For the past 8 or 9 months or so, Ukraine has been brought to its knees due to its citizen’s differences in political opinion. Many want more involvement with the EU while others are staunch Pro-Russia advocates. Ukraine is effectively in a state of civil war, and with Russian forces hovering menacingly on the borders, it doesn’t look like the issues are going to be resolved any time soon. With that in mind, I’m pondering the question what could happen next? What are the options? I believe at some point something is going to have to give.
This whole mess started in a fairly nonchalant fashion. The EU simply wanted to improve trade ties between itself and Ukraine, yet Russia wasn’t about to let this happen. Russia offered Ukraine a deal in the form of $15 billion in aid and other economic benefits, Putin regarded Ukraine as an important satellite state and was not prepared to lose influence over it to the EU. It has been speculated the Putin wants to set up a post-communist ‘Eurasian Union’, as a way of regaining Russian influence to the levels it was before the fall of Communism. It wasn’t until Yanukovych – the Ukrainian President – accepted this deal from Russia that things started spiralling out of control.
This decision by Yanukovych sparked mass protest and rioting in Ukraine. Hundreds were killed in fighting between Russian sympathisers, Government troops, and those wanting to be a part of the EU. On the 21st of February 2014, protestors took over Yanukovych’s residence, Yanukovych fled to Russia and an interim government was set up by the pro-EU protestors. Russia condemned this illegal government, and started mobilizing troops along Ukraine’s border. It was not long until Russian troops entered Crimea, occupied bases, and the Crimean Parliament. A referendum was held on whether Crimea wanted to join Russia or remain with Ukraine, Crimea voted 96.77% in favour of joining Russia, yet this result was branded ‘illegitimate’ by western countries.
From then on there has been a power struggle between pro-EU forces and pro-Russian forces within the Ukraine. Pro-Russian forces have taken many towns and bases in Eastern Ukraine while much of what is occupied in Western Ukraine belongs to pro-EU forces. This conflict came to a head on the 17th July when the passenger jet MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, killing everyone on board. It is speculated that the jet was shot down with a Buk missile launcher, and while it is not confirmed, many believe this launcher was in the hands of Russian separatists.
As of August, the investigation in the crash of flight MH17 is still ongoing, with the recovery of bodies a priority. Ukraine remains in a state of civil unrest, yet Russia have allegedly been building up even more forces on Ukrainian border. As of 28th of August, the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, confirms that Russian forces have officially entered Ukraine, ‘We assess well over 1,000 Russian troops are now operating inside Ukraine… They are supporting separatists (and) fighting with them’.
It is obvious that this conflict will not be resolved any time in the near future, and it begs the question, what could happen next? Without wanting to make an international crisis sound too much like a soap opera, there are a few ways I believe it could go. According to very recent news, the most likely scenario is a full on invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, in a bid to help Russian separatists. Yet while Putin is not exactly known for his calm and rational manner, this seems foolish as Ukraine could ask for help from NATO, a western military alliance. Once Western countries start getting heavily involved in this crisis, things could potentially get very ugly, very quickly.
Another scenario that has arisen is the splitting of Ukraine into East and West. As it stands, Ukraine is geographically in a difficult position, it is a large country that bridges the gap between East and West, EU and Russia. Most of Western Ukraine predominantly speak Ukrainian, while most of Eastern Ukraine predominantly speaks Russian. Of course, breaking a country in two is not as easy as breaking a Kit-Kat in two, there are a multitude of economic and political factors to consider, yet if things continue as they have been for the past year, it may be a question that should seriously be considered.
For now, it seems that Russia’s intent is to remain heavily involved with what happens in Ukraine. Putin seems sympathetic towards Russian separatists in Ukraine, and the news that Russian forces have invaded Ukraine is worrying news indeed. While war has not officially been declared, I would not be surprised to see it happen within the next month, maybe even the next week. I for one, believe talks between Ukrainian leaders, Russian leaders, and Rebel leaders need to happen for Ukraine to see peace in the near future. Yet, as is shown from conflicts in the past, talking does not seem to be too high on anyone’s agenda.