Let's Peel Away Vladimir Putin's Topless Visage and Look at How He Is Impacting Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has never been known as a softie, so it’s no surprise that he’s stepping into the situation happening in Ukraine. After the Ukrainian opposition ousted former (though he claims current) President Viktor Yanukovych, and a new government was quickly formed, Putin declared the whole thing a coup and refused to accept the new government. He’s since allowed Yanukovych into Russia, though his whereabouts are unknown.
But now Putin is getting all physical with Ukraine (and not in the fun way), moving to strengthen his control over the Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking Crimean peninsula, where the Kremlin’s Black Sea fleet resides. From military deployment, training exercises, and sharp comments coming from Putin, he’s not playing around. So what does this mean? Why has the United States government responded with such forceful words? And why won’t Europe go along with the United States' call for sanctions against Russia? Let’s get into it.
A Little History
Up until 1990, Ukraine was part of the former Soviet Union, and was largely dominated by Russian policies, though always maintaining its unique Ukrainian individuality. As with any new sovereign nation, Ukraine has struggled to maintain its independence. From the Orange Revolution to Yanukovych’s recent refusal to align with the European Union, which ignited the current protests and ousting of Yanukovych, Ukraine has struggled to maintain its sovereignty. The struggle isn’t ending anytime soon.
Why Putin Cares
So why does Putin care what happens in Ukraine? Well, aside from the historical importance of Ukraine to Russia, there is still a large population of Ukrainian citizens that speak Russian, identify with Russia, and feel Ukraine’s alignment with Russia would only strengthen the nation. Their point isn’t without merit—with rampant unemployment and and a sinking economy, the wealth of Russia is appealing if you’re pretty hungry.
Why the United States Cares
The U.S. has no economic reason to care about Ukraine, seeing as the country offers very little in respect to importing and business relations. So why should 'Muricans care? Well, have you heard about what’s happening to gay people in Russia? Or the imprisonment of those that speak out against Putin? Promoting and supporting a democratic process is the U.S.' key interest in Ukraine; something Russia might say it is in favor of, while its actions speak to the contrary. So what can we foreigners do? For starters, anything possible to avoid military intervention (because we broke, yo), which means economic sanctions and canceled military relations against Russia. The problem with this is that U.S. businesses have an immense interest in Russia (Pepsi is the second most popular soft drink there).
What About the European Union?
After President Barack Obama announced his intention to impose sanctions, most of the European Union gave a collective, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down buddy.” Why? Because the vast majority of energy imports come from Russia. Which means that Europe’s energy supply (i.e., gasoline) would be cut, sending Europe's already struggling economies into the tank. Sure, they support democracy in Ukraine and oppose what Russia is doing, but they really, really like being able to drive to work and have electricity.
So What’s Next?
Putin said that he has no intentions of intervening militarily, though that’s basically like me saying, “I have no intention of eating chocolate ever again.” U.S. sanctions against Russia holds little weight without the support of the European Union, so instead we sent John Kerry over to Kiev to meet with the new Ukrainian leaders and offer the government a $1 billion dollar loan—or rather a “Just in case Russia decides to go cra cra on you!” loan. If Russia pushes hard enough, the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine could be lost to Russia, which could then spiral into Ukraine once again being under Russian rule. Nobody in the West (including Europe) wants that. But will the West be able to diplomatically stop that from happening? Considering generally poor economic conditions (including in the U.S.), that seems unlikely. The best outcome would be for Russia and the new Ukrainian government to come to some sort of an agreement. But have you seen Putin lately? He’s about as likely to compromise as Obama is to become a Republican. Can you imagine that? Nope, and that uncertainty is exactly what it’s like to be a Ukrainian citizen right about now.
Do you agree with your political leaders?