What will become of Ukraine?
Since the outbreak of the latest crisis in Ukraine in late November 2013, the tension has continued to worsen and the division among citizens has grown, pushing the country nearer to civil war with every passing day. Although the country has so far avoided an open civil war, Ukraine has already lost Crimea to Russia and disturbances in the east and the south of the country are widening. It faced the bloodiest violence on May 2 between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian demonstrators since the outbreak of the riots. More than 30 people were burned to death in the Trade Union Building as pro-Ukrainian activists stormed the building defended by protestors opposing the current government in Kyiv and favor closer ties with Russia. Chaotic clashes and revenge attacks followed and spilled over into other cities in southern Ukraine.
So far, all the interested parties such as the U.S., the European Union and Russia, as well as different groups in Ukraine are blaming each other for the continued lawlessness in Ukraine. After the Odessa killings, U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in their joint press conference in Washington, urged Russia not to trigger events in Ukraine and threatened further sanctions, while Russia accused the West and Ukraine for spreading the violence and denounced the idea of presidential elections on May 25. On the Ukrainian scene, while Interior Minister Arsen Avakov blamed “terrorists” for the violence, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused the police officers for deliberately not preventing the clashes. In response, the police forces freed some protesters that were arrested after the May 2 killings.
Clearly, Ukraine is fast becoming a failed state. Although the representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the EU and the U.S. met in Geneva in April and agreed to ease the strain through diplomatic ways, it looks like the tension will continue at its own pace at least until the presidential elections, which are increasingly becoming part of the problem, not the solution in this bleeding country, where the government is losing its legitimacy and authority with each passing day.
The strategy of the West has so far failed to prevent Russia from further aggression. Sanctions might only work in the long-term. The West desperately needs a new strategy in its tug of war with Russia, yet have few options. The “NATO card” might be more dissuasive, though doubtful. Obama has already promised to bolster NATO’s role in the region and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has urged European countries to take more responsibility and increase their defense spending in order to prevent further Russian threat. Some people have even started to discuss the possibility of membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO. Yet, these are all long-term considerations. Meanwhile, Ukraine is being torn apart.
The ability of the EU to prevent conflicts near its borders is no better. Since the end of the Cold War, the EU has been creating strategies and policy instruments to strengthen the ring of prosperity, stability and security on its borders. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreements, the European Neighborhood Policy and finally the Eastern Partnership were the results of such a search. Yet, all these have been tested severely and have been proven insufficient to hold Ukraine together and in the orbit of the EU. The Common Foreign and Security Policy is not helping either; there is not much in common in the member countries’ approach to the Ukrainian crisis.
While the West is trying to put together a coherent policy to stop Russia from further violating international law and destroying the international system, Ukraine is being dissected both from within and with outside meddling. Unless a magical solution is found soon, Ukraine will be divided; and the presidential elections at the end of the month alone cannot provide that solution.