Sunday, March 2, 2014

War in the Ukraine?

It is no fun reading the newspaper this morning. We have quite a dangerous situation developing in Ukraine. Our nation and all of Europe is watching closely and beginning to think about what we could possibly do to tame the big Russian bear.
by Charlie Leck
We’re talking here about dangerous possibilities. We’ve never quite built a friendship with Russia and they don’t like taking orders from us. Under no circumstances does the Russian leadership view us as “the greatest nation on earth.” That’s an expression our politicians like to use when they’re running for office. They ought to stop and think about how offensive that is to the ears of people in our nations.
As for the Russians, they don’t want to be seen as taking orders from us. They never got over the way that President Reagan talked to them in 1987 – telling them to “take down that wall!” I remember thinking then that this was not very diplomatic language and that Russia had too big a national ego to allow such bravado to be spewed.
Now, President Obama tries to choose his words wisely. We are walking on dangerous ground here and we mustn’t take this perilous situation lightly nor approach the possibility of war.
Very, very frankly, we took invading Iraq too lightly and we also foolishly believed we could do a better job in Afghanistan than the Russians did.
Now, an editorial in the Washington Post (WP) makes it abundantly clear that…
“The United States now faces a naked act of armed aggression in the center of Europe by a Russian regime that is signaling its intent to steamroller this U.S. president and his allies. Mr. Obama must demonstrate that can’t be done.”
Unfortunately, the hawks in America, including the right wing of the Republican Party is going to think this means military action, which it certainly does not. The WP editorial goes on to say…
“Mr. Obama should make clear that he will no longer shrink from applying sanctions to Russian leaders and businesses complicit in aggression or human rights violations. An expanded list of Russian officials subject to visa denials and asset freezes that was drawn up by the State Department late last year should be immediately approved by the White House. Russian officials in the chain of command of the Ukraine invasion, as well as Russian companies and banks operating in Crimea, should be the next targets of financial sanctions.
“The most powerful non-military tool the United States possesses is exclusion from its banking system. Mr. Obama should make clear that if Russia does not retreat from Ukraine, it will expose itself to this sanction, which could sink its financial system. Russia’s economy, unlike that of the Soviet Union, is heavily dependent on Western trade and investment. It must be made clear to the Kremlin that the Ukraine invasion will put that at risk.”

Believe me, the Russians know that America is too involved in other parts of the world to take on more military actions. They also know that we are aware of the immensity of Russia’s own military capabilities. Russia’s great interest is economic expansion. They want to control the vital resources that exist in the Crimea and the Ukraine. Their actions there in the last 48 hours are exceedingly bold and dangerous. A too powerful Russia is a threat to people everywhere. This is a huge nation that has not yet quite come to grips with the ideals and idea of democracy. It has a ways to go.

What hurts Russia most are attacks on its economy and it is possible to launch such assaults if Russia refuses to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal from the Ukraine. President Obama tried not to play that card two days ago when he sent his warning out to Russia. Now he must make it abundantly clear that Russia’s economy and banking system will suffer it if maintains its present course. And, President Obama must convince our European and NATO allies to follow this course with us.

It is now that he must do these things. T he Washington Post has outlined the wisest and surest course in this crisis and I urge you to read the statement cited above. On pins and needles, all of America will await what comes out of the White House.

Understanding Ukraine
The Ukraine is an eastern European Country and its western border meets up with Poland and its southwestern border touches Slovakia and Hungary. Kiev, the capitol city of the Ukraine, is about 530 miles from Moscow. In the south of the nation, Odesa is a port city on the Black Sea and that body of water runs all along the southwestern border of the Ukraine. The nation has a population of nearly 45 million people. The Eastern Orthodox form of Christianity is by far the dominant religious force in the country. Amazingly, Ukraine is the largest country entirely within Europe (233,062 sq. miles). That means it is larger than France or Germany or Spain. It is said that it was in the Ukraine that the horse was first domesticated. It was, for a time, a part of the Soviet Union and regained its independence in 1991. It is a fertile nation and a major grain producer and has some of the best agricultural land on earth. It also has a large manufacturing sector. Under a long term lease agreement, the Russian Black Sea Fleet has a large port in the seaside city of Sevastopol (which sits on a large peninsula that sticks a long way out from the Ukrainian mainland). As a leftover from its days as part of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine maintains one of the largest military forces in Europe (second only to Russia).

Ukraine’s declaration of independence (or sovereignty) was adopted in 1990. It declares the principle of self-determination and democracy. It established its total independence on August 24, 1991 and held its first presidential election on December 1, 1991.

Victor Yanukovych was elected to the presidency of Ukraine in 2004, but it was seen as a “dirty” election and primarily rigged. This election produced what has been called the primarily peaceful “Orange Revolution” which took Yanukovych from power and established Victor Yushchenko as president. However, Yanukovych returned to power as Prime Minister in 2006 under the Alliance of National Unity banner. He was removed by an election in the following year, but was elected President again in 2010 with 48 percent of the vote.

The recent revolution that removed Yanukovych from power, and saw him flee the country, began under a dispute about applying for membership in the European Union (EU). It appeared that a large majority of the citizenry was favoring a stronger relationship with the EU and broke into strong protests and street demonstrations when Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the EU. On January 15, 2014, the government passed Anti-Protest Laws that caused an escalation in the protests. On the 22nd of February, members of parliament proclaimed that the president was unable to fulfill his duties and used its constitutional powers to set a new election for May 25.

Yesterday (March 1, 2014), the Russian parliament approved a request from President Vladimir Putin to deploy Russian troops into the Ukraine. Such a deployment is not difficult for the Russians since they have a huge naval force already established within Ukraine and huge border along the nation of Ukraine’s entire eastern edge.

It seems it is an advantage to both the EU and the USA to have Ukraine remain a totally independent nation. By our standards it would seem Russia has no right to intervene in this internal national dispute in an independent nation. (However, Russian says the same thing about our current presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan; although it is probably beneficial for Russia that we are there.)



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