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Bailey McCann

International Political Relations

Ukrainian Civil War of 2014
The Ukrainian Civil War began in February 2014 amidst anger over the current government. The
unrest mainly began when the past president, Viktor Yanukovych, contemplated taking up an economic
offer with the European Union that would, in the long run, make Ukraine economically independent
from Russia. However Yanukovych instead signed a treaty with Russia to further economic ties with
them instead. This has caused massive civil unrest in Ukraine towards the government, in belief that
they are corrupt and are just a puppet government of Russia. This brought large protests across the
country and then when government forces fired upon protesters during a protest, riots began across the
country. President Yanukovych then fled the country during the protests and a new interim government
was established that went back to using Ukraines 2004 constitution instead of its current one, which
has been altered by Yanukovychs administration. Russia however claims that the EU and the USA are
responsible for supporting the rebellion in attempt to weaken Russian power and therefore Russia does
not recognize the interim government. During this Russia claimed the lands of the Crimean Peninsula, a
formal part of Ukraine, which was a formal territory of the former Soviet Union up until the 1954, when
it was gifted to Ukraine. Since then Crimea acted as an autonomous region inside Ukraine having
separate laws but still remaining under Ukraines control. Due to Russias claim and the civil conflict
inside Ukraine, Crimea held a referendum to decide whether or not to join the Russian federation, and
the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of joining the Russian Federation. However many countries
believe that this is an unlawful and rigged vote which does not show the true opinions of the Crimean
people, for example Ukraine does not acknowledge the treaty and still believes Crimea to be part of its
territory. After the new interim government was established, they immediately singed the economic
deal with the EU effectively cutting off ties with Russia, unhappy with this many citizens in Southern and
Eastern Ukraine have protested and rose against the government. Currently there is fighting between
pro-Russian separatist groups and the pro-Ukrainian government, it is believed that the pro-Russian
groups are being funded by the Russian Federation in an attempt for Russia to gather even more
territory from the crisis, while it is also speculated that Western countries are supporting the new
government in an attempt to weaken Russian power.
There are many theories and reason that a countries inner-conflicts can result in armed conflict,
I will be looking a few of the major reasons for civil conflict, such as; a poor economic state, ethnic
tensions/racism, an unstable government, foreign influence, and conflict over territory.
The first and most obvious division in Ukraine currently is the pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian
debate. Currently Ukraine has an ethnic makeup of seventy-seven percent Ukrainians and only eighteen
percent Russians, while the Russian population is a large minority, there was not always Russians in
Ukraine. Ukraine was dominated mainly with an entirely Ukrainian population up until Ukraine was
conquered by Russia in the 1600s. When Russia annexed Ukraine they began to push Russians to live in
Ukraine to help rus-ify the area and make it more Russian, this worked moderately well as Ukrainians
and Russians share a similar culture and language. The original large eastern European state was called
the Kievan Rus. Which was founded around the lands of modern Kiev, originally a city meant solely for
trade, Kiev flourished and became a very wealthy city leading to the rise of the Kievan Rus. However
this state fell victim to the unstoppable Mongol Armies and became part of the Golden(Oriat) Horde, for
the next couple hundred years, also encompassing much of the land north and around Ukraine. Up until
Russians managed to free themselves, Mongol control was centered on Kiev as that was the largest city
in the area before their conquests, when the Russians managed to break free of Mongol control, they
were only successful in the more northern and distant areas because Mongol control was arguably
lighter there. The area of Ukraine suffered harsher control from the Mongols, and was freed not by
Russians, but by Lithuanians, and was then incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for
hundreds of years before Russia took the territory back in the Partitioning of the Commonwealth. By
staying under control of the Commonwealth for so long created various differences in culture of
Russians and Ukrainians, as Lithuanian culture was different from Russian culture. Additionally also how
Russia attempted to Westernize by making them more like the West by attempting to change values of
Russias elite to a more Western style, Ukraines elite was absent from this and they stayed to older
Ukrainian values. However while Ukrainians and Russians share a similar background with a slightly
different history, recent history has caused resentment by Ukrainians to Russians that was not prevalent
in early areas. Kiev became a part of Russia in the late 1600s, and the rest of the territory within the
new couple hundred years.
Now recently in history is where many of the Ukrainian-Russian tensions have built up. First off,
Russia forced migration to Kiev in attempt to make the area more Russian, to better control the area
and have the Ukrainians assimilate. Secondly during the Russian Civil War in 1917, Ukraine proclaimed
its independence but was met with a conflict entailing fighting between Red, Whites, Ukrainians, and
the Polish. After the conflicts end, The Allies of WW1 divided up Ukraines territory by giving the
Western part known as Galicia to Poland, and then the rest of the country to the Soviet Union. The
destruction of World War 1 on Ukraine was devastating and the following conflict over its sovereignty
