Arguing Cause El

Is the violence occurring in Ukraine justifiable? What are the causes? Why has diplomacy failed in this conflict?

When dealing with international conflicts there can be an enormous amount of issues at the heart of the problem. The topic I focused on in my annotated bibliography was centered on the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine as well as other parts of Eastern Europe. There is a large part of ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine and would like to see it become a part of the Russian Federation. While a large part of the population wishes to remain independent. These recent ideals mixed with Russia’s interest and annexation of Crimea have led to riots and severe unrest. The problem I want to address pertains to the ever growing violence that is present in Eastern Ukraine. Why has the situation become so dire and what are the causes?

Following the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, The internationally recognized Ukrainian territory of Crimea was annexed by Russia. This was condemned by the international community as well as NATO. "The EU does not recognize the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol" (EU Newsroom). Many world leaders described it as an illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. There was a disputed referendum in Crimea with a 96% support in favor of Russia. This in turn seemed to fuel the ongoing pro-Russian protests in eastern Ukraine. Demonstrations and protests by rebels eventually led to violence and conflict.

It wasn’t long until armed insurgency and firefights between separatists and the Ukrainian government were taking place. Another factor to consider is Russia’s involvement. While Russian troops are not directly engaging with the Ukraine military, there have been issues dealing with the supplying of weapons, espionage, and directly backing the separatists. Russia has attempted to justify their actions and the reasons behind the annexation. However, the international community still condemns their involvement and does not see Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. "The EU Parliament strongly condemned Russia’s ‘aggressive and expansionist policy’ and ‘the acts of terrorism and criminal behavior committed by the separatists and other irregular forces in Eastern Ukraine’. The EU sanctions against Russia should stay in place until Russia changes its aggressive policy in Ukraine" (EPRS).

As violence and animosity spreads between the two groups, it is important to note that both sides, the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists have both been under scrutiny for possible human rights violations. Incidents involving capture and torture are always present in any armed conflict and both sides have demonstrated such brutality. "In eastern Ukraine, displacement is a result of the conflict between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists aligned with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. The vast majority of IDPs fled the area after June as fighting in the east intensified following referendums on self-rule and stepping up of the Ukrainian army’s so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation in May 2014" (IDMC). The rebel controlled zones have been described as lawless and unjust, "The rebels hold kangaroo courts and mete out sentences (including death penalties) without due process or, indeed, any semblance of a legal code. Locals have been detained, beaten, tortured, and forced into labor gangs for accusations of anything from having open bottles in public to spying for Kiev" (Golinkin). There is also the issue of the civilian aircraft shot down over Ukraine which raised international outrage. Russia was quick to point the finger at the Ukrainian government. However, "evidence suggests that Russia has becoming incredibly reckless in its support of the separatists. Russia has been supplying anti-aircraft weapons (including the Strela-10), as well as more tanks and rocket launchers in recent weeks, and has been caught firing GRAD rockets into Ukraine, a trend which has continued or even sped up since the downing of MH17. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Russia supplied the Buk crews to the separatists" (Miller).

Russia and Ukraine have had a bit of a rocky relationship in the past. Most notably the Ukrainian famine in 1932 and 1933. Known as Holodomor, it was a man-made famine perpetrated by the Soviet Union that killed an estimated 2.5 – 7.5 million people. Many countries have disputed whether the famine was ethnically motivated and determining whether it can be considered as genocide. Western countries such as the U.S. consider Holodomor a genocide against the people of Ukraine and perpetrated by the Soviets. "For both Russians and Ukrainians, the interpretation of Ukrainian history is personal. As in all borderlands, the contradictions and complexities of the tangled past are reproduced over and over in the stories of families and in the identities of individuals" (Emmerson).

