In November, Ukrainians rose against their President Yanukovych after he rejected a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Many Ukrainians identify with Europe, and were thus angered by this decision, leading to protests in Ukraine’s capital city. After three months of unrest, Yanukovych fled Ukraine, and his regime was replaced with a pro-European government.
This coup worried Russia, and their leaders have recently decided to annex Crimea, a part of Ukraine that Russia sees as hers. Both Ukraine and Russia’s concerns in this crisis need to be explained and addressed.
Many Russians see the takeover of Crimea as a way to protect their people and benefit their country. Crimea has a majority Russian population, and President Putin claims that these people are in danger from the allegedly Russophobe, anti-Russian, government in Ukraine.
Putin also perceives a threat to his people from the fact that Russia’s old rivals in Western Europe, as well as the United States support the new Ukrainian government. In his mind, these countries are attempting to expand their power by making a puppet out of Ukraine’s new government.
If they are successful, he will have a large and potentially hostile nation on his doorstep. Not only will there be a threat nearby, Russia could lose control of Sevastopol, a naval base in Crimea. Despite her size, Russia has almost no naval bases that do not freeze for part of the year, putting her at a military disadvantage. All of this makes it quite reasonable, in the minds of Putin and many Russians, to take Crimea from Ukraine.
To the Ukrainian government, and many countries in the West, everything you just read is a cynical lie. Putin, in their minds, is mirroring Hitler or Stalin by creating an empire. His decision to annex Crimea reminds them of Hitler’s early conquests.
This, combined with the deployment of thousands of Russian troops to the Ukrainian border during the crisis, is sufficient evidence of Putin’s dark motives. Not only does the military maneuvering worry them, but they view Russia’s vote to annex Crimea as a criminal act.
President Obama has denounced it as a violation of international law. These events are, in the minds of many Ukrainians and the Western powers, proof that Putin is dangerous, and must not be allowed to continue with his conquest.
The crisis in Ukraine is far from over. The two sides are coiled like springs-Ukraine’s military is on high alert, and violence was reported the morning of this writing. Stay tuned-events may soon make this article outdated!
– Andrew Rock, Contributing Writer