Ukraine Geopolitics

By | December 24, 2021

Ukraine, independent since 1991, has constantly suffered from the legacy of the Soviet period which conditioned its relations both with Russia and the other countries that emerged from the Soviet dissolution, as well as with the Euro-Atlantic interlocutors. Almost all of the territory of Ukraine has belonged for centuries before the Russian Empire, then the U rss in the institutional form of the Soviet Socialist Republic.

Ties with Russia continued to affect the way Kiev looked at international politics. The reasons are manifold: firstly, the Ukrainian territory is home to substantial ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking minorities in Crimea and south-eastern Ukraine, and, finally, Ukraine is an important transit energy hub towards the Western Europe. On the other hand, the deepening of bilateral and multilateral relations with the countries of the European Union (E u) and the United States is an attempt to gain greater independence from Russian influence. Ukraine’s pro-Western orientation emerged most recently with the anti-government protests on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev in November 2013. The protests have sharpened and brought out the deep social and ethnic divisions within of the country and is considered the most serious diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War. For Ukraine political system, please check

At the origin of the crisis there was the decision of President Viktor Janukovyč, on November 21, 2013, to suspend the signing of the Association and Stabilization Agreement (ASA) with the EU expected in Vilnius on the following November 29 and to contact instead in Moscow for financial support and a 30% discount on gas imports. Over the next three months, a growing number of protesters took to the streets of Kiev demanding both an executive rethink about the failure to agree with the EU, both the resignation of the government and the president himself. In January 2014, with the parliamentary approval of a law restricting the freedom of demonstration, violence broke out again. Faced with the growing number of clashes (which led to the death of about 100 people), pro-European demonstrations and a failed attempt at mediation with the opposition and European foreign ministers, we have witnessed the resignation of the government and flight by President Yanukovych in February 2014, first in Kharkiv, in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine, and then in Rostov, in southern Russia. Following this, the Rada conferred the presidential functions ad interim to the former director of the Ukrainian secret services Oleksandr Turčinov. A transitional government not recognized by Russia but supported by the West and chaired by Prime Minister Arsenij Jacenjuk then settled in Kiev. Among the first acts, the new government voted for the release of former Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko, the arrest warrant for the former president, the return to the 2004 Constitution and called early presidential elections on 25 May 2014. In response, Russia has launched military operations in the Russian-speaking, Russian-speaking autonomous region of Crimea; at the same time, the pro-Russians occupied the local parliament and called a referendum on March 16 on secession from Ukraine and annexation to Russia. Following the favorable vote of 96.77% of the voters, Russia unilaterally annexed the region – without the consent of the Ukrainian government. The act was not recognized by the international community.

The annexation of Crimea has caused strong conflicts between Russia and the West at both military and economic levels since the end of March, still far from being resolved. In particular, the diversity of views between Washington and Moscow proved to be too wide, with the former unwilling to recognize the outcome of the referendum, the latter not worried about the threats of sanctions from the West and becoming the protector of the ethno-linguistic claims of the Crimea and all Russian-speaking populations in Ukraine and in the former Soviet space.

After the diplomatic solution in Crimea failed, the Jacenjuk government continued to promote a reformist agenda in a liberal and Westernist sense at forced stages. At the same time, the E u and U know have increased their diplomatic pressure on Russia by approving several packages of sanctions, first addressed to individual personalities close to ‘ entourage of President Putin (among the measures, the freezing of private capital in Europe and limitations of personal freedom of movement), later extended to banks, financial services, companies, the import of Western technologies. Moscow responded with counter-sanctions, in particular by banning the entry into Russia of a large number of Western and Ukrainian food items.

In April 2014, when the situation in the country seemed to be heading towards a freezing of the crisis, there was a resumption of clashes in the eastern Ukrainian regions with a Russian-speaking majority, slowly but steadily shifting the focus of tensions from Crimea towards the east of the country. New protests erupted in the Russian-speaking cities of Kharkiv, Luhans’k, Donets’k, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Mariupol, where pro-Russian protesters demanded not only greater autonomy but also a referendum, as Crimea had done, on the status of the basin. of the Donbass. We quickly moved from a highly polarized political framework to a civil war scenario, in which not even the diplomatic attempts – such as the quadripartite conference between the US, Russia, the EU and Ukraine in Geneva and the road map proposed by the OSCE – have managed to bring the crisis back into the channel of even the slightest detente.

