The Ukraine Love Triangle

Ah, Love. The mysterious thing that just about every human being desires above all us. The elusive feeling we all dream about having. Every once and a while every one probably dreams about having two people in love with them, fighting for them. How romantic! Well, move that paradigm from romance to a political context and the picture is not so pretty anymore. That is what Ukraine is in the thick of right now.

Like most good love stories, this one has a unique and complicated history.When pro-Russian political candidate Viktor Yanukovch was elected to the presidency in 2004, protests were almost immediate. The people rose up and the revolution was a success; the election results were nulled and Yanukovych resigned as Prime Minister.
However, the Orange Revolution was not enough to scare Yanukovych away from poltics forever. In 2010, he was declared President over Yulia Tymoshenko-a candidate who, according to BBC online, held the votes of the capital city, Kiev, and 16 regions of the country. Soon after the election, the government had Tymoshenko arrested .

Fast-forward about three years and the event occurs that brought the love triangle to center stage: President Yanukovych and his cabinet announce that they are officially rejecting an agreement that was created to strengthen ties with the European Union (EU). The cabinet instead proposed closer relations with Russia, a decision that mirrors choosing a lover despite the outcry of friends and family.

With Kiev at the heart of it all, protesters gathered in the thousands across Ukraine in order to express their extreme discontent with the direction in which their country is headed. These demonstrations were met not only with national police forces sent to quell the action, but also with pro-government supporters staking their claim in Maidan square in Kiev and the more pro-Russian cities such as Kharkiv.

These protests and riots have been going on for weeks now with the number of protestors hitting 800,000 on December 8. Things turned deadly on January 22 when two individuals were shot and killed after a fight with the police. The death toll escalated dramatically after Yanukovych’s parliament imposing anti-protest laws on the Ukrainian people.

Although the laws were short-lived, they provided enough motivation for the protestors to continue their fight for their voices to be heard. All of this pressure quickly became too much for Yanukovych who fled Kiev after signing a compromise deal with opposition leaders and the foreign ministers of France, Poland and Germany calling for the creation of a national unity government and a new election in December.

The President was last seen in Balaklava near the Crimean peninsula on Sunday, a predominately Russian region of the Ukraine. There is now an official warrant out for Yanukovych’s arrest on the grounds of the “mass murder of peaceful citizens,” according to interim interior minister Arsen Avakov.

Although it seems to be clear that a large number of the Ukrainian people want their country to make headway on closer relations with the European Union, there is still so much left to decide and determine. From the finalization of a unity government to the insidious amount of debt that the country has accrued since protests began, the future of the Ukraine is shrouded in mystery.

Now comes the question of what is next for this Eastern European nation, literally and metaphorically sandwiched between the two entities who wish to attach themselves to it. As if the political climate of the nation was not enough already, there is also the issue of economic instability and the repercussions that would come upon the Ukraine determining which nation to run into the embrace of.

From where I sit, it appears that there are about two potential paths for Ukraine. The first would be that the newly appointed government would decide to listen to the cry of its protesting people and make strides towards closer relations with the EU. This would upset dear Russia and by doing so, put the Ukraine in quite a sticky situation monetarily speaking due to the potential withdrawal of around 15 billion Russian dollars. The second option would be for Russia to continue with Yanukovych’s plan and deny the EU for its first love and veritable sugar daddy, Russia. This, I believe, would be the worst thing the Ukraine could do at this point, in terms of politics and the current zeitgeist of the nation. Although saving them money, this choice would almost certainly lead to more uprisings, immense civil unrest and perhaps more death and violence; it would be a blatant slap in the face of the people.

Either way, there will be a group of Ukrainian citizens who are not happy with the decision. But, that is nearly always the case when it comes to politics. If the Ukrainian government cherishes its people and wants to do right by them, I believe that moves should be made to continue to improve relations with the EU. However just like any good relationship, for it to work it is imperative that decisions are approached with humility, candor and courage.

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An Not-so-foreign Foreign Issue

Even though I have only been in Scotland a little over two weeks, it seems that the way politics are handled here are not so different from the way they are back home in the U.S. of A. Before I hopped on that 9 hour flight to Edinburgh, I was told by many people to be excited because I was going to be in Scotland during a very turbulent but exciting time–a time where the word “independence” would be whispered with feelings of adoration and beguilement. “How exciting,” I thought. “How lucky I am to be able to be in the midst of a group of people stirring with the same emotions that stirred in the hearts of those who fought for the freedom of America.” A bit nostalgic and a tad overemotional of a thought perhaps, but, hey, that’s just the kind of girl I am.
Upon arriving in Scotland, I was driven to my flat by a man with whom I conversed about the Referendum a good bit. He was an older fellow who seemed to believe it was high-time that Scotland had its independence; he wanted to vote Yes and believed that this country could easily sustain its own economy with oil and, to no stereotypical surprise, its whiskey. Since he was the first Scottish individual I had spoken to about the issue my whimsical picture of the fight for Scottish independence was perpetuated.
The second individual I spoke to about it was a uni-age guy who had some very interesting beliefs that he was gathered from a myriad of different sources. He believed the whole vote to be some what of a conspiracy–a way for the Scottish government to trick the English into giving Scotland more power by threatening a YES vote. An interesting idea to be sure.
The third group I spoke to were two of my classmates who both held a similar view of the issue: disillusionment. Ah yes, now this feels like home. Discussing the topic with them made me think for a quick second that I was back in North Carolina talking about “politics” and the next big issue with a few friends at coffee. They both see the whole issue of independence as an issue that could have maybe had merit at one time or another but due to oversaturation by the media and the ridiculous blind-loyalty of Scottish Nationalists neither of them really want much to do with it at all. I can’t blame them. Oversaturation of politics in the media is something I am quite familiar with as an American, especially as an American student whose home university is very liberal. It seems like everyday the young adults and 20 somethings of the U.S. are bombarded with different viewpoints on a whole host of different subjects but one thread remains common amongst them all: the issue is never really the issue. Now, what I mean by that is the topics the media chooses to speak on are rarely at the actual heart of the issue at hand. Rather, they focus on the fringe issues that get people really heated up and polarized like abortion, homosexuality, freedom of speech, etc. None of those issues are wrong to discuss at all; however, most of them they are abused, used as distractions from discussing the topics, though perhaps less clear and more difficult to handle, that truly affect the situation.
For the issue of the Referendum, this fringe issue that everyone seems to be playing on is the hatred of the Tories and/or the English in general. The YES campaign, according to my classmates, appears to be driven by this essential polarization: either you want to continue to be associated with the English/Tories or you are a loyal Scot and want nothing to do with them. Quite the heavy-handed viewpoint, is it not? This is what politics has become in America and it appears to be no different here. And, because of the plethora of information coming at us from every direction in this world of 24/7 news media cycles, the issue gets lost. It is so hard to discern truth from extravagant lie and because of this, it is so much easier to just sit back and let other people handle it all. We just want our peace and quiet right? Why does anything have to change at all? While I agree with this to a certain extent, there is no denying that if all of the sensible people decided to sit back because they are overwhelmed, that means that the floor is open for all those extremists with their heavy-handed opinions to make the final decision. And, let’s be honest, no one wants that. But how is one to wade through all the muck of the political media marsh in order to find solid ground?
What everyone wants to know is if Scotland can survive on its own, monetarily and politically. But, the majority of what appears to be discussed in the media focuses not on that central question but instead on the perks of saying YES and what a terrible Scot you are if you say NO. Now, don’t take my word for it for I am just a wee American lass attempting to understand a complex issue about a country that is not my own. Even though I am still very much in the dark, I am intrigued. So, ermm, let the games begin??