Keeping abreast of information about the current Russian- Ukrainian conflict via American media produces disappointing results: fickle news, no news, and devote-just-a-few-seconds news. The Slavic conflict (as many other conflicts around the world) endured a prominent “gasp” week on American broadcast before slipping into oblivion. Comprehensive coverage is somewhat lacking.
BBC reports that the rebel separatists have been fighting on Ukrainian soil, seeking to take strategic cities. Although the separatists are a complete entity unto themselves (Russia claims), simply gleaning food, weaponry and resources from Russia (Russia claims), that Russia is a bystander without investment (Russia claims), many are holding their breath in suspense. The crisis is more than a kerfuffle betwixt neighbors. BBC takes note: 6400 people dead since the fighting began April 2014.
America must choose whether it is time to stand by Ukraine. Many argue that America holds the self-imposed title “world’s police.” America has a tendency to stick its nose into foreign affairs, to be an active participant in struggles that are not the American peoples’. The list is long. It has become part of the American tradition and spirit—in the face of adversity and injustice, America ignites an enterprise and red-white-and-blue jumps in with guns blazing and charisma raging. Contemplation only comes in hindsight. Of course, there have been wars when the U.S. practiced reservation, as in WWII, when America tried to benefit from international wartime economy while staying outside of the red zone, before inevitably joining following personal attack.
This isn’t Ukraine’s first militant affair with Russia. The poor little country endured the Great Purges, which took place from 1934 to 1939 under Stalin’s leadership, during which mass quantities of people were executed. Stalin brought down a heavy hand, dissolving the entire leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet government. Seventeen of its governmental ministers were arrested and executed, and the prime minister committed suicide. Stalin’s paranoia about “enemies” resulted in an estimated 170,000 lives, 37% of the Communist party, murdered in Ukraine. Historically, this does not bode for trust and understanding between the countries, and Russia’s backing of the rebel separatists sends a message that is not difficult to decipher.
For the contemporary issue, there is situational tension for America resulting from the agreement of the Budapest Memorandum, signed by Bill Clinton, December 5, 1994. This document was a reassurance of sorts, to accompany Ukraine’s decision to sign the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It was signed by Russia, the UK, and the U.S. China and France voiced agreement and drafted separate agreements of assent. The Budapest Memorandum stands as an assurance against threats of invasion, or any hindrance of Ukraine’s independence (also noted for Belarus and Kazakhstan). Ukraine gave up the third largest nuclear weapons stockpile between ’94 and ’96’. Basically, Ukraine handed over the queen on their chessboard.
Ukraine made a logical choice, to sign with Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. The little-but-determined country was under the impression that they would have backing from western powers should their freedom be tested again. Less than a decade passed before the memorandum’s conditions were brought to test.
As of June 3, there have been rebel clashes in Maryinka and Krasnohorivka. Ukraine regained Maryinka, where 10 tanks and up to 1,000 rebels fought last week. An estimated 400 Ukrainian troops are dead and 1,000 wounded after final count.
The United States has imposed sanctions, an attempt to economically stint Russia into behaving, but is this enough? From Russia’s track record, they are made of a certain stalk—not exactly the meek and mild type. Harsh Russian winters come to mind, and a diet of vodka and salted meat. Ice and bears and corruption, and deep-seated feelings about government. Yes, many of these are stereotypes…but, there are nuggets of reality to be found. Russia is still welcoming our American tourists over and tourists are still going (while there is still a chance to go), but the conflicts are kept hush-hush.
How far is America willing to intercede? Sanctions are not enough. In order to put a stop to the affair, boots will be put on the ground. We are digging into Poland and Germany, setting up a missile defense base and storing heavy weaponry. Poland, the doormat of every Slavic war, will need buffering if it comes to push-and-shove. Kudos to this defensive move. As of June 16, Putin announced he will be putting 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles into service. NATO expresses their deep disapproval.
Tact and careful approach will be invaluable in any sort of maneuver. A defensive stance in Poland is a start. If a walking-on-eggshells gentle push at the separatists could be accomplished, quickly and effectively, it would be ideal. Such an undertaking would have to be well-instigated enough to prevent resentment from Russia. It would have to be directed solely at the separatists, not Russia (if that is even possible). America might be able to handle Russian tension, but not resentment. It would take the delicate precision of a surgeon, the constitution of a holy man, resolution of a soldier, and the affability of royalty to make such a mission successful. It will be an unfortunate turn of events if (when) Russia eventually chooses to join. A gentle prod at separatists would turn into an attack on Russia, a mess too large to handle. It’s time to nip it in the bud.