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Crimea a River – The West’s Reaction to Russia is Wrong

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Crimea’s proximity to Russia and 58% of its people being Russian make it an obvious and valid concern for Mr. Putin.

I don ’t know if President Barack Obama is wagging the dog or just walking it in the wrong direction, but either way that dog is barking up the wrong tree in regards to Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin is absolutely correct that the West likes to have its cake and eat it too, and this is especially true in its focus on Ukraine and the larger picture for Eastern Europe.

Let’s imagine a different scenario. Let’s say that there was a crisis in Panama, a country with old ties to the Unites States just as Crimea and Ukraine have a connection with Russia. Perhaps there was a coup, threatening American citizens living there and insinuating the closure of the Panama Canal.

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President Obama is moving in the wrong direction on Crimea


How would the United States react? Would it not react in a similar fashion as to how Russia is acting in Crimea? Wouldn’t President Obama move quickly to save American citizens and to secure the Canal Zone? I believe that America would act swiftly and decisively should that ever happen, and imagine the reaction of Obama and the West if Russia sent warships to the Caribbean and hinted at sanctions for America.

I can tell you what would happen. Obama would see himself as Kennedy and Putin as Nikita Khrushchev pounding a shoe on a podium. Obama would tell the world about his need to intervene in Panama and occupy that country for the good of American citizens, Panamanians, and the whole world to insure that the canal remain open for traffic.

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At this time Mr. Putin is right in an attempt to protect Russians in Crimea.


Congress would no doubt invoke the antiquated Monroe Doctrine and note that Panama is in our hemisphere and not of Russia’s concern in any way. What could happen next then would be something similar to the missile crisis in Cuba, but Putin is no Khrushchev and Obama is not Kennedy. The result? A disaster in the making.

But what is the Ukraine and Crimea but a disaster ready to happen now? The United States should not be involved in Crimea, and the West’s concern is disingenuous to say the least. Yes, there is talk about the EU and about the majority of Ukraine’s people wanting to identify with the West, but the salient issue here is that the majority of people in Crimea wish for closer ties to Russia.

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Russian forces outside a Crimean military base

Right now Russia is increasing its military presence as the U.S. sends a warship through the Bosporus into the Black Sea. One glance at the map indicates that Russia is an extremely close neighbor; the United States is such a great distance away both logistically and ideologically. If anything, the U.S. should be promoting the choice of the Crimean people to determine the course of their country’s direction. If a majority of Crimeans want to identify with or even join Russia, then why should anyone in the West reject that?

Crimea is known as an “Autonomous Republic,” which should m ean it has a right to self determination. The population is 58% Russian, 24% Ukrainian, and 12% Crimean Tatars (who are Muslim). There is some concern over the abuse of the Tatar population which suffered in the past during the former regime under the Soviet Union, and Mr. Putin and Russian leaders in Crimea must make a concerted effort to protect this segment of the population (in the past Stalin shipped the entire Tatar population to Siberia). The world is watching and this can never be allowed to happen again.

The interesting thing is now with technology to send a picture around the world in a few seconds, the Russians are under enormous pressure to get this right. Putin has basically rejected the West and has even said that sanctions will “boomerang” back to hurt everyone else but Russia, but it is obvious Putin knows that sanctions will hurt him too.

The thing is that Crimea is in Mr. Putin’s backyard, and he is sensitive to the Russians who live there and their desires. Some have argued, including Hillary Clinton, that Putin is acting something like Adolf Hitler once did in saying he had to protect ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and other places. At this point this comparison is not valid, but Putin must know he is under intense and incessant scrutiny that will only to continue. He should expect that to be business as usual for the rest of the time he builds up forces in the region and well beyond.

On the other hand, there are concerns about the bigger picture in the rest of Ukraine. As for now the Russians are not threatening the larger part of that country, but it is interesting that the West has tried to invoke a sort of exclusivity agreement with Ukraine. The Ukrainians ostensibly have been told that they must break ties with Russia and align completely with the EU and the West.

Again, Putin cries foul and asks why Ukraine, being a borderland to be sure between East and West, cannot have ties to both? I wonder why as well. Wouldn’t it be in the best interests of the region, Europe, and the entire world for there to be more communication and economic flexibility to enhance what one would hope to be a more open, new world order where former ties mean less than prosperity and advancement for all?

At this time there seems to be one logical and necessary action for the United States to take in the region, and that is to take a step back and do nothing. There should be no intervention from the West because this is a matter that is not in their sphere of influence. This is Russia and Ukraine’s issue at this time, and we should allow these events to take place and for these countries to deal peacefully to resolve the matter.

Now, if Russia decides Crimea is just a first step and then starts moving against the greater Ukraine, then we have a different issue entirely. Then this situation will look more like Hitler’s taking over the Sudetenland, a move that precipitated his larger moves of conquest. Then Putin’s cries about regional matters and saving ethnic Russians will fall on deaf ears, with swift action by the West then inevitable.

