Friday, January 24, 2014

Ukraine - Slipping Into Chaos

I wrote last month about Ukraine, and President Yanukovich's decision to spurn E.U.'s invitation to foster closer ties, instead choosing to stay tethered to Russia. As I said then, the decision was disappointing, and could have a profound impact not just on Ukraine's future - the possibility of their debt spiraling out of control could very likely result in a default - but on the entire region.

Courtesy of WSJ

Well, after a brief lull around the New Year, the situation has declined and bedlam is the law on the streets of Kiev, but also now other major cities throughout Ukraine. Yanukovich's $15 billion deal with Russia has not received any warmth from his country, except for in the Russian-loyal West. The stage has been set for a brutal civil war between that West and the nationalist East that is desperate to see Ukraine assume it's own identity and once and for all escape the clutches of Russia. Thousands have taken to the street and as riot police crack down more harshly than they have in previous weeks, it seems as though things cannot and will not ever get better for poor Ukraine.

There is a solution to be found in the broader region. In the best interest of both parties, Russia and the E.U. could work together to reach some form of compromise that would appease the angry mobs in Ukraine as well as keep the country relatively dependent on Russia for its fuel. Such a move would be unprecedented: while Russia and the E.U. don't openly hate each other, there is clear disdain as they grapple for dominance over the region.

Courtesy Al Jazeera

But this has implications for both parties. Russia's $15 billion deal with the Ukraine could end up fruitless and void should the country slip into an all-out civil conflict that ravages their productivity and, more importantly, their industrial sector. Meanwhile, the E.U. cannot afford to watch a European country explode with violence and destroy its economy, whether or not its part of the E.U. This is not to mention the very realistic possibility that the conflict spills over into neighboring countries, some of which are in the E.U.

The United States will likely push for some cooperation in the coming days and weeks. What started as discontent over loyalty to Russia has now erupted into discontent with the entire Ukrainian government - something that could lead to a violent ouster and a political vacuum. With Ukraine on the precipice of a truly devastating situation, it is in the best interest of everyone involved to work out an arrangement that suits both the pro-Russia Ukrainian population and the pro-Ukraine Ukrainian population. Without cooperation, Europe may soon see the worst conflict in decades.

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