by Luis Vilacha Fernandez. Originally published on 2014/05/07
After the referendum regarding Crimea’s status and its movement towards the Russian Federation, there are currently several regions with a large majority of Pro-Russian population that might follow the same path. Will Russia intervene? Will the West intervene? But most importantly, has the EU followed its own rules in response to the crisis in Ukraine?
After Former President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign an Association Agreement with the EU as Georgia and Moldova signed, different riots started, and angry Ukrainians occupied different squares in the country to call for new national presidential elections, because they felt betrayed by Yanukovich. When the demonstrations began at Maidan Square and other parts of the country, democracy was on the table and the EU leaders quickly chose to be on the side of the demonstrators. Given the history of EU disagreements about previous conflicts in Europe, this opportunity seemed perfect to be united against the Presidency of Yanukovich.
Ukraine is a matter of capital interest for both the EU and Russia. Several weeks after the demonstrations began, after violence break out in the streets of Kiev and different cities of Ukraine, the Union decided to intervene as a negotiator between the government and the opposiotion in order to stop a possible massacre of people, while Russia was paying attention to the security of the Winter Games in Sochi. Perhaps, the core of the Union was convinced that while Russia was preoccupied with this sports’ event they would not respond to EU interference in Ukraine.
Have the EU act correctly in Ukraine?
This question can be approached from different point of views. It is true that there are different factors which perhaps were not considered by the EU leaders or maybe they did and everything is happening as planned. It was a very intelligent move to send the foreign representatives of France, Germany, and especially Poland to convince Yanukovich’s government to hold national elections the following month. For the very first time the European Union seemed united in the international arena while the USA was supporting its move from a distance, while Russia was watching its athletes at the Winter Games in Sochi.
After Yanukovich ran away and the demonstors took the presidential palace and several other governmental buildings, it seemed that the EU’s move was brilliant for once and it appeared as if they had brought democracy to Ukraine. However, the Winter Games could not last forever, and Putin was furiously angry seeing how easily he has lost Ukraine, a key actor in his personal project to reunite the former Soviet Union countries in a new organization based on the free-trade model of capitalism.
After the new government of Ukraine took power and was immediately recognized by the western powers, it promised to hold national elections at the end of May. This elected interim government has some controversial allies, members of extreme right parties’ of this so-called new government of the people. The EU’s mistakes lies here. The lack of legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government that was not elected by anyone but the demonstrators at Maidan Square has the same parliamentarians during Yanukovich presidency. This fact helped to light the fire of the pro-Russian protest in Crimea first and later also in the eastern part of the country. People in these areas claimed that they wanted to be part of Russia.
Putin had his revenge on the table. Crimea was the first step and then the Russian speaking population of Eastern Ukraine. Since Russia entered Crimea all its movements were strategically brilliant to show once again the weaknesses of the EU.
The reason is the following. One of the main objectives of the EU within international politics is to spread democracy. In fact, democratic conditionality is one of the key objectives for a third country to be able to negotiate an agreement with the EU. It seems reasonably that Russia understands that the EU has violated one of its major objectives within its neighbours when the new Ukrainian government remains in power without been elected directly by the people, neither force to hold elections soon after they took power. Instead, the interim government signed different agreements with the IMF and the World Bank. Allegedly the EU leaders cared more about how to deal with Russia that to enhance a true democracy in Ukraine.
It is important to mention the contradiction that lies in the fact that Putin, who won the 2012 Russian elections with a 107% turnout across the country, is using the banner of democracy against the EU (NYtimes, 2012). Second, the fact that most of the soldiers that took Crimea in a few days were without any flag or identification was a break in the current warfare system. Even when suspecting who was supporting these soldiers, it is not possible to claim any responsibility at the International arena mainly because they did not belong to any country.
It seems reasonable that Russian strategy is to retain as much of influence in Ukraine as they can. For the EU, dialogue and negotiation seems the best options right now. We would never know what would have happened if the Ukrainian elections would have taken place several weeks after Yanukovich’s resignation. What it can be argued is that Russia would have never used democracy as a tool against Europe in Crimea and currently in Eastern Ukraine, if democracy would have been the major requirement from the EU to the Ukrainian interim government of Ukraine. There may have been another outcome.
Therefore, at the moment the future of Ukraine as a united country seems extremely complicated. There are different international powers with different interest in the country. Also, identity plays a key role in this conflict. Pro-Russian people are willing to move towards the Russian Federation but Europe, while western Ukrainians do not want to hear anything from Russia within the next decades. The outcome of this conflict will hopefully become clear soon, only time can tell what will happen next.
– BBC News (2014). Ukraine Crisis.
– Euromaidan PR (2014). @EuromaidanPR