Right now there is time for this not to get out of hand. We have to hope all involved will want peace and choose communication over military action. If there is a confrontation that escalates there is going to be a threat of not just war in the region but perhaps even more widespread, and that is something Russians, Ukrainians, and Americans must avoid at all costs because no one can even try to imagine that a World War III scenario is either desirable or survivable, for they will be catastrophically wrong and annihilation of the planet as we know it will be a grim but distinct reality.

Photo credits: getty images, wikipedia, kids.Britannica.com

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Right now, Putin is heading for an annexation of Crimea.The Russians do have a naval base there and the area is within the Russian sphere of influence. Putin must be careful because he could become responsible for things like the pension liabilities of Crimean residents.

    Remember the words of Colin Powell (former Secretary of State):
    “If you break it, you own it”. This is the risk which Putin must take if he asserts Russian power and can’t deliver on the economic front.

    The USA and Europe may go the way of sanctions. In addition, the USA could export more gas to Europe to deal forthrightly with any retaliations.

    • Rodney

      Good point: Remember the words of Colin Powell (former Secretary of State): “If you break it, you own it”.
      Yes! Very wise words. Now the USA and Britain and France in the main have broken the old Government in Ukraine they own the problem. I am certain Russia being very pragmatic knows that in Crimea and is already planning how they will lift Crimea up. Not that it is half as broken as Ukraine. It has been easy up until now for the “loud mouths”. Let Russia try to do it with no help. Not easy to do in a divided country as the ‘loud mouths’ should know from experience. I assume as time goes by now if a Pro West Gov. is elected in Ukraine and heaven forbid NATO stations troops etc. on the Russian border Russia will quickly withdraw the substantial aide they have been giving Ukraine for the last 20 years and trade and will reduce any dependence they have on Eastern Ukraine Industrial capacity dating back to USSR times. Of course there is always the chance of Civil War between East and West Ukraine. Lets hope it does not come to that but that often has been the result when the “loud mouths” intervene. The big question is, will the “loud mouths” back up the words with dollars or as usual ask Germany to put up most of the money. Especially the two European “loud mouths”. It would not surprise me if Germans says NO! one of these days. What happens then. I imagine we will quickly see another Pro Russia Gov in Ukraine. Exactly as happened last time Ukraine had a Pro West Gov. The one that worries me though is a civil way and whose fault will that be? The “loud mouths” as usual.

  • bliffle

    Of course, Putins aggression serves him perfectly, regardless of the outcome. It’s hard to fault his strategy. Obama must figure some way to outflank him. IMO he’s capable of out-manoeuvring Putin, it only remains to be seen if he does it.

    As for the Moralities and Ethics: they are immaterial at this level of geopolitics. Sorry.

  • bliffle

    Putin is overplaying his hand. He doesn’t have the economic strength to back his play in any extended sense. The industrial engines that the commies built with (essentially) slave labor over 70 years was then given away (yes, given away) to the oligarchs so all they are left with for real assets are their natural resources, like coal and oil, and Exporting Natural Resources is a nasty bronco to ride.

    IMO it’s a mistake to seek a quick resolution (although that’s what all us impatient Americans prefer) and go for the long win with a steady persistent (and low cost) strategy. That was the essential brilliance of General Giaps successful strategy in Vietnam, and he was dealt a very bad hand. It was also the successful strategy against us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Better to cape the bull and get it weary than try to surmount the strength of a charging bull. Putin is that charging bull.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Putin may play a conservative strategy of two steps forward and one step backward to yield some crumbs to the US and Europe. The real issue is this one. What are his long term intentions for the general area including Crimea, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey?

  • bliffle

    The Crimeans think they’re going to get rich, now: they were fooled by the oligarches glitz, but Putin plans to exploit Crimea to finance his other aggressions. Just like every other conqueror.

    • Rodney

      Facts please?

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    That’s one of my chief concerns!

  • Victor Lana

    My feeling is that we tout democracy when it is favorable to us. Putin has rightly noted the “Kosovo precedent” but seems the world forgot that one. I think you had a popular vote and citizens determined that they wished to leave one country and join another. Didn’t that happen in Texas a long time ago too?

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Allow President Obama and our Department of State to comment on the popular vote and its authenticity. There must be a reason for Europe and the US to be bringing up sanctions at this point. Which independent observers were present to certify this popular vote?

  • bliffle

    Independent Observers would confirm the vote by a large margin. Obama and State have spoken repeatedly on this issue. To be blunt, we are wrong and Putin is right. So what? This is International Realpolitik and truth and justice are secondary to power and strategic positioning. Sorry about that. There’s no win here for the USA being virtuous. I’m guessing that Obama and Kerry are clever enough to realize that this is a golden opportunity to yield Crimea, which is of little if any strategic value to us, and a high value port for Russia, while extracting a lot of pain from Putin, with a lot of bluff and bluster and saber-rattling without getting in a position that could lead to armed conflict with a misstep. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the USA side in this episode will justify a tougher stand in the next episode. Meanwhile we can draw real blood from the Russians. This episode should cost them dearly at low cost to the USA.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    I agree. It’s doubtful that Russia can deliver on the economic front.

