Putin’s Crimea problem

Buzzfeed may not be the best source of information, but it seems to be one of the few places with extensive coverage over the crisis in Ukraine. Tensions are boiling over between Russians, Ukrainians, and Tartars who have previously been living in peace but are now at extreme ends with one another. Yet many news media stations provide only a few sentences coverage (or articles with very little in it) or neglect it altogether. For my own sake at least, therefore, I have compiled a synopsis to the best of my ability of these troubles.

Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula jutting into the Black Sea, has been the epicenter of tensions for decades. Sixty years ago, a Soviet leader gifted the land to Ukraine, since which time Crimea has been home to several different ethnic groups, including the Muslim Tatars, whom Stalin deported in 1944 (killing nearly half the population). Starting in 1991, the Tatars began moving back to Crimea, but still live in constant fear of being re-deported. The Crimean port, since then, has served as a crucial means of travel, providing access for the Russian navy to the Balkans, Middle East, and east Mediterranean. A week ago, the Russian-leaning Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted amid talks for the autonomous republic to secede. For the past few weeks, the Tartar population has aligned with the Crimean ethnic Ukrainians to protest the Russian-linked military forces in the region.

According to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, Russian troops are mobilizing to an “imaginary threat.” Russia’s U.N ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, however, said Russia’s actions were in retaliation to radical extremists who are destabilizing the nation.The Russian prime minister wholly rejects the idea that his country acted aggressively.

Contrary to that allegation, however, are the numerous protesters who have been arrested for next to nothing. Some held signs opposing war, some flags, some simply blank posters, yet dozens were arrested. Granted, some were violent protesters who maced the riot police, but many more were peaceful.

These tensions very well may pit the West against Russia, thereby further increasing the tensions in the region. President Obama has announced that the United States is examining several economic and diplomatic measures to “isolate Russia.” Needless to say, many people feel “isolation” is an insufficient measure for the violence there; Ali Hamzin, the nominal foreign minister of the Crimean Tatar community, called Obama’s plan to boycott the G8 summit of industrial nations in Sochi “pathetic.” Hamsin went on to say that allowing Russia to continue their aggression would be a “bankruptcy of Western Values” and therefore the United States ought to support Ukraine.

Simultaneously, however, there are plenty of Ukrainians who reject the notion of help from the United States, embracing the leadership of Putin. These people largely feel that the presence of Russian troops is helping to maintain the peace in Crimea and feel aid from the United States would be an unnecessary infringement.

As if the region needed more problems, extremist Muslim groups say they may step in to aid the Tatars in their fight. Though no major leaders had yet made any official declarations to call fighters into the region, there has been increased chatter in online forums calling for “jihad” in Crimea. Russia has previously fought two separatist wars in Chechnya after the fall of the Soviet Union, both of which attracted many Islamist fighters with links to al-Qaeda.

Even this massive chunk of text may seem like information overload, but it is a condensed version of the massive number of article I have now read (because so many articles seem only to focus on fractions of the troubles without addressing the entire issue) in order to get some grasp on what is occurring now in Crimea.

Personally, I feel that if the United States intends to involve itself in the conflict, it ought to take a more definitive stance than simply “isolation.” Understandably, it is not directly our problem, and it is not necessary, therefore to insert ourselves, But if we have no intentions of truly taking a side and doing something more than this “pathetic” slap on Putin’s wrist (let’s think World War II and Stalin- didn’t work so well, now then did it?), then we ought to openly declare such. Whatever our intentions may be, we should openly declare them rather than hide behind this veil of helping and boosting the hopes of countless people, only to say “oh, yeah, no. We’re not really going to help you.”

Or perhaps, I’m just naive about the conniving world of politics.