Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Ukrainian Dilemma

Ukraine, a former state of the Soviet Union is on the verge of taking a big step that either holds the key to its rapid development or stagnant rust in the years to come. The people of Ukraine have the choice of joining either the European Union or the Russia led Customs Union. The Ukrainian government is now stuck on both sides as joining the former will offend and strain relations with their powerful neighbour, while joining the latter will cause the people of the nation to throw them out of power.

The state of Ukraine is both, a former Soviet nation and now a European nation. By that standard, it is easy to assume the pull it is receiving from both sides to join in alliance. The European Union claims that Ukraine is an integral part of Europe and that trouble in that country can lead to trouble in Union itself as majority of exports in the form of oils and agrarian products are sourced from there. On the other hand, Russia is attempting to rearrange an alliance of the former Soviet countries in order to increase its influence and bring it on par with the United States. Russia’s tactics are such that it seems to be extending a helping hand to its former family but in reality is just playing the big bully by making institution in such countries dependent on its own economy.

The European Union offers unbridled trade and security in exchange for Ukraine joining its ranks and building a stronger Europe and this fact seems to be ratified by the existing trade agreements between the two. Even the youth of Ukraine sees the benefits, both economic and educational, of joining the EU. But President Yanukovych has sought 20 Billion Euros a year to upgrade the Ukrainian economy.

The Customs Union, or to be more exact, Russia offers financial aid, near redemption of due payments and a slash of a third in prices of oil import to Ukraine. It is also offering to purchase government bonds to the tune of $15 billion. Kiev is also under pressure from her neighbour to pay an outstanding gas bill of $17 billion. Russia has further put a ban on Ukrainian chocolates and will probably escalate measures in order to coerce them into joining the Customs Union that now also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Since President Yanukovych visited President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, there have been rumours that he had decided to join the Customs Union against the wishes of the people. That he might have sold out the country in exchange of all the monetary benefit that Russia was willing to extend to Ukraine. Protests against the Customs Union have been in progress for the past two months and had intensified after the meeting, on the verge of getting violent as claimed by the government which recently passed a law banning anti-government protests, illegal tents on public grounds and criminalized the slandering of government officials. This controversial law was passed with just a show of hands by the President’s supporters in Parliament instead of electronic voting. The opposition has claimed this to be a coup by the government which had turned corrupt to its core and was now following directions given by Russia.

The above is a classic example of a large nation trying to strong-arm its weaker neighbour into submission by the very ‘subtle’ methods of overdue payments, refusal of financial aid and trade embargo. And even though this is a case where Russia is doing so, it is not just them; the United States of America has also displayed this tendency a number of times where it has splayed its military presence all over the world in spite of opposition from all quarters, all in the name of maintaining ‘World Peace.’

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