By EMILY SITNERStaff WriterPublished: March 5, 2015
Out of all the political issues plaguing the world over the past year, one of the more strenuous and severe situations would be that of Ukraine and Russia. The conflict began in Nov. 2013, when then-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, agreed to terminate a European Union (EU) trade agreement and favored closer ties with Russia. Following this decision, public support for pro-EU, anti-government protesting rose: street violence became commonplace and there were multiple clashes between civilians and military.
Because of the unrest in Ukraine, the Russian parliament, then considered a close ally, authorized president Vladimir Putin to use military power in Ukraine. Hundreds of Russian troops were stationed in the regional capital of Crimea, a heavily populated Russian speaking area that shares its borders with Ukraine. Putin defended his actions by stating that he had the authority to protect the Russian citizens in Eastern Ukraine. Crimea’s parliament unanimously voted to become part of Russia, and although Ukraine and the EU heavily protested Putin annexing Crimea, he nevertheless signed a treaty that obtained Crimea as an official part of Russia. All sorts of panic and military action ensued, with Ukraine being particularly adamant about employing further military action against Russian troops. Since the annexation of Crimea, sanctions have been placed on Russian assets by Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union. One of the earliest noted breakouts of violence between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian separatists was on March 13, 2014, when a leader of the Ukrainian nationalist party, Svoboda (which translates to freedom), was stabbed to death in Donesk, and fifteen hundred were hospitalized after a confrontation in Lenin Square. This day was dubbed one of the worst days of violence in Ukrainian history since the overthrow of the Yanukovych government a month prior.
Due to continuous fighting between Ukrainian separatists and Russian rebels since the fall of 2014, there has been discussion specifically between Germany and the United States to send more weapons into Ukraine. Germany has been pushing for diplomatic talks prior to sending weapons, whereas the Obama administration believes that it is our responsibility to protect the Ukrainian citizens with more gunfire. Critics have stated that sending more weapons can raise the possibility of causing World War III (which I believe, will not happen), but shipping unnecessary armed weaponry will only exacerbate the violence. Ukraine does not need weaponry. Ukraine needs money to rebuild its infrastructure, decrease unemployment levels, provide resources for those caught in the civil war, and help its economy get back on its feet before the country collapses completely. The strength of the Ukrainian army is weak compared to that of their Russian counterparts; solely relying on the military to come to Ukraine’s aid will not be beneficial in the long run. Sending weapons could allow Russia to cease its fire, and has the possibility of sending a stronger message to Putin that he cannot just take away political freedom from heavily ethnically Russian countries.
However, because Russia is very protective over its Russian-speaking friends in Ukraine, it will not relinquish control so easily. Sending weapons into Ukraine will be like adding more fuel to the fire: Russia will continue fighting, as it in in the nature of Putin to dismiss what other countries, especially America, thinks about him or his policies.
What should be done, however, is something in the vein of the Marshall Plan following World War II, through which America donated seventeen billion dollars in aid to European countries to help rebuild their economy. Ukraine was experiencing hardship long before Russia invaded. For example, about forty percent of Ukraine’s economy is shadow economy, meaning it belongs to the black market—not to mention Ukraine is heavily dependent on Russia for trading goods and agricultural output. If any country part of the European Union wishes to tangibly provide assistance in the Russia-Ukraine civil war, then monetary aid is the ultimate solution. Ukraine needs to rebuild its economy, which is the primary concern of any growing, industrialized country. Ultimately, weapons will not solve the problem because of the deep-rooted history that Ukraine has with Russia. Without even referring to the “Russification” of Ukrainian culture under Soviet rule, Russian settlers have been living in Eastern Ukraine since the late sixteenth century: it’s not difficult to imagine that that region will identify more with Russia than with Ukraine. The best strategic political and economical solution for all parties involved would be to consider constructing an aid package to send to Ukraine so that the country can refocus itself and develop a stronger economic foundation—a foundation that will pave the way for further growth.