Ukraine has been currently going through a very tumultuous period with protests and rioting in various parts of the country. The interest of the Russian government in Ukraine may have a grave impact on the Sochi Winter Olympics and lead to further scrutiny of the Putin government by western powers and the world media. Thus, Putin has to be very careful about what steps he takes internationally, more so now than ever before. Ukraine has been going through intense ever since President Yanukovich suspended trade talks with the EU (Ed: sic). These trade agreements would have eased off some travel restrictions that the country had been facing in mainland Europe. The free trade agreement would have allowed the movement of machinery and transport equipment as well as other goods to the country, which would have boosted its manufacturing industry tremendously. Furthermore, Ukraine would have been able to further its export of iron, steel, mining as well as agricultural products to the EU bringing in much needed foreign currency. The general public supported the trade agreement and as a result, the suspension has led to bitter resentment amongst the Ukrainian people. So why did Kiev suspend this trade agreement even though they knew stalling such a move could have been a political disaster? Vladmir Putin has been bitterly opposed to this trade agreement from the outset. Thus, there was a threat of a loss of trade with Russia if the Ukranian government becomes more involved with the EU. The official statement from President Yanukovich, according to the BBC, is that Ukraine could not afford to sacrifice trade with Russia. This may have been true to an extent due to the links that Ukraine has had with Russia in the past. The relationships between Russia and Ukraine have been well established from the time of the Soviet Union and although the Union has been dismantled, a large proportion of the links still remain. The statement by the President may have played against people’s emotions due to the atrocities and prejudices faced by them under Soviet rule in the past. The idea of having their independent government bow down to Russian pressure may bring back some bitter resentment. However, there is evidence to believe there is more to this situation. Ukraine is said to be “the most corrupt nation in Europe” according to Transparency International. People are seen to be dissatisfied with the current establishment and would also like systematic change. The idea that Ukraine is falling under Russian pressure may be blamed on the fact that it currently has a weak and corrupt establishment. Since the government has too strong a desire to remain in power, it would rather bow down to Russian economic pressure and sanctions than follow what is good for the nation as a whole. This has added further fuel to the protests and the opposition has been supporting the protestors for trying to tackle the current establishment. However, the government has not been willing to listen and has been threatening stringent actions if the protestors do not leave the government buildings. The police has already been very brutal in its way of tackling the protestors and may not listen to the people’s demands anytime soon. The Russian establishment has shown bitter resentment against the EU trade agreements for a number of reasons. The official statement claims that the free trade agreement could be a ‘big threat’ to Moscow. This is because; the goods from Europe could be flooded into Moscow virtually without tariffs due to the free trade agreement between Moscow and Kiev. This, according to Putin, would cause Russia’s car, agriculture and aviation industries to suffer. The damage to the Russian industry, however, will not be as large as it would be towards his ego. A lot of rules and regulations can be put in place to maintain Russian industry, which the Russian authorities can be able to maintain. There are also reasons to believe that Putin may be against the trade agreements for personal gains. Putin has a desire for Ukraine to join the customs union, which includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. By enhancing the union, Putin wishes to expand Russia’s influence in the region. The politics of pressure and sanctions, however, is not one, which a modern nation should follow to expand its field of influence. The idea that Russia wishes to divide the nations in an archaic, post First World War fashion seems to be disconnected from the modern form of diplomacy. Furthermore, Vladmir Putin has to be careful about the steps he takes due to the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics. Clearly, Russia wishes to establish itself as a very influential power and has been moderately successful in doing so. As a supporter of the Assad regime and having signed oil agreements with Iran, Russia has been expanding its sphere of influence in the Arab world. Furthermore, by signing free trade agreements with China, Russia has been able to make itself an active member in world affairs. To further show its strength, Russia has decided to hold the Winter Olympics in Sochi, a fond holiday resort of Vladmir Putin. These Olympics have already been marked with serious controversy with local wildlife and population being dispersed. People have been forcibly evicted from their homes for development purposes. Furthermore, the whole project has been seen to be rampant with corruption with a large proportion of spending being diverted elsewhere. The games have been proclaimed to be even more expensive than the Beijing Olympics but how much of these expenses have been efficiently spent is questionable. Locals have not been satisfied with the construction process and have blamed the authorities for disrupting their lifestyle and putting their futures in jeopardy for the sake of ensuring a successful Olympic event. Russia has been trying to clean its image by allowing certain political prisoners, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to be released and asking Syria to deal with its chemical weapon stockpiles. However, the way Russia has been behaving domestically has been questionable to say the least. Human rights issues and a lack of free speech allows Russia to be open to major scrutiny. If Russia wishes to make the unnecessarily expensive Olympic games successful, it has to change the way it has been behaving both domestically and internationally.
This article was imported from an earlier version of Felix Online - see the original article here.