Clarifying the Ukraine paradox

On February 27, 2014

With the closing of the Sochi Olympic Games, Americans should turn their narrow foreign political gazes slightly westward to the violent revolutionary protests in Ukraine.

The power struggle there can be easily summed up; a majority of the population is in favor of joining the European Union while those in power are pro-Russian and are in opposition to this request.

On either side of the conflict lies a giant world power and somehow Ukraine has to successfully exist between the two.

Ukraine is no stranger to being caught in the middle of conflict.

The word “Ukraine” translates from old Slavic languages meaning “the borderland,” because of its position between Europe and Russia.

This unfortunate positioning has led to the area changing power many times throughout history.

The introduction of the many people groups to the region has distilled into a unique Ukrainian language and culture unlike those in Russia or Europe.

This culture is not strong enough, however, to withstand the pressures exerted from the major powers on either side.

The current conflict has roots dating back to the Soviet Era.

Ukraine was a very important member of the Soviet Union acting as a breadbasket for the empire.

In 1990, Ukraine claimed her own independence and became a self-governing nation.

“Independence,” as used here, is a rather weak use of the term as Russia still had significant influence over the government. Over the past 20 years, Ukrainians have been looking westward at the successful economies in the European Union.

Many, especially in West Ukraine, favor abandoning ties with Russia in order to join in European success.

The president of Ukraine, who may be a Russian puppet, opposes this action. The result of this, a common symptom of a majority of a population disagreeing with the governmental power, is violent protest.

In all of the hubbub of the violent protests on TV, burning tents and fleeing presidents, it is easy to forget how the conflict is important.

What looks like two world powers’ influence fighting over a piece of land between them is not actually a fight between world powers at all.

The entire situation arises because Ukraine is looking for her own identity.

While Ukraine has retained a unique cultural identity, various regime changes over the past millennium have left Ukraine’s political identity very weak.

Further, it is important to remember the individuals involved in the protests.

Whenever someone is avid enough about a political outcome that he continues to protest even when hundreds of other protesters have died for the cause, the cause is very important for him.

The improved value of sense of democracy or standard of living outweighs the risk of death for these protesters.

It is important for Americans to consider the plight of the Ukrainians carefully.

Rather than hoping that Ukraine aligns with either Russia or the EU, we should pull for the values of personal liberty and democracy.

Remember, those are the values we fought for in our own violent revolution nearly 240 years ago and we should always promote them to young governments.

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