The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 4, 2014

Our View: Russia’s invasion

Events in Ukraine are changing by the hour, but Russia’s invasion of Crimea begs the bigger question: How far will President Vladimir Putin go to reclaim Russia’s glorious past?

The Russian Parliament last week approved the use of military force in Ukraine and to recall the ambassador from the United States. Moscow defended the approval of Putin’s use of military force to protect its citizens in the Crimean Peninsula, an autonomous region of eastern Ukraine with strong loyalty to Russia.  

President Barack Obama said Monday the United States is examining a series of economic and diplomatic steps to “isolate Russia,” and he called on Congress to work with his administration on an economic assistance package for Ukraine. Obama administration officials said Russia now has 6,000 troops in Crimea.

Obama spent 90 minutes on the telephone Saturday talking to Putin.

The crisis was precipitated by the sudden flight of the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, following months of protests in Kiev that left at least 82 people dead. Yanukovych claims that he is the country's legitimate president, and he branded the new government as Nazis.

According to Ukrainian officials on Monday, the Russian commander of the Black Sea Fleet went aboard a blocked Ukrainian warship in Crimea’s Sevastopol Harbor and issued a threat: “Swear allegiance to the new Crimean authorities, or surrender, or face an attack.”   

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who spent two years in prison for her political activities, believes the West should use every means possible to save Crimea. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Tymoshenko said, “I am asking all the world, personally every world leader, to use all the possibilities in order to avoid Ukraine losing Crimea.”

In New York, the U.N. Security Council called an urgent meeting Monday. Ukraine has asked the council to address what it said was a threat to the country’s “territorial integrity.” Ukrainian government officials consider Russia’s incursion into Crimea a declaration of war.

Very little is coming out of Moscow since the invasion. Putin may be waiting to see how the United States and its European allies will respond.

The European Union foreign affairs council strongly condemned what it called Russia’s “clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity” and demanded that Russia pull its forces back to their barracks.

Fat chance.

In Kiev, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vowed that his West-leaning government would not give up Crimea but admits he is worried that Russian forces will move eastward toward Kiev. Although Ukraine has a standing army, it is no match for Russia.

It’s clear that Russia is engaging in old-time Soviet military tactics, and it’s not a stretch to believe Putin dreams of annexing all 14 of the breakaway countries that came into being following the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

 Putin is playing a dangerous game of high-stakes poker, and it remains to be seen who holds the winning hand.

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