Around The World

As Ukraine's Stability Crumbles the World Watches On

Hallie Witwer and Marty Kosovich
By now, the terrifying photographs of the violence taking place in Ukraine have reached most of our eyes over here in America, but do most of us know why the instability is occurring and what this really means for our fellow human-beings half way across the globe? There’s more to the story than violence-soaked news and blood-tainted photographs. To understand what can eventually resolve the disturbing unrest, let’s take a look at the country itself, its history, and even its possible future.

In basic terms, Ukraine is a country split along its East/West axis. Western Ukraine generally supports the West and the Eastern European (EU). Eastern Ukraine, on the other hand, tends to support Russia. This split exists due to demographics and linguistics, as the Western portion speaks Ukrainian and the Eastern portion speaks Russian. In the past, Ukraine has often fallen under the influence of either the West or East. Historically, Western Ukraine had been under the sway of six empires and it only fell under Russian control following World War II. Eastern Ukraine was under the then Russian Empire’s control until 1991 and the Soviet Union’s collapse. The present upheaval can be traced all the way back to these very events.

The political crisis and current unrest began when President Viktor Yanukovych (of Eastern Ukrainian decent) abruptly changed his mind on joining an Association Agreement with the European Union. This happened because Russia applied tremendous pressure on Yanukovych to not sign the Association Agreement and to join the Russian-centric Customs Union, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan. To sweeten the deal, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin offered a large economic package to help keep Ukraine from declaring bankruptcy. Yanukovych took the easier path. With a country on the brink of economic ruin, he linked with Russia to receive the economic aid. If Yanukovych had opted for the European Union route, his country would have undergone significant political, economic, and judicial restructuring so as to meet the guidelines to enter the EU. Doing this would have been a giant conflict of interests for Yanukovych and his political allies due to the eventual dismantling of in-place corruption networks as a result of restructuring to meet EU guidelines. Yanukovych’s corruption network (which enabled his power) became his largest liability, eventually leading to his current downfall that is playing out in front of the entire world.
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych
At this point we might be asking ourselves what the future holds for Ukraine. Well, as of now, Yanukovych is currently on the run and the political unrest we’re seeing all over the news has unfortunately yet to play out. There are several ways that Ukraine might end up after all of this is over. One possibility is that the successful ousting of Yanukovych will leave a tenuous unity among the various factions that joined forces. Sadly, disagreements that can lead back to instability would most likely still be expected in this case. Another possible (and worst-case scenario) outcome is political violence erupting between the pro-Western and pro-Russian elements in Ukraine society. No matter what happens in the end, the world can expect both the West and Russia to attempt to influence the ultimate outcome of the issues presently at hand in Ukraine. What should our expectations be? If Ukraine remains under Russian influence we should expect little political, economic, and judicial changes. If they eventually fall under EU influence, the citizens of Ukraine must prepare themselves for extensive political alterations that, while difficult and time-consuming, will eventually lead to the country’s inclusion in the EU as a full-member state.

It seems more and more that the world is falling to pieces around us, particularly if we spend time watching TV and browsing the internet. As difficult as the turmoil and images can be to view, it’s so very important that we stay knowledgeable and up-to-date on what the rest of the world is going through. While those facing struggle are often not Americans, they are ultimately our fellow humans, which makes them on our team. One can only hope for a calm to find those in pain over in Ukraine as soon as possible and, until then, we can only continue to follow the events and pray (in whatever method we use) for resolution.
...photo courtesy of Google Images.