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'Enough Unrest To Go Around': Updates On Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Paris, France, on March 5, 2014.
U.S. Department of State
Flickr Creative Commons

Stuck In The Middle With Ukraine

The United States and the European Union differed this week in their response to Russia’s role in the crisis in Ukraine.

While Washington is imposing sanctions and strongly criticizing Moscow, the EU has taken softer measures.

As University of Oklahoma political scientist Paul Goode explained two weeks ago, Western media are eager to portray the crisis as a “Cold War 2.0.”

Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of OU’s College of International Studies and an expert on comparative politics, says while there are some facets of that, a lot of the Cold War rhetoric originated during last month’s Olympics in Sochi.

“We saw a lot of references back to the 1980 ‘Miracle On Ice’, and even a couple of news channels [referred to] the Soviet Union, as opposed to Russia,” Cruise says.

Some European countries are wary of antagonizing Russia, a major energy supplier and trade partner, and anything that might lead to war.

Protesters watch speeches in a tent city in Thailand's capital Bangkok - February 18, 2014.
Credit Connie Ma / Flickr Creative Commons
Flickr Creative Commons
Protesters watch speeches in a tent city in Thailand's capital Bangkok - February 18, 2014.

Tea, Tents, And Turmoil In Thailand

Major intersections in Thailand’s capital barricaded by anti-government protesters reopened to traffic for the first time in six weeks.

The protesters have struggled unsuccessfully for months to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down and make way for an unelected council to institute anti-corruption reforms.

“People are accusing this prime minister of being a puppet for her brother, the former prime minister, who was ousted and exiled,” says Suzette Grillot, the College's Dean. "This all seems kind of sketchy, but nonetheless, violence and protests and attempts to try to remove another government by force.”

Cruise says as the protests scaled back, demonstrators built a tent city where merchants and commerce have thrived.

“There are tea stalls, there's TV, all sorts of amenities, showers even,” Cruise says. “So they're protesting, but they're protesting in style.”

Cruise says even though the protests likely won’t lead to an ouster of the government similar to Ukraine’s situation, their demands are still being heard.

“The courts may take over and may be able to bring the prime minister to what many would consider justice,” Cruise says. “There are a number of corruption charges against her, and she will have to go and face the court system.”

Credit Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons
Flickr Creative Commons
Protesters in Venezuela - March 1, 2014

Carnage In Caracas

Venezuela’s economic downward spiral helped trigger a wave of protests against new President Nicolás Maduro in mid-February that has claimed more than a dozen lives.

Cruise says the protests coincided with the anniversary of the death of Hugo Chávez, but there’s significant violence on both sides.

“On the one hand, we have the opposition to Maduro saying motorcycle gangs and other people causing the violence, and Maduro is saying that these are fascists, so a lot of internal struggling,” Cruise says. “There are still a lot of pro-government people in Venezuela, so it's not nearly as clear-cut as it's being presented.”

On Thursday, United Nations human rights experts demanded answers from Venezuela's government about the use of violence and imprisonment in a crackdown on widespread demonstrations.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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