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The Scum Gentry journal - An Alternative News Source
Political news and world politics from a different perspective.

It's Russia Against the West Again and Ukraine Loses - Political News and Reporting by Zack Breslin

To many observers, international politics can be explained principally by competition between rival powers. Nation states compete with each other in the pursuit of their national interests and where one state makes a gain, another makes a loss. It is a simplified and somewhat crude way of looking at complex interactions where many factors are in play. That being said, there are times when the framework of outright competition between states is central to an understanding of events. The current situation in Ukraine is one of those occasions.

We are witnessing one of those rare junctures in international politics where rival great powers are engaged in a stand-off with each other. The current crisis in Ukraine sees the West (i.e. the United States and her European allies) at odds with Russia. [Click here for a brief timeline of the crisis] Ukraine is a country divided between a European oriented population in the west and a Russian oriented population in the east. Since the Soviet Union fell and Ukraine and Russia went their separate ways, the country has been at the centre of a tug of war between our two antagonists. Last month, the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by protestors who were angered by his decision to backtrack on a deal with Europe which would have moved Ukraine economically closer to the EU and weakened ties with Russia. Instead, Yanukovych decided to align Ukraine more closely to Russia and after weeks of protest was overthrown. Already we had a state of affairs where Europe’s gain was Russia’s loss.

To compound the situation, the protestors, though mostly liberal leaning, had at their vanguard far-right nationalist elements. The new administration in Ukraine reflects this. The Deputy Secretary of National Security, for example, is a member of The Right Sector, a neo-Nazi organisation, and the Deputy Prime Minister is a member of Svoboda, a party which is, if not outright fascistic, at least radically nationalist. Unlike in other European countries, the far-right in Ukraine supports integration with the EU. They are also virulently anti-Russian.

With western backed Ukrainian nationalist protestors bringing down the government in Kiev, pro-Russian armed men seized government buildings in Crimea, a majority Russian speaking autonomous region in the east of Ukraine that used to be part of the Soviet Union and before that, the Russian Empire. These militiamen appeared to be highly organised and are likely to have been trained and directed by Moscow. Crimea is important to Russia for strategic military reasons. Prior to the crisis Russia had a longstanding agreement with Ukraine that allowed it to station a naval base there, providing Russia with its only warm water port. In 2008, the Ukrainian government had planned to end this agreement but backed down after Russia threatened to raise the price of gas it supplies to Ukraine. Members of Crimea’s local parliament now plan to hold a referendum on the 16th of March, which if passed will see Crimea break away from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation.

With Russia already having a large military presence in Crimea, there appears to be nothing that the new government in Kiev can do about this. Furthermore, Russia’s parliament has authorised an invasion of the rest of Ukraine in the event that the Russian speaking population come under threat, although a general war seems unlikely. As things currently stand, we have an intense diplomatic showdown between Russia and the West. The EU and the US have described Russian actions as illegal and aggressive and the US has imposed limited sanctions on Russian officials (the EU, with closer economic links with Russia, have not). Russia has accused the West of hypocrisy (with regards to their own occupations of other countries) and has described the new government in Kiev as illegitimate. Relations between Russia and the US are at their lowest point since the Cold War ended and in terms of international politics it can be argued they are once again outright enemies.

Of course, animosity between the two has long been a feature of international relations. When in 1917 communists seized power in Russia, Western nations gave military aid to those opposed to communism and even sent troops to fight in Russia. The threat of Nazi Germany meant that animosity between the capitalist West and Communist Russia subsided for a few years, but once World War Two ended the two reverted to the position of being bitter enemies. There they stayed, each seeking to overthrow foreign governments friendly to the other side and fighting proxy wars against each other in Vietnam, the Congo, and Afghanistan, amongst others.

When the Cold War ended in the early nineties, many observers hailed the end of inter-state competition. One particularly idiotic academic famously proclaimed that “the end of history” had arrived. Competition between the two did end, but only because one of the competitors, Russia, was on its knees. The other competitor, the West, continued to make gains at Russia’s expense. They supported the corrupt drunken buffoon that was Boris Yeltsin, a man who facilitated the transfer of billions of dollars of Russia assets into Western banks, pauperising the Russian people in the process. They expanded their military alliance NATO right up to Russia’s border and incorporated former Soviet Republics such as Estonia and Latvia into the EU.

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