In February, Sochi 2014 had all eyes on Russia. A month later, all eyes are still on Russia, but this time for much darker reasons. While the Winter Olympics symbolized global unity, Russia’s annexation of Crimea threatens to symbolize just the opposite.
Many Americans (myself included) didn’t know much about Crimea until recently, or that it even existed. The tiny country is only home to about two million people, and yet the international strife over Crimea is anything but small.
For those that aren’t quite familiar with the situation, here is a very simplistic synopsis of the situation. Following the recent Ukrainian revolution, Russian troops moved into Crimea. Soon after, Crimea declared itself “independent” and its citizens overwhelmingly voted to become a part of Russia. This of course was in direct violation of the Ukrainian constitution, which Crimea is supposed to follow.
Many questions have surrounded the supposed election, from the presence of Russian troops causing fear and intimidation which swayed the election, the possible existence of fraud and of course the relatively swift occurrence of the election. All of this has led to the United States and the international community warning Russia to back down and refuse to annex Crimea. Unfortunately, Vladimir Putin gave the equivalence of the middle finger and annexed Crimea anyway.
It’s clear the United States and other world powers cannot allow for the essential theft of a country’s land to be taken by another, but most are divided on what exactly to do. Travel bans have been placed on several Russian officials, but this is unlikely to deter Putin much.
It seems clear that Putin is not going to react to what many believe are “soft” sanctions. Instead, the rest of the world needs to send a much stronger message that involves consequences for what Putin has done, in order to let him know that his actions will not be tolerated.
Given the current political state of the Ukraine, there is little they can really do to stand up for themselves. They are essentially depending on the international community to come to their aid. To neglect to do this is to not only allow for Putin’s actions to go unpunished, but it opens the door for him to conduct even more transgression on the Ukraine. There is a climate of fear, that perhaps Russia will continue its march and conquer more of the country.
“Many Ukrainians in Ukraine now believe that a Russian invasion of mainland Ukraine is inevitable. If it happens, war will break out and thousands will die,” said Alexander J. Motyl, a Ukrainian-American writer and professor at Rutgers University-Newark.
The United States, and the rest of the world, can send a strong message without any military intervention. Strict trading sanctions, the blocking of certain exports and commercial industries, and a move to become less dependent on Russian trade would send an incredibly strong message. While unfortunately the Russian people would experience the hardships of this hit to their economy, it would also ideally get them more aware of what Putin is doing to isolate Russia from the rest of the world and perhaps inspire protest.
In 1936, Adolf Hitler seized Rhineland, much to the outcry of several countries. Nothing was done to stop him. That action was one of the many seeds that led to World War II. We must not let history repeat itself, and it is imperative that the countries of the world, and their people, send Putin a strong message that preying on smaller countries will not be tolerated.
Nick Ulferts is a junior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to email@example.com