Pictured: Your fair author and Dr. Alexey Muraviev
When: 6.30pm, March 25th
Where: St. Catherine’s College, UWA
Who: Dr. Alexey Muraviev, Head of Social Science and International Studies at Curtin University
What: Speaking at the Australian Institute of International Affairs WA Branch Meeting on:
“UKRAINIAN FRONT 2.0:
RUSSIA’S STRATEGIC INTENT, GEO-STRATEGIC CONSEQUENCES
& IMPLICATIONS FOR AUSTRALIA”
***Note: This Meeting was held under Chatham House Rule. ***
** Read about this rule HERE **
It took me less than 5 minutes into Alexey’s talk for me to realise how ill-focused the media reporting has been on the “Crimea Crisis”.
Our understanding has been distorted.
This is what I learned…..
Bit of context: Alexey is a former lecturer of mine, he is Russian, and he is held as an expert in the field of Security.
Read his Bios in either of the hyperlinks above!
1. The “Crisis” in Ukraine is not arbitrary, it is not ‘new’..
Ukraine, along with a dozen other Eur-Asian countries [in green, below] were part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [USSR]. From Nazi liberation in 1945 until the collapse of the USSR 1991, and even further back to 1919, Russia and Ukraine have had a mutual history, Soviet heritage – part of the same cultural sphere. So this is not your typical adversaries/ ‘us’ vs ‘them’ binary.
Like any other nation, Ukraine has experienced political instability and cut its teeth as an independent nation. Ukrainian territory was annexed by Lenin and Stalin [Russia] in the 1920s and 1930s, they GAVE them more territory.
Russia has always been involved with Ukraine, so it should not be shocking [according to Alexey] that Russian troops were called in/are operating within Ukrainian territory. I would, myself, very boldly liken this situation to the relationship Australia and America; we [Australia] allow American troops to be stationed in Darwin as a result of specific alliances in our relationship – economic, political, military etc.The American are not invading, they are simply operating within their given means in foreign territory.
2. Vladmir Putin’s intent is not necessarily malicious or seeking to be dominant over Ukraine…
His vitriol stems from his distaste of the possibility that ‘The West’ are seeking to interfere in the domestic affairs of a country which is considered an important strategic interest and an economic partner. It is important to remember that this situation needs to be understood beyond the Cold War binary “Oh look, the US and Russia, AGAIN”.
Russian troops were already stationed in Ukraine, because under a 1997 treaty between the two countries, which allows up to 25,000 troops within Ukraine territory. Yes, Russia was brought in to co-manage Ukarine’s gas supplies, because they have a significant, high $$$ trade relationship. Ukraine is a country racked by debt. USD$75 billion. They allowed them to co-manage their gas systems, AND station limited military [Army, Navy, Air Force ] personnel at Sevastopol, and throughout Crimea, beause the Crimean island is a key control point for the Black Sea and Mediterranean. The Ukraine trade-off because they don’t have a lot of money;well, not fiscally stable.
Russian troops didn’t march over the Crimean border, they walked up to it and along it, because they were already on the Ukrainian side of it, apparently.
3. The media is focusing on Russia, and making little to attempt to focus on or understand the Ukrainian political landscape..
Ukraine has some issues with right wing extremist groups — neo Nazis and right wing sympathisers.
The reason why ousted President Viktor Yanukovych asked for Russian assistance to quell public unrest could also very probably be to prevent any extremist political parties or groups assuming leadership. These right-wing groups want to keep [as Hitler did] their country for their own people — so they do not like the Russian speaking Ukrainians, so an annexation of Ukraine would be to protect those citizens. Ukraine lost up to 6 million citizens to the Nazis, so right wing sympathies and political violence are not welcomed.
Apparently there have been calls in the past from other political parties in Ukraine to Russia, Washington and Brussels [Home of EU and Euro Parliament] to intervene over the last 10 years. So this situation is not ‘out of the blue’. Russia’s interest in the riots and instability comes from a want to protect its investments, and a desire to not lose gas facilities in Sevastopol [in Crimea]. Ukraine could not have definitely held off right wing extremists in its vulnerable state; much like the East Timorese could not have held back Indonesian forces in the 1990s without Australian peacekeepers.
The UNSC are not in a positon to sanction Russia because Russia is one of the ‘Permanent 5’ members, and can simply veto any proposed sanctions. Russia’s membership of the G8 was suspended on the 25th of March, and thus far has had little impact in altering the situation. Sitting and listening to Alexey really brought home the value of doing your reasearch when it comes to reading media reports about international politics, knowing context is everything.
What did I think?
I really enjoyed Alexey’s talk; it provided a valuable 3-D perspective to the Ukrainian siutation, and a vital understanding of Crimean regional politics. Always try to do a little more reading about a topic you’re interested by in the news, and it’s a small way in which you can expand your knowledge of current affairs.
I was asked to facilitate the Q and A session succeeding Alexey’s talk, which was a huge [first time] privelige. Loved it.
In summation, to briefly quote my introduction at the Q and A session:
“As a former student of Alexey’s, I know he speaks with great informative ease on topics of security, and tonight is just another example of this. I really hope you enjoyed tonight’s talk. I think it is quite cool to see his name pop up in the paper every now and again; thinking that the man I asked questions of as a Lecturer and Student, is the same man who also answers the questions of high ranking Government officials both State and Federal...”
Get to know your Lecturers!
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