1LT Colin Root
January 28, 2018
Instability in Ukraine
The causes of instability in Ukraine are political, the physical environment and social.
Ukraine’s political system is destabilized by the limited support it receives from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), European Union (EU) and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).1 In response to Russian aggression in 2014, NATO promised to increase military spending in support of allies, strengthen the response force located in neighboring countries, and place sanctions on Russia.2 None of these sanctions included direct support of military forces during the Russian Annexation of Crimea or the Donbas Region. Ukraine has an Association Agreement with the European Union, however, the European Union chose to implement a strictly diplomatic approach to Russian aggression beginning in March 2017 and withhold the use of military capabilities.3 The OSCE response to the Russian annexation of Crimea and armed occupation of Donbas was to mediate peace talks between Ukrainian authorities and Russian Separatists but decided against security missions. The Russian Federation’s influence in Crimea and Donbas region destabilize Ukraine’s Political structure. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, likely began aggression in Ukraine in order to deter Ukraine from joining NATO and gain territorial ownership of Crimea and Donbas.4 Without the clandestine support of Soviet Militants, the Pro-Soviet Ukrainian Separatists would not have had the ability to overthrow the standing Ukrainian Authorities. The current political environment created by these Soviet-backed actions has degraded the Ukrainian government’s legitimacy and decreased its standing with the Ukrainian people.5
Government corruption in Ukraine is causing political instability. Current President, Petro Poroshenko, does not support a much-needed anti-corruption reform within the Ukrainian government and has a history of past corruption.6 In 2017, thousands of Ukrainian citizens protested government corruption in front of Ukraine’s parliament building.7 Petro Poroshenko ordered the detainment of Mikheil Saakashvili, Ukraine’s former president, on erroneous charges of assisting a criminal organization causing a rift between the two parties.6 Transparency International, an organization that provides statistics on corruption, places Ukraine 131 out of 176 on their corruption perception index.8
The border between Ukraine and Russia is a continuing source of instability for Ukraine. Ukraine shares 1,944 kilometers of border with Russia.9 The Pro-Soviet Ukrainians of the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine and Russian Federation Militants currently own territory which extends as far west as the City of Luhansk and Donetsk and their respective airports.10 The Russian belief that the Donbas Region of Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula are part of “historic” Russia will continue to cause border dispute turmoil into the future.11
Ownership of the Crimean Peninsula is a cause of Ukrainian instability. Ukraine shares 2,782 kilometers of coastline with the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.9 The Crimean Peninsula is officially part of Ukraine but was annexed by Soviet-backed militants in 2014. The Russian-speaking majority of the peninsula voted to join the Russian Federation. Neither Ukraine nor the West considers the referendum legitimate. The Port of Sevastopol causes further instability in the country because the port is home to the Russian Federation Black Sea Fleet that uses the port for access to the Mediterranean.12
Two independent organizations within the Ukrainian society have rebelled causing internal instability within Ukraine. The Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics are two secessionist groups that have claimed independence from Ukrainian governance and authority. The Luhansk People’s Republic’s contains three armed secessionist militant groups and the Republic has no unified leadership presence.13 The Donetsk People’s Republic is a more unified secessionist group and is currently the main opposition to Ukrainian authority. It has close ties and receives significant support from the Russian Federation. The group advocates separation from Ukraine and independence.14 Russia continues to intervene in the interests of the two groups and is using them as a means to keep Ukraine in a destabilized state.15
OSCE. Participating States. http://www.osce.org/participating-states (accessed January 29, 2018).
2 The Ukraine Conflict: Russia’s Challenge to European Security Governance
3 Ukraine: Council adopts EU-Ukraine association agreement
4 “Why Putin Took Crimea” Foreign Affairs
5 The Donbas in 2014: Explaining Civil Conflict Perhaps, but not Civil War
6 “Corruption makes Ukraine even more vulnerable to Russia”
7 “Ukraine’s Combat Veterans Dig in for the War Against Corruption”
8 Corruption Perception index 2016
9 FBI Factbook- Ukraine
10 Ukraine Crisis in Maps
11 Ukraine three years on: a basis for optimism
12 Crimea Profile
13 Ukraine Seeks Armed Police Mission of OSCE in Donetsk-Luhansk
14 People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic
15 Are the Kremlin’s LPR and DPR About to Unite or Fight Each Other?