Another factor to consider, for the separatists, those who try to win this conflict with diplomacy haven’t gotten very far. It’s easier for them to use force and violence in order to show the sincerity of the situation. Obviously that is not the best way to go about it, but for them it’s the easiest. Unfortunately these people but their faith in bullets rather than in words, and because of that it has led to armed conflict. It doesn’t help that Russia supports them and pushes the separatists in the direction they need to go. The same can be said however for Ukraine. It’s no secret that the U.S. and other western countries don’t want Ukraine to fall. To me this Ukraine/Russia conflict borders on past cold war intentions. The Russians want to unify Ukraine to their lifestyle while the westerners would rather Ukraine join the EU and adopt democracy. The Slavic countries of Eastern Europe have been engulfed in turmoil many times in the past, most notably in the 90’s with the Bosnian/Serbian conflict in the Balkans. Similar to Ukraine and Russia, the Serbians perpetrated mass Genocide against the Bosnians, Croats, Albanians, as well as other ethnic minorities. While Russia did a man-made famine, the Serbs directly committed their atrocities. In any case, I feel it’s important to know that Eastern Europe has been a bit of a hotbed in the past as well as the present.

I feel that the Ukrainian militaries actions during some of the protests in Kiev are questionable. As some of the demonstrations started getting out of hand. Snipers began to shoot at civilians, injuring as well as killing. Many found there actions to be unnecessary and excessive, "dozens died and hundreds were injured in a day of dramatic violence that turned into a seesaw contest and saw thousands of riot police scuttling from territory they seized" (Traynor). However the main question is, are their current actions justifiable, both the Separatists and the Military. Even though the Ukrainian armed forces have had a couple speed bumps recently, almost anybody can agree that the Ukrainian Government has an obligation to protect its country. The separatists being the ones who many could consider as unjustifiable. That does not mean however, that the conflict itself is of for a “better cause” or what have you. They almost never are, conflict is never good. I just think that had the pro-Russian separatists kept their guns at bay and instead use diplomacy as their weapon, they would have gotten a lot farther, only if they had the patience. Diplomatic solutions can be hard to accomplish. That and the combined probing from Russia and their impatience led to them to instead attempt to force their decision on the government by any means necessary.

I also believe that the pressure put on Ukraine by the EU led many pro-Russians to fear westernization in Ukraine, further pushing them towards the unification with Russia.
So far the only solution to the violence is for Ukraine to join Russia or turn towards the EU, either way there will unfortunately still be unrest but hopefully the fighting will come to a halt. There is the possibility of a repeat of Germany’s fate back in World War 2. The splitting of Ukraine between the east and the west. A common solution when a country is split in ideals. However it does not always work, as evident with Germany.

Some people may say that “reform” is needed to fight corruption and negligence, therefore attempting to justify the violence. Others, depending on who they side with, may argue that the other side threw the first punch, leading to more severe clashes until eventual getting to where the conflict stands today. Whatever the argument is, I believe that the reason for the violence cannot be summarized by one simple thing. I believe that it is the result of, like I stated above, the past between the groups and the counties themselves. Mixed ideals and misunderstandings between people and the general notion that some people can simply be downright evil, wanting nothing more than violence and terror. Or simply an overflow of weak minded individuals who see force as the only way to achieve what they believe is best.

It’s obvious that this is a very big moment in Ukraine’s history and the outcome will decide it future. Hopefully, whether with Russia, or with the west, the outcome can finally provide stability and ease to a country long plagued by financial crisis and corruption.

Works Cited

EU Newsroom. "EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine crisis.", European Union Newsroom, July. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

EPRS "EU Reaction To Russia-Ukraine Conflict." European Parliamentary Research Service, 05 Feb. 2015. Web. 24 March. 2015.

Golinkin, Lev. "The Humanitarian Crisis." The Nation, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 27 March. 2015.

"Ukraine Crisis Timeline." Center for Strategic International Studies. Web 23 March. 2015.

Miller, James. "Updates Evidence Review: Who Shot Down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17?" The Interpreter, 15 Sep. 2014. Web. 24 March. 2015.

Traynor, Ian. "Ukraine's bloodiest day: dozens dead as Kiev protesters regain territory from police." The Guardian. 21 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 March. 2015.

Emmerson, Charles. "Ukraine and Russia's History Wars." History Today, 4 March, 2014. Web. 28 March, 2015.

IDMC, "Ukraine IDP Figure Analysis", Internall Displacement Monitoring Centre, Web. 28 March. 2015.

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