Protesters filled the streets in 2014, hoping to bring down President Viktor Yanukovych. The Ukrainian people longed for a favorable government. The pro-Russian Yanukovych had made several unpopular decisions. He imprisoned his political rivals, he harassed several independent journalists, he ordered military force upon peaceful protests, and what pushed most Ukrainians over the edge was his decision to not sign an agreement that would form an alliance between Ukraine and the European Union.
Ukraine’s only problems are by no means solely political as the state of its economy has plummeted. The hryvnia, Ukraine’s currency, trades at a rate of about 10:1 with the US dollar. Ukraine’s government has recently been confronted with short-term debts with interest rates that peaked at 15%. In 2014, Ukraine’s bonds were just as weak, if not weaker than Venezuela’s. Directly after the post-Soviet era in 1991, Ukraine became an extremely unproductive economy. Ukrainians experienced large amounts of hyperinflation, which frightened them. The Ukrainian central bank made the switch from their old currency of karbovanets to their current currency of hryvnias and pledged to keep it stable; this currency change took place in 1996. Ukraine’s government certainly has not been stable since this pledge. Numerous Ukrainian businesses refuse to pay taxes, and this of course deprives the Ukrainian government of revenues. The most recent prime minister of Ukraine has approximated that about $37 billion left the country’s possession during Viktor Yanukovych’s rule. According to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Ukraine is ranked 130th out of 168 countries in terms of corruption, 11 spots behind Russia.
In early August of 2014, the US’s Democratic Party divided when deciding to send lethal weapons and gear to Ukraine. The Obama administration had given to Ukraine non-lethal equipment (i.e. night-vision goggles and armored vehicles). Many, alongside Committee Chairman Carl Levin asked President Obama to go even further and send Ukraine lethal weapons. The demand for US weapon support will increase as Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine and the risk of open warfare develops. Barack Obama hinted at the fact that weapons could very well be sent to Ukraine if Russia decides to invade Ukraine. John McCain has accused the Obama administration of showing a “cowardly” approach to the situation by not sending Ukraine the necessary weapons and equipment that Mr. McCain believes they need. Ukraine’s military force has previously shown signs of unprofessionalism, and they have lacked the preparation skills of other military forces. In the summer of 2014, 311 Ukrainian troops decided to leave their weapons behind and cross the Russian border. The government in Kiev claimed that the troops had just experienced a short supply of ammunition. There have been several cases of odd behavior from the Ukrainian military. The US should most likely hold off on sending Ukraine any means of lethal weapons until they show that they are capable of a larger degree of discipline and professionalism. Ukraine clearly has several issues, and their government seems to be far from closing in on solutions for these problems.
Ukraine’s government has several political worries. About 50% of Ukrainians back improving relations with Russia; while the remaining 50% of Ukraine’s population are entirely opposed. One major recent issue is that the Ukrainian government in the country’s capital, Kiev, has recently lacked authority its eastern territory territory. Investigative journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter gave an interview and stated, “we have to realize that in the eyes of those protesters, the government in Kiev is a sort of gang of oligarchs, of organized crime, of terrorists, and of course hooligans, and when we see who is right now governing in Kiev, they are not so wrong”, when asked about protesters in Kiev. The government in Kiev greatly desires the military and economic backing of the West, especially NATO and the European Union. The government wants to encourage Russia to take military action, according to Ochsenreiter.
Ukraine has the possibility of striving as a country if it can build and maintain a strong as well as an improved economic and political situation. It would be ideal for Ukraine to become a completely democratic country, but they first need to come across a solution that will hopefully unify the country and solve their problems with government corruption.