Ukraine: Timeline and An Two American Considerations

Political Food for thought: Sun Tzu writes in the “Art of War” that positioning is the greatest objective for any state. In reality, Sun Tzu credits deception as the key virtue of winning a war, and the best victors “triumph before their enemy’s threats become real.” When you approach another person, how you present yourself is how they will judge you. You hold the key to that judgment, meaning you CAN control what others think of you.

WARNING: THIS IS A LOT TO TAKE IN

To understand the current situation of diplomacy involving Ukraine, it is important to discuss the chain of events that have led the Western nations to this point.

UKRAINIAN TIMELINE:

  • November 21st, 2013: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych denies the offer by the European Union. At the time, the European Union was seeking to draw the Ukraine closer to it politically and economically. Officially, the EU labels Ukraine a priority partner country within several projects. The attached link contains all official goals of European-Ukrainian cooperation. At the same time as receiving an offer from the EU, the Ukrainian government received one from the Russian government.
  • November 30th: Protests begin to form, and in typical autocratic fashion, police begin to arrest protesters. Images go across the internet showing “brutality” and suddenly the Western states become ‘frustrated’ by the crackdown on freedom of expression in Ukraine. This does not reflect the true environment of Ukraine which has had terrible civil and political freedoms since its controversial elections in 2004.
  • December 1st: A gathering of 300,000 people forms in the capital of Kiev, the largest gathering since the Orange Revolution of 2004. These protesters storm the Kiev City Hall. While protesters stormed the City Hall, opposition leaders, like Vitaly Klitschko, called for protesters to stand down from violence and not to storm further government buildings. Other opposition leaders echo calls for peaceful protest.
  • December 17th: Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, announces that the Russian deal will include buying $15 billion of Ukrainian bonds, and drastically cutting the price of natural gas from Russia to Ukraine. Putin and Yanukovych claim no strings are attached to the deal being offered. Claims of an “EU-instigated revolt” begin surfacing as Kiev still remains in civil unrest. An opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is currently imprisoned and being detained without trial is mentioned. This is the first instance of a separate famous leader from Vitaly Klitschko. A third opposition leader, Arseni Yatsenyuk, declares the President has “blood of our children, the blood of students, the blood of the youth on his hands.”
  • January 16th, 2014: On ‘Black Thursday’, the Ukrainian parliament passes the “Ukrainian anti-protest laws” as an attempt to overtly criminalize all forms of protest and end the unrest. The laws reduce the right to protest, partake in free speech, and participate in non-government organizations. EU and American journalists label the laws “Draconian” or “Dictatorship” laws as they “effectively make Ukraine a dictatorship.”
  • January 22nd: After nearly a 2 months of upheaval, Kiev has the first bloodshed when protesters and police clash violently. The protesters had been manning barricades, and in attempt to take back territory from the aggressive mob, police open fire. Two protesters die from the gunfire, and a third falls to their death in the clashes.
  • January 28th: The Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, resigns from his post. Azarov is most famous for his “Reforms do not fall into women’s competence” in the 2010 elections. After his resignation, the Ukrainian Parliament repeals all the anti-expression laws that had been instituted by Azarov and Yukanovych.
  • January 31st: Activist Dmytro Bulatov, who had been believed to have been kidnapped, reappears bruised and with his right ear mutilated. He claims he was kidnapped by pro-government agents and that he was forced to admit on camera “he had accepted money from the US Embassy.” Internet accusations of a grand US conspiracy begin.
  • February 16th: After nearly 3 months of protests, protesters abandon Kiev City Hall. 234 jailed protesters are released in exchange for the abandonment, as a sign of goodwill and ending unrest.
  • February 18th: Violence breaks out once again as protesters and police attack each other. 26 people die, at least 10 of them police officers. Protesters claim they attacked because the Parliament was stalling on passing a constitutional reform. Protesters charge at police lines and set fire to Kiev. As the night closes in Kiev, Police in riot gear storm Independence Square, trying to dislodge the arson-spreading protesters.
  • February 20th: Casualties begin to mount as the recent truce becomes violated. No side lays at fault as video shows police using stun grenades to combat protesters as they continue to set fire to Kiev and keep the fires going.

