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Commentary: What is going on in Ukraine? Here are 4 videos that offer SOME clarity

Op-ed


Pierre Crom / Stringer / Getty Images

As the internet continues to be flooded with news about Russia's war against Ukraine, the public's mistrust of the media grows as well. Discerning truth from propaganda seems an increasingly daunting task.

Background

Ukraine is a small country that sits between Russia and Europe. Until 1991, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. After declaring independence from the USSR, the nation has since wavered between Russian and European associations.

During the Obama administration, the United States accused Russia of meddling in the business of the Ukrainian government. A leaked phone call between U.S. diplomats exposed Russia's meddling as well as an embarrassing admission by U.S diplomats.

In 2014, Ukraine is said to have communicated hope for major non-NATO ally status with the United States. Major non-NATO status is given by the U.S. government to non-NATO counties and offers financial and military advantages.

U.S. involvement in Ukraine often is described as an effort to expand western democracy into a nation that could otherwise fall to Russian control. To help understand this issue, it is essential to understand the meaning of "democracy." Here are the characteristics of a democracy:

  • The people elect their representatives.
  • The people enjoy civil liberties.
  • The government has an independent judiciary.
  • There should be an organized opposition party.
  • All must observe and uphold the rule of law.
  • Citizens in a democracy have rights and the responsibility to participate in the political system.

There is a real question about whether what the United States has been doing in Ukraine meets the criteria for expanding democracy.

The first clip that illustrates what has been happening dates back to 2014 and comes against a complicated backdrop. After gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine has wavered between a show of support for Russia and the West. In 2014, pro-western groups formed in Ukraine and led to an embarrassing leaked conversation involving Victoria Nuland, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

In the original coverage of this video, U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland made headlines for a rude comment about the European Union; however, journalists buried the lede in the story. The clip showed Washington discussing meddling in the Ukrainian government with U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt — something that the Obama administration denied it was doing.

The National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit on a mission to promote democracy worldwide, decided that Ukraine's democratically elected president Yanukovych was undermining its goals and began to socially engineer Ukraine's future by supporting the opposition and strengthening the country's democratic institutions.

Militias in Ukraine

In this 2018 video, Vice reported the stalemate between Ukraine's military and Russian-backed separatists where "civilians are left to pick up the pieces."

Following Russia's takeover of Crimea, the Russian military moved in and began training Russian-backed separatists. But Ukraine's army was not prepared to fight separatists and called on citizens to take up arms and defend Ukraine. Years later, Ukraine claims to have disbanded civilian militias.

Evidence suggests that militias in Ukraine have not been disbanded, making western military assistance problematic. Although Putin's claim that he invaded Ukraine to "denazify" it was almost certainly pretextual, it is doubtless true that Ukraine does, in fact, have a neo-Nazi militia problem. Before the current conflict erupted, this problem was widely reported on by such outlets as The Guardian, Yahoo, and Reuters. Multiple reports have accused the American CIA of having trained these neo-Nazi groups, and there is a real question how much control, if any, the Ukrainian government is actually able to assert over them.

Consequences of western involvement in Ukraine?

American political scientist and international relations scholar Joseph Mearsheimer wrote that Putin's move to take Crimea in 2014 should have come as no surprise. Ukraine waivered between joining the E.U., the west's growing encouragement of a pro-democracy movement.

"The West's triple package of policies—NATO enlargement, E.U. expansion, and democracy promotion—added fuel to a fire waiting to ignite. The spark came in November 2013, when Yanukovych rejected a major economic deal he had been negotiating with the E.U. and decided to accept a $15 billion Russian counteroffer instead. That decision gave rise to antigovernment demonstrations that escalated over the following three months and that by mid-February had led to the deaths of some one hundred protesters. Western emissaries hurriedly flew to Kyiv to resolve the crisis. On February 21, the government and the opposition struck a deal that allowed Yanukovych to stay in power until new elections. But it immediately fell apart, and Yanukovych fled to Russia the next day. The new government in Kyiv was pro-Western and anti-Russian to the core, and it contained four high-ranking members who could legitimately be labeled neofascists." -

In Mearsheimer's view, Russia and the West have been fighting over Ukraine — a fight which Russia believes that it must win in order to ensure its survival. According to Mearsheimer, Western involvement in Ukraine has led to disastrous consequences for the Ukrainians because of the existential threat it posed to Russia.

Coup or Revolution?

This clip highlights Ukraine's one constant theme of Ukraine's history — Ukraine wants to be a sovereign nation that will fully subscribe to the highest European standard while building relations with Russia that are just and fair.


Connecting the Dots

While the United States' interest in Ukraine has, at times, proven to undermine Western principles, for Russia, a Ukraine-NATO alliance would be a massive defeat. It seems probable that Putin will go to great lengths to make Ukraine appear unfit for NATO. The United States has funded much of the military training exercises over the years to prepare the aspiring country for a NATO alliance. Considering the time and money invested, the United States must learn from mistakes made during the Obama administration and stop undermining the democratic process. Ukraine should decide on Ukrainian elections without outside influence.

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