Faced with the escalation of violence and Putin’s declarations about the Russian claims on the Ukrainian south-eastern territories, Kiev has tried to steer the internal political stalemate, with the aforementioned presidential elections in May 2014. The consultations have seen the ‘statement by Petro Poroshenko, Ukrainian oligarch, owner of the largest national chocolate industry, Rošen. The victory in the first round with almost 55% of the votes was also officially recognized by Russia. Poroshenko is a chameleonic character within the Ukrainian political spectrum: in the span of a decade he was first a supporter of the Orange Revolution and then one of the founders of the Yanukovyč Party of Regions; foreign minister (2009-10) under the presidency of Juščenko, minister of trade and economic development (March-December 2012) in the Azarov government and, finally, one of the main supporters of the Maidan protests (November 2013). From the first weeks of his presidency, de-escalation. At the same time, Poroshenko pursued a security policy aimed at the territorial integration of the country. This explains the initiation of the anti-terrorism operation of the national security forces (supported by groups of volunteers and the national guard integrated into the army) in the south-eastern regions.

Meanwhile, on the internal level, Prime Minister Jacenjuk threatened his resignation in July 2014 – then returned after the Rada vote against – following both the exit from the governing coalition of Udar and Svoboda, and the rejection of the parliament of the law to finance the regular army’s offensive against pro-Russian separatists in Donbass (a measure later introduced in the form of a war tax). Although temporarily over, the crisis re-emerged in August of the same year when Poroshenko dissolved parliament to call early legislative elections (October 26, 2014) which decreed the victory of the pro-Europeanists. gathered in a penta-party government coalition (including the Poroshenko Bloc, Tymošenko homeland and the Popular Front) led once again by outgoing Prime Minister Jacenjuk. The new executive has placed among its priorities the abolition of the constitutional provision that prescribes the status of a ‘neutral country’, in order to accelerate the integration processes in the EU and NATO.

At the same time, in terms of security, the rebels from the east managed to open, with the support of arms from Russia, a new front in the south of Ukraine in Novoazovsk, on the Sea of ​​Azov, east of Mariupol, giving new lymph to the Ukrainian crisis. While President Poroshenko denounced the Russian invasion, NATO, gathered at the Newport summit in Wales, broadcast satellite images that certified the presence of about a thousand Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory. The new clashes in the south of the country have effectively rendered useless the diplomatic efforts that led to the signing of the Minsk Protocol by the separatists and the Kiev government in September 2014, under the mediation of the Osceand Russia. In the agreement the parties had stipulated a truce and the creation of a buffer zone in the east of the country, which was immediately violated.

Despite the umpteenth escalation of tensions had produced a new round of sanctions against Russia, the military situation on the ground seemed to be heading towards a crystallization of the positions acquired. Politically, although before October 26 the government of Kiev had approved a bill granting special status (‘autonomous districts’) for three years to the Donbass regions, the authorities of the two self-proclaimed republics of Donets’k and Luhans ‘k pushed for the organization of their own independent elections, set for 2 November. The elections, respected by Moscow (but not officially recognized), did not change the situation, and on the contrary they radicalized positions making it even more difficult for the parties to reach an agreement.

2015 was marked by the signing of the so-called Minsk II in February by Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine for compliance with the Protocol on the ceasefire in Donbass signed the previous September. Despite the apparent freezing of the conflict throughout the year, the self-proclaimed republics of Donets’k and Luhans’k have unexpectedly decided to postpone local elections (initially scheduled almost simultaneously with the local ones held in the rest of the country on 25 October) to 2016. The decision to take time is also understandable due to the lower involvement of Russian forces, whose military priorities, since September 2015, have been concentrated on the intervention in Syria.

Ukraine Geopolitics