Since the end of the Soviet Union, and even before that time, Ukraine has been a deeply divided, war-torn and economically strained country. The most recent struggle has involved three separate parties; those who want new elections, those who want the reinstatement of the country’s previous constitution and the more extreme nationalist party that is focused on a dangerous ethnic cleansing of Ukrainian Jews. The eastern half of the country has close ties with Russia while the western half of the country identifies as Ukrainian outside of, and oftentimes against, Russian identity. In order to understand in depth Ukraine’s socio-political struggle, and America’s intentions for Ukraine, it is important to have a brief background of the Eurasian country’s struggles and hardships.
Rise of Svoboda party
During World War II, eastern Ukraine identified with the Ally cause, seeing the war as a struggle against Nazi Germany. However, western Ukraine, being distinctly anti-Russian, has a different vision of Ukrainian history which emphasizes a “liberation struggle,” as certain Ukrainian groups fought with the Nazi party. This sowed the seeds for the strongly anti-Semitic, fascist neo-Nazi party Svoboda to rise to power during recent struggles and, with help from pro EU and US forces, overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Viktor Yankovych. Washington’s alliance with these corrupt oligarchs and fascist gangs may lead to a direct opposition with Russia (AlterNet).
Tension with Russia
Another important event that set up the Ukraine’s unsteady relationship with Russia is the Russian naval Black Sea fleet being stationed in Crimea, which until 1954 was a part of the Soviet Union. When former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was in power from 2007 to 2010 as a member of the oppressive oligarchy, the country had an agreement with Russia stating the fleet would be out of Ukrainian territory by the year 2017. However, when Yankovych took power in 2010, he extended the stay of the Black Sea fleet in Crimea until 2042. Although Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin sent Russian troops into Crimea in early March (The Independent) US secretary of State John Kerry has stated that the Russian foreign minister Sergey Larvov had reaffirmed that Russia would “respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine” (AlterNet), and it seems as though Putin, not having the adequate manpower to resist the United States and its allies France, Germany and England, has no choice but to comply for the time being.
All these volatile factors coupled with the existence of two distinct nationalities within Ukraine set the tone for the infighting that erupted in Kiev at the end of 2013.
EU, Russian Trade Agreements friction
Another one of the major recent issues regards the pending trade agreement the European Union has with Ukraine that would go against Russian interests, which western Ukrainians support. However, economist Jeffrey Sommers claims that “pro-EU Ukrainians have little to gain from trade agreements that would transfer ownership of industry to outsiders” (The Real News). The overthrown Yankovych was also meeting with Putin to discuss securing the transcontinental pipelines from Asia that go through the Ukraine to deliver gas and energy to Russia in exchange for Russia lowering their extremely high price for gas, which has been a major factor in the Ukraine’s mounting debt. The country is torn between the pro-EU western Ukrainians and pro-Russian eastern Ukrainians who still want to supply Russia with raw materials.
US Interest in Ukraine
American interests in Ukraine have been notably active since the 1990s, pouring about $5 billion into the country to maintain pro-EU and US interests (World Socialist Web Site). Right-wingers in Washington, still angry with Putin for cooperating with Obama in order to avoid wars in Iran and Syria by getting the two countries to eliminate their weapons arsenal, have been accused of assisting in Yankovych’s overthrow. The situation has been aggravated further by Victoria Nuland, the US’s Undersecretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; “Nuland herself went to Kiev four times handing out food to neo Nazi protestors in Independence Square, and was seen having various meetings with Svoboda party leader Tyahnybok” (World Socialist Web Site). It has remained clear that Nuland, acting on behalf of the US’s interests, continues to fund “programs aimed at fashioning a political instrument for a pro-Western regime change in the eastern European country,” securing a vast amount of gas and energy in this region for Western use.
Victoria Nuland’s actions however stem from a long line of political propaganda into Ukraine since the Regan administration. Regan’s propaganda radio service Radio Liberty broadcasted commentaries from right wing, pro Nazi exiles (Consortium News). Yet many mainstream news outlets seem to ignore the strong anti-Semitic sentiment in the Svoboda party, blaming the situation entirely on Yankoyvch, portraying neo Nazis as pro-democracy activists (Global Research). The New York Times referred to Yankovych’s rule as a “fugitive leader’s folly,” promoting the idea that it is acceptable for the Unites States government to overthrow an elected president if they are flawed or don’t support American politics. In fact, the American government has been practicing this imperialist policy for over 60 years with numerous leaders being eliminated for US financial and political gain; “Mossadegh in Iran (1953), Arbenz in Guatemala (1954), Allende in Chile (1973), Aristide in Haiti twice, Chavez in Venezuela (2002), Zelaya in Honduras (2009), Morsi in Egypt (2013)” and others according to Consortium News.
In short, the American government is only worsening the already tense situation in Ukraine, assisting the anti-Russian, fascist, neo-Nazi movement. Svoboda has recently threatened to kill the over 200,000 Jews in Ukraine, financed by sources in both Washington and Brussels. Already, some Jewish owned businesses have been vandalized in Kiev; the haunting memories left behind by the Holocaust seem to be resurfacing in the wake of this mass eruption (Global Research). This revival of fascism is also taking place in Japan, leading some to believe that the Axis of WWII is emerging once more.
The question still remains on how exactly to solve these tensions and stabilize Ukraine. Although solving the deep divide in the country may take a very long time, a trade agreement that would deliver resources to Ukraine, and provide investors that would work with Ukrainian enterprises to help develop the country’s infrastructure would be the best course of action (The Real News). As for the United States, it would be in our best interests to stop supporting these neo-Nazis and stop agitating such a delicate situation that is leading to direct confrontation with Russia. Whether or not this will be done remains to be seen.
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About Danielle Kral – Danielle Kral is a writer based in Connecticut. Her political articles have been in Democracy Chronicles and creative work in Garbanzo Literary Magazine.