Civil unrest in Ukraine began 4 months ago when Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovych decided to take the $15 billion buy-out from Russia instead of finalizing negations to join the European Union. Civilians took to the streets to advocate their disdain of the decision taken by the Prime Minister, along with their general unhappiness towards the government of Yanukovych.
On March 1st, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia asked the Russian Parliament for permission to invade Ukraine to secure the safety of Russian-speaking citizens and to prevent further chaos following the unexplained departure of Yanukovych that might have Ukrainians escaping over the border into Russia.
This decision was taken a day after President Barack Obama warned President Putin of the “consequences” Russia would face if they overplayed their hand and intervened militarily.
What began as protests against the government’s decision has become a power struggle between Russia and Ukraine and between Russia and the Western powers, which has many analysts and the public reminiscing the Cold War.
A day later Russia consolidated their hold of the Crimean Peninsula and the Ukrainian government, in the mist of this invasion, appealed for international help. Both American and European forces have tried to dissuade President Putin by warning him of the economic and political punishments that Moscow might face.
“This is the red alert—this is not a threat, this is actually a declaration of war to my country,” said Ukraine’s stand-in prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk in English right after the Russian Parliament decided to deploy troops to secure Russian civilian’s safety.
Before Russia’s invasion however, Yatsenyuk was “convinced” that Russia would stay out of the political turmoil and civil unrest of Ukraine, “since this would be the beginning of war and the end of all relations between Ukraine and Russia.”
Secretary of State, John Kerry, was outraged at the military choice taken by Russia. He called it an “incredible act of aggression” and threatened “very serious repercussions.” He also said Russia’s course of action was “an act of aggression that is completely trumped up,” signaling that Russia was “possibly trying to annex Crimea.”
John Kerry also mentioned the possibility of the cancellation of the Group of 8 (G-8)—an assembly of the top 8 leading countries to discuss global issues—meeting scheduled in June in Sochi, Russia. If Russia does not withdraw from the Ukraine, John Kerry has warned that President Putin “is not going to have a Sochi G-8, he may not even remain in the G-8.”
Britain, Canada, Germany and France joined the United States in withdrawing their participation from the meetings in preparation for the summit. But President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, responded to the withdrawals by saying, “It’s not a minus for Russia. It will be a minus for the G-8.”
Russia has defended their stance in Crimea by saying that both local citizens and ousted Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovych have requested their aid to maintain some stability. Russia claims that the Viktor F. Yanukovych’s presidency is still legitimate, while Americans believe that, since he deserted the country, he made way for the government to ratify a new government.
NATO held an emergency meeting in Brussels to reassure members with Russian minorities, like the Baltics, and allies of Ukraine like Poland, that NATO was ready to go to war if needed. Despite the fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it does have political and military cooperation with them.
Though broken up by the police, Moscow has witnessed small protests against the military action taken in Ukraine; however, many more citizens were in favor of the choice taken by President Putin and his Parliament.
In an attempt to resolve the standoff in Crimea and remove the extensive economic and political entanglement the former Soviet state has with Russia, the United States offered to loan the Ukraine $1 billion in an effort to help them achieve economic stability.
The European Union proceeded to top that offer by promising to loan $15 billion over the next two years—the same amount Russia had offered Ukraine. Soon after, pro-Russian officers in Crimea moved ahead plans to break from the Ukraine and seek membership with the Russian Federation.
A court in Kiev has ruled the movement illegal. An arrest warrant has been filed for Sergei Aksyonov, the new prime minster of Crimea who was placed in that position after armed men apprehended the Crimea Parliament building and raised a Russian flag. Aksyonov is also the leader of the Russian Unity political party.
Despite the movement to join Russia, Europeans and Ukrainians both rejected the resolution, calling it a violation of the Ukrainian Constitution and accusing the officials of only representing pro-Russian views.
“My position is that this referendum is unconstitutional,” said Pavlo Sheremeta, the Ukrainian economy minister, to reporters. A senior European official supported the statement by saying that Ukraine’s constitution required the voting of all Ukrainians, not just of one region, to make any changes to territorial sovereignty.
Dmitri S. Peskov said that President Putin has been informed of the developments in Crimea but has no further comment.