Euromaidan Protests in Ukraine Turn Deadly

Halfway across the globe, a political protest known as Euromaidan continues into its twelfth week in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. As an emerging free market, Ukraine is a pivotal trade partner with the US, the EU, and Russia. As of this morning, 25 have been killed, and as the death count rises, the West tunes in.

Kiev

As a quick review, the public protest began late last November when more than 100,000 Ukrainians filled the streets of Kiev in response to President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of trade agreements with the European Union in favor of continued bailouts from Russia. As Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute, states:

“It is now apparent that Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovich, had no effective strategy to resist intense pressure against the EU deal from Moscow. The Kremlin promised big cash loans, a gas discount and debt forgiveness, while explicitly threatening to block Ukraine’s access to the Russian market and implicitly threatening to stoke separatism in regions of the country.”

For more on Euromaidan, click here for a more in-depth background, here for a livestream from Kiev, here for a liveblog of events, and here for photos of the riot taken yesterday.

Over the past decade, President Yanukovych has slowly aligned the Ukrainian government more so with Russian interests, abandoning the democratic reforms that resulted from the 2004 Orange Revolution, and adapting more totalitarian tactics like imprisoning opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in 2011.

This created consternation with the Ukranian people, and the protests, which began in Maidan Square, have spilled throughout the rest of the country. As the protestors were met with “shocking violence,” it appears Ukraine is possibly – possibly - headed for civil war.

What to Do?

When does a protest become a revolution? For what it’s worth, this author does not consider Euormaidan a revolution – yet. Successful revolutions place the common man between the probable death due to their actions and the certain death of inaction. Nevertheless, Ukraine is certainly on the brink.

At what point do foreign affairs necessitate action? This is an important question, as the EU - and now the United States – measures the use of sanctions against Ukraine. Of course, the best way to facilitate change is with economic means. In business, for instance, if individuals disapprove of a clothing line’s advertisement campaign, a boycott can send a signal to management to change tactics. This has proven to be somewhat effective over time.

But sanctioning the economic activity of a country does not work that way. In fact, it often hurts the weakest members and those being oppressed by government in the first place. Remember, economic activity is a result of a nation’s people, not its government. By the same measure we use in deciding not to sanction a foreign government, we should be resolute in not arbitrarily providing them with foreign aid, either.

Kerry

There are many things we (and the EU) can do to express solidarity with particular factions in Ukraine without explicitly choosing sides or monetary aid, such as news coverage, medical assistance, and most importantly, sanctuary during diaspora.

What we are witnessing in the Ukraine is democracy at work. Democracy is not perfect, but it’s the best bad option we as free people have.

“Trying to stop democracy is to struggle against God himself.” — Alexis de Tocqueville


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