The Importance of Ukraine to Russia | War in Donbass
Split of the war in Donbass could lead to huge consequences for Ukraine, and Russia, as well as to the whole world. Without the firm actions from the Europe and America, it could grow into a regional war. The world’s media created an image of this war as a struggle of the Ukrainian government for the country’s integrity. It is superficial and far from its real meaning, as there was an explanation of the first World War in the assassination of the Austrian Prince, or the success of the National Socialist Party in elections to the German Parliament before the second World War. The Ukrainian crisis has a complex nature.
Society is witnessing difficult and extremely disturbing events occurring now in Ukraine. There is a thought that the importance of Ukraine to Russia lies only in its role as a transit corridor for oil and gas from former Soviet states to Europe. If Ukraine had no pipelines, there would be no serious conflict. The current essay is going to disprove this belief and show that the current conflict was not caused only by the gas transit issue.
At the turn of the 2013-2014, a wave of protests, triggered by discrepancies between the views of the political forces on the vector of foreign development of the state began in Ukraine. A major part of the population stood for Ukraine’s integration with the European Union. A few days before signing the document by Ukraine and the European Union, the government of Ukraine suspended preparations for the conclusion of this agreement. According to The New York Times (2013), this has led to the dissatisfaction of the supporters of European integration, which had culminated in the sharp protests, aimed primarily against the ruling elite (“Facing Russian Threat”, 2013). It was the very beginning of the conflict in Ukraine. It ended after Maidan and the democratic elections.
However, Russia believes that the socio-economic crisis has turned into a very difficult internal political conflict. Ukrainian sources say the conflict was imposed from an outside. In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea. At the end of spring, there was an invasion in the Eastern Ukraine. After months of denial by the Kremlin of Russian soldiers’ presence on the territory of Ukraine, the world community has recognized the Russian participation in the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine. What does the world’s community need to call Russia an aggressor?
What may represent interest for Russia in Ukrainian pro-European choice? The first reason is economic. Some historians claim that Russia is interested in the pipeline, which passes through the territory of Ukraine. It is one of the reasons of armed intervention in Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia beats that the transit of oil and gas to Europe via Ukraine brings extra profit in the budget of Ukraine, and that the EU is interested in having to thread energy resources of the Russian Federation (‘Is Europe’s gas supply threatened by the Ukraine crisis?’, 2014). Of course, Russia does not want to give control over the flow to its potential opponents. Economy of Russia highly depends on exports of oil and gas. Oil pipeline passing through the territory of Ukraine is strategically important for Russia (Solchanyk, 2001, p. 15). It can hardly be the root cause of the conflict on the basis of the fact that Russia annexed the Crimea, that has no relevance to a thread. Russian government might be afraid that Ukraine will dictate terms on transit prices; however, it was once mentioned that the South stream could succeed in agreeing with the EU, in particular with Bulgaria (Flis, 2008, p. 21). However, besides the control over the pipeline, there are deeper and more important reasons.
