#Ukraine: the crisis through the eyes of Digital Diploamcy

Earlier today, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published the following tweet commemorating Yuri Gagarin’s orbiting of the earth in 1961.

As tensions between Moscow and Washington continue to mount following Russia’s incursion into Crimea, some have already speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin has adopted a Cold War mentality with regard to his desire to keep Ukraine and other areas in Eastern Europe under Russia’s sphere of influence. Gagarin’s tweet on Moscow’s official twitter channel could therefore be construed as a signal to the West that Russia has no intention of letting Ukraine follow in the footsteps of other Eastern European countries who have joined NATO and the European Union.

This is but one example of the manner in which tweets published by various countries over the past two weeks offer insight into the Ukrainian crisis.

Russia: Let slip the dogs of war?

Like former US Secretary of State Collin Powell, who was sent to the UN by the Bush administration to lay the foundations for the invasion of Iraq, Russian Foreign Minister Segey Lavrov has been making the case for Russia’s current involvement in Ukraine. Last week the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted statements by Lavrov according to which the “Domestic crises must be resolved through a dialogue and with respect for obligations to protect human rights and ethnic minorities” and ” We are calling for responsible approach, for setting aside geopolitical interests &for putting Ukrainian people’s interests above all “. Today Lavrov was quotes as saying

Lavrov’s statement are in line with Russia’s claim that it is willing to use force but only in order to safeguard the rights of ethnic minorities such as the Russian minority in Eastern Ukraine from the pro-Nazi nationalists in Kiev. According to Lavrov’s tweets, this whole crisis is a misunderstood humanitarian operation gone lost in translation.

Russia’s insistence that its aim is to help the Russian minority in the Ukraine was also made evident by the following tweet published by Russia’s mission to NATO which illustrates all areas in Ukraine that long for mother Russia.

Another interesting tweet published by Russia was a comment made by its envoy to the UN according to which

This tweet may represent a desire by Russia  to reclaim the title of the world’s second superpower, one standing opposite the US. Germany, France, the UK and the rest of the world are of no consequence, it is these two powers that shall decide the fate of the world as was the case during the Cold War.

Poland, Latvia and Lithuania: Rebel with a cause

Poland-A previous member of the Soviet empire, Poland has worked hard to distance itself from the Kremlin in favor of the warm embrace of Western Europe. In the past few years Poland has joined NATO, expanded its economic ties around the world, and branded itself as the economic gateway to Eastern Europe. Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis some weeks ago, Poland has taken a tough stance against former President Yanukovych and has been actively rallying international support for the protestors in Kiev’s Maidan square.

Russia refuses to see Ukraine follow in Poland’s footsteps and with good reason. Poland has proven that once a country has left the sphere of Russia’s influence, it hard to reel it back in. Last week, Polish officials tweed that “the Russian Ambassador to Poland summoned today to @PolandMFA Russian aggression & violating of Ukraine territorial integrity inacceptable” and that “we are looking for solutions that will protect Poland, Europe and the world from an armed conflict”. Poland, it would seem, is no longer afraid of poking the Russian bear in its eye. The Poles are also not afraid to call a spade a spade and have therefore tweeted that

According to many analysts, this tweet sums up the game of Risk being played between Moscow, Washington and NATO HQ in Brussels. Russia wants a sphere of influence but cannot escalate the situation as it is a part of today’s globalized economy and cannot suffer economic isolation. Europe, on the other hand, refuses to allow Russian aggression to become a legitimate policy as it was during the Cold War. Yet Russia is Europe’s main supplier of gas and it has been a cold winter in Berlin and London. Thus both sides wish to see an amicable diplomatic solution, and fast.

Finally, Poland’s official Twitter account published the following tweet today which highlights the harsh tone adopted by Poland, one which was backed by President Obama who sent in the cavalry in the form of F-15 fighter jets deployed to Poland

So all is not quiet on the Eastern front. In fact, a possible domino effect may soon shake the foundations of Putin’s Kremlin as both Latvia and Lithuania, former Soviet states, have been denouncing Russia’s aggression indicating that the #Bear’s sphere of influence is not as domineering as once thought.

Like his Latvian counterpart, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister tweeted last week

Germany, UK and France: Hands on, Hands off

There seems to be a consensus that Germany wants to see the dispute with Russia end quickly as Russia is Germany’s biggest energy supplier. However, whether its war time rhetoric aimed at rattling Putin or a genuine shift in policy, Germany’s official tweets have demonstrated a change of tone over the past few days. On March Second, Germany’s Foreign Minister tweeted “It’s high time for diplomacy. Must not fall into abyss of military escalation. #Crimea #FAC”. The following day, the German Foreign Office tweeted

Germany may be upping the ante putting the option of sanctions back on the table. Today the Foreign Minister warned Russia that

This comes in addition to a meeting held between Germany’s Angela Merkel and Ukraine’s new interim Prime Minister.

The UK has taken a more “hands on” approach to the crisis. In addition to referring to the Ukrainian crisis as the worst European crisis this century, Foreign Minister Hague tweeted last week that “the sovereignty & territorial integrity of #Ukraine has been violated & this cannot be the way to conduct int affairs”. Hague arrived in Kiev early last week in order to meet with the interim government. Tweeting from Kiev he pledged 10 million Pounds for economic and political reform

The UK’s view of the crisis as a one that may have implications for years to come is made clear by the fact that a picture of Minister Hague visiting Ukraine is now the banner picture of the Foreign Office’s Facebook Profile.

Accept for sevral tweets regarding conversations held between French President Holland, US President Obama and UK PM Cameron, France’s official twitter accounts have been relatively silent on #Ukraine paying more attention to matters in North Africa, the Central African Republic and some stunning historical pictures of Paris in the rain. Not exactly #Liberté, #Egalité, #Fraternité

The US: Leading the free world?

As the Crimean crisis lingers on, many in the US have criticized President Obama for not standing up to Mr. Putin. As a Fox News commentator once said, Putin is the school bully and Obama in the nerd who keeps forking over his lunch money. If one was to review the State Department’s twitter channel alst week he would have understood what the phrases “The President is deeply concerned” and “We are closely monitoring the situation” really mean.

First, visitors to @StateDept were greeted by the large image of Vice President Biden closely monitoring the situation by speaking to his counterparts in Kiev

Biden’s picture was followed by images of Secretary Kerry’s visit to Ukraine and that of President Obama talking to Russian President Putin over the phone.

However, despite America’s fondness of ambiguous diplomatic language, the State Department’s tweets have become increasingly more hostile. On Saturday, it posted the following tweet linking to a document that rebukes Moscow’s claims with regard to Ukraine

Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor went even further tweeting

Finally, for the first time in the past three months, America’s twitter channel now features an image of it’s military strength as can seen below

Until now, this twitter account only featured America’s soft power. This harsh tone could signify that an amicable diplomatic solution may be moving further and further away.

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