Feb 5, 2021 in Politics

Russian Intervention in Ukraine in the Context of Globalization

It would be wise to start by explaining the causes of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. Thus, over the last decade, the Ukrainian populace has been divided into pro-European and pro-Russian camps. However, even the supporters of Ukraines accession to the EU do not think that Ukraine ought to prostrate itself before the juggernaut of Eurointegration. They just crave for the democratic values and material trappings of a European democracy rather than intensified relations with the oppressive Russian Federation. Even before the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, Russia cowed the Kyiv government with retaliatory measures whenever it had a chance. For instance, it promised to seal the border for Ukrainian commodities and increase gas prices if Kyiv signed the Association Agreement with the EU. The fact that Moscow plays hardball with the Ukrainian government shows that it is afraid that the latter would slip into the Western orbit. Thus, it was under the sinister influence of President Putin that Ukraine abandoned its Eurointegration ambitions. When the Yanukovich Administration reneged on its promise to sign the Association Agreement with the EU in November 2013, many Ukrainians became overwhelmed with chagrin. Figuratively speaking, President Yanukovich threw a diplomatic equivalent of a cream pie at those Ukrainians who wanted to see their country in the EU. In the wake of these events, protesters spilled into the streets and the anti-governmental revolution began. Six months after their beginning, the protests have degenerated into an undeclared war with Russia. This paper examines the current situation in Ukraine in the context of globalization processes. The bottom line is that Ukraines choice of an orientation for its political and economic development will not depend on the elimination of the ongoing crisis, but rather the solution of the crisis will depend on Ukraines foreign-policy choice.

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Ukraine is located in a very peculiar geopolitical position, so that the conflict over its dominance has always been a matter of time. In the age of globalization, a country like Ukraine could not remain neutral from the global economic and political processes for a long period without consequences. Security issues apart, the country needs to intensify its ties with the neighboring states, if it wants its economy to be buoyant and exuberant. However, the situation is much more delicate than it seem at the first glance. To forge closer political and economic links with Russia would mean the end to Ukraines Eurointegration ambitions. Perhaps, the EU would respect this decision and continue cooperating with Ukraine on a normal, albeit not-very-productive basis. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, is not as willing to let the West snatch Ukraine of its orbit and employs a series of devious stratagems to reverse the European course of this country. It would be an ordeal for Ukraine to try and reconcile these apparently opposing perspectives and promote the harmonious growth of its relations in the spirit of entente cordiale with the both sides. Different generations of Ukrainian politicians gravitated towards different states. President Yushchenko, who swept to power on the wave of the Orange Revolution in 2004, declared his allegiance to the European cause and promised to join this integration institution by the end of his presidency, but failed to take any decisive measures to further this goal. His successor and the now-deposed President Yanukovich, who came to office in 2010, also spouted off about his preference for the EU, while in fact leaned to Russia. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was buckling and writhing like a marionette in the hands of Putin. Lofty rhetoric on the part of the Yanukovich Administration and its real actions tugged Ukraine in different directions.

Today, when Ukraine is going through the interregnum phase, it must once again decide which side it wants to join. Undoubtedly, it needs to make this daring decision with reference to globalization processes. Indeed, challenges posed by the forces of globalization have a strong bearing on the political thinking in Kyiv. Choosing closer cooperation with Russia would bring much progress and prosperity, because this country is not as economically powerful as it portrays itself to be. In essence, it is a relic of the Soviet Union, which has not made significant economic strides since 1991. Its regional ascendancy is based on the unfathomable oil and gas resources that lie under its vast terrain. Were Ukraine to accede to the Russia-brokered Customs Union, the only significant benefit it would have is a somewhat lower gas price for its companies and population. In all likelihood, Russia would not seal off its borders to Ukrainian exports as often as it does today. However, Ukraine country is already inured to trade wars levied by Russia. What is more important, many Ukrainians are boycotting Russian goods today to express their deep revulsion at Russias subversive activities in Ukraine. As the 21st century unfolds, more and more Ukrainians want to get a degree or find a job in the European states, which means that ever less people travel to Russia. Under these circumstances, the Kyiv government needs to accord every facility to its citizens, who want to cross the border with the EU without barriers. This all shows that Ukraine will find itself drawn further into the bubbling morass of globalization, shall it decide to side with the Russian Federation.

In stark contrast to the EU, the Russian authorities do not care about the quality of life in Ukraine at all. Prior to the outbreak of violence in the east of Ukraine, Kyiv had made myriad concessions to Moscow, such as prolongation of Russias presence in Sevastopol till 2042, but the latter did not want to reciprocate them. At the same time, the EU does not ever fall back on coercive measures like intimidation and trade wars. Time and time again, the EU representatives have made it clear that the organization would help to snap Ukraine out of its economic funk. Indeed, if Ukraine were admitted to the EU, it would be able to prosper on the back of fast-growing trade with 28 European economies as well as take comfort of solid political support of this influential organization. What is more important, the epoch of shale gas is drawing on. This means that Russia is sure to lose its allure for energy-hungry Ukraine in the nearest future, while the latter will need to develop closer relations with the Western economies that have relevant expertise in this area.

A phalanx of pro-European politicians have been making frenzied efforts in a bid to persuade Ukrainian people that the countrys admission into this integration institution would be a panacea for Ukraines economic and political malaise. Of course, that is not the exact truth, but still admission of Ukraine into the European fold could yield a rich harvest of results for the country beset with macroeconomic instability. In todays Ukraine, poverty is ubiquitous, corruption is rife and rampant, while the court system is a mere travesty of justice in respect of those people who cannot give a bribe. Under such circumstances, it would make much economic and political sense for Ukraine to sing the economic part of the Association Agreement and, thus, streamline integration procedures. At the time when the country is a hairs breadth from a full-scale war with Russia, it is folly to scuttle the Association Agreement and settle on a policy of benign neglect in respect of the countrys future in Europe.

