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University of Mississippi

The Ukrainian Crisis Explained

Its History, Perspectives, and Opinions

Lindsey Stobaugh

Geography 101, Section 2

Dr. Matthew Murray

13 November 2015
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The country of Ukraine is positioned in Eastern Europe with Russia to its east, Poland,

Slovakia, and Hungary to its west, and Romania and Moldova to its south. The climate in

Ukraine is a temperate continental climate, which means the country has warm summers and

cold winters. There are two different biomes within Ukraine, which are mixed forests and steppe

(Geography of Ukraine). There are also a couple of mountain ranges in Ukraine, such as the

Carpathian Mountains, which are located in the western portion of the country, and the Crimean

Mountains which are in the southern part. Ukraine is rich with natural resources and it is

estimated that it holds one quarter of the earths black soil reserves, and it is considered to be the

best soil on the planet because of its physical, chemical, agrochemical, and mineralogical

properties. According to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, the

country contains 5% of the worlds natural resources and it is a world leader in terms of the

number of mineral rock deposits that it contains (Geographical Location of Ukraine).

Crimea is the peninsula that is located in the southern part of Ukraine that is surrounded by the

Black Sea as well as the Azov Sea. There is a border between the Peninsula and Ukraine, which

is called the Sivash and encompasses large shallow lagoons and the Isthmus of Perekop connects

the Peninsula to Ukraine. The majority of Crimea has a temperate continental climate like that of

Ukraine, but in the south coast there is a humid subtropical climate (Crimea).

The independent Ukrainian state was established in 1991 as a result of the fall of the

Soviet Union in Russia. Seeing as the Soviet Union had encompassed many different territories

with people from many different backgrounds, when it collapsed, a lot of these ethnically diverse

people were forced together into one geographical boundary known as Ukraine (Gulamov).

When the Soviet Union was still in power, its citizens were not only Soviet citizens, but they

each had their own nationality as well, and many of the ethnic nationalist Russians ended up in
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the borders of Ukraine (R.L.G.). Today, Ukraine consists of approximately 130 different

nationalities, with Russians making up the biggest ethnic minority group at about 17%. During

the time of the Russian Empire, the southern and eastern parts of what is today Ukraine belonged

to that Empire, and predominantly encompassed ethnic Russians as well as Ukrainians who

preferred to speak Russian. In contrast to the east, the western portion of the country has

exhibited Ukrainian nationalism, speaks Ukrainian, and are generally pro-European. Because of

these extreme differences in the populations national identity, it has been impossible to create

one national Ukrainian identity that encompasses the state as a whole (Gulamov). The state of

Ukraine has a long and complicated history. In 1917 a War of Independence broke out in

Ukraine, and the state gained its independence in 1921, but the Soviet Union absorbed the

resulting Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic soon thereafter. It was not until August 24, 1991

that Ukraine became officially independent when its parliament made an official statement

saying that Ukraine would seize to follow the laws of the USSR and only the laws of the

Ukrainian SSR (Modern History of Ukraine). With an overwhelming majority the people of

Ukraine voted to become independent of the USSR, and on December 6, 1991 the presidents of

the regions that made up the USSR met to officially disband the Soviet Union, and in accordance

with this the newly independent Ukraine was officially recognized (Modern History of

Ukraine).

The language and ethnic nationalist divide has played a large role in shaping the crisis

that is taking place today. Ukraine has not been able to establish a strong government as a result

of these sharp divides between its citizens, but this divide has also grown as a result of the failing

politics. This divide between the east and west can be clearly seen in presidential elections. As

stated before, the east of Ukraine is mostly Ukrainian Russian speaking or ethnic Russian, while
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the west is mostly pro-European Ukrainian nationalist. In 2004, pro-Russian presidential

candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, won a majority of the votes in the eastern half of Ukraine, but

with this victory brought uproar from the west (R.L.G.). In response to Yanukovychs victory, the

east began to protest his victory through what is known as the Orange Revolution, and as a result

the election was ruled corrupted and it brought about a new president, Viktor Yushchenko. This

not only exemplified the rigid divide between eastern and western Ukraine, but it also added fuel

to the fire. In 2010, Yanukovych ran for president a second time and pulled out a victory by

tightening his network with Russia. Yanukovych almost signed a trade agreement with the

European Union in 2013, but this never happened because of Russias influence on Yanukovych.

