Custom «Crisis in Ukraine: Avoiding the Perspectives of the New Cold War» Sample Essay

Custom «Crisis in Ukraine: Avoiding the Perspectives of the New Cold War» Sample Essay


To begin with, it was not surprising that in 2013, after the prolonged authoritarian actions of President Yanukovych, the mass protests started in Ukraine. However, few people could predict that the internal conflict within Ukraine would grow into a military conflict, threatening the security of the whole Europe. Some people argue that the crisis in foreign relations between Ukraine and Russia was inevitable: the roots of the crisis and military conflict go down in history of Kyiv-Moscow relations and Russian expansive foreign policy rule. However, the crisis has seemed to remain frozen for a long time as nothing has significantly progressed in the negotiation process between the countries so far. The USA, both taking the role of the world policeman and the main political superpower, strives to assist Ukraine in solving the crisis along with the EU. Nowadays, the situation began to seem rather severe when the USA officially decided to supply Ukraine with weapons to fight against the Russian Federation. The tension between the USA and Russia, which is not the first one after the collapse of the Soviet Union, seems to be quite disturbing. Some may even suggest that the Cold War was never ended and its proof is the crisis in Ukraine.

In order to discuss this issue, foreign relations between the USA and Russia are analyzed in the context of the crisis in Ukraine and the role of the EU in it. With regard to this statement, the paper seeks to analyze the roots of the crisis in Ukraine, using the system-level theories, to describe the position of the U.S. Government in the crisis, and to give some critical interpretations of the crisis in Ukraine through the ideas of anti-imperialism and influence of energy policy. Moreover, the paper seeks to find solutions to the crisis in Ukraine and its potential remedies. 

The Roots of the Crisis in Ukraine

It is believed that the roots of the crisis in Ukraine, which is about to grow into an international conflict and repeat the destiny of the Cold War, go far deeper than the simple demonstrations against Yanukovych`s presidency in Kyiv. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Berlin Wall, President Bush promised that the NATO would not expand eastwards. In fact, this promise was kept until 1999, when the NATO started to expand to the east under President Clinton. Then, the NATO expansion continued in 2004, where the NATO borders expanded to the Baltic States following the initiative of President George W. Bush. In 2008, at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, Georgia and Ukraine were offered to join the organization. Certainly, the NATO borders would have come too close to Russia, which contravened the national interests of the country. Russia could not stand the idea of Ukraine as a NATO member (Smith, 2014).

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Despite the NATO expansion, the EU was also expanding its borders eastward and tried to involve Ukraine and many other Eastern European countries into the common trading and monetary zone. Along with the EU expansion, the USA and other Western European countries in their trial of “promoting democracy”, supported the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine in 2004 and its new political leaders. In general, these actions of the West were demonstrating that the control over Ukraine is about to be shifted. However, the beginning of 2010 improved the situation for Russia, when Viktor Yanukovych became the President of Ukraine. Consequently, Ukraine slowly but confidently switched its foreign policy course to Russia-oriented. Finally, when President Yanukovych refused to accept the European economic package in 2013 and accepted the one from Russia, it triggered the massive protests on the streets of Kyiv and, in the end, caused an intense political crisis in Ukraine (Daalder et al, 2015).

The crisis grew into a direct conflict between Russia and Ukraine in February 2014, when Crimea was occupied by the military forces of the Russian Federation. Later, the government buildings in Donetsk and Lugansk were seized by armed separatists, probably funded by the Kremlin. By the end of May, the large territory of the Donbas region was occupied by separatists. In June, once the Ukrainian counteroffensive began, the Kremlin started to supply the protesters and separatists with artillery and modern anti-aircraft systems. In August 2014, the units of Russian army entered the Ukrainian territory and attacked the Ukrainian military men and volunteers. The number of Russian military units increased after January 11, 2015, and the situation became even more tense (Smith, 2014).

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In 2014, the EU countries along with the United States imposed severe sanctions on Russia in order to improve the situation in Ukraine. Firstly, the sanctions were put on individuals who were suspected to be involved in the crisis in Ukraine, but in September 2014, broader sanctions were offered that targeted energy, financial and defense sectors of Russian economy. The sanctions have notoriously impacted the economy of Russia and the drop in oil prices significantly decreased Russia’s earnings from export. However, for the main aim of the sanctions to be achieved, the sanctions should change Russian goals and policy in Ukraine. The leaders of the western countries stated that the sanctions will remain active until the Russian policy in Ukraine changes significantly.

All in all, it is evident that the Kremlin does not seek to take over and fully occupy the eastern part of Ukraine, like it did with Crimea, but it wants to maintain a frozen conflict, destabilizing Ukraine and its government. The only other reason may be that the Kremlin wants to create a land bridge to connect Russia and Crimea. Moreover, according to Mearsheimer (2014), the Kremlin expressed its opinion quite clearly: Ukraine is the strategic area to Moscow. It means that there is no easy solution to the crisis, and Russia will not easily give up on the crisis in Ukraine.