Considering all that was said above, there are ample grounds to assert that globalization means close relationship between Ukraine and the West rather that between Ukraine and Russia. Putin regards Ukraine as a sphere of its influence and wants to use it as a cordon sanitaire around Russia. Of course, disrupting relations with the Russian Federation altogether would not be economically expedient. However, the recent developments have shown that the Putin Administration is the cloaca bearing with it spiteful politicians who regard Ukraine as an inferior country. Thus, Kyiv should not vacillate between Russia and the West and it actually is not. It is resolved to continue on the reformist path to the EU. By doing this, Ukraine will be able to withstand the onrush of globalization processes. It should be also noted that frayed economic ties with Russia will be normalized in the long run.

The biggest problem of Ukraine is that there has been a lack of decisiveness in its foreign-policy course. The consecutive administrations of Ukrainian presidents tried to promote equally harmonious relations with both Russia and the West. However, such an approach is false in theory and pernicious in practice. Although Russia has a peaceful relationship with both the EU and the US, beneath a veneer of friendliness flows an undercurrent of fierce competition. They all want to exercise political hegemony over Ukraine, thereby improving their positions in the Eastern Europe. In order to become an object rather than a subject of international relations, Kyiv needs to choose economic and political orientation with dispatch. However, this is a tough decision to make in the condition of war. The fact that Russia surreptitiously choreographs separatist activities in the east of Ukraine alienates the Kyiv government. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the latter will opt for either economic or military alliance with Putin. However, the Russian ruling clique is not expecting that it could hector Ukraine into submission. Under these circumstances, it is rather natural that Kyiv does not want to intensify its cooperation with Russian in neither political nor economic spheres.

However, the West is not budging on the Ukrainian issue as well. Pursuant to the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, Russia, the US, and the United Kingdom gave Ukraine security assurances in exchange for its repudiation of the nuclear weapons program. In other words, they undertook to defend Ukraine if there was any threat or use of force against the countrys political sovereignty or territorial integrity. However, when Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the US and the EU did hardly anything to safeguard Ukraines security. Today, when there is an explicit threat that an irredentist Russian president will attempt to annex other parts of Ukraine, the West only expresses deep concern over the situation. The Obama Administration tries hard to look aggressively cerebral, but Putin is unlikely to be deterred by minatory finger wagging alone. Russias pugnacious saber rattling at the border with Ukraine sends a powerful signal about the earnestness of Moscows intentions to the Ukrainian authorities.

Notwithstanding the fact that the diplomatic endeavors of the West to assist Ukraine in managing its nettlesome crisis have been stillborn so far, the country remains wedded to the idea of patching up and further intensifying its relationship with the EU. Kyiv is right in its unwillingness to balance between Russia and the West. Indeed, it would be impossible to advance relations with the both sides at the same time, because their values and interests are incompatible. Hypothetically, even if Ukraine decided to solidify its economic ties with Russia and joined NATO to enhance its national security, Moscow would not be satisfied because of the enemy at the gate. This is exactly the reason why the Putin Administration wants to hold full sway over Ukraines both political and economic decision-making. To the consternation of the Kremlin, the current Ukrainian authorities do not even consider the idea of developing closer relations with Russia.

Some experts believe that regionalism, i.e. close economic and political ties with the limitrophe states, is the best possible option for Ukraine. Of course, good neighborly relations are crucial for any countrys security and economic prosperity, but they cannot form the bedrock of Ukraines foreign policy due to several reason. First, ex-Soviet republics, such as Belarus and Armenia, are the puppets of the Kremlin, meaning that Russia can easily affect their policy-making. Ukraine respects these countries and enjoys amicable relations with them, but they are not developed enough economically to help Ukraine leap from backwardness to progress. The Kremlin disproves the existence of economic backwardness in Russia, but the fact that the state has control of production and the use of capital demonstrates the contrary. Thus, strengthening the relationship with Russia will not assist Ukraine in coping with the challenges posed by globalization. Building closer relations with other adjacent countries, such as Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, would certainly make more sense. In this context, it would be logical to mention that the Eastern Partnership, a foreign relations instrument of the EU, is already providing a venue for the discussion of important economic and political issues between Ukraine and East-European members of the union. All in all, it would be a retrograde step for Ukraine to limit its attention to developing relations only with the adjacent countries in the age when globalization is omnipresent.

As Bill Clinton has once put it, Today we must embrace the inexorable logic of globalization, that everything, from the strength of our economy to the safety and health of our people, depends on events not only within our borders but half a world away. Although said in a different context, this statement pertains to the situation in Ukraine as well. Of course, Ukraine cannot channel the wave of globalization, but it certainly needs to conduct its policies in conformity with the dictates of globalization. Moreover, the region in which Ukraine is located is too diverse for regionalism to work out. Thus, the best option for Ukraine would be to forge closer relations with the West in general and the EU in particular and maintain normal relations with Russia at the same time. Once the country manages to wean itself off Russian gas, it will become less limited in its foreign-policy choices. For now, Ukraine has to take a virile approach to Russia-sponsored separatist movements in its eastern regions and demand that the West fulfill its hitherto-cavalier promises to assure Ukraines security.


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