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Opinion: the Crimean conundrum

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By Owen Bradbury Aranda

Since the beginning of the Ukrainian revolution in mid-November of last year, the country’s future and unity have been in the balance.
After the ousting of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, things seemed like they might be able to resolve themselves — until the Russians got involved and things really started to heat up.
For quite a while now, Russia has been pushing its luck and exercising its power throughout the international community under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, the gun-slinging, bare-chested, horseback-riding Russian president.
Earlier this month, Mother Russia stepped into the turmoil of the Ukrainian conflict by sending Russian troops into Crimea, the southernmost province of Ukraine.
Although these soldiers were clearly Russian, unless, as pointed out by Jon Stewart, Russian military fatigues are easy to come by overnight in the thousands, Putin initially denied all claims of the Crimean invasion.
However, more recently Russia has essentially annexed Crimea from the newly-founded government of Ukraine, which Putin claims to be illegitimate. As if this blatant act of aggression weren’t enough to get the United Nations flustered, Putin and the Ruskis, justified by a referendum, have signed off on the independence of Crimea without the consent of Ukraine. That’s like Mexico granting Texas independence without the consent of the United States government.
Another issue that is very much present in the conflict on the international level is the question of what role the United States should play in this whole fiasco. This conundrum has been very much debated here at home.
Additionally, there seems to be nothing President Barack Obama can do without displeasing someone. If he takes executive action, he’s labeled as a tyrant; if he tries to mediate a situation, he’s accused of being weak. In short, Obama is stuck in a predicament.
While on one hand he doesn’t want to seem pathetic, he certainly doesn’t want the situation to escalate and start a second Cold War — or worse yet, World War III.
In a sense, America is appearing weak by simply threatening sanctions on Russia instead of taking real action by exercising some sort of military force. In all honesty, however, feebleness is far better than escalating the conflict and risking American lives.
Here in the United States, the general consensus with regards to Vladimir Putin has changed quite dramatically. After being essentially idealized by the right, due to his “strong leadership,” he has now been vilified as a leader who disregards international law and is fundamentally a bully, which quite frankly is the truth. The situation in Crimea is an absolute mess. Putin has the military power and crazed confidence to take on the United States and test the international community’s commitment to international law.
Putin apparently desires Russia to regain the strength of the former Soviet Union, and he seems more than willing to go to war in order to achieve this goal.
Hopefully, this mess will be able to resolve itself peacefully and quickly. After all, no one should want a full-scale war with Russia, and certainly no one should want the Crimean conflict to change from a problem for Ukraine into a problem for the world.
Thankfully, earlier this week the U.S. Congress in Washington overwhelmingly approved $1 billion in aid to Ukraine instead of attempting to solve the conflict by means of military force.
The United States has resorted to use the more modern power of influence rather than the old-fashioned vision of power practiced by Vladimir Putin. Even so, some in Congress oppose any level of involvement with the Crimean conundrum.
Also this past week, the United Nations General Assembly substantially voted against Putin’s referendum for granting Crimea independence. According to CNN, the vote was 100 to 11, with 58 countries abstaining from the vote entirely. The situation in Crimea seems to have transformed itself into a battle for influence, and the struggle is far from over.
Hopefully, this mess will be able to resolve itself peacefully and quickly. After all, no one should want a full-scale war with Russia, and certainly no one should want the Crimean conflict to change from a problem for Ukraine into a problem for the world.