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System Level Theories and the Crisis in Ukraine

It would be difficult to believe that the crisis in Ukraine and the international conflict with Russia could be understood and explained using only one system-level theory. Thus, for the purpose of this paper, the discussion of the Ukrainian case will be limited only to the most important system level theories, such as realism, liberalism, and the class system theory.

According to realists’ perspective, developed mainly by Morgenthau and Waltz, interests of the countries, which are involved into the conflict, are important for understanding their current position. Therefore, each country in the conflict pursues its national interests: Ukraine tries to maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Russia is trying to establish its national interests within the Ukrainian territory and to prevent further expansion of the NATO and the EU towards the East European countries, while the NATO, namely the USA, also tries to expand its influence overseas and prevent the Russian Federation from strengthening its position and influence in Ukraine. Indeed, the main great powers dominate in solving the crisis. Thus, according to realists, Ukraine cannot solve the crisis by itself (Parry, 2015). 

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According to the liberal perspective developed by Carr and Waltz, economic interdependency of the countries enhances peace between them (Mearsheimer, 2001). In fact, broadening and applications of sanctions on Russia demonstrate how economic relations of Moscow with other European countries work in favor of Russia. Many of the EU countries, especially those experiencing economic crises and relying on Russian energy, opposed the sanctions in order to save their economies. Therefore, even the EU cannot find a compromise as the member countries preserve mostly their national interests, which is, once again, one of the main principles of realism. Thus, the inability to make a decision on radical measures against the Russian Federation signifies the importance of economic relations with it. Moreover, very often liberals emphasize their belief in internal arrangements and democracy. In case of the crisis, the USA seeks to support Ukraine’s choice of democracy, but the idea of spreading democracy may also have other hidden aims, such as neocolonialism.

According to Waltz and Morgenthau, there is a necessity of international system to be bipolar instead of multi-polar in order to avoid crises. The crisis in Ukraine would not have taken place if there had been bipolarity in the world. However, the appearance of the EU as the third part complicates the negotiation process. The EU has strong economic position for Ukraine due to economic relations with Russia, but it also supports the USA in establishing democracy in Ukraine (Mearsheimer, 2001).

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The fact of economic dependency of some countries demonstrates that in most cases the countries’ interests are driven by their economic concerns, which makes the crisis parallel to the class system theory. The EU countries demonstrate that their economic concerns are the most important. Russia also had some economic interests in the occupation of Crimea. However, this theory cannot be applied to every position of the conflict as not only economic concerns triggered the crisis, but also establishment of power, influence, and ideology (Chikhi, 2014).

The U.S. Government Position

Regarding the U.S. position in the crisis, it is important to note that both the Government and the Department of State do not support the deeds of the Kremlin. However, there is a debate inside the U.S. Government of how the USA should react to what President Putin does: either to oppose it and send weapons to Ukraine, or encourage the separatists, President Poroshenko, and President Putin to negotiate and look for other ways of avoiding the military conflict. The second way seemed reasonable at the beginning of the crisis, but after a few unsuccessful negotiations, the USA had to choose the first option. Despite the critique of Walt, Mearsheimer and many others, who believe that sending weapons to Ukraine will not help into solving the conflict, but only lead to its escalation and increase the risks of using the nuclear weapon by Russia, the officials made a decision to send weapons to Ukraine and continue imposing the sanctions. Many of the governmental officials believe that Russia is incapable of maintaining the military conflict for a long time, thus, the escalation would work for the benefit of ending the conflict. Moreover, they believe that if the USA fails to give an adequate support to Ukraine, the Kremlin may use the same foreign policy tactics in other countries which are of its national interest, such as the Baltic countries and Poland, which currently are the members of the NATO. This would also result in further destabilization and tension between the USA and Russia (The White House, 2014).

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In relation to this threat, President Obama, along with Vice President Biden, announced that supporting Ukraine is the country’s main priority due to the fact that Ukraine declares its pursuit of democracy and wants to save its territorial integrity, renew its economy, and pursue the principles of democracy. Therefore, $50 million were assisted by the U.S. Government in order strengthen Ukrainian economy and realize economic and political reforms in Ukraine (The White House, 2014).

Critical Interpretations of the Crisis in Ukraine


Imperialism is often considered as a territorial and human form of relationships based on ideas of superiority and dominance, and involves control and authority of one subject of imperialism over another. Obviously, imperialism in history has been often viewed as a negative fact for the exploitation of people and land with a purpose of enriching other people or countries. Although the age of imperialism is considered to be over, many states, especially the powerful ones, still incorporate imperialistic views into their foreign policy courses. According to anti-imperialism views, the USA may justify its military intervention by promoting democracy all over the world, however, it is quite obvious that its hidden motifs are to create the powerful neocolonial empire, especially with regard to the countries of the Middle East.

