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.
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.
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.
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