“Because of Russia’s still-prevalent Cold War mentality, in their minds we are still their biggest enemy. It’s time to prove we’re the tough America we once were.”
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Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering sophomore and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Irony is when a deep cold front sweeps across America the same week Russia eerily brings back Cold War tensions. Or maybe it’s all just coincidence. Either way, Vladimir Putin’s incompetent decision to remind us the Cold War mentality is still very much alive in Russia rings up brutal memories.
As the rest of the world stands by and watches, Russia is slowly assisting the unraveling of Ukraine. Their actions are strikingly similar to their attacks on the small country of Georgia in 2008. Hopefully this time, the world reacts differently.
On Saturday, President Barack Obama stated in a press conference, “The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future,” followed by a message to Russia that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” On this, President Obama is on point (no, that’s not a typo), but the problem remains that these “costs” are very limited.
Of course, the first step will be immediate meetings and decisions made within NATO and the United Nations (U.N.). Though economic sanctions on Russia are likely, they are unlikely to have much of an effect in the short term. Political sanctions such as removing Russia from the G8 talks will have some effect as they isolate Russia’s trading power from the world’s top seven economies. However, because Russia has other political allies, including warming relations with China, even G8 removal would only put a dent in Russia’s politics and economy.
Economic sanctions must be carefully tread upon, though. Russia is our 28th largest export trade partner and 18th largest import trade partner. We also receive almost 5 percent of our oil from Russia. It may not seem like a lot, but tens of billions of dollars add up quickly.
The message the United States and allies send to Russia must be strong. After last year’s humiliation over the Syrian conflict, this isn’t the time to be soft. As one of the first Republican politicians to assert his opinion of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, Marco Rubio recommended “any and all discussions and negotiations with Moscow on any issue unrelated to this crisis should be immediately suspended.” His stern tone is refreshing, though immediate action is difficult with the U.N. and NATO’s diplomatic processes.
Perhaps the most frightening, genuinely scary and apocalyptic thought about this entire situation is the idea of nations going to war with Russia. It’s a situation that will be avoided at all cost and reserved for a last ditch effort. However, the possibility is still very real. Currently, Russian troops are only occupying Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula with strong local allegiances to Russia. In fact, Crimea belonged to Russia until a 1954 deal gave the island to Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union.
However, the chance of Russian troops marching north or west through Ukraine isn’t one to bet against. Russia’s parliament gave unanimous approval (90-0 to be exact) to allow troops to occupy Ukraine, with Putin declaring Ukraine’s unrest as a “threat” to Russia. Much of southeast Ukraine is friendly to Russia, so Russian troops could cut through the region like butter. Resistance wouldn’t be met until halfway up the country, near central Ukraine where allegiances become strongly pro-Ukrainian. Even then, Ukraine’s government expressed doubts their military could fend off the power of Russia’s military.
The threat of American military intervention doesn’t actually lie within Ukraine. In fact, Ukraine and Russia will probably be able to tussle for as long as necessary without any outside military intervention. The only problem lies outside Ukraine’s borders. NATO members Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania all border Ukraine, while Turkey lies directly across the Black Sea with strong ethnic ties to Crimea. If any action is taken against these countries, collaterally or not, all hell could break loose.
But enough of my accidental scare mongering. In reality, war with Russia isn’t an immediate option and is highly unlikely. The western world will exhaust all options before allowing one foreign troop to step foot between Russian and Ukrainian conflicts.
This is a crucial point in western foreign diplomacy. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine deals a heavy blow to United States-Russian relations, but the sovereignty of Ukraine can still be salvaged, and we have to take the lead. President Obama can’t allow European leaders to head mediation. Because of Russia’s still-prevalent Cold War mentality, in their minds we are still their biggest enemy. It’s time to prove we’re the tough America we once were.
Some countries have already taken action, and rightly so. Canada recalled their ambassador from Russia, and I’m sure other countries will follow. Swift action is necessary from the international community. If Russia is able to get around international organizations such as the U.N. and NATO, they seriously compromise the integrity of such organizations.
Russia is no joke, and the West needs to prove we are no joke either. It’s time for the west to finally prove to Russia democracy is not a game, but an opportunity every country deserves.