Russia and East Ukraine

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “In East Ukraine, Protesters Seek Russian Troops,” describes an increasingly tense situation, where demonstrators are calling for intervention by Russia and are pledging to hold a referendum on secession no later than May 11. Three cities in East Ukraine were besieged by these protests, in a similar scenario to Crimea, where Russian troops entered the region and eventually annexed it.

Ukrainian government officials in Kiev will not let any aggression by Russia go unchecked like they did with Crimea. Moats are being built, and Ukrainian soldiers are taking up positions to defend their nation. But against 40,000 Russian troops, it does not seem like they would have much success.

With Ukranian Presidential elections scheduled for May, the Russian influence is bound to affect the results, and the alignment of Ukraine with Europe seems increasingly unlikely. Some form of federalism to give Russian-speaking provinces autonomy seems almost inevitable, if only to keep Russia’s troops at bay.

Meanwhile, the IMF is demanding austerity measures if it is to help bail out the Ukrainian economy. And those legislative steps may be forestalled as Ukraine tries to maintain its territorial integrity and keep Eastern Ukraine as part of the country. Europe and the United States are watching these developments helplessly.