Global conflict escalates as Russian troops enter Crimea

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Infographic by Maddie Mueller
Paris lies 4,462 miles away. Rome, a bit further, is 5,141 miles from here. A mere 200 miles beyond sits Kiev, the capital of Ukraine and it has dominated the headlines of all major media outlets for the past two weeks.
Although many Missourians couldn’t differentiate between Ukraine and Georgia two weeks ago, for the past month, Ukrainian-born junior Julia Pushechnikova struggled to keep up with the news, which makes her feel heart-wrenched.
“I think that the conflict has brought out the very nature of Ukraine, and our people,” Pushechnikova said. “It is a shame that one man screwed things up so much for these two countries, for he has created a hostility which ought not be there.”
This “one man” is Vladimir Putin, and he has been the president of Russia since May 2012. Jumping in and out of the presidency for 10 years now, Putin took advantage of the ability to become Prime Minister when he was not the president. From 1999 and into the near future, Putin has been the biggest power in Russia.
“The ultimate name of the game for people [who lead important countries] is power,” University of Missouri-Columbia political science professor, Dr. Paul Wallace said. “The name of the game for Putin is power, not ideology. The Soviet system is dead. The power element is really strong.”
Before 1991, Ukraine was a part of Russia in a state, or as Russians called it a Federated Soviet Republic. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Ukraine was declared an independent country because on basis of the country beginning to relinquish their nuclear weapons. This process came to a close in 1996.
It should not be surprising that Russia would wish to invade Crimea, a territory of Ukraine, because Ukraine itself used to be the heartland of the Russian empire. Before the Mongols invaded Russia, Kiev, the current capital of Ukraine, was the home of the ruler of Russia and the center of the empire.
When Khrushchev ruled the Soviet Union, he transferred most of the minorities from Crimea to Central Asia in order to give space for Russians to settle in Crimea and live. This move is the reason why Crimea leans toward Russia today rather than toward Europe. The spark of protests in Ukraine against Ukrainian President Yanukovych sped up the inevitable Russian invasion of Crimea, with Russia defending itself by claiming they are defending the Russian-speaking people in Crimea.
On March 16, Crimean citizens voted to either split from Ukraine and join Russia or revert back to the 1992 Crimean constitution, which lets Crimea stay with Ukraine with the ability to join Russia at any time. The biggest minority, along with several others, boycotted the vote, saying that it is not legal. The result was that 96.77 percent voted to join Russia because of that massive boycott.
“The EU has been developing effective relationships with the Ukraine. [Ukraine] was about to join the EU [whereby] the EU would provide certain assistance,” Dr. Wallace said. “But the problem with [the president] was that he was so corrupt and the EU is very conscious of having democratic safeguards against corruption.”
Russia offered Yanukovych, the ex-president of Ukraine, $15 billion to join Russia rather than the EU, and he then quickly scrapped the deal with the EU and accepted Putin’s instead. This was the start of the massive month-long protests in Ukraine and, eventually, the Russian invasion of Crimea.
“The Russians look upon the Nazis as those who killed so many of their relatives and they call them fascists, so anybody who is against Russia can be labeled a fascist,” Dr. Wallace said. “They [labeled] the overthrow of the Ukrainian government last month as done by fascists.”
Along with political problems, Russia and Ukraine, and potentially the rest of Europe could have a major economic problem with this situation. Two days after Putin sent his troops into Crimea, the stock market in Russia lost 15 percent of its total value, according to the Baltic Times.
“Ukraine gets its power primarily from Russia, and so does Europe [who] get about a third of its [power] supply from Russia. If Russia raises the price much, they could cripple Ukraine, which would also hurt Europe,” Dr. Wallace said. “On the other hand, if they are able to bring in other kinds of energy, like natural gas, solar or anything other than oil, that would hurt [Russia’s] economy.”
Oil dominates Russia’s economy, which is not a secure commodity, Dr. Wallace said, because there is a lot of oil in the world’s market. During the Cold War era, the U.S. and the Soviet Union both had a set amount of allies on their side, and a second Cold War, according to Dr. Wallace, is very unlikely.
“Neither the U.S. or Russia have the degree of global power that they had during the Cold War. During the Cold War, the alliance systems were pretty well set, one led by the U.S. and another by the Soviet Union,” Dr. Wallace said. “Today, we have globalization in so many different ways, so it would make it increasingly difficult for a small combination of people to engage in these actions.”
Pushechnikova hopes she can see her home country again after this conflict resolves. She said that even though war is in the nature of humans, it is a great shame that it happens, no matter where it happened.
“I am from Kiev, and the streets they show in the news are those streets which I used to take to go to the grocery store, or school and other places,” Pushechnikova said. “It breaks my heart greatly that there is so much bloodshed upon those quiet, peaceful streets which were always home. Crimea … well, that is also very hard for me because that is where I used to go in the summers, to the sea, and it [was] a very calm place, lovely place.”
By Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi