The general public seems to be gleaning one bit of information from the current situation in Ukraine: Russia is bad. Now, I’m not disagreeing that Putin-led Russia is a powder keg, but the unrest in Ukraine is a deep-rooted issue that has been rumbling in the bellies of Ukrainians for years.
The Eastern European country is split into two factions which, for better or worse, are identified as Pro-European and Pro-Russian. Former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February for choosing a quick cash deal with Russia over a long-term profitable trade deal with the European Union. This choice served as the catalyst for Yanukovych’s removal from office and the subsequent instability to follow in Ukraine. The country was left without a leader, despite Ukrainian Parliament assuring they had things under control. However, with the pro-Russian Yanukovych essentially a political eunuch, Russia found itself with very little power to wield in Ukraine.
Feeling threatened by the potential of a Pro-Kiev (Pro-European) government in Ukraine, Russia saw an immediate need to protect their interests, specifically in Crimea. The seafront region houses Russia’s naval fleet and is home to a large Pro-Russian community, so Mother Russia would obviously have a lot of interest in the region’s ongoings. It was this interest that led to Putin’s “invasion” and subsequent “take over” of Crimea, an action that has earned him international criticism.
Putin is, to be fair, completely crazy. He has lost touch with reality, as is evidenced by the neutering of free media and jailing anyone who opposes him. He demonstrates personality traits of a dictator, what with his corrupt government and his approach to maintaining control of Russian interests in Crimea. But Putin’s hands are clean when it comes to the violent protests and deaths happening in Ukraine. All of the blood turning Crimea’s streets red is because of Pro-Russian Ukrainians.
Pro-Russian insurgents and paramilitary groups are the perpetrators of every horrible news story you hear coming out of Ukraine.
Because they fight for Russia, the finger of blame is pointed at Putin. In reality, though, Putin is simply a figurehead. They are using his invasion of Crimea as fodder for a long-awaited revolution. Putin has ignited their hunger for a Pro-Russia Ukraine as never before, and they’re taking their cause to the streets.
Ukraine is Ukraine’s biggest enemy; not Russia, not the west, not the United Nations, but Ukraine. The Pro-Russian Ukrainians are looking to Russia for salvation, so half of Ukraine’s civilians are supporting the Pro-Russian paramilitaries and insurgents, despite the violence it is bringing to the country. Meanwhile, the Pro-European Ukrainians are looking to the West for salvation, but all the European Union has done is plan peace talks exclusive of the Pro-Russian Ukrainian forces. Both factions of Ukraine are guilty of street warfare, violent manifestations, and civilian deaths. In that right, no one is to blame but Ukraine.
Even if Ukraine is responsible for its own division amongst citizens, Russia (and ultimately Putin) is not without guilt. Some critics accuse Putin of encouraging Pro-Russian insurgents, stoking the fire that threatens to burn Ukraine to the ground. If civil fighting, or even a full-fledged civil war, breaks out between Pro-European and Pro-Russian Ukraine, then of course Russia will step in, they will win, and they will have control of Ukraine. This could be very good for Russia, and very good for Putin.
If you gain one piece of knowledge from this article, let it be this: don’t hate Russia for invading Ukraine (an action that any country would have taken had their political and financial investments been threatened). Hate Russia for not helping Ukraine and allowing the Pro-European/Pro-Russian conflict to literally eat the country alive.
While Russia isn’t necessarily the bad guy here, they’re not the good guy, either. They aren’t doing anything to stop Pro-Russian insurgents from the continual uprisings in Ukraine, and they certainly aren’t doing anything to mend relations with the country after invading Crimea.
So yes, Russia is bad, but not for the reason you may think.
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Anna is a freelance writer/producer based out of San Francisco. Her writing covers several genres, but her passion lies in humor, entertainment, education and culture.