WESTERN SOLUTIONS TO EASTERN TURMOIL

What Diplomacy, if any has the Western world suggested? SANCTIONS!

That’s right, the EU on February 20th, announced they would impose economic sanctions on the Ukrainian president and his senior officials, including travel bans into the European Union. Shortly after the EU announced its diplomatic response, the Canadian government increased their ante by declaring “they will medically aid the protesters in their time of need.” For the European Union, money and further growth of the Union lays in a stable and pro-European Ukraine. For the Canadian government, large minority populations of Ukrainian-Canadians demand the support of the democracy in the Ukraine.

But for the United States, what is best for us? Is our National Interest lie in a pro-European Ukraine? Do we or should we care about whether Ukraine is 1. Democratic, or 2. Whose side it is on? Clearly, our President is as confused as we are about the rights and wrongs of this situation, as the White House has still failed to join in the EU-Canada sanctions. Our President clearly believes the Ukrainian people deserve democracy, and their rights to expression, speech, and protest.

Opinion of Michael McKinney (Unilateral Internationalist): We should take the initiative and offer a stronger deal to the Ukrainian government than the Russian proposal being presented right now. We should also assist in the strengthening of sanctions at this point on the Ukrainian leadership. Freezing their assets and establishing travel bans will reduce the amount of places that will grant asylum to these former leaders. If America gives a better deal than the Russians, or the IMF, then the Ukrainian Parliament may have an incentive to end the schism of government much sooner. It is better than sitting on our hands. Sanctions and a $15+ bailout?

Opinion of Michael Tagan (Realist Unilateralist): Superseding the deal of the Russians would be in the furthering of the American national interest. But if we agree to the sanctions, then we simply drive these former leaders into the Russian arms. Dissident former leaders become rebels with a cause, and rebels with a cause start large rebellions due to foreign support. We can see our wonderful intervention into Yemen for how ousting a leader goes. If we really want to win the day for America, we need to put as part of our better deal to the Ukrainians an “amnesty for all partisans” clause, in which, the President, Prime Minister, Parliament, the police officers and military, and the protesters all are free from criminal charges. There isn’t a good or bad side in this conflict, and both sides have leaders mired in corruption. The best you can hope for is a white peace, in which the economic woes are mitigated for a time long enough for Ukraine to sort out Ukraine’s problems. It’d be nice, if we didn’t have to police this situation. Diplomatic Immunity for all and a $15+ bailout?

Here are some interesting US-Ukraine Business Groups:

US-Ukraine Business Council: List of Members
US-Ukraine Trade and Investment Council, Office of the United States Trade Representative, Executive Office of the President
US-Ukraine Foundation: Major Contributors and Individuals
Market of Ukraine: Portal for Business Partnerships

Congressmen pushing for action in Ukraine:
Senator John McCain
Senator Chris Murphy
Representative Eliot Engel
Senator Bob Corker
Senator Robert Menendez

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2 thoughts on “Ukraine: Timeline and An Two American Considerations

  1. First off, I appreciated your recap of events, but you never specifically said what the protesters want. I assume they want to join the EU, but that is just an assumption. Also, I can’t remember if I heard this from you or from NPR (my wake-up alarm), but I have heard that the protesters are far from united in their aims, and the agendas of the protest leaders are likely not the same as the desires of the people.

    As far as what should be done, you probably know my reaction is “Why does it matter what is best for the US in this situation? This is about the people of the Ukraine, not the US.” I have no problem with the Canadian proposal, and I would imagine that the Ukraine will have more secure civil liberties and be treated better internationally if they join the EU. It’s highly frustrating that the choice is let the corrupt leaders go with a slap on the wrists or let them go with lots of threats to become problems all over again. Politicians love to talk about the necessity of crime-deterring punishments, but there’s very little to deter the crimes of the powerful.

