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Europe’s Forgotten War

Ukrainian conflict continues to remain at an impasse four years later

Soldiers carry crosses with names of the Ukrainian soldiers killed to place in front of the Russian Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, to symbolize the Ukrainian soldiers killed in the ongoing war in Ukraine's east and to mark the fourth anniversary of the Ilovaisk battle.

AP Photo by Efrem Lukatsky

Soldiers carry crosses with names of the Ukrainian soldiers killed to place in front of the Russian Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, to symbolize the Ukrainian soldiers killed in the ongoing war in Ukraine's east and to mark the fourth anniversary of the Ilovaisk battle.

John Brenalvirez, Staff Wrtier

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The past few years have been filled with historic and unprecedented international events. Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election, Great Britain leaving the European Union, the war on ISIS, North Korea’s increasing aggression, the refugee crisis in Europe and a rising China have dominated headlines and broadcasts. But while these events lie further and further in the past, their impacts and relevancy do not. One such event stands above all others in being forgotten yet still relevant.

The War in Ukraine persists after nearly four years of fighting. The war began after the Pro-Russian government of Ukraine led by Victor Yanukovych was overthrown by Ukrainian protesters in the winter of 2014. A month after the more Western-leaning government was installed in Ukraine, the Russian Federation forcibly occupied the Crimean Peninsula and began arming Pro-Russian Separatists in Eastern Ukraine with both weapons and manpower. The crisis has led to a state of tension between the West and Russia, especially after the destruction of Malaysian Air flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine, which killed all 298 people on board. International investigators found in May 2018 that the missile used to shoot down the plane was made in Russia and came from their “53rd army brigade,” which was then given to the separatists for use against the Ukrainian air force, according to an article on Reuters. com by Anthony Deutsch.

As the war raged on, many of the Baltic neighbors of Russia such as Latvia and Estonia appeared to be on edge, with commentator Nolan Peterson on the Daily Signal describing the region as “One Franz Ferdinand scenario away” from a major war. With this fear of a larger conflict in mind, European powers such as France and Germany engineered the Minsk Agreement in 2015, which, according to an article in Financial Times by David Bond, was supposed to be a ceasefire that also banned the use of “air strikes, tanks, and heavy weaponry” from the conflict. After Minsk, it seemed as if the war was starting to die down as the battles became smaller and smaller.

Then the elections in the United States began, and public memory of the war began to fade in the United States. When allegations of election interference were levied toward the Russians, nobody in Congress was interested in renewing efforts to aid the Ukrainian government in retaliation. While we did agree to send Ukraine last year “weapons as well as the presence of a navy ship,” no significant aid has been given to Ukraine by the western powers, according to Council on Foreign Relations said a report on NPR by Samantha Raphelson. When Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki this year, according to the Financial Times, the war was “barely on the agenda.” The European Union is busy attempting to hold itself together after Britain voted to leave the EU. This leaves Russia and Ukraine as the sole powers in solving the conflict. But why aren’t they?

While it seems as if both countries would like the conflict to end, Ukraine especially, that isn’t necessarily the case. In an article by Vladislav Inozemtsev for Independent, he stated, “One of the key factors in the overthrow of the previous Ukrainian government was the large presence of corruption in the country. The new government has pledged to clean up corruption, but this is difficult due to the country’s history with the concept of “State Capture,” which is defined as a group of oligarchs who through economic and political means have engineered changes to electoral systems and installed their own political leaders, essentially running the country as a business,” according to the Independent.

In the same article by Inozemtsev stated, “This same concept also applies to Russia, though the group of oligarchs that prosper are usually friends of Vladimir Putin. As such, both countries need an excuse to ignore fixing their own corrupted systems of government, and this war is a good excuse for both. For Ukraine, this is an opportunity to cozy up to the West and delay the efforts of cleaning up corruption by playing the victim in a war happening in their own country, while Russia can attempt to restore the glory it had before the Soviet Union collapsed and Putin can boost his own approval rating. Both sides want to win this war, but both are also content with a long-lasting stalemate.”

Which leads us to the present day, the war in Ukraine still rages on out of sight. The BBC stated, “about 10,000 people have died in the war as of Aug. 2018; 3,000 of those were civilians.” According to a Washington Post article by Anton Troianovski, “Separatist leaders such as Alexander Zakharchenko, President of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, have been killed, but only time will tell if this actually has an effect on the momentum of the war. In all likelihood the war will continue in its current form as a stalemate without anyone caring except for those caught in the war.” In the words of Lyubov Kolesova, a Ukrainian woman caught up in the conflict in an article in the Financial times “They don’t care. If you don’t live here, you won’t understand.”

 

 

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