lowered the country into a further worse economic state. However the finishing blow on Ukraines
stability and economy was dealt by the German invasion of Kiev during World War 2. The entire city was
destroyed by the German offensive and millions of Ukrainians starved or were executed and many
blamed this on little assistance from their Russian overlords. This built resentment towards the Russian
people as some Ukrainians felt that they were abandoned by the Russians who just let the Ukrainian
homeland be destroyed in attempt to save their own Russian people. Before the Second World War
began, as many as one million people were executed in Ukraine by the Soviet Union and around twelve
million Ukrainians were sent to work in camps. After World War 2, the Soviet Union manage to take
back all of the Ukrainian lands and annex them to the Union. Following the war Crimean tartars were
deported after World War 2 which even furthered distaste towards Russia in the area. When the Soviet
Union fell in 1991, Ukraine immediately declared its independence from Russia. However still to this day
they maintain strong economic ties to Russia, and even Ukraines previous president was believed to be
a Russian puppet leader.
While there are many influences that caused this civil war, I will first center in on the economic
reasons. Revisiting the deal with the EU, Ukraine has many reasons for taking the deal. Ukraine has been
in a poor economic shape due to its destruction from the World Wars and various deportations and
executions of its citizens in the 1900s. This deal with the EU was believed to help make Ukraines
economy much stronger and less economically dependent on Russia, to help push Ukraine out of its
recent economic slump. Additionally there are many in Ukraine who dislike Russia because of
aforementioned events and wish to no longer be controlled economically by Russia, as a significant
amount of Ukraines trade is with Russia. However there are also many Russians who do not want for
Ukraine to lose its ties with Russia, as they believe the west is attempting to draw Ukraine away from
Russia and it might weaken Russia. The poor economic status in Ukraine is a breeding ground for civil
conflict because in a poorer country people are more likely to have a civil war due to the lower standard
living, and that in a country with a high standard of living people are less likely to revolt because they
have a lot of possession that they could lose. However in a country like Ukraine were there are some
very poor people, people are more likely to revolt because they have little to lose.
The second major factor which brought upon this civil war was foreign influence. Ukraine was
given the opportunity for economic deals with the EU, which many of the people supported, however
instead went for an economic deal with Russia. This then brought upon the wrath of the people against
the government, ousting the current president and installing a new government which immediately
ratified the deal with the EU. Both sides of the conflict are accusing major powers for instigating this war
and making it into a larger conflict than it needs to be. Russia is believed has non-uniformed troops in
Ukraine which are believed to have influenced and provoked conflicts in the region, while it is also
proposed that the EU and USA is supporting the original rebellion an attempt to take away from Russian
power. It is believed that the pro-Russian rebels are being given supplies and weapons from the Russian
government. This intervention by Russia is increasing the deadliness of the conflict because by supplying
the separatists with extra weapons, they are more likely to pose a threat to the current Ukrainian
government and now have a chance of escalating into further bloodshed. This war is appearing to
becoming a proxy war between the West and Russia; both sides are believed to be behind the scenes
supporting each side with weapons and supplies. By supporting each side, they are more likely to come
into conflict to get what they want because they believe they have the support of the person backing
them, and therefore have a higher chance of getting what they desire. An unstable government is
another reason this conflict has escalated so much. The Ukrainian government has had a hard time
controlling the people, with mass protests ten years prior due to corruption and lacking the current
support of the general public. An unstable government also allows for foreign intervention to be illicit a
civil conflict because with an unstable government, various groups rise up in the state which all wish to
control it. For example due to the unstable government the protests were not controlled well and the
people could not be appeased. Additionally the new government is unable to restore order to much of
Ukraine and certain parts of the country are in control of another group.
In the view of a realist, one would say that the EU wished to reduce Russias power by lessening
their control over Ukraine, but Russia retaliates by an annexation of Crimea and by supporting the
separatist rebels, hoping they will be able to control the country. While a liberal, would say the conflict
was fought over the fact that one group wished to have a new government structure of free markets
and less trade barriers with other countries through the deal with the EU, but some wish not take the
deal because it will lower their economic control of the country. Then a realist would believe that the
people of Ukraine are clashing over their ideas on how to run a government and are siding with either
side of the EU or Russia.
Overall this conflict has various reasons for starting, but in summary it is an armed conflict
where the people overthrew the government and installed a new one. However this new interim
government is immediately singing deals with the EU, which has brought conflict between the pro-
Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists. Both sides are believe to be supported by
foreign powers who wish for domination of the countrys economy.

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