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Critical to remember Ukraine’s struggle

Appeared  in the Winnipeg Sun, Saturday, May 9th, 2015 issue, Editorial Section.

For the few months into 2015 Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stealth invasion of Ukraine has been out of the spotlight, overshadowed by the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State. On the other hand Putin’s czarist ambitions has always posed the greater threat, and it is becoming glaring obvious that the West’s strategy of deterring Putin with economic sanctions is failing.

Putin considers the collapse of the Soviet Union to be Russia’s greatest humiliation. His aim is to reverse that and bring back the nostalgic great power status of mother Russia and in particular the medieval cradle of Kyivian Rus, Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, reigning without a governing ideology has inspired Russian nationalism which supported the annexation of Crimean by using the media to portray the outside world being hostile to Russia.

Putin’s actions have been under particular scrutiny since early 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Since then, Russia has backed Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine while Canada, United States and European allies have implemented a series of economic sanctions that have weakened the Russian economy. Tightening the economic screws on Russia will eventually force Russian people to come to their senses and realize that Putin’s neo-imperialist fantasies are destroying their country.

On the flipside of this, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an attempt to drive a permanent wedge between Western allies and nations of Eastern Europe who are members of NATO. Putin will not stop and he understands that his relationship with the west will never be the same. The only thing that Putin has is the support of his voters and they will only continue supporting him if he shows himself as an aggressor.

For Ukraine, it is not only the future at stake, but that of the European Union itself. The loss of Ukraine
would be an enormous blow. It would empower a Russian alternative to the European Union based on the rule of force rather than the rule of law. If Europe delivers the financial support that Ukraine has been requesting, Putin would eventually be forced to abandon his aggression. The fighting in eastern Ukraine has abated because of the Minsk ceasefire agreement but it is obvious Putin is escalating the crisis and there is no desire for peace. Russia is fighting a war of aggression, Ukraine must defend itself and its sovereignty.

There must be a follow-through to hold stability and the possibility of a prosperous Ukraine. Firstly, withdraw of heavy weapons by pro-Russians and an international monitoring force in place to ensure the sides observe the Minsk agreement. Secondly, Ukraine must be allowed to control the eastern borders to prevent the flow of weapons and fighters from Russia. There must be continued western aid even under a cease-fire agreement to insure that Ukraine recovers also becomes an active member of NATO and the European Union.

Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his anti-Western rhetoric, his disregard of NATO, his hostility towards the European Union has not only lead to sanctions but it is costing him friendship throughout the world. In pursing his goal, Putin has repeatedly destabilized former Soviet states, especially Ukraine, undermining and hiding Russian’s actions from his people by stoking nationalistic passion and trying to destroy world security.

About The Author

Peter J. Manastyrsky is an active member of the Winnipeg’s Ukrainian community.

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