The crisis in Ukraine began when the Ukranian government suspended their plans to sign a Free-Trade Agreement with the European Union, in favour of closer economic ties with Russia; despite public support for closer integration with the EU. This increased widespread public perception of corruption within the Ukrainian government, and the government’s subsequent violent dispersal of what were initially peaceful protests paved the way to the escalation of the crisis, known as the Euromaidan. When Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych fled from Ukraine for fear of his life, and was subsequently replaced by an interim, pro-European government, Russian forces occupied the Crimean peninsula and parts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, with Russian Presidnt Vladimir Putin claiming to be defending Russian interests, and the Russian population in Crimea, the majority of whom are Russian speakers. This clash of global superpowers and interests has been likened by some to be reminiscent of a Cold War struggle.
“Russia’s incursion into Ukraine is really about strategic interests, and in some ways, an assertion of power. The Euromaidan has threatened the power which the Russians had over Ukraine using economic and resource might, and so they feel they have been forced to respond to the threat of the new pro-European power with military might. Though it is not entirely bluster, the Russian military action and takeover of Crimea is more a display of power and a threat than a precursor to any armed conflict. It is not in anyone’s interests for that to happen, a fact which Putin knows very well.”
Nicolas De Santis, President of Gold Mercury, on Russia’s motives for recent action in Crimea.
De Santis provides an analysis and explains the situation as a geo-political ‘Chess Game’ getting out of control. De Santis explains the rising of the Euromaidan movement, fighting to join the European Union, the quest for Russia to have Ukraine join its own Customs Union (Eurasian Economic Union) and keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence (and out of NATO). These tensions led to the fall of the existing government in Ukraine and the Crisis in the Crimea (of Russian majority), a naval base port of critical strategic importance to Russia. De Santis also explains the importance of Ukraine for Russia as its conduit of gas to Europe via the Trans-Siberian Gas Pipeline. Ukraine also depends on Russia for over 50% of its gas. Recent gas-price wars between Russia and Ukraine also were part of tensions between the two nations, which have been gradually escalating as the crisis progressed; but have now diffused slightly.
De Santis also gives details on how the history of the Unity of Italy (Il Risorgimento) is directly connected to the Crimean War of 1853 where the forces of the Kingdom of Sardinia of Vittorio Emanuele II and Cavour allied with the French forces to fight the Russian Army in the Crimean Peninsula. Italy later requested French assistance in Italy in the fight against the Austrians to gain control of Lombardy in the quest for Italian Unity. De Santis argues that ultimately, the crisis in Ukraine, Crimea and Russia will diffuse without conflict, as it is not in any of the nations’ interests to engage in war with one another. It is ultimately a political jousting of wills; an assertion of control and a restatement of interests.