For at least three months, there has been a simmering showdown in the Ukraine (which is not weak!) between activists seeking to chart a new, more European, course for their country, and those loyal to the current regime and its leader, Viktor Yanukovych.
In the last two days, those simmering protests have erupted into wide scale violence across the country. Last night, as I watched the evening news here in America, I saw the country’s capital city, Kiev, alight with massive rows of fire, Molotov cocktails flying through the air in a hellish scene, all at around 4:30 in the morning Kiev time.
At last count, as a result of the violence of the last two days, at least 25 people have been killed and over 250 wounded. As of today, the countries embattled president named a new head of the Armed Forces to try and quell the “terrorist” uprising.
Of course, with protest movements as diverse and disparate as this one, listing grievances can be difficult, but in general, this situation boils down to the direction the country is headed. All of those protesters in the street would like to see Ukraine become more a part of the West and the European Union, and President Yanukovych, largely considered a puppet of Russian President Vladamir Putin, would seemingly like to remain, as they have been since the fall of the USSR, a satellite state of Russia.
The situation finally came to a head when Yanukovych turned down a $50 billion dollar trade pact with the European Union which Putin had been publicly critical of, and instead re-upped their $15 billion trade pact with Russia.
According to the European Commission, this is a partial list of things the Ukraine turned down in deciding to reject the European Union trade deal:
– “An eventual free trade agreement between Ukraine and the EU would save the country $670 million annually because of reduced EU import taxes. Ukraine would lose around $538 million in import duties coming from the EU.”
– “Ukraine’s agriculture sector would have benefited from cuts in duties: $45 million for agriculture products and $72 million for processed agriculture products. In addition, new market opportunities in the EU and higher production standards would help investment, stimulate the modernization of agriculture and improve labor conditions. Agriculture makes up 10 percent of Ukraine’s gross domestic product, a much higher share than in the major Western economies (in the U.S. it’s 2 percent).”
– “The industrial sector would have also benefited from the reduction of taxes on machinery and appliances by at least $103 million. Ukraine would also be able to cut duties on vehicles by $161 million.”
But what’s a billion dollars here or there when you get to have a good buddy like Putin?