Russian Seizure of Crimean Port: Another Cold War Reminder

russian paramilitary truck in crimea

Further unsanctioned, internationally divisive moves came from Russia on Wednesday as troops and unarmed volunteers invaded and took the naval headquarters of Sevastopol, the Crimean Port. A Russian flag was raised thereafter, a clear indication of ownership in the wake of a Crimean referendum voting to leave Ukraine and apply for annexation into Russia. Russia, in turn, indicated its receptivity to the addition with President Vladimir Putin’s public address on the Crimean vote, and the Russian Parliament is working to have ratified a treaty by the week’s end to join Crimea to Russia, even as its military prepares to handle any armed opposition in the region.

The international community, and the United States, have made clear their stance on the matter, with sanctions already wrought against it and more to come soon. “We join Poland and the international community condemning the continuing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the blatant … violation of international law by Mr. Putin and Russia,” said Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, following Putin’s speech on Crimea’s history belonging to Russia. “Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land grab, including what was said today.”

Remnants of Cold War sentiment have begun floating around the rhetoric on Russia’s invasion and political maneuverings. Stephen J. Hadley, former National Security Adviser to the George W. Bush administration, said that a conflict with Russia would be more difficult than in the past, with Putin choosing to ignore international order put in place post-Soviet Union. “He wants to rewrite the history that emerged at the end of the Cold War. We have fundamentally different approaches to what Europe is going to be,” said Hadley to the New York Times.

Secretary of State John Kerry brought up the Cold War and the current crisis relating to it as well. He admits that Russia almost certainly has emotional, religious, and historical ties to Crimea, but said that this “doesn’t legitimize just taking what you want because you want it or because you’re angry about the end of the Cold War or the end of the Soviet Union or whatever it is.” The good news is that, despite threats of sanctions and political back and forth between the U.S. and Russia, when it comes to other important international issues, both countries have managed continued efforts. “On Iran, on Syria, on other things we’ve been able to cooperate, even as we have some … serious differences on other things,” said Kerry.

Even if the U.S. and Russia manage to maintain frosty but cordial relations of isolation rather than real conflict, experts say that the relationship has been changed. “It could turn into an extremely nasty and prolonged East-West conflict. It won’t be exactly like the Cold War because it won’t be a struggle for control of the world. But it will be something like Yugoslavia on a much larger scale and a more dangerous scale,” said Michael Dobbs, historian and journalist during the Cold War, to the New York Times.

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