The failure to sign this agreement brought about great unrest between the eastern and western

halves of Ukraine, and pro-Russian separatists began taking aggressive measures toward

government forces of Ukraine in April 2014. In May of 2014 another election was held and this

time, pro-Western Petro Poroshenko took power and tried to assert the power of the government

on the people in the east. Russia was accused of aiding the separatists by supplying them with

weapons, and while the country rejected these claims, they continued to send military troops near

its border with Ukraine (McMahon).

Russian president Vladimir Putin used this cultural divide to his advantage in the issue of

the Crimean Peninsula in March of 2014. The Crimean Peninsula is important to Russia on an

monetary and military basis. Since Crimea is made up of mostly ethnic Russians and Russian

speaking Ukrainians, Putin claimed that he was shielding these people from lawlessness

spreading east from the capital and stated that Moscow is not imposing its will, but rather

supporting the free choice of the population. Putin set out to annex Crimea on March 18, 2014

and before doing so, he made a statement in which he said that Russia would protect the rights
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of Russians abroad (McMahon). Before this crisis in Ukraine began, Crimea was an

independent Ukrainian Republic and its citizens mainly spoke Russian, and when Yanukovych

gained power, Crimean citizens voted for a union with Russia, and in response legislators in

Russia implemented their legislation over Crimea. The issue that Western powers such as the

United States has with this, is that they believe that Russia is in violation of international law,

which according to the Treaty of Friendship and the Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine,

requires Russia to Respect Ukraines territorial integrity (McMahon). Personally, I understand

both sides of this argument. On one hand, the people of Crimea voted and according to that vote,

they want to be a part of Russia, not Ukraine. They obviously voted this way because they

identify as Russians more than they do as Ukrainians, and to be forced to be a part of a country

where your nationality does not align with would be frustrating. On the other hand, though, I can

understand why Ukrainian officials would be against Russia controlling a region which has been

a part of their country for many years. It is hard for me to choose a side because I understand the

views of each of them, but I am leaning toward Russia controlling this region, only because of

the fact that the people of Crimea voted on this issue, and that is what a majority of those people

wanted.

In the article, Brokering Power: US Role in Ukraine Coup Hard to Overlook it is stated

that the US had been investing money into Ukriane since its independence in 1991 and that the

US claimed that this money was to assist Ukraininans in building democratic skills and

institutions. It goes on to say that the US claims that this money is used to create a positive

change and not to influence its own agenda in those countries that it sends funding to

(Brokering Power). I do not buy this because the United States did much more than just

send funding to Ukraine, and it exerted great effort to establish the type of government that they
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wanted, rather than letting the Ukrainian government help itself. According to this article, the

Untied States supported the government coup with great zeal, and it is stated that some could not

separate the new Ukraine from an entity directly ruled by Washington (Brokering Power).

The author of this source obviously believes that the United States is meddling too much in

Ukraine, and that its influence is too great, and I can agree with this on a certain level. The US

favors a government that is pro-Western because they will be likely to work with them on certain

issues. So when a pro-Russian government took power and western Ukrainians began an uprising

on their own, all the US had to do was help those who were already against the new government,

and by doing this, the country can claim that it did not have any influence is starting a revolution,

rather that it is sending aid to help create a better government, in accordance with US

standards.

While the author of the first article exemplified some disdain of the United States

meddling in foreign affairs, the author of the article Chronology of the Ukrainian Coup Renee

Parsons exemplifies a firm anti-Western approach in her analysis of these events. She claims that

the US, along with the European Union, the IMF, and the World Bank have brought staggering

suffering to millions around the globe (Parsons). She states that after Ukraine chose not to join

the EU, and instead join the Russia Common Wealth Union, that western powers established a

goal to destabilize Ukraine. She makes claims that the US is backing a government that is

made up of neo-Nazis and neo-fascists that fought with Hitler. She states that the US was

planning to overthrow the Ukrainian government for at least a month, and when President

Yanukovych refused to give up his presidency, that the parliament voted to remove him from the

presidency after which he fled the country. Parsons believes the United States to be a country of

hypocrites that impose their agenda on all other countries, resulting in devastation for those
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countries (Parsons). I thought Parsons perspective to be a little radical at first, but after reading

through the article I can understand where she is coming from. America does have a tendency to

stick its nose where it does not belong so that it may influence other countries to be more of what

America wants them to be. I believe that what is happening in Ukraine should be of mostly

Ukrainian concern, and that the US and other western powers should maybe back off a little. I

am not that extreme in my opinion as Parsons because I believe that countries need our

intervention sometimes, but the US needs to understand that what is best for other countries is

not always in accordance with what the US believes is best.


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