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Ukrainian crisis: multi-dimensional approach.

On 21 November 2013, when Ukrainian president Yanukovych announced he had decided to suspend preparations to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union, pro-West supporters took to the streets. People gathered in Kiev demanding the president to sign the Association Agreement. Nonetheless, Yanukovych signed a treaty with Vladimir Putin on 17 December which stipulated that Russia would buy $15 billion of Ukrainian Eurobonds and reduce the cost of Russian natural gas supplied to Ukraine. This treaty was taken as the reason why Yanukovych did not want to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union. While the Association Agreement implicated short-term economic burden, economic development and technological modernization were outcomes expected in the long-term. In addition, Russian President Putin stated that if Ukraine were to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, Ukraine would be faced with increased tariffs and their economic relations with Russia would be negatively affected. Considering the run-up to the forthcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, Yanukovych did not want to have a burdened economy that may have led to political corruption. He favored Putin's agreement over that of the European Union.

The first wave of protests that took place in November and demanded the restoration of relations with the West was starting to show signs of diminution. However, when Yanukovych and the Party of Regions passed an omnibus bill that encompassed tax regulations and a restrictive law on demonstration and protest, demonstrators shifted their demands and incidents of protest started to spread beyond Kiev. At this stage, representatives of various political groups demanded an "early election". However, necessary conditions to meet the protestors' demands were not provided for in Ukraine.

Russia, the EU and Ukraine: Triple Permutation

To evaluate developments in Ukraine, in addition to its internal dynamics, international actors such as the European Union, as a representative of the West, and the Russian Federation, with its power to determine Ukraine's fate, should be analyzed.

When it comes to the Russian perspective, Ukraine is of crucial importance. Sharing a common culture, history and language for centuries could be seen as one reason for this. Loosing Ukraine from the post-soviet region is unacceptable for Russia because Kiev plays an important role in Putin's Eurasia Project, which is a policy regarding the integration of post-Soviet countries. Basically, the Eurasian Union without Ukraine would represent an incomplete project. Also, when we look at the economic potential of countries within the Eurasian Union, beside Russia and Kazakhstan, Ukraine is essential to the accomplishment of Putin's goals.

Also, the incidents in Ukraine are not independent from the European Union's Ukraine policy. First, with its Neighborhood Policy, or more specifically, with its Eastern Partnership policy, the European Union planned to increase the wealth of a group of countries that included Ukraine without offering them membership. However, it has been seen that the EU does not hold transformative power if membership is not offered. As seen in Ukraine, the pro-western elite lost its internal power and Russia quickly filled the resultant gap with its stewardship.

While the EU's Ukraine policy had a large impact on the process of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States and EU's relations with Russia have shaped the consequences of the crisis. It is clear that during the Bush administration, the US lost interest in the post-Soviet region and turned towards the Asia-Pacific. Hence, when the United States tried to reset relations with Russia, it left the duty of integration for these countries, including Ukraine, to the EU.

Protests that had been going on since November are compared with the Orange Revolution of January 2005 that helped bring a pro-Western government to power. The answer to the question "Is this a second Orange Revolution?" can be found not only in the internal dynamics but also in the absence of foreign support. The EU played a mediator role between the opposition and Yanukovych, and expected Yanukovych to meet the demands of the opposition. The resignation of Prime Minister Azarov and the striking of laws that were adopted on 16 January were Yanukovych's responses aimed at easing tensions. However, these efforts were not enough in the eyes of the opposition because the only common demand shared between the pro-Western and anti-Western groups was the "organization of an early election". This demand, however, was not a solution supported by the Western countries. That is why, even though international media organs portrayed images and representations of civil war, neither Russia nor the Western countries considered regime change an option. What's more, many analysts presented division in Ukraine as the worst-case scenario. The most constructive offer is built on having all parties sign the Association Agreement while simultaneously avoiding damage to Ukraine-Russian relations. As mentioned, Ukraine is a multi-dimensional issue from Moscow's perspective.

It should be stated that the USA and the EU stood for opposition groups to such an extent. Although it did not seem as though a change in government was the Western countries' priority, the support of the opposition and criticism of Moscow should be considered as "principled behavior" more so than a universalist and globalist political approach. With Moscow claiming that the Western countries are destabilizing the situation in Ukraine, they say that the determination of Ukraine's future by foreign powers may have dangerous consequences. These differing approaches caused the EU-Russia Summit on 28 January to finish after only three hours when it was expected to last for two days. Indeed, Russia's relations with the EU and the West are being affected by the Ukraine issue, but it would be a mistake to take it as a breaking point.

Finally, even though the internal dynamics of Ukraine are important, external dynamics should also be considered. While Ukraine's fragile economy and interdependency with Russia have been its most important internal determinants, the West's policy of transformation directed at Ukraine has gained importance. European countries do not volunteer to offer unconditional economic aid to Ukraine as Russia has done. The struggle between Russia and the West with relation to their value systems is an old and known reality. The conjectural conflict between these values is the true most important determinant factor in Kiev, and now Ukraine is caught in the crossfire.

*The Turkish version of this article was first published in the March 2013 issue of USAK's monthly journal, 'Analist'.

Habibe OZDAL (*)

(*) Senior Researcher at USAK.
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Author:Ozdal, Habibe
Publication:USAK Yearbook of Politics and International Relations
Article Type:Reprint
Geographic Code:4EXUR
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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