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  2. So far, what’s been gathered from the protesters demands is the non-alignment with Ukraine. As for clear sides, I did establish that there were at least 3 “opposition leaders” and the one trying to lead the group right now, Yulia, is considered to be part of the political corruption that the President was made from. I have yet to find any sort of demands that have been laid out by any clear group. Finding the demands of the protesters in Ukraine is as trying as finding the demands given by the Libyan rebels.

    For the United States, we have actually a good trade relationship with the Ukraine, where we are one of their top sellers for machine parts and metallic goods. The base establishment would say any interest in Ukraine is purely financial, but after the South Ossetia War between Russia and Georgia, many in Europe fear that Putin may try to re-establish the former Soviet Bloc as a new Federation in the East. So leaders who grew up or fought in the Cold War fear a resurgence of a miltaristic, anti-everyone regime. I think the fears don’t portrayal Putin correctly, but because he is former KGB, many still think the “Commie Threat.” In the involvement of the United States, if I was the President, I have two reasons to act: I can make up face from the Syria negotiations, and I can retake the high ground that America stands for the democratic choice of all citizens, or at least the human right to express oneself freely.

    In my own opinion, The European Union is a potential ally, but they are financially shaky right now, and basically buying Ukraine for democracy is a “respectively” cheap investment for the American government, and it removes us from directly associating with the violence, and more catering to peaceful transition. If we stand for the sanctions, it should be only on the leaders, so freezing assets of the leaders isn’t a bad idea. Though, I would assume the Ukrainian President has many assets in Russia. The decriminalization I also feel represents the reality of the situation. It was protesters who struck violently against police first. It was protesters who began fire-bombing and committing arson in Kiev. It was the government, President and Parliament, that dictated anti-expression laws, and started mass arresting anyone on the street. Neither side is the “good guy” though, one might find more good people in the protester camp than in the government camp.

    And you are very right, in most political situations, its nearly impossible to convict the respectively powerful. Especially in an international situation where the world is not united on how to proceed. However, as of this morning, no one knows where the President has disappeared to and the Parliament, in true government fashion, has flipped sides again declaring the President’s regime over. In the Ukrainian case, it will be on the citizens to punish their representatives, and when they elect people, they can campaign on trying the various political leaders. In fact, if we look at the Egyptian example, that’s almost a sure thing. Political round-ups are common after a coup, and it will be interesting to see if this ‘democracy’ transitions back to autocracy, or if it can handle its own long enough to achieve stability.

    As an American, international stability should be our major pitching point when it comes to international crises. Our second point, an idea since the founding, is the free flow of trade. Right now, Ukraine has neither stability nor free trade. This hurts us slightly, but Ukraine buys from us, meaning its hurting itself by not having our trade in this situation. The sooner it has American and world trade, the more likely stability can be brought about. Lack of money collapses most democracies, and most autocracies ban free trade when the unrest begins. More purchasers of American products means more American industry, which has a benefit on our own economy, and the hiring of more Americans to work jobs. In fact, back in 2008, there were several union-related jobs for Americans in the Ukraine because we were building their infrastructure and teaching them how to maintain it.

    This isn’t exclusive to Ukraine, its something we’ve done for all the former Warsaw Pact states, aka the puppet states formerly under the USSR. And its something we’ve done since the American government has had a navy. Its not about establishing democracy, its about ensuring the people in the region have a chance to decide what best regime fits them. Which ties back into your first point. What is their demand? Well, until the situation stabilizes, we won’t know what it is concretely.

    Whether we sanction or decriminalize, those options should come second to ensuring the financial stability of the Ukrainian people. But whether the Ukrainian government allows that is to be seen.

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