By Harry C. Blaney III

The upheavals in Ukraine, where we have witness continued conditions of unrest, uncertainty, needless deaths, and political and economic dysfunction, shows us a model of our larger world. Ukraine is but one example of a growing unstable, high risk, conflict-filled global landscape. If one looks over any major region, one finds major existing and emerging serious problems and signs of governmental and international failure.

Sadly, examples abound in Africa, in the Middle East, in Russia, in Latin America, and in Asia. In many of the areas, poverty and inequality, government and private sector corruption, greed, and incompetence are abundant. Ethnic and religious ethnic intolerance and hatred have created mass slaughter and savagery in places like Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, Burma, Congo, Lebanon, and not least Syria. Even within the developed world, discrimination and enforced poverty of minority groups and immigrants have grown with the increase of racist and extreme right-wing groups as we are seeing in Greece, France, Italy, China, Switzerland, Britain, and yes, here in the United States.

The corrosiveness of these factors have divided citizens, created highly partisan politics and debates, and undermined collective action to fix basic social problems and address serious challenges to domestic progress. It has also been a destructive and major force preventing actions by the international community and its member states to take actions that would mitigate or prevent regional and global disasters, humanitarian crises, and conflict.

The Ukraine example provides a case in point. A country divided between East and West, a pervasive corrupt regime and business community, a language and historical split, a lack of steady democratic institutions that can adjudicate and create an environment where all people see their concerns addressed.

The other element in Ukraine is also the role of malevolent outside forces. This problem has also exacerbated almost all of the other regions of conflict, where we have seen terrorism and ethnic cleansing. In the Ukraine case, the role of Russia was and remains at this moment a cause for great concern and instability with the threat of a breakup of the nation, intervention of outside elements, rise of radical along with armed right-wing parties, and the application of external economic influences.

The Russian Foreign Minister has made threatening pronouncements, which have only made things worse, while Ukrainian nationalists have also acted with much foolishness, illustrated in the ban of the Russian language. Ukraine needs about $35 billion dollars to bail itself out of its economic debt and provide funds for the nation’s immediate needs, but have not yet put in charge the technocratic and non-corruptible officials needed to give confidence to any lender, whether the EU, the U.S. or the IMF, that the money will be use wisely. Russia has sent both signals of opposition to the new order in Ukraine and signals saying that Ukraine should remain united. It is uncertain what Putin’s ultimate game will be, since the loss of Ukraine to his plans for resurrecting the Russian /Soviet Empire has wider significance throughout the region.

One bad sign is news that Putin has put Russian troops on alert, which is not a helpful event. Ukraine, most agree, needs to be on good terms both with Russia and the West. Both sides should support this, unless Russia acts stupidly.

President Obama has been careful and cautions, as is his want, but all the indications are that America has played a major constructive role in this crisis trying both in drawing Russia in a cooperative stance and working to bring all the key players together. They have, however, rightly let the EU and Catherine Ashton get in front since at issue in all of this unrest has been the decision or lack thereof of Ukraine moving into closer cooperation with the EU and perhaps even one day being a member.    

These elements, as this is written, have both energized and almost paralyzed the existing Ukraine parliament faced with continued protests from all sides of the political spectrum and dangers, especially from the Russian population in the Crimea. Financial bankruptcy looms, and security of the population is still unsure, but there are signs that the population at large may be moving towards taking responsibility for their nation and daily life. Clearly, there is need to try to draw together not only the Ukrainian democratic factions, but also all the outside players to provide a peaceful and more easy space for the Ukrainian people to find solutions and be helped. Instead of being hindered in their search for domestic peace and a responsible government, the people should be able to obtain the necessary assistance that can make this possible.

Finally, the Ukraine is, like our complex modern reality, both similar and different from other arcs of instability. It needs to be seen as part of a dangerous global trend, but adjusted for its unique position and situation. Aid and support are required from outside, but interference undermining national unity or pushing division are not needed.

For America, we need to look at our own tools to make for a more peaceful and prosperous world and recognize we have fallen short due to the division in our own Congress and lack of public understanding of global realities. Ukraine and the other points of crisis prove we need better international institutions with more robust tools and resources to act in ways that solve systemic problems—ones that are accepted as helpers and not interested parties.

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