Strategic Analysis of Ukraine Crisis in 2014: American Exceptionalism vs. Russian Eurasianism

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Behzad Khoshandam
Ph.D. Candidate in International Relations & Expert on International Issues

The current situation of hostility, conflict and lack of balance and equilibrium among political groups and forces in Ukraine in 2014 is simply an extension of the tension and lack of reconciliation that existed among the world’s major political players following the end of the Cold War. For this reason, the crisis in Ukraine is actually an acute international crisis in 2014, which has already drawn great attention from many global actors, including Iranian political elite and citizens.

The main question is this: “What is the principal reason behind Ukraine’s crisis within the international world system from an Iranian viewpoint?” To answer this question, however, we would need to first answer a more basic one. The basic question is “which geographical region will be the gravity center of the future world’s political developments?” In answer to this question, one may daresay that Eurasia will be the gravity center of political conflicts in the future world. As a result, the foreign policy approach adopted by the United States within framework of the international system at the beginning of the third millennium, especially in its confrontation with other big global powers, including Russia, can be considered as the main reason behind the ongoing crisis in Ukraine in 2014. Therefore, from an Iranian standpoint, 2014 crisis in Ukraine reflects the climax of the confrontation between the United States’ exceptionalism and Russia’s excessive Eurasianism.

To analyze the importance of this crisis for Iran's national interests, first due attention should be paid to true nature and goals of Iran's foreign policy approach toward neighboring regions, in particular with respect to the country’s relations with big powers. Of special significance in this regard are Iran's relations with the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

When analyzing this crisis from an Iranian viewpoint, a major issue to be taken into account is the situation of driving forces behind the Ukraine crisis as well as the players and forces that affect its course. Such driving forces include Eurasianism, Americanism, soft revolution, Slavism, ethnicism, extremist nationalism, pivot strategy in the US foreign policy, Euroscepticism, globalization, the idea of a global NATO, Russophobia, and the issue of energy security. Another driving force to be reckoned with here is the possible conclusion of a new version of the Treaty of Rapallo at international level between Russia and Germany under present circumstances.

To discuss an Iranian viewpoint on this issue, it should be noted that the reason why Ukrainian crisis is important to global political equations in 2014 is the key role that it can potentially play for ushering in a new round of Cold War. This crisis is capable of giving birth to new coalitions and novel equations in Russia’s near abroad and the whole region of Eurasia.

As for the future outlook of the crisis, the Iranian viewpoint to this crisis can be offered in two optimistic and pessimistic versions. According to the optimistic viewpoint, the ongoing crisis will be finally resolved through diplomacy as well as bilateral and multilateral negotiations. The pessimists, on the opposite, believe that the crisis in Ukraine will gradually go deeper. As a result, the nature, course and consequences of this crisis will give rise to a new configuration of separatist and interventionist developments in the international arena.

At the first sight, it may seem that the crisis in Ukraine has nothing to do with Iran. However, a more profound and serious analysis will reveal that since the beginning of the crisis, Iran has condemned intervention in the country as well as extremist measures taken there. In line with the nature and goals of its foreign policy, Tehran has also slammed the use of violence in issues of global importance, separatism, and intervention of foreign forces in international crises like that of Ukraine. The Islamic Republic has also put considerable emphasis on the need to resolve the crisis in Ukraine by main groups involved in that crisis while underlining the need for those groups to avoid all kinds of violent acts.

The new Iranian administration, which came to office following elections in 2013, is profoundly committed to Iran's neutrality in line with the “constructive interaction” approach it has taken in its foreign policy. Under present circumstances, while voicing its opposition to unilateralism, separatism, and any effort aimed at undermining convergence of countries on regional and international issues, Iran has frequently declared its firm support for regional problems to be managed by regional players in a fair manner and away from all forms of discrimination or application of double standards.

Today, Iran is a rational, proactive, and institutionalist player in the area of foreign policy. While being heavily involved in negotiations over its nuclear energy program with the P5+1 group of world powers, Iran takes most of its large-scale and basic decisions on the basis of bureaucratic processes and through collective decisions that have their roots in the exchange of viewpoints as well as profound, complicated and multifaceted consultations among experts. As put by the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, in his book, The Age of Deception, Iran is currently a democracy bound within a system of theocracy where the majority of decisions on foreign policy are taken through lengthy bureaucratic processes. As a result, the present-day Iran not only rejects bandwagoning policies that rely on a hegemonic power, but also puts the highest degree of emphasis on constructive and purposive interaction with international players. The past experience of Iran's negotiations with the P5+1 group up to the end of June 2014 proves that Iran considers diplomacy a key approach to the resolution of international problems. As a result, while rejecting such policies as separatism and interventionism as well as multilateral and bilateral sanctions, the Islamic Republic believes that even under the conditions of a new Cold War in international arena, resolution of such crises as that of Ukraine hinges on the use of diplomacy and political mechanisms that pave the way for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

From an Iranian viewpoint, the crisis of Ukraine in 2014 and intervention of transregional forces in political equations of Europe, Russia’s near abroad, and Caucasus will, sooner or later, reach its final stages. However, the strategic importance of Eurasia, Iran, and use of bilateral and multilateral diplomacy in strategic equations of the 21st century will continue to be among top priorities of international political agenda. The intervention by transregional forces at subregional levels, such as in Eastern Europe, will finally come to its end as all international crises do. However, geopolitical importance of major achievements of the contemporary world, one of which is the utility of diplomacy and negotiations, will be sustained in the course of the distribution of global and regional power through future developments of the world.

Key Words: Strategic Analysis, Ukraine Crisis, American Exceptionalism, Russian Eurasianism, Iran, NATO, Transregional Forces, EU, New Cold War, Khoshandam

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*Photo Credit: Aljazeera America, Kiev Ukraine News Blog