By Nick McGargill
Ukraine is at a crossroad. What began as a peaceful protest movement against former President Yanukovych's decision to not sign the EU Association Agreement has swiftly become a revolutionary movement that opposition leaders, such as Vitali Klitschko are beginning to realize they cannot control. The agreement mediated by foreign ministers from the European Union was perhaps the best chance for peace in Ukraine as it was fair and sensible for an organized and peaceful transition of government; however, the insistence of ultra-nationalists and radical figures within the protest movements drove the agreement into the ground. The failure of the EU brokered deal highlights the weakness of the European Union's "soft-power" approach to foreign policy, which political figures in Ukraine and Russia now more than likely share the same humble opinion towards the EU as Victoria Nuland. Ukraine is now faced with a crisis, which is able to easily spin out of control and possible split Ukraine into east and west. In order to avoid a scenario that could escalate a conflict among the separatist movements in the east and the Crimea, Ukraine's political leaders must tread carefully as the future of their country will be based on solely on the decisions they make over the next few weeks.
Ukraine is a divide nation in the process of revolution which has revealed the traditional divisions between the ethnic Ukrainian and Russian population. While other former Soviet republics have escaped the economic woes of the early 1990s, Ukraine hosts a revolution every 10 years replacing the ineffective and corrupt government officials that fiercely attempt to maintain Ukraine's independence in the wake of a New Cold War amongst competing global powers. The situation in Ukraine continues to spiral out of control with the western city of Lviv issuing a frivolous declaration of independence and the Crimea resolute in following suit. The rise of the new "Eastern Front" movement in eastern Ukraine highlights the growing concern for division and ethnic conflict that brings memory of the horror witnessed during the Yugoslav Wars or the Troubles that plagued Northern Ireland. The nation's ethnic Russian governors in eastern Ukraine are right to convene a Congress in order to ensure constitutional order and public safety in their respective Oblasts being faced with what increasingly appears to be a defunct National Parliament under duress.
Ukraine has become the new fault-line for global powers competing for influence in the region similarly to a manner witnessed during the Cold War. The deteriorating situation can be attributed to the competing foreign policies amongst the leading world powers - namely Russia, the United States, and the European Union. The blood of the innocent that has been split in Ukraine is not only shared amongst the radical protesters and government officials in Ukraine, but the agents of these competing foreign governments as well.
Russia, being wary of NATO expansion over the past 15 years, is committed to halting western influence in what the Russian government considers its own privileged sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space as outlined in the 1993 Foreign Policy Concept, and is willing to take any necessary means to avert a scenario that allows NATO troops to be stationed on Ukrainian soil. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation maintains a competitive foreign policy agenda in the form of a 'tit-for-tat' game primarily directed towards the United States using political and economic tactics as demonstrated during the 2009 gas dispute in order to steer Ukrainian leaders in Kiev back towards Moscow.
The United States has become over confident in its foreign policy objectives since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 in its unchallenged status as the sole superpower of world using the promotion of democracy and defending human rights as justification for intervening in the internal affairs of foreign states resulting in Russia becoming uneasy in regards to its sovereignty and security. Maintaining a policy of promoting 'shake-and-bake' democracies abroad, the United States has been heavily involved in Ukraine for the past 6 months, although the extent of involvement has yet to be revealed, but will nevertheless be thoroughly denied in the end. While the United States opposes any accusations from the Russian government promoting an agenda of regime change in Ukraine and in the Middle East, the fact of the matter is that the United States has been in the business of regime change since the days of the Cold War.
The fact must be realized - integrating Ukraine is not a priority for the European Union, since the super-national union itself remains an exclusive members' only club, and because the fragile and inefficient Ukrainian economy would swamp the Eurozone which is still in recovery. Despite over the past month, news articles have quoted Herman Von Rompuy, President of the European Council saying "the future of Ukraine belongs to the EU," but it is unforeseeable for Ukraine even joining the EU within 20 years and will merely be strung along in the membership process as Turkey has been for the past 30 years. EU membership is typically the soft-power tactic EU leaders use in order to advance their interests abroad and establish an EU-friendly zone of influence. The new Ukrainian government will realize their chances of entering the EU are zero-to-none when EU leaders create another bogus and pointless organization similar to the Union of Mediterranean in order to appease the less than desirable nations.
The constant 'tug-of-war' between the political forces of east and west threatens Ukraine's national sovereignty, which Ukraine desperately needs a national unity government capable of safeguarding Ukraine's independence while conducting a delicate balancing act in foreign policy. Former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko emerged from jail to find Ukraine split in half by ultra-nationalist movements fueled by their respective perspectives of patriotism and fear. During her tenure as Prime Minister, Tymoshenko was a capabilities popular unifying figure capable of maintaining a balanced relationships with both the European Union and Moscow, which she has the potential to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine amid the political crisis. After being released from prison, Tymoshenko's calls for vengeance under the guise of justice were unfortunate as such actions will not halt violence nor restore the sanity of those plagued by fear of reprisals from ultra-nationalists. While Tymoshenko's maltreatment in prison was abhorrent, the revolution will be the ultimate test of Tymoshenko's character and humanity, where she could preserve Ukraine if she decides to run for president even if that means offering amnesty to her arch-rival, Viktor Yanukovych. While my opinion may sound more politically romantic than reality, history will remember Yulia Tymoshenko either as the leader of an ultra-nationalist movement or a figure of national unity and reconciliation.
The future for the people of Ukraine is more uncertain than it was before the beginning of November. As ultra-nationalist in both the east and west of the country organize and arm themselves the possibility of ethnic conflict and civil war looms. Revolution tends to inflame extremist movements in which no form of compromise is comprehended and all manner of sanity dies resulting in fostering an atmosphere of fear that fuels the chaos it breeds. While opposite sides are forced against the wall, the desperate search for a symbol of hope. Ukraine is need of a unifying leader embodying the character as a national savior capable of guarding their independence while developing ties to both the west and east. The protest movement was never about democracy nor human rights, but rather the decision that would better Ukraine economically in the future. Ultimately, the fate of Ukraine will be decided over the next couple of weeks by Ukraine's political leaders tasked with the duty to preserve a divided nation fueled by fear of uncertainty.