Russian studies Essay Example

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Ukraine’s political future

Introduction

Ukraine has been the subject of international attention since the beginning of this year. First, the Ukrainian people protested against the Yanukovych regime, leading to death of hundreds of protesters. Eventually, Yanukovych was ousted from power and he sought refuge in Russia. Shortly afterwards, an interim government was installed in Ukraine led by Turchynov, the former parliamentary speaker.1 This was followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, an action that attracted international condemnation. Although the annexation was actualized through a referendum, the referendum turnout was highly exaggerated. The country held a presidential election on May 25 and elected Poroshenko, a pro-West candidate.

Given the abovementioned events, Ukraine faces an uncertain future. Some of the factors that may affect the future of Ukraine include the fact that Poroshenko is the new president, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, confrontations between the West and Russia, after effects of the revolution, the role of Ukrainian oligarchs and Ukrainian membership decisions with regard to NATO and the EU. This paper is an analysis of the political future of Ukraine.

The European Union and NATO

Europe has never given Ukraine the chance to join the EU, and NATO gave up on recruiting Ukraine as one of its member states as far back as in 2008. However, NATO was hopeful that Russia is unlikely to object strongly to its recruitment of Ukraine. After Putin ascended to power in Russia, previous cooperation talks led to forceful calls for formation of an Eastern rival to the EU, dominated by Moscow. The rival union would be called the Eurasian Union and it would include the former members of the Soviet Union, meaning that Russia would object to any of the former members of the Soviet Union joining the European Union. Among these former Soviet Union states, only two, Georgia and Moldova, are scheduled to sign European Union association agreements. However, this is likely to change if Russia decides to invoke pressure on the two states to make them rethink their association intentions with EU. Ukraine may be able to join the EU especially under the leadership of its newly elected president, Poroshenko, who is likely to cooperate with Western countries.2

A move by the Poroshenko regime in Ukraine to sign agreements with the NATO and the EU is likely to lead to anchorage of Ukraine in the political system embraced by trans-European countries.3 Such a move is also likely to make Ukraine more secure because, if it becomes a member of NATO, it will be protected from unprecedented actions by Moscow.

Role of East-West confrontation

Ukraine is the latest platform where the East (Russian) has conflicted with the West. Before the Ukrainian crisis, relations between Russia and Western countries were tense because of the Syrian conflict and the domestic situation in Russia. The emerging confrontations between the West and Russia are therefore likely to affect the future of Ukraine.4 The win by Poroshenko in the May 25 elections implies that the Ukrainian government will be able to receive diplomatic support and aid money from the US and other Western countries.5 Additionally, Poroshenko is likely to support more cooperation with the EU and NATO.6 Similarly, Poroshenko is unlikely to get support from the Russian government because he came out openly supporting the revolution that ousted Yanukovych. Actually, Russia is likely to frustrate the Poroshenko regime with its illegal occupation of some regions in Ukraine, especially those with native Russian population like Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk. If Poroshenko reacts to Russian occupation of such areas, there is a possibility that it will be engaged in a war with Russia, which is likely to draw in the U.S. and other Western countries. Actually, any threats, perceived or real, directed towards the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine will definitely be used by Russia to intervene militarily or otherwise.

Annexation of Crimea

Moscow’s annexation of Crimea is the one issue that may propagate the Ukrainian crisis into the Poroshenko regime. In Crimea, the Tatar community supported the ouster of Yanukovych and boycotted the referendum that resulted in annexation of Crimea. The peninsula has therefore witnessed inter-ethnic tensions with ethnic Russians migrating to Crimea and Crimean Tatars being forcefully ejected or opting to migrate, from Crimea.7 Tatars are being forced to accept Russian citizenship and their homeland has been enjoined with Russia. Given the current tensions in Crimea, the peninsula is likely to experience violent clashes in the future. “The tensions in Crimea are likely to escalate, possibly as a result of deliberate provocations by Russian nationalist or criminal groups, leading to clashes and heavy-handed Russian reprisals against the Crimean Tatar community”.8 Additionally, there are possibilities of radicalization in Crimea. This is because young Islamic Tatars may feel aggrieved and thus they may be radicalized in a bid to have influence in Crimea.

In his statement after Poroshenko won the May 25 polls, Obama stressed that the U.S. does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Moscow.9 Given this commitment by the U.S. to ensure that Russia does not seize Crimea, and the fact that the new president is open to cooperation with the U.S., and other Western countries, Crimea may form the next battlefront for a proxy war between Russia and the U.S.

Role of oligarchs

Oligarchs have a great role to play in shaping the political future of Ukraine. If the past is anything to go by, oligarchs are likely to continue exerting their unlawful influence on the ruling elite behind the scenes. It is however important to mention that the oligarchs of the Yanukovych regime may not enjoy the same amount of power they have enjoyed in the past because they may be associated with Russia. Poroshenko supports cooperation with the West instead of Russia and thus such oligarchs are likely to have limited influence. However, a new crop of West-leaning oligarchs are likely to emerge among Poroshenko’s advisors and allies.

