As many Americans are aware the Ukraine has been the site of violent protests, however, many Americans may be a bit confused about the cause of these protests and what they can potentially mean for the security of mainland Europe, the Olympic games and potential future relations between the U.S., E.U. and the Russian Federation.
The first place to start in order to gain any understanding of the causes of violence in the Ukraine is with the fact that the violence is political. “Viktor Yanukovych may just go down in history as the man who unified Ukraine. Political commentators have long spoken about the ethnic, linguistic, religious and political fissures that split the country. But as protests to Yanukovych’s regime have grown, so has the willingness of disparate groups and regions to come together – spontaneously – to rid themselves of him. The most dramatic example is that even in the president’s heartlands, in Eastern Ukraine, protesters have come out in strong support of ‘Euromaidan’, the central square in Kiev where the protests first started. While not yet a pan-Ukrainian phenomenon, the spread of protests into Eastern Ukraine is unprecedented and until recently inconceivable.” (Wolczuk, and Wolczuk) Protests in the Ukraine are related to the idea that residents of the region are seeking to enter the European Union, all of this can have a larger impact on the stability of the region due to the fact that “The Ukrainian capital has been gripped by weeks of anti-government protests which have seen violent clashes between rioters and police. Unrest is also spreading beyond Kiev as the opposition and government struggle to end the crisis.” (Ukraine unrest timeline - RT News) As instability spreads it becomes increasingly likely that the original message of the protesters becomes lost in violence to the point where violence is taking place for the sake of violence and/or political violence is an attempt to gain independence will become tied to “Islamization” of Europe again, where the original message will become lost.
Protests in the Ukraine have been tied to the unwillingness of Ukrainian political leaders to take the required steps to enter into the EU. “Discontent has been growing for some time with Yanukovych’s rule – the astonishing enrichment of his family and close associates has beggared belief across the impoverished country. But the trigger to recent events has been the authorities’ increasing arrogance. Yanukovych’s decision to not sign the Association Agreement with the EU back in November caused outrage in central and western Ukraine, leading to the establishment of Euromaidan by the opposition.” (Wolczuk, and Wolczuk) Entrance into a political and/or security organization would only serve as enhancement to the quality of life of the citizens of the Ukraine due to the fact that membership in the EU brings with it several benefits (both economic, and political). This would serve to assist with development and bring it politically more in line with the rest of Europe and more at odds with the Russian Federation.
The situation in the Ukraine is similar to the civil war that is being fought in Syria; citizens have formed protest groups in an attempt to depose authoritarian political leaders. In both cases this has led to violence perpetrated by government authorities directed at protesters “In December the opposition in parliament forced a vote of no-confidence in the government (Yanukovych’s appointees) – and failed. But Yanukovych ill-judged decision to impose draconian laws on Jan. 16 to limit the freedoms of Ukrainian citizens to protest sent the country into a frenzy initially on the Euromaidan but soon – perhaps predictably – spreading to Ukraine’s Western regions.” (Wolczuk, and Wolczuk) It is also important to note that violence that is occurring in the Ukraine is not ethnic in nature. Instead of citizens seeking rights for certain ethnic group violence is completely political in nature; citizens are seeking a change in the political structure of the Ukraine not seeking freedom from oppression of a specific ethnic group.
An outline of the violence in the Ukraine is as follows:
Nov. 21 — President Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet announces that they are abandoning an agreement that would strengthen ties with the EU, and instead seek closer cooperation with Moscow.
Nov. 30 — Police launch a brutal attack on protesters, detaining 35. Images of protesters bloodied by police truncheons spread quickly and galvanize public support for the demonstrators. A demonstration on Dec. 1 attracted around 300,000 people, the largest protest in Kiev since the Orange Revolution in 2004.
Dec. 17 — Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that Moscow will buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian government bonds and allow for a sharp cut in the price Ukrainians will have to pay for Russian natural gas. Putin and Yanukovych claim that there were no conditions attached to the agreement, which did not require Ukraine to join a Russia-led free trade pact. (The Big Story)
What all of this indicates is that the citizens of the Ukraine are seeking an increased level of cooperation with the EU and the government of the Ukraine are seeking so solidify a position and political agreement with Moscow, meaning that instead of the Ukraine becoming an independent former Soviet Republic the Ukraine will remain as part of the Russian Federation. It is important to note that there demonstrates a fundamental difference between the violence that is occurring in the Ukraine and that occurring in the Caucasus region of Europe. Violence is the Caucasus is ethnic in nature, ethnic Muslims are seeking independence from the Russian Federation and have the support or both insurgent groups and primarily Muslim nations.
Political violence has the probability to spread outside of the Ukraine and may impact the stability of the region as other nations feel that violence protest is the primary method to be used to affect political change.
"The Big Story." Timeline of Key Events in Ukkraine Protests. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/timeline-key-events-ukraine-protests (accessed February 1, 2014).
"Ukraine unrest timeline - RT News." Ukraine unrest timeline - RT News. http://rt.com/news/kiev-protest-clashes-updates-862/ (accessed January 31, 2014).
Wolczuk, Kataryna , and Roman Wolczuk. "How protest and violence in Ukraine could give way to unity." Washington Post, January 28, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/01/28/how-protest-and-violence-in-ukraine-could-give-way-to-unity/ (accessed February 1, 2014).