Ben Gauld

The plot is thickening in Ukraine, where the situation has drastically changed over the past few months. Some would say that stability has deteriorated as more chaos sets in, but many protesters are thrilled that they were able to force the unpopular former president Victor Yanukovych out of office.

The president was not very popular amongst the Ukrainian populace due to his government’s blatant corruption and embezzlement of state funds. Nothing illustrates this more than Yanukovych’s disgustingly opulent estate that features a huge man-made lake on which floats a full-size pirate galleon. Of course no mansion is complete without a casino, banqueting hall, a garage filled with dozens of luxury cars, motorbikes and classic vehicles.  Yanukovych’s private petting zoo included sheep, pigs and antelope, at the expense of the Ukrainian tax payers. In a country where the average worker makes around 7,500 USD annually, it’s no wonder he was so hated.

The other main reason that the Ukrainian people turned against him was his economic ties with Russia. Since Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991 it has tried to distance itself from its father-state. However, Yanukovych was effectively a Russian puppet, and last year withdrew its candidacy from the European Union due to economic pressure applied by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Russia depends on Ukraine as an importer of their natural gas, so they are not eager to let control of the country slip through their grasp. Russia has started to pursue military action in Crimea, a region in east Ukraine that has a Russian ethnic majority.

Back across the pond, the situation has provided to be a major headache for U.S. diplomats as they consider imposing sanctions on Russia’s banks and freezing assets of Russian public institutions and private investors. However, if these actions are not taken by major European markets as well, the State Department suspects the attempts would be in vain.

Rebellion often proves to be much trickier than the protestors are prepared for. Things do not immediately improve once a corrupt ruler or dictator is deposed. However, the Ukrainians have allies in the U.S. and other Western powers, so if the Russians encroach too much on the sovereign Ukraine they can expect assistance. This is a sticky situation, and it would be best for the U.S. and other European powers to wield their economic power as opposed to military power over Russia in an attempt to dissuade a potential invasion and create a Ukraine that is an independent actor on the global stage.

Click here to read Ben Gauld’s article on the beginning of the Ukrainian protests

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