are not predominantly ethnic Russian. If Russia’s conquest is based purely of self-determinism as Putin claims, the ethno-cultural cleavage between West and East might very well become a political border.

– David Hughes

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