Keeping an eye on Asia, Putin key in Ukraine

By Nicholas Reibel, Staff Writer ||

There is a great, possibly momentous event happening in Ukraine: the former member of the Soviet Union, and longtime part of Russia, only recently independent as a state, is attempting to be independent of the Kremlin. The pro-Russian leader of Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych, was overthrown by Ukrainians more interested in moving towards the West, including possible membership in the European Union and maybe even NATO. Vladimir Putin was horrified that his puppet in Yanukovych was overthrown like the brutal dictator he was, and decided that he needed to take as much of the Ukraine as possible to protect Russia from any pressures to modernize, democratize, and not kill and imprison people who speak out against Putin.

So far Russia has taken Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine, but it may take more of the Ukrainian state. The question is what, if anything, the U.S. will do about it. Economic sanctions will not deter Russia, particularly if powerful and wealthy nations such as China support its imperial efforts in Europe. And I assume that we are not willing to intervene militarily to support our new ally in Eastern Europe: doing so would risk a third world war, especially if Russian military forces continue to occupy Ukraine.

Yet it does not seem fair that the Ukrainian people should be abandoned by the international community, particularly if there is a civil war, and particularly if Russia engages in warfare against the Ukrainian government. While we cannot risk direct intervention, it would probably be wise to send military and nonmilitary aid to Kiev to put down any Kremlin-controlled insurrections and to ensure that Russia cannot form any new Russian Empire, Soviet Union, or Slavic state.

We must also keep an eye on China during this. While normally a peaceful player on the world stage, this has not historically been the case: the People’s Republic of China has militarily intervened in Korea, conquered and annexed Tibet, threatened to retake Taiwan and Mongolia, and has had armed conflicts with the Soviet Union, India, and Vietnam; all in the latter half of the 20th century. China may seek to use the Crimea scenario as a precedent for maintaining and securing its interests in Eastern Asia.

Indeed, the second worst case scenario that can emerge from the Ukrainian situation (aside from a global war) is the encouragement of nations hostile or historically adversarial to the United States to develop their own empires so as to gain enough power and resources to threaten the United States and its allies.

I do not mean to overlook or excuse the United States’s own unlawful military interventions. I do not suggest that we are an innocent party to the current state of international affairs. But this action of Russia’s, and the fact that Moscow has implied that it can and may seize other historically Russian areas of Europe and perhaps Asia is extremely troublesome, to say the least. The world is much safer with a weak Russia, and much more dangerous and unstable with Vladimir Putin.

There is, I think, one way to make Russia pay over their crimes against Ukraine and international law (which they were pretty concerned with when America considered an intervention in Syria). It is important to recognize that Vladimir Putin is a dictator who is taking this action against Ukraine in large part to boost his popularity inside his country. The Russian people are not fools: they know firsthand what kind of man and leader the former KGB agent is. While he is (probably) not a secret communist/Soviet trying to bring back the Soviet Union, he is a Russian nationalist who wishes to establish a Russian Empire that uses its economic energy and military power to bully its neighbors, and possibly large portions of Europe and Asia.

The wisest way to get Russia to discontinue its acts is to embarrass Vladimir Putin, and attempt to remove him as leader of Russia. Russia is obviously comfortable broadcasting propaganda into Ukraine, perhaps the United States and Ukraine itself should return the favor. We cannot have a rogue nation that seizes parts of nations (let’s not forget Georgia here) and gets away with it, biding its time to dominate at least a good portion of the world and subjugate it. Let’s weaken Russia economically, diplomatically, and in terms of its and its leader’s reputation. By doing this, we can make a proud man like Putin pay, embarrass an arrogant nation, and make other nations wishing to follow the Putin model reconsider whether they want to face the possibility of their own nation being destabilized by their own destabilizing actions.

Nicholas Riebel is a first-year staff writer. Email him at nriebel@fandm.edu.

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