By: Jack Ruble
More and more, the situation in the Ukraine is leading the headlines in news organizations in the United States. As the political conditions in the country continues to take a turn for the more troublesome, many in America are left wondering what exactly is happening and how it all began.
The unrest in the Ukraine began with thousands of protesters challenging the government’s strong ties with their eastern neighbor, Russia, instead of the European Union to the west. The Russian government continued to pressure the Ukrainian government to end these protests quickly. The Ukrainian government took this advice and used violent force to challenge the protesters, but the fire was already stoked and force led to more protests and more unrest.
Ukrainian protesters forced the then-Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, into hiding. This potentially threatened Russia’s influence in the Ukraine, which led to Russian President Vladimir Putin into invading parts of the Ukraine. Russian troops invaded the Crimean Peninsula, which sits on the southern end of the Ukraine bordering the Black Sea. Despite international pressure, Russia continued to remain in the Crimea region, which has a majority population of ethnic Russians as well as a major Russian naval base, and removes Ukrainian elements in the region.
In an attempt to uphold the legitimacy of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, the provisional government of the Crimea held a referendum vote on whether or not to join Russia or remain a part of the Ukraine, which overwhelming favored joining Russia. This election has been viewed by many in the West as illegitimate.
The government of the United States has tried to find ways to punish the Russian government for their actions, which have included putting sanctions against the Russian government which were met by a similar reaction on the Russian side. On March 17, Russia formally annexed Crimea, but did so without widespread international acceptance.
These actions come at a time of continued worsening of relations between the United States and Russia. When Russia gave asylum to Edward Snowden, wanted for leaking classified documents about the National Security Administration to WikiLeaks, relations between the countries tensed. The United States also has a strained relationship with Russian because of the Syrian Civil War, and the desire to enter the EU and other Western organizations by many of Russia’s neighbors have chilled diplomatic relations between the two regions. Many who specialize in international relations have warned to keep an eye on Russia’s continued response to the eastern half of Ukraine as well as the East European state of Moldova in the upcoming weeks.