Ukraine’s geological position between Europe and Russia has left the country divided culturally and politically. Western Ukraine mostly speaks Ukrainian and align itself more towards Europe, while Eastern Ukraine shares a cultural heritage with Russia. Recently, tensions escalated when Russia invaded Crimea, annexing the region, and offering military assistance and supplies to pro-Russian militants in the East, Russia’s actions have added stress to the relations between Russia, NATO countries, and the European Union. Through analyzing the Crimean crisis with the use of the international relation theories of neorealism, constructivism, and liberalism, we can work towards explaining the cause ofthe crisis.
First, neorealism is a term coined by political scientist Kenneth Waltz in his book Theory of International Politics. The theory states the international system is anarchic and states are unitary actors that act according to their position in the world system.
This means there is no formal central authority, and every state is equal in the world system, These states seek their own goals and will not subordinate them to the interests of other states Waltz argues since a state can never be certain of others future intentions, there is a lack of m between states which requires them to be on guard to avoid a loss of power which could enable other states to threaten their survival.
in other words, neorealism is a struggle of power between states and maintaining security within a state.’ Thus, through applying Waltz’s words to the situation in Ukraine, 0 political realists would say Russia is countering a security threat from the EU and NATO countries.
By creating closer ties with Ukraine, the EU was impinging on the national security of Russia Therefore, Russia took the necessary action to increase its security interests by annexing Crimea.
Furthermore, by annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Russian Ukrainians, Russia is exacerbating the divide in Ukraine, and potentially leading it towards a civil war. In a sense, Russia is trying to diminish the value of Ukraine in order to reduce the gains that the EU and NATO would receive if Ukraine were to join them. Second, constructivism would argue that the Ukraine crisis is a byproduct ofhow Russia, the EU, and Ukraine each identify themselves in regard to one another: Constructivism is the theory where international relations depend on the ideas and beliefs of states which have shaped their shared identities and conceptions of each other. Constructivists do not refute the realist claim that states are interested in survival, but rather add that the social structure in which states interact is affected by each states’ identity.2 The Crimean people voted to join Russia, showing that they identify with Russia more than Ukraine. Thus, Putin sent in troops to defend the “Russians in Crimea.” Furthermore, it was not that long ago that Russia and Ukraine were united under the USSR.
The residues of the bipolar system that emerged in the Cold War still exist today in the practices of Russia, as well as the EU, The hostility that the USSR had with NATO have shaped the interests of both sides in such a way that limits cooperation The attempted expansion of the EU towards Ukraine was thus understood by Russia as a direct threat because Russia still views the EU as an enemy. Finally, the liberal point ofview focuses on the competing but morally beneﬁting economic interests ofRussia and the EU over Ukraine. Liberals like Andrew Moravcsik emphasize that ”domestic and transnational civil society” determines a states actions, 3 Liberalism looks at the all of the different groups inside of the state, and the interactions between states which can foster interdependence, meaning mutual dependence that benefits all parties Ukraine is a key energy partner for the EU since it is the transit country for hydrocarbons into Europe.“
Russia supplies this massive amount of energy and desires to stay as the EU’s key external gas supplier.S The EU was about to sign an agreement with Ukraine without the involvement with Russia, which Putin viewed as a direct threat to the Russian economy that had to be confronted. This is because Sloviansk, a region in Ukraine, is one of the richest sources of gas in Europe, which could transform import dependent Ukraine into a fuel exporter}; Thus, an economic deal between the EU and Ukraine sparked Russia’s actions to get involved with Ukraine as their economic interests were threatened if the deal was signed Overall, when it comes to international relations there are no correct answers to why states act in the way they do; however, international relation theory gives us possible reasons When it comes to explaining the Ukraine crisis, the liberal and parts of the neorealist theory are the most compelling arguments since the international conflict emerged out of a potential economic agreement between Ukraine and the EU, and because of Russia’s history with NATO.
The issue with the constructivist theory is it does not explain why Russia is taking such a huge risk, when it hasn’t done anything comparable since the Cold War, yet it always viewed the EU and NATO as rivalsi Furthermore, trade agreement seems too small to threaten Russia‘s national security enough that Russia would send troops to Ukraine, yet they proceeded to do so anyway, Thus, it is important to take into account the potential of Ukraine becoming a NATO country, since that would seriously threaten Russia’s security, especially given the history between Russia and Ukraine. Moreover, if Ukraine were to sign the trade agreement with the EU, Russia’s economy would seriously sufferi Thus, the security and economic threat of Ukraine joining the EU and potentially NATO is the most compelling answer for Russia‘s recent actions in Ukraine.