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It was also believed that Russia lost its imperial ambitions after the collapse of the USSR, but one can now see that the ambitions still dominate its foreign policy. Subsequently, the supporters of the anti-imperialist views state that it is not Ukraine that struggles to keep its national integrity, but it is the USA and Russia that want to establish their imperialistic interest in Ukraine (Young, 2014). 

As a matter of fact, the crisis in Ukraine might be regarded from the imperialistic positions. However, the U.S. imperialism that is seen nowadays demonstrates many weaknesses as to the goals the USA set in the past. In terms of imperialism, President Obama and his Office demonstrated the weaknesses and loopholes in the U.S. foreign policy course. Certainly, the strong criticism of any U.S. military intervention overseas after the fiasco in Iraq in 2003 does not make the situation easier, but the fact that President Putin was not afraid to occupy Crimea demonstrates that he does not fear the reaction of the USA. For now, the American military power cannot be compared to any other, but it is not only about the existence of the superpowers, but also about the competing capitals and states that define imperialism.

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Therefore, supporters of anti-imperialism state that in the crisis in Ukraine the motto “neither Washington nor Moscow” should be applied, otherwise, the conflict would be regarded as imperialistic (Young, 2014).

Russian imperialistic ideas emerged in the past during the days of Catherine II in the 18th century, and continued in the 1930s during collectivization and famine in Ukraine, organized by Stalin. Thus, one may suggest that the imperialistic views of Russia for Ukraine emerged and evolved historically as these countries were neighboring. Nowadays, Russian imperialism is a rather challenging issue for the rest of the world because occupation of Ukraine is not the first time Russia violates territorial integrity of other country. In 2008, the same happened in Georgia, which led to the war in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. However, one may argue that President Putin does not declare a war to the USA or the EU, but wants to strengthen the position of Russia in the negotiations. Despite the fact that Russia is a regional leader on the continent, it still cannot be considered an imperialistic country of the international scale (Young, 2014).

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Therefore, as far as the crisis in Ukraine is concerned, it is important to note that Ukraine should try its best in negotiating with the terrorists, excluding the help of any imperialistic countries that might be interested in pursuing their national interests in Ukraine.

Energy Politics, Oil, and Natural Gas

It was mentioned above that the crisis in Ukraine affected not only Ukraine itself, but many other countries, most of which were the members of the European Union. The crisis demonstrated many weaknesses in European energy systems, but showed some ways of improvement.

The EU countries are large consumers of electricity, gas, and oil, and instead of using the renewable energy sources they are still dependent on import of the resources, resulting in pollution and greenhouse effect. However, the most important is that the countries become more vulnerable to import disruptions. For the European countries, energy is particularly important for their economy and wealth, while the energy poverty is a challenging issue. Despite the fact that due to the crisis in Ukraine, the EU tries to avoid dependency on Russian resources, it would be difficult for the union to maintain the following position for a long time. Russia should remain the main gas supplier for the EU countries, but until the crisis in Ukraine takes place, it is hardly possible. It is a well-known fact that the EU cannot replace 150-160 billion cubic meters of natural gas exported from Russia in the following next years (Scipes, 2015). However, in the long run, Russia will lose more than the EU countries due to the following reasons:

  • The crisis in Ukraine could lead to a development of a new hostile approach to gas exported from Russia and the role of natural gas in general. The EU countries could look for other gas exporters in Asia and Africa or develop the new renewable sources of energy. In the end, the Gazprom would go bankrupt, which would blow the Russian financial system, which heavily relies on natural gas export.
  • The choice of the EU countries to cooperate with another gas exporter may lead to the diversification strategy towards the rapidly growing Asian countries and markets. The proof can be found in the recent deal between the Gazprom and Chinese CNPC on gas exporting matters. However, considering the fast growing economy in China, natural gas would not remain the key resource of this country for a long time.
  • Despite the importance of natural gas on the international scale, oil is much more important, and it is what the Kremlin is vulnerable to. For Russia, it is important to develop new technologies in order to maintain its oil production or to buy the new technologies from the western countries. Moreover, Russia is looking into new oil formations in order to maintain control and production, as well as stand against further sanctions from the EU (Nagesh, 2014).

As for Ukraine, the energy crisis helped it install the new technology of reversing gas from European countries to Ukraine as a short-term solution to the natural gas shortage problem. Moreover, for Ukraine the crisis is the opportunity to modernize its energy system and implement new energy and climate policies, which would enhance its further development.

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For Russia, however, the shift of the political regime in Ukraine was quite destabilizing, as most of the natural gas was transported from Russia to Europe through the territory of Ukraine for low transition costs. Moreover, Ukraine was one of the largest consumers of natural gas, thus it is Russia’s primary goal to return Ukraine under its control.

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