Mar 3 6:30 PM

Best of the Web: Crisis in Ukraine

A woman wearing a Ukrainian flag stands at a memorial for people killed in clashes with the police at Kiev's Independence Square. The U.S. and its allies are weighing options about whether to impose sanctions following the Russian military's advancement into Ukraine.
Emilio Morenatti/AP

Tune in Monday at 9 p.m. ET for "Crisis in Ukraine," an America Tonight special.

Following the Russian military's advancement into Crimea, the U.S. and its allies are weighing options for supporting Ukraine's interim government while punishing President Putin for his actions. So how did this tense situation develop and where is it headed? America Tonight has pulled together some of the best reporting and analysis on the evolving crisis.

What to read

Pro-Russia protestors demonstrate in Kiev.
Olga Ivashchenko/AP

Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda - New York Review of Books

The authoritarian regimes in Moscow and, until recently, in Kiev framed the uprising as somehow radical or fringe. Timothy Snyder delves into how they crafted this message, and how in reality a classic popular revolution has unfolded, "with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails."

"Thus far the new Ukrainian authorities have reacted with remarkable calm," Snyder wrote. "It is entirely possible that a Russian attack on Ukraine will provoke a strong nationalist reaction: indeed, it would be rather surprising if it did not, since invasions have a way of bringing out the worst in people. If this is what does happen, we should see events for what they are: an entirely unprovoked attack by one nation upon the sovereign territory of another."

President Barack Obama with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Evan Vucci/AP

Why Russia No Longer Fears the West - Politico

Vladimir Putin believes U.S. influence is rapidly diminishing, which played a significant role in the Russian military's intervention in Crimea, Ben Judah postulates. He goes on to outline why Russia believes the U.S. is only about money instead of power, and why the advancement in Crimea, thought of as "the heart of Russian romanticism,” is playing very well to his pro-Russia supporters.

"He knows that millions of Russians will cheer him as a hero if he returns them Crimea," Judah wrote. "He knows that European bureaucrats will issue shrill statements and then get back to business helping Russian elites buy London town houses and French chateaux. He knows full well that the United States can no longer force Europe to trade in a different way. He knows full well that the United States can do nothing beyond theatrical military maneuvers at most."

Judah added: "This is why Vladimir Putin just invaded Crimea. He thinks he has nothing to lose."

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden.
Kevin Wolf/AP

Ex-CIA Chief: Why We Keep Getting Putin Wrong - The Daily Beast

Late last week, Russian forces gathered near the Ukraine border. Yet the U.S. intelligence community still didn't identify that the Russian military would openly invade. Michael Hayden, a former CIA director and NSA director under President George W. Bush, likened the situation to the American failure to understand the depth and likelihood of the democratic upheavals that took place during the Arab Spring.

“This is less a question of how many collection resources we throw at Russia and more broadly about the analytic challenge of understanding Putin’s mindset,” Hayden told The Daily Beast. “Here our Secretary of State is saying this is not the Cold War, it’s win-win and it’s not zero sum. But for Vladimir Putin it is zero sum. That’s what we need to understand.”

A pro-Russia protestor is injured during the ongoing demonstrations.
Olga Ivashchenko/AP

Ukraine: The February Revolution - The Economist

While the protesters successfully ousted their president, many are deeply distrustful of established politicians in the opposition that took his place. With Ukraine "staring into an economic abyss," The Economist calls this revolution more important than the Orange Revolution of 2004, predicting that this attempt to transform the country's dysfunctional political culture could be all the more damaging if it goes wrong. 

"The revolution which last week saw the overthrow of Mr. Yanukovych, a corrupt, cowardly and thuggish president, has not yet been given a name. Perhaps that is fitting; it is not yet over, nor is its final destination in clear sight," The Economist reported. "Mr. Yanukovych is gone and his regime broken, but the post-Soviet order which prevailed in Ukraine over the past two decades has not been uprooted. There is little by way of an elite devoted to forging a new, modern nation state; the possibility of failure, a descent into chaos, insurrection—notably in the Crimea—or even secession remains stark."

Supporters for Ukraine's opposition leadership voice their disdain toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

A Step Back From the Brink? - Institute of International Finance

Ukraine's volatile political culture aside, the root of the issue in Ukraine's battered economy and the uphill climb it faces without financial help. Even before the Russian military's advancement, the Institute of International Finance mapped out what is thought to be a long, tedious road toward financial stability for Ukraine's opposition leadership.

"Given the massive adjustment needed and the social and economic pain it would entail, this government would need to be inclusive, credible and enjoying broad-based popular support," the report stated. "Risks of prolonged political uncertainty still remain substantial, however, raising odds of delays in implementing reforms, with potentially disastrous consequences for financial stability and growth."

What to explore and watch

Ukraine in Maps - The New York Times

With Russia strengthening its hold on Crimea, the New York Times outlined the political and cultural split among Ukranians in the current Ukraine-Russia struggle. The map below highlights parts of Ukraine with residents who voted during the 2010 presidential election that mainly speak Ukrainian (labeled in brown) and those who mostly speak Russian (labeled in blue). 

New York Times

The Military Imbalance - The Guardian

What's the extent of the Russian military's control on Crimea? The Guardian plots out Russia's stronghold on the southern and central portions of Crimea, and breaks down where the tens of thousands of Russian and Ukranian troops are located throughout the country.

The Guardian

The Orange Chronicles -

What's amazing about what's happening in Ukraine is that a similar tone and ferver was demonstrated by Ukranians during the country's 2004 presidential elections. During the peak of the Orange Revolution, Ukrainians nationwide engaged in acts of civil disobedience and general strikes toward the election of Yanukovych, who many believe had helped rigged the election. Nationwide protests eventually led to a run-off, which brought about a decisive victory for Yushchenko. Yanukovych would later succeed Yushchenko, but he'd be ousted from power following last month's riots.


Ukraine Burning - VICE

In January, VICE profiled Kiev's Maidan protesters, shortly after the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet. What started as a philosophical disagreement over Yanukovych's close ties to Putin blossomed into something else – a revolution for the soul and identity of Ukraine.

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