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Can we have a Ukraine/ Russia/ Crimea thread for dummies?

(978 Posts)
chicaguapa Thu 06-Mar-14 11:47:16

In other words, could someone explain the situation in really simple terms please. I don't understand it but feel it's important and I should know what's going on.

And because DD(12) asked me this morning and I couldn't answer.

throckenholt Thu 06-Mar-14 11:49:20

sphere on influence thing. The Russians see the Ukraine and particularly the Crimea as it's sphere of influence. They don't want to lose that. A pro western Ukraine would not be in their sphere of influence.

Hope to god this doesn't escalate to something much bigger.

Hopefulgoat Thu 06-Mar-14 11:55:28

The first think I tell my teen DD is that politics for dummies typically amounts to propaganda. For genuine understanding independent critical thought is required.

Absy Thu 06-Mar-14 13:29:51

Depends on how far you want to go back, but not going to far back into it - Ukraine used to be one of the Soviet states, until the dissolution of the USSR in the 1990s. The country itself is split between east and west along linguistic and cultural lines, with the east (including the Crimea region) historically being more Russian aligned, and the west being more Western aligned (though at one point it was part Poland for a bit). Generally, in that area of the world the borders have shifted a LOT for generations.

The western part of the country wants to move closer to the EU - they were never part of greater Russia, and the majority language is Ukrainian rather than Russian (though most people speak Russian at it was the lingua franca effectively of the USSR). The eastern part of the country wants to be more closely aligned with Russia, and Russia would like Ukraine as a whole to be more under its sphere of influence, while the West would (as is pretty much always the case) would like all of Ukraine to be more west aligned.

In terms of Ukraine's government, there are two blocks effectively - one which is more pro Russia, and one which is more pro-Europe. The whole thing of Yanukovich's regime being more corrupt than Tymoshenko is a bit rich.The Orange revolution in 2004/2005 (on the back of a rigged election) aimed to get Yanukovich out (as the election had been rigged in his favour) and get Tymoshenko and Yushchenko in. They were brought in after the revolution, but by 2010 were voted out (in favour of Yanukovich) as they were corrupt and useless.

On a wider stage - it's Russia vs the West. Russia feels that it should be more of a super power, and the West doesn't like that. Russia would like to extend its sphere of influence, and the West would like to extend its. The big problem is that actually, Western Europe is heavily reliant on Russia as a trading partner - so the US calling for sanctions against the Russian government is all well and good for them, but they're not even in the top ten of trading partners, so they can afford to be pissy. Western Europe (particularly the UK) can't - because of trade links and because a lot of Europe's gas comes form Russia.

Actually, in terms of the Russian forces in Crimea - there have been 15,000 troops there since 1999 so this is hardly a new thing.

It's a difficult thing to reduce to simplistic terms, because there is SO much history behind it, and os much that has gone on before which influences what's happening now. For e.g. during Stalin's era, he and his government precipitated one of the biggest (if not the biggest) manmade famines in history, which disproportionately affected Ukraine. Even today, a lot of families living in Kiev for e.g. maintain a plot of land outside of the city, where they grow vegetables etc. just in case it happens again. So many Ukrainians are quite sceptical of Russia (given that Putin acts very much like a soviet era leader, or actually a typical Russian leader - they have a tendency to act like Tsars, whether communist or not).

chicaguapa Thu 06-Mar-14 14:51:16

Thank you!

I'll now read today's stories again and hopefully it'll make a bit more sense.

Absy Thu 06-Mar-14 15:02:07

I recommend also reading some of the Russian news (like Russia Today) to get a different view on it - this time around some of the media in the west has been a bit condescending about Russia (which is also why they're annoyed - the western coverage of the Sochi Olympics was quite unfair at times).

MummyAbroad Sat 08-Mar-14 02:19:10

Here's my version of a short summary (hard!):

Ukraine, like many economies in the world is bankrupt. Russia offered to bail it out but under terms that means it cant trade with anyone else. The other option is joining the EU and taking on more debt in the form of loans from the IMF, but being "free". Russia and the EU are fighting over who gets Ukraine.

(*free to trade, but how can you trade if you are up to your eyes in debt?)

PigletJohn Sat 08-Mar-14 02:38:22

No, you probably can't because people will carry their own prejudices, and will go back in history to a time which they think supports their position.

Monty27 Sat 08-Mar-14 02:54:39

John yes, I can see it on here already. Prejudices.

It depends on what side of the fence your'e sitting.

I don't buy what you've said absey albeit most articulately written. It's biased.

CheerfulYank Sat 08-Mar-14 02:59:19

I'm embarrassed to even link this but I saw it today... blush

MummyAbroad Sat 08-Mar-14 03:08:08

erm yes but what about "those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it"? Knowledge of what went on in the past is important and helpful.

PigletJohn Sat 08-Mar-14 03:40:49

Northern Ireland has a lot if that

"In 1566 your people did such and such"

"Well in 1605 your people did so and so"

Elsewhere, we get "when my ancestors were a nomadic tribe five thousand years ago, they pitched their tents on a piece of land fifty miles from here, therefore my family should seize it today"

EuroMaidan Tue 11-Mar-14 22:01:28

There was a good program on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday - 'Russia, Ukraine and us' led by Bridget Kendall at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It's a discussion about Crimea's history, about Putin (of course!) and about ways to resolve the conflict. Here's the link:

Also, there's another long thread about Ukraine here:

PigletJohn Tue 11-Mar-14 22:24:38

Also a profile of Mr Putin.
the recording is terribly tactful, but you might recognise a few bits. I have met people with some similar characteristics who have got themselves as much power as they could (nowhere near as much, obv.)

I don't know what his retirement will be like.

PigletJohn Wed 12-Mar-14 14:39:44

opinions differ

PigletJohn Wed 12-Mar-14 17:52:15

saddening news

Hopefulgoat Wed 12-Mar-14 17:59:23

This is a very dangerous crisis with a risk to escalate into a nuclear conflict. It seem to have started a new cold war in which Europe will become increasingly more dependent in US gas. It will have huge strategic implications for European foreign policy and defense, which will become again much closer to the US.

It is absolutely right that we should seek to understand it.
However simplistic propaganda is most unhelpful.

PigletJohn Wed 12-Mar-14 18:09:58

Yes, Russia's invasion of the Ukraine has of course caused a crisis. Russia's other neighbours are naturally concerned that they will be next.

There does not appear anyone who desires a nuclear clash. The Ukrainian govt appears to be regretting that they gave up their weapons thinking that the dangers had passed.

I don't know why goat speaks as if Europe has a dependency on US gas, although US gas imports have dropped enormously now they are able to supply themselves from Fracking. It is likely that this will cause world prices to drop as supply has risen.

Hopefulgoat Wed 12-Mar-14 18:23:50

If you follow the link given by EuroMaidan above, you would hear the American political scientist talking about a new 'strategic realignment' {cold war} replacing European gas supply from Russia by the same sourced from fracking in the US. I read this on many other newspapers and news sites recently. It seems to be the next US policy v Europe.

PigletJohn Wed 12-Mar-14 18:28:58

The US is an importer of gas. It is thought that Fracking growth will allow it to become a net exporter by 2020. This was in plan before Putin's expansionist adventure.

Onesieone Wed 12-Mar-14 18:34:13

Marking until I have time to read.

PigletJohn Thu 13-Mar-14 00:51:18

Nato and EU don't want to do anything except supply a large amount of stiff words, and it's not in US back yard. Germany has a lot of experience in Ostpolitik, and Angela, as an ex-Ossie, will have a particularly valuable opinion.

It's possible the Eastern European and Baltic states that thought they had escaped from Soviet control will try to club together to fend off the risk of future Russian invasions.

Hopefulgoat Thu 13-Mar-14 07:35:06

Irresponsible war mongering. Eastern Europe doesn't need wars. Nobody does.

PigletJohn Thu 13-Mar-14 09:45:36

You're right, instigating a military invasion and occupation of a neighbour is a warlike act, and we could have done without it. However I think we have established that Putin thinks he will get away with it, certainly last time, very likely this time, and probably next time as well.

mathanxiety Fri 14-Mar-14 16:17:46

Instigating the ouster of a sitting president who was democratically elected is an example of thumbing of the nose at constitutional and legal niceties. It is of course possible to frame it in terms of an upswelling of democratic sentiment or love of American values and that is how it has been sold in the American media anyway.

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