Ukraine missed the opportunity that was presented by the Orange Revolution, a decade ago, to reform its institutions and promote transparency and accountability. Ukrainian political leadership may therefore learn from its past mistakes and reform Ukrainian institutions, which will lead to a more conducive political environment acceptable to the aforementioned oligarchs. The state is likely to get economic assistance from the IMF, the EU and the US. Additionally, Ukraine may benefit from confiscating ill-gotten wealth from the former president, Yanukovych and other beneficiaries of the corrupt regime.

Legitimacy of polls

Despite the fact that the May 25 polls in Ukraine’s were perhaps the freest ever in the country’s history,10 some people have questioned their legitimacy. Their worries have been occasioned by the fact that substantial numbers of the electorate were unable to access polling stations due to the security situation.11 It is however important to note at this point that the country’s parliament passed a law legitimizing the election even in the case of low turnout in some areas. The law even stipulates that the election is legitimate even a case where some regions did not vote at all. There were challenges in conducting the elections in the Eastern region of Ukraine due to the security situation there but despite this, the overall turnout was commendable, at around sixty percent.12 Despite all this, and in spite of his promise to respect the outcome of the polls, which he made before the polls were held, Putin has openly questioned the legitimacy of the polls arguing that Yanukovych is still the president of Ukraine.13

Tymoshenko

Russia has halted the financial assistance it used to give the Yanukovych regime. Given the outcome of the May 25 polls, Russia is likely to withdraw more support from the Ukraine government. In the run-up to the elections, Moscow was supporting Tymoshenko, a former Prime Minister who was second to Poroshenko in the polls. In the past, Moscow had been dictating orders to the Yanukovych government.14 Actually, the Ukrainian crisis started after Yanukovych turned down a proposal by the West to have closer trade deals. The reject meant that Yanukovych was choosing closer economic ties with Moscow over the West, which did not augur well with the populace.15 Russia is therefore likely to be supporting the Tymoshenko opposition because Tymoshenko has been open to cooperation with Moscow. This is likely to pose a great challenge to the Poroshenko regime especially because Ukraine faces many challenges because of the crisis. Actually, some issues like the annexation of Crimea by Moscow are likely to escalate the crisis in Ukraine if the new regime, its allies and Russia do not exercise caution.16

Repercussions of revolution

Despite the fact that Yanukovych and most of his cabinet members have gone into hiding, the Poroshenko win in the May 25 election is likely to give way to trials for senior government officials who contributed to the deadly clashes witnessed in Ukraine early this year. A number of leaders and political commentators believe that the former president, Yanukovych is responsible for death of protesters.17 The Ukrainian crisis is therefore likely to mimic the Egyptian revolution in some aspects.

Conclusion

From the discussion above, it is apparent that Ukraine faces an uncertain future. Given the fact that Poroshenko won the May 25 elections, the political environment and the economy of Ukraine is likely to improve as a result of cooperation with Western countries. The Poroshenko win also gives Ukraine the prospects of joining the EU and signing agreements with NATO, which could protect the country from unprecedented actions by Russia. The issue of Moscow’s seizing of Crimea may also be solved in the near future because Ukraine will have support from the U.S. and other Western countries. However, Putin is likely to be adamant with regard to the Crimea issue. This may lead to a proxy war between Russia and the U.S. in Crimea, which is bound to have devastating effects on Ukraine. It is therefore imperative that Poroshenko, the U.S. and Russia tread carefully with regard to Moscow’s seizing of Crimea. Other factors that may play a role in shaping Ukraine’s future include Ukrainian oligarchs, after effects of the revolution, and confrontations between the East and the West in Ukraine.

Bibliography

Blank, Stephen. “Negotiating the future of Ukraine: Column”. Usatoday.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/04/16/ukraine-russia-foreign-policy-putin-column/7713265/

Brennan, Christopher. “Putin Sees No Political Future for Yanukovych”. Themoscowtimes.

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/putin-sees-no-political-future-for-yanukovych/495564.html

Burt, Richard & Feinstein, Lee. “Ukraine’s Future”. Nationalinterest.

http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/ukraines-future-9977

Chalupa, Irena. “Ukraine’s May 25 Vote May Be Its Freest Yet, Despite Crisis, Election Official

Says”. Atlanticcouncil. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/ukraine-s-may-25-vote-may-be-its-freest-yet-despite-crisis-election-official-says

Chatterley, Julia & Barnato. “Russia is ‘unpredictable’: Ukraine frontrunner”. Cnbc.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101696652

Dzhemilev, Mustafa & Weiss, Andrew. “After Annexation: Assessing Crimea’s Future With

Mustafa Dzhemilev”. Carnegieendowment. http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/04/02/after-annexation-assessing-crimea-s-future-with-mustafa-dzhemilev/h66m

Herszenhorn, David. “Pro-European Businessman Claims Victory in Ukraine Presidential Vote”.

