Since the end of 2013, Ukraine has been plunged into protests and revolts over the policies and government of (now former) Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych was a great friend of the Russian Federation and one of President Putin’s lapdogs. He was elected due to the heavy Russian population in eastern Ukraine, which holds close ties to the Motherland. To sum it up, Yanukovych wanted to keep ties closer to Russia while many Ukrainians wished to strengthen relations with the European Union and the West.
Now that Yanukovych has been removed from power, the western part of Ukraine has begun to move away from pro-Russian policies and look toward the West and democracy. Instead of allowing Ukraine to resolve its issues internally, Vladimir Putin sent Russian special forces into Ukraine in defiance of Western and American warnings of non-involvement.
The action by Russian forces occurred immediately upon the closing of the Sochi Winter Games, just as millions of people had applauded Putin and Russia for bringing the nations together in peace and throwing a “successful” Olympics.
Now, a portion of eastern Ukraine known as the Crimea has declared its independence from Ukraine, and Russia is acting to annex Crimea into the Russian Federation. Throughout this whole process, the United States has wagged its fingers at Russia and warned them of the consequences of their actions.
Even before this situation began to unfold, Russia and the U.S. had a treaty that stated that neither country could interfere in the affairs of Ukraine either economically or militarily. Well, that didn’t stop Putin from delivering billions of dollars of stimulus money to the pro-Russian government in December.
This action sparked the fear in many Ukrainians of further Russian influence and escalated tensions in the area. Currently there are undercover pro-Russian forces spreading false information and turning people against the Ukrainian government.
Now that you have received a little bit of the background (albeit incomplete as the situation is very complicated) information, it is time for me to get on my soapbox and preach a little bit.
As these events have unfolded, the U.S. has done little to truly discourage Russian aggressions. From threatening sanctions to canceling global summits, the U. S. has failed to counter Putin’s foreign policy with equal force.
In President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s ideal world, negotiation and condemning speeches are the best courses of action against a madman (Putin) obsessed with increasing the geographical size of Russia to its Soviet-era size. We are talking about the same man who regards the breakup of the Soviet Union as a tragedy.
I realize it’s a little difficult for the West to be assertive when the majority of European natural gas supplies come from Russia, but the time has come for the West to either take action or face Russia’s continued aggression in the countries that surround it.
Jesse Fonkert is a senior business administration and government/international affairs major from Mobridge, S.D.