Why is Ukraine Burning?

Photo by Valentyn Ogirenko, Reuters

Ukraine looks bad and may be getting worse with 25 reported dead today and Kiev in flames.  Ukraine is a divided country with major powers encouraging different sides. Russia considers Ukraine to be essential in its sphere of influence, Europe is expanding and would like closer ties with Kiev.  And the US continues to offer milder versions of support–possibly facing “revolution fatigue“–but has an interest in resolving the spiraling violence.

Who are the players behind this standoff and what do they want?  Greg Botelho and Marie-Louise Gumuchian break it down clearly and helpfully on CNN.

Focus on Russia: To go deeper we need to understand the nature of US/Russian relations.  And an all-star panel, broadcast on C-SPAN yesterday, offers some helpful analysis.  Panel chair Fiona Hill, Brookings Institution leads the discussion with Angela Stent, Georgetown University, Strobe Talbott, Brookings, and Peter Baker, New York Times.

USRussia Relations | Video | C-SPAN.org.

How to Fix Ukraine? Christian Caryl has a good idea that doesn’t involve the extreme (splitting the country) or the unsatisfactory (status quo):

What Ukraine needs is a system where the government is run by a prime minister whose power rests on the strongest party (or coalition of parties) in parliament. This prime minister would have ample authority, but would also face sufficient checks and balances to prevent those powers from being overstepped (not to mention legislative oversight as a bulwark against corruption). The president, by contrast, would serve merely as a symbolic head of state: in other words, a bit more Germany, a bit less France. (For anyone who’s interested, here’s an article that spells out the mechanisms in detail.) via FP | Democracy Lab: How to Solve the Crisis in Ukraine

Watch the Media Frame: In The Nation, Stephen F. Cohen delves into a challenge for U.S. readers: how to parse  media narratives when Vladimir Putin is framed as “the bad guy.”  Citing coverage in The New Republic, WSJ,  NYT, WaPo, and even The New York Review of Books where Cohen argues that Timothy Snyder makes numerous factual distortions and misstatements, he makes the case for a major lack of understanding.  This professor emeritus at NYU and Princeton expresses concern that a “winner take all approach to post-Soviet Russia” doesn’t serve U.S. interests.

Further Reading: Follow the Ukraine Issue Guide on CFR for even more analysis, including links to articles on why the crisis is likely to continue, the stakes for “losing” Ukraine, and why the current situation is “Putin’s Worst Nightmare.”



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