All posts by justin

The Government of Ukraine

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.

Environmental Issues in Yemen

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. The civil war between those devoted to the well known government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those affiliated with the Shiite Houthi rebel movement is an extremely large issue and it leaves Yemenis with fear and trepidation. About 6,800 people have passed away and close to 35,000 people have been injured since March of 2015 due to this conflict. The greater part of these casualties have been caused by air strikes by a Saudi-led national coalition which is supported by the Saudi president. This conflict has led many Yemenis to plead for humanitarian aid; scientists have stated that about 82%, more than 21,000,000 people, are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.  This situation was caused by the collapse during a political transition that was meant to lead to stability. President Ali Abdullah Saleh was coerced to give up power to Mr. Hadi in November of 2011. The Houthi movement decided to take over their northern heartland of Saada province and its bordering lands during this time because of Hadi’s weaknesses. Mr. Hadi had a very difficult time dealing with aggression by al-Qaeda as well as many other problems. In September of 2014, the Sunnis entered Sanaa, with many Yemen civilians, and they set up barricades on roads and street camps in support of the Houthi movement. Eventually, in 2015, Mr. Hadi was placed under house arrest. President Hadi then fled the country just three months later. After seeing this, Saudi Arabia as well as eight other largely Sunni Arab states joined along in an attempt to rebuild Mr. Hadi’s government. Following roughly a year and a half of violence, no party seems to be closer than the other to a victory. The majority of Yemenis are forced to fear for their lives daily because of the constant fighting going on around and among them. Although the major headline for Yemen’s struggles may be referring to this civil war, the lack of water is a much more concerning issue. No matter who comes out victorious in this civil war, water will eventually take more lives than the fighting could’ve ever done if a solution is not found promptly.

Half of Yemen’s population struggles daily to locate clean water. Sana’a, the capital, could be the first city to completely run dry of water. About 14.7 million Yemenis rely on humanitarian aid. Yemen’s past strategies for collecting water was definitely not the most forward looking; they decided to drill for groundwater instead of collecting and stowing away the rainwater. The state-run water companies only visit residences in larger cities. Unfortunately, 70% of Yemen’s population resides in rural parts of the country. Researchers have made the prediction that about 60% of water that traveled throughout pipes in Yemen is lost because of leaks. Yemenis are considered to be very lucky if they receive water from their taps more than twice a week. In Taiz, water sometimes only runs out of citizen’s tap once a month. There is a lot of tension between urban and rural water supply companies. Roughly 70-80% of conflicts in Yemen are most likely caused from the shortage of water. In fact, about 4,000 people die each year because of these conflicts. A great deal of Yemenis struggle with poverty, high  unemployment rates, very low literacy rates, and an addiction to “qat”.

Yemen is in a great deal of trouble. Scientists estimate that oil reserves will probably dissipate in the next five to ten years. Government resources will also most likely disappear. The poor population continues to grow immensely each day. Roughly 66% of Yemen citizens are under the age of twenty four, which makes the entire issue even more threatening. In Yemen, oil serves as 75% of the government’s income.  Roughly 25% of every health institution in Yemen has closed. Just about 19 million citizens of Yemen are without access to clean water. Roughly 16% of infants under the age of five are acutely malnourished. This lack of water can clearly cause serious diseases and even death.

It’s upsetting to know that roughly 2,000 years ago, Yemen was considered the breadbasket of Arabia, because of it’s beauteous green mountain ranges and it’s large agricultural output. Unfortunately, environmental, social, and political issues have all contributed in destroying this reputation. There is far from enough rainfall, surface water, as well as ground water in Yemen. Scientists have looked and calculated the groundwater depletion rates throughout the Sana’a basin of five to six meters per year. Several scientists have predicted that Yemen will run out of water in roughly twenty years at most. This civil war is, unfortunately, a large distraction to the most important struggle that Yemen must deal with, and that is the lack of water.