Generally, I choose to write about domestic affairs and stay pretty much within the realm of American politics. This month, I would like to expand my focus a bit and discuss the issue of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. The fate of Crimea not only has large implications for Russia and much of Europe, but for the world. As Russia becomes newly resurgent, it is imperative that that America’s leaders keep a close eye on American interests in Europe and around the world.
Allow me to begin with a little bit of background. Crimea is a historically disputed peninsula in the Black Sea that, until recently, was a part of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin signed an order to annex Crimea in late March, and Russian troops have quickly flooded the region. President Obama has stated that the United States will not use force to intervene, but has threatened tougher economic sanctions to punish Russia.
Ukraine and the United States consider the Russian annexation of Crimea to be a violation of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, which was guaranteed in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. This agreement, signed by Russia, stated that Ukraine’s borders would be respected, and in return Ukraine would turn over their nuclear weapons. Ukraine, which was the world’s third largest nuclear power, complied with the terms of this agreement. Russia has clearly felt no such obligation to abide by her word.
Putin’s decision to annex Crimea was ostensibly based on concern for protecting Russian-speaking ethnic groups in the region. In reality, however, this move was just another calculated, strong arm maneuver in Russia’s quest to become relevant on a global scale. Russian ministers have also expressed concern about the safety of Russian-speaking in Estonia, and many Eastern European nations are rightly concerned about their territorial sovereignty. After all, Vladimir Putin has shown that Russia has little regard for past agreements or the sovereignty of independent nations.
All of this leaves both the United States and Europe in tricky situations. Much of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russia, meaning that few European nations are eager to confront Putin. Limited American forces in Europe also mean that even if President Obama wanted to intervene militarily, it would be nearly impossible to do so effectively. Finally, proposed economic sanctions to punish Russia would also hurt the American economy.
Unfortunately, the President and Congress are left with very few options. To prevent future Russian aggression, both military and economic aid for Eastern Europe should be prioritized. Furthermore, the President should be working to create infrastructure to ship American natural gas to Europe. Lessening Europe’s dependence on Russian energy will weaken Russia’s bargaining position and send a strong message to Vladimir Putin that further power grabs will not be tolerated.
The United States of America is the most powerful nation the world has ever known, and with that power come responsibilities. Not only does a stronger Russian threaten American interests, but it also threatens the interests of freedom-loving people throughout the world. Vladimir Putin must not be allowed to use intimidation and force to further the interests of Russian oligarchs, and President Obama must make this clear to him. The way President Obama acts and the manner in which he handles this situation will set a precedent for all future encounters between the United States and Russian. I hope he will choose to be strong and take meaningful measures to protect the liberty of sovereign nations. If he doesn’t, Vladimir Putin will notice.