I feel fairly safe in the conclusion that most people would prefer to avoid World War III. The bad news is, recent conflict in the Ukraine has the potential to ignite a multi-country brawl. However, it is difficult to clear up what is actually going on in Eastern Europe. So, without further ado, what’s up in the Ukraine?
Essentially, the current conflict in Ukraine is the pinnacle of several months of unrest which finally escalated into violence. The turmoil began several months ago when a large sector of the Ukrainian population supported working with the European Union to solve Ukrainian financial problems.
Russia stepped in to prevent this action and force the Ukraine to opt for trade dealings with them instead. Russia already had a heavy influence in the Ukraine, and they applied pressure to then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to go along. This was facilitated by the fact that Russia essentially monopolized Ukrainian oil supply; the threat of cutoff was very real. Instead, Russia cut some gas prices and provided Ukraine a $15 billion bailout, essentially buying influence in the country.
The rejection of the European Union deal in favor of Russian support led to widespread protest in Ukraine. Right-wing protesters became violent after the Ukrainian government passed severe restrictions on the protests. Toward the end of February, former president Yanukovych fled the country for Russia. The Ukrainian opposition party seized control of the country and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was freed from prison, where she had been imprisoned for political reasons.
The rest of the conflict arises from Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine. Apparently, Russian president Vladimir Putin aspires to rebuild an Eastern European union. In actuality, this would essentially be a rebuilt USSR, which most of the Western world as well as most of the Ukrainian populace would prefer to avoid. In pursuit of his goal of controlling Ukraine, Putin militarily occupied Crimea, a southern peninsula in Ukraine. This angered a lot of Ukrainians, even some pro-Russian supporters.
This became a world issue because the new Ukrainian government (anti-Russia) has requested aid from NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in opposing Russia. The U.S. and many other Western European countries are all part of NATO, and many of these countries have warned Russia to cease activity in the Ukraine. Several measures are possible to influence Russia to withdraw, including trade and political sanctions.
The remainder of the conflict will play out based on Putin’s reactions to Western intervention. If he withdraws from Crimea, tensions will likely die down. If he stays, further events depend on whether Western countries intervene, militarily or otherwise.