Nytimes. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/26/world/europe/ukraine-elections.html?_r=0

Higgins, Andrew. “Ukraine Upheaval Highlights E.U.’s Past Miscalculations and Future

Dangers”. Nytimes. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/world/europe/ukrainian-tumult-highlights-european-unions-errors.html?_r=0

Kimball, Spencer. “US, Russia maneuver to influence Ukraine’s political future”. Dw.

http://www.dw.de/us-russia-maneuver-to-influence-ukraines-political-future/a-17424834

Lebaron, Frederick. “Ukraine, laboratory of future political and social crises in Europe”.

Revoltingeurope. http://revolting-europe.com/2014/03/16/ukraine-laboratory-of-future-political-and-social-crises-in-europe/

Miller, Christopher. “5 Big Questions About the Future of Ukraine”. Mashable.

http://mashable.com/2014/02/23/questions-ukraine-future/

Roderick, Paul. “Poroshenko Elected Ukraine President; Putin Dodges Promise to ‘Respect’

Results”. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2014/05/25/chocolate-king-elected-president-of-ukraine-as-putin-dodges-his-promise-to-respect-the-election/

Stern, David. “Ukraine: Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov named interim president”. Bbc news.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26312008

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ukraine-falls-between-political-economic-and-linguistic-camps-linguistically-challenged

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http://hir.harvard.edu/four-political-dimensions-of-ukraine-s-future-europeanization

1
Stern, David. “Ukraine: Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov named interim president”. Bbc news.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26312008

2
Higgins, Andrew. “Ukraine Upheaval Highlights E.U.’s Past Miscalculations and Future

Dangers”. Nytimes. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/world/europe/ukrainian-tumult-highlights-european-unions-errors.html?_r=0

3
Umland, Andreas. “Four Political Dimensions of Ukraine’s Future Europeanization”. Harvard.

http://hir.harvard.edu/four-political-dimensions-of-ukraine-s-future-europeanization

4
Burt, Richard & Feinstein, Lee. “Ukraine’s Future”. Nationalinterest.

http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/ukraines-future-9977

5
Kimball, Spencer. “US, Russia maneuver to influence Ukraine’s political future”. Dw.

http://www.dw.de/us-russia-maneuver-to-influence-ukraines-political-future/a-17424834

6
Chatterley, Julia & Barnato. “Russia is ‘unpredictable’: Ukraine frontrunner”. Cnbc.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101696652

7
The Economist. Ukraine’s Future. http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21575786-how-

ukraine-falls-between-political-economic-and-linguistic-camps-linguistically-challenged

8
Dzhemilev, Mustafa & Weiss, Andrew. “After Annexation: Assessing Crimea’s Future With

Mustafa Dzhemilev”. Carnegieendowment. http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/04/02/after-annexation-assessing-crimea-s-future-with-mustafa-dzhemilev/h66m

9
Herszenhorn, David. “Pro-European Businessman Claims Victory in Ukraine Presidential Vote”. Nytimes. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/26/world/europe/ukraine-elections.html?_r=0

10
Chalupa, Irena. “Ukraine’s May 25 Vote May Be Its Freest Yet, Despite Crisis, Election Official

Says”. Atlanticcouncil. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/ukraine-s-may-25-vote-may-be-its-freest-yet-despite-crisis-election-official-says

11
Blank, Stephen. “Negotiating the future of Ukraine: Column”. Usatoday. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/04/16/ukraine-russia-foreign-policy-putin-column/7713265/

12
Herszenhorn, David. “Pro-European Businessman Claims Victory in Ukraine Presidential Vote”. Nytimes.

13
Roderick, Paul. “Poroshenko Elected Ukraine President; Putin Dodges Promise to ‘Respect’

Results”. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2014/05/25/chocolate-king-elected-president-of-ukraine-as-putin-dodges-his-promise-to-respect-the-election/

14
Brennan, Christopher. “Putin Sees No Political Future for Yanukovych”. Themoscowtimes.

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/putin-sees-no-political-future-for-yanukovych/495564.html

15
Miller, Christopher. “5 Big Questions About the Future of Ukraine”. Mashable.

http://mashable.com/2014/02/23/questions-ukraine-future/

16
Lebaron, Frederick. “Ukraine, laboratory of future political and social crises in Europe”. Revoltingeurope. http://revolting-europe.com/2014/03/16/ukraine-laboratory-of-future-political-and-social-crises-in-europe/

17
Miller, Christopher. “5 Big Questions About the Future of Ukraine”. Mashable.