The process of empires’ collapse is always accompanied by complex problems of territorial questions, philosophical difficulties, instability, tension, and searching for national identities (Liebert, 2011, p. 195). The Chief Editor of the magazine The New Yorker, the famous American journalist David Remnick, said that in the early 1990s, the world had a strange illusion that “the disintegration of the Soviet Union, perhaps the last Empire on Earth, will be the exception to the historical laws” (Ramnick, 1993, p. 36-38). But current situation shows that it is not. Russia will never agree with the fact that formed in the post-Soviet space states could develop other political models with other geopolitical orientations. The whole point of so-called civilized collapse of the Soviet Union was that all countries received conditional statehood, conditional sovereignty and could not have to elect the other system of security, and other geopolitical orientation, except Russian. Russia understands that the formation of new and strong nations near its borders will form a new regional configuration. In such a case, Russia would run the risk of losing its security belt of gray buffer zones. Russia has not been able to overcome the title of ‘Empire’. It is the second cause of the conflict. According to what Mr. Lutsenko said to The New York Times: “This problem is going on for several hundred years; Ukraine lives in a polygon between Moscow, Istanbul and Warsaw” (“Ukraine in Turmoil after Leaders Reject Major E.U. Deal”, 2013). Obviously, the global cause of the Kremlin’s stance in the conflict lies in the fact that such a powerful international player like Russia feels deprived in the field of international policy and international security in the existing conditions. From 1991 or, perhaps, even from 1989, the time of the question of Germany’s unification, Russia lost its leading position in its part of the world. West, taking advantage of the temporary weakness of Russia, foisted her unfavorable international and security conditions for survival. The Russian Federation consistently comes out of the concluded international agreements. Also, during the NATO Summit in Bucharest, Russia essentially crossed out the principles of the founding act ‘Russia-NATO’, signed in 1997 (“Global, regional and Ukrainian measurements of Russian-Georgian conflict”, n.d.). According to it, Russia recognized the right of any country in Europe to provide their own security, to join or not to join alliances like NATO, instead of assurance that nuclear weapons of NATO would not be situated on their territory. Nowadays, Russia rejects its basic principles. It is not surprising that the situation around Georgia became a new testament to the original interpretation of Russia of the norms of international law and its obligations within the framework of the global world community. Russian’s new foreign policy concept noted that on the background of strengthening the potential of the West in the global processes (“The Weakened West”, 2013). Obviously, this fact caused activation of Russia in all directions in the sphere of restoring its influence over the neighbor states. Ways and methods of implementing such policies, including force of arms and recognizing the sovereignty of Crimea and South-East of Ukraine, could lead Moscow to the total isolation. The United States Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates commented the situation: “eventually Russia faced a choice: to fully integrate into the international community and become a responsible member or turn on standalone, influence them antagonistically by customized country, which many countries recognize as “petrol pump of Europe” (Gates, 1996, p. 43-45).
The third reason is geopolitical. Therefore, Russia argues that is not just a bystander of the conflict in Ukraine, but it represents and defends its economic and geopolitical interests. The Russian propaganda works better than the Nazi’s one. There is only one explanation: Putin seeks ideas of Russian Unity and Russian world. Russian propaganda cries out that one of the historic, strategic partners of Ukraine throughout her lifetime as an independent state has been Russia. No matter how evolved the world is in a political situation, the people of Russia and Ukraine are fraternal and represent not only economic, but also financial partners. Putin’s obsession to recreate the unity of the former Soviet Union makes the country around Russia victims of its aggression. Ukraine and Russia are fraternal reluctantly. The mentality of Ukrainians has always been pro-European. They have always been freedom-loving and independent, fiercely defended their culture and history. The Soviet Union did everything to destroy the Ukrainian identity. Before the insidious arrival of the Bolsheviks, in the same way, that we now see Russian soldiers coming to the South-Eastern part of Ukraine, it was a prosperous country with rich natural and human resources. Thus, I would like to stress once again that Putin’s desire to own the territory of Ukraine in the history of Ukrainian-Russian relations is not new. Perhaps, the Russian President’s desire to go down in history as a great collector of Russian land is the main cause of the current crisis in the South-East of Ukraine. Besides, history knows that conflict is an attempt to transfer the accent in the conditions of crisis situations. Russia might be trying to distract people from its huge internal problems.
The reality of the 21st century lies in the tension of old and new conflicts over political and institutional capabilities of the international community or individual states. Consequently, the essay found and analyzed the serious underlying field of causes of the conflict in Ukraine, its epoch making crisis, aggravation and escalating into an armed Russian-Ukrainian local war in summer of 2014. The desire of Russia to get leadership in the post-Soviet space and its global strategic goal to become a decisive player in the arena of contemporary international policy played an important role in the above mentioned events. Armed conflict in the South-East of Ukraine clearly showed that Russia wants to change the system of international relations in its favor.