  • Victor Lana

    I heard a report on the radio this morning that Putin has said publicly that he has no designs on the rest of Ukraine or any other eastern European nations. Let us allow him time now that he has acquired Crimea, which has the warm water port Russia requires (the real reason behind all this).

    As far as I have researched, the vote in Crimea was “legal” and thus binding. We proponents of “democratic values” certainly should support the “will of the people” wherever they happen to live and not just in certain countries where the vote goes our way.

  • bliffle

    Hey, that’s what Hitler said: “…Putin has said publicly that he has no designs on the rest of Ukraine”. But I guess us modern folk are forbidden from that by Godwins Rule (whoever Godwin is).

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Soon enough, the world will find out what Putin is up to by his actions over a period of time. The history of the old Soviet Union in that general area is not good. Didn’t Stalin starve 20 million peasants during the darkest days?

  • Epic Fail

    Your comparison of Russia’s behaviour and US is completely illogical…. u talking that US would react the same in Panama? You mean american soldiers would beat the sh*t out of international journalists and threaten representatives from United Nations to get the hell out of Panama and stop publicing everything to the world? Or maybe u mean that US would make corrupted referendum in Panama same like Russia did in Crimea? There’s one of most strategic sea ports for Russia in Crimea, why do u think Russians are the majority of habitants in this region, while in whole Ukraine russians only consist of 17% of the entire ukrainian population… It’s the same as Poles (the minority in our capital) would come and tell us, we want your capital city Vilnius due to historical reasons because we occupied it many years ago and it should belong to us…They could use the same propaganda crap that we discriminate their rights and Polish army would occupy a sovereign country… Dude if you don’t live in Eastern Europe or ure not a member of former Soviet Union and you dont know what freedom means to us, you shouldnt write ur subjective opinion and illogical articles based on nothing. I stopped reading this pile of crap after first 2 paragraphs… Cheer from Lithuania.

  • Victor Lana

    Epic, I apologize to you and people in any of the former Soviet Republics if this article offends them. That was never my intention; rather, this is about my disillusionment with my own country for its hypocrisy in dealing with Russia (when it has it’s own skeletons in the closet from Iraq to Vietnam). My feeling is you can’t say “Shame on you” to someone with his hand in the cookie jar when you’ve been caught with your hand in a different one.

  • bliffle

    In a morals and ethics showdown between the US and Russia there is not much to choose. But the USA has a chance here to gain a strategic advantage that is a good consolation prize. We should make Russia/Putin pay dearly for their rashness. Draw blood. Have a powerful rearguard action that harasses your enemy. Cf. any good chess book. Maybe you catch him with his lines overextended. Maybe take advantage of his over-focus to start an independent attack.

    • Smiley

      bliffle the cold warrior.

      Russians and USers are not enemies. If you need an opponent and competition to focus on try the class war and oligarchy. Nationalism, as usual, is a distraction here.

      • bliffle

        Nationalism is a redoubt. It is the last resort of the desperate, but a poor policy for the resourceful.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    This country needs to keep military spending in check and get back to the corporate tax rates in effect during the Eisenhower years. There is a group of stocks known as the “Forever Stocks” which have done well for generations of investors. Small business has been a growth area for a long time. In addition, a constituency of businesspeople out there actually believe in a strict Code of Ethics. Lastly, we need to tax junk food at higher rates to discourage the excess consumption and raise money for the health care system. The health care system gets bigger to keep up with the diseases caused or aggravated by the junk food that people eat. A health and wellness system is possible only when people voluntarily make healthful food choices.

  • bliffle

    Putin keeps increasing his overreach and is in danger of joining Yanukovich in failure. The easiest strategy for the USA is to hasten conversion to alternate fuel and show other nations The Way to energy independence, then dump unneeded oil onto the world market. Putin will be cooked as oil backs up and the Russian economy fails and other countries don’t need to beg for Russian monopolized energy modes.

    But will our monopolies allow the USA to do that? After all, with the bizarre Consumers United decision the SCOTUS has de-coupled USA interest from corporate interest: the corporation can be dominated by anyone, even USA enemies. Maybe someday soon a Russian bureaucrat will dictate that you and I and other Americans cannot buy an electric car because it would damage the Russian economy (pay no regard to the US economy) and diminish the economic power of Russia to dominate oil-hungry countries.

    One of those Commie troublemakers used to say that degenerate capitalists would eventually sell commies the rope with which to hang them. I suppose that means the Last Capitalist Left Standing will then await the hangman in splendid luxury, golden toilets and all.