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Russia and Ukraine: Will sanctions prevail where public diplomacy has failed?

by on April 4, 2014

In November 2013 Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of an association deal with the European Union which caused unprecedented protests of around 30,000 people, deaths and shortly after his demise and his resignation. An opportunity was both seen as seized by Pro-Russian forces that have used this as their opportunity to take over the Crimea region of Ukraine with relations between Russia and Ukraine diminishing ever since.

March 12th 2014 Public diplomacy went on with talks between Barack Obama and interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House in which pledges were made to stand with Ukraine, but to little effect. While Russia’s president Vladimir Putin had continued to defend Moscow’s actions on Crimea, EU leaders gathered in Brussels condemning Russia’s seizure of Crimea and in response a number of sanctions were made by both the EU leaders and the US, these included travel bans and the freezing of assets on several officials from Russia including twelve of President Putins inner circle, also to little effect and by March the 24th Ukrainian troops had pulled out of Crimea following orders by Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov. With there appearing to be no signs of Russian troops pulling out from the borders of Ukraine, following a meeting in Brussels Nato foreign ministers have suspended all military and civilian and co-operation with Russia.

Despite the many diplomatic efforts attempted in the fight between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea and the clear disapproval from both the EU and the US in Russia’s actions in the Crimean crisis, Russia has been able to take control of Crimea regardless of international law. Russia is Europe’s biggest supplier of natural gas, with around 30 per cent of its gas being supplied from Russia. In what some feel may be the start of a cold war between Russia and the West, efforts have been made from European leaders aimed at breaking the reliance upon Russia from the EU for supplies of gas and energy, with them also attempting to come up with devices to protect Europe from any attempts at energy blackmail by Russia. Prime Minister David Cameron has said “Russia needs Europe more than Europe needs Russia,” and it appears that if tensions between Russia and the West continue we are set to see just how true this may be. Russia is said to be on the brink of recession and it economy could be greatly harmed by economic sanctions imposed by the West and with over half of its budget coming from the gas and oil revenues it gets from selling to the EU sanction of fossil fuels would render Russia arguably vulnerable.



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  1. themanisred permalink

    Good question, sanctions worked in South Africa in the 80s and may work in Russia. I feel that there is a genuine fear from the West thought and its probably because nobody feels the same as Cameron in reference to his comments about Russia needing Europe more.

  2. The events in Ukraine have certainly given us much food for thought on this module this year. The contrast between the soft power pull of the EU’s attraction and the hard power threats and intervention from Russia couldn’t be more clearly defined. However, I don’t think you have drawn out themes relevant to our module from this case study. For example, you have discussed the traditional diplomatic activities surrounding this event, not public diplomacy initiatives. If you do decided to include this in your portfolio, a lot of work needs to be done to make it relevant to the themes of the module. For instance, you could look at Russia’s use of its RT news broadcasts to promote its interpretation of events and to seek to win over public opinion around the world. Sanctions are not something we have explored on this module.

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