There is a school of thought, mainly consisting of end-of-days type personalities and conspiracy advocates who believe that the situation that we are watching unfold in the Ukraine has the making of a new World War, or a new Cold War, all over it. I happen to disagree with this premise and would remind such folks that we have heard of dooms day scenarios most notably with the Iraq War, the Syrian conflict and also the Iranian and North Korean nuclear stand-offs.
I have acquainted myself with the Ukrainian situation. What I assess is happening in the Ukraine is far from any type of march to war - whether active conflict or covert cold war operations. This, even with the advent of Russian military hardware on Ukraine's borders is my belief. Instead, what I conclude to be happening in the Ukraine is an economic and geo-political battle for influence.
Ukraine falls under the spotlight of being a former Soviet Union member. The collapse of the USSR and the failed advance of former President Yeltskin's Perestroika have left Russia a shadow of its former self on the global political and economic stage. Many in the West triumphed in their effort to see the back of the Soviet Union, but that did not mean the ideologies from that era were also eradicated. In comes President Putin, a man who is a former KGB operative, and one who deems Russia's place at the table of powerful nations is not being fully respected.
Putin flexing of his muscles in Ukraine is firstly to see off the threat of Western economic and political influence so close to his door-step. According to a recent paper I came across tilted; RUSSIA, THE EURASIAN CUSTOMS UNION AND THE EU: COOPERATION, STAGNATION OR RIVALRY, roughly 46% of Ukrainians want integration with the EU, and 36% say no.
The question to ask here is why is the Ukraine torn between choosing a path either way? What we have seen, is that these very same protests we are witnessing can be traced back to 2013. In November of 2013 Ukraine's government suspended preparations to sign the European Union’s trade partnership agreement. According to many analysts, if this move had gone ahead then Ukraine would have been closer to Europe and not Russia. Can Putin have that? Would he allow that? No.
President Viktor Yanukovych, has been accused of wanting closer relations with Russia hence his dithering on deciding which path to follow. Him having fled in the midst of these recent conflicts and now having appeared addressing the Russian Parliament does him no favours to dispel rumours that he is a closer friend to Russian than he is of the West.
If we recall how Yanukovych came to power; he was ousted as a result of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, with Viktor Yushchenko, becoming President and Yulia Tymoshenko Prime Minister. The Orange Revolution was however defeated and this saw Yanukovych back in power.
President Putin's drive to form the Eurasian Customs Union is pivotal. What Putin aims to do is to create, from all accounts, an economic block that comprises former Soviet Union states.
Ukraine is the trump card in this, for if Ukraine were to join the EU then the fear on Putin's side is that Ukraine and the EU already have a trade movement that sees 1/3 of Ukraine's external trade being with the European Union. Any further relationships with the EU would be a step too close to impacting Russia's economic future and political influence. Note also that Putin in the past has accused the EU of wanting to create a "sphere of influence" on its borders.
Ukraine is a country that has vast mineral resources. However, this industry is reliant on Russia's natural gas services. Russia also was willing to pump over $15 billion dollars into Ukraine whilst the West did not indicate they were willing to do the same.
So in Ukraine I feel it is a fight for both political influence and also for economic dominance. The Ukrainian people as we can see from the images on our televisions screens are torn almost evenly from the recent poll numbers cited above, between choosing more the Russian way or the European way. The United States warning Putin to steer clear of the Ukrainian conflict, I fear will fall on deaf ears. Putin would not want to be seen as bowing to Western demands in an area where he feels his country, as the dominant military and economic power, should be calling the shots.
This situation is deemed to get even more interesting in the days to come, but world war three and cold war rhetoric is mainly a media creation and conspiracy theorists' notions. This conflict will be resolved without full on military conflict.
Jeevan Robinson is Founder & Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive: Global Caribbean Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org