Ukraine On ‘Brink of Disaster’: Russian Paramilitary Forces Occupy Crimea
Over the past few months, the situation in Ukraine has devolved from political unrest, to political protest, to political upheaval, and now, possibly, to war. Armed men in military uniform, without insignia but thought to be Russian soldiers, have entered and occupied the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. The soldiers have forcibly, but not violently, taken over several government buildings on the peninsula, and have surrounded a Ukrainian military base in the region, preventing the soldiers stationed there from leaving.
On Sunday morning, as news of the military action spread, newly appointed Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the world that his country is on the “brink of disaster.” Speaking in a televised address from the parliamentary building in Kiev, Ukraine’s capitol, Yatsenyuk said that “This is a red alert. This is actually a declaration of war in our country.” The Ukrainian military has been placed on high alert, although it doesn’t look like Yatsenyuk is currently preparing a military retaliation.
The situation is a cesspool of geopolitical tension and uncertainty. