Ukraine – A History of Rivalry

William Tseng, Writer

A History of Rivalry

 

On August 24, 1991, Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union, better known as Russia today. Ukraine proclaimed that they would no longer follow the laws of the USSR. In that same year, the Soviet Union officially collapsed and Russia declared its transition to democracy and capitalism. People all over the world celebrated the end of the Cold War and Russia’s Communism. However, just before that, a man became the head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg City administration in Russia. What the job entailed doesn’t matter, but what does matter is that that man didn’t celebrate when the Soviet Union collapsed. That man was furious. That man is Vladimir Putin.

Putin rose through the ranks of what was the newly established government structure. It was then in 2000 when Putin became president and ever since then, he hasn’t let go of his power. But throughout all this time, something has always bothered Putin. Something that was always in the back of his mind: Ukraine. One would think that Putin, by gaining complete power over a country and seeing no end to his reign in sight, would be content. Alas, nae. He has always had his sights on Ukraine.

So how did we get to where we are today? In 2010, Vicktor Yanukovych was elected as president of Ukraine. However, what many people didn’t know was that he was pro-Russia. He wanted a brotherly relationship with Russia. As a result, that year, under his leadership, the Ukrainian parliament withdrew its candidacy from NATO. Also, by 2013, Ukraine withdrew its association agreement with the European Union. This didn’t come without protest. Tens of thousands of people dissatisfied with the government’s political direction flooded the streets to protest. This became known as the Maidan Revolution, translated as the Revolution of Dignity. For these reasons, Yanukovych fled Ukraine and went straight to Russia.

A huge reason why Russia wants Ukraine is because of the Black Sea. Russia, by controlling the Black Sea, gains many economic advantages. This is why in 2014, months after the Maidan Revolution, Russia invaded Crimea, a part of Ukraine that is mostly surrounded by the Black Sea. In addition, Russia began pushing into Ukraine from further North. However, after not much progress for Russia, the two countries agreed to a ceasefire in February 2015. Nevertheless, as we see in the news today, this ceasefire wasn’t the end of a rivalry between the two countries that date back a millenia ago.

We see in the news today of Putin’s new attempt at taking over Ukraine and while Ukraine has currently been able to fight back, there’s no telling where this conflict will go from here. As we look to the future, we also need to look at the past and see how we don’t make the same mistakes. George Santayana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”