GREEN BAY- Divisions between European and Russian interests in Ukraine stretch back long before the recent protests.
Ukraine became independent when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
The country is nestled between the rest of Europe to the West and Russia to the East: Western Ukrainians connecting with Europe, Eastern Ukranians strongly Russian.
The name Ukraine literally means “borderland.”
“And basically what happened was last year, the leader of the Ukraine reneged on a promise of a trade agreement with Europe that would have opened up avenues of trade within Europe with the Ukraine and various nations of Europe,” said UW-Green Bay Professor Eric Morgan.
Morgan says Ukraine’s economy has been fragile for the 23 years since the end of the Cold War.
“As with many eastern European states, transition from the end of communism to capitalism has been difficult. That’s why many people in Ukraine wanted the trade pact with Europe,” said Morgan.
Morgan explains the rejection of that deal moved Ukraine closer to Russia.
“Russia is not a member of the European Union, it has strong interest in the Ukraine, it is the major trading partner with the Ukraine,” said Morgan.
While most people living in Crimea consider themselves pro-Russian, Crimea is still part of Ukraine; although, it does have some degree of self-rule.
It has agreed to host Russia’s Black Sea Naval Fleet. That’s why Russia feels with the unrest, it’s justified in moving troops to protect who it considers Russian citizens.
On the other hand, the United States and the European Union say treaties with Ukraine allow them to justify sanctions against Russia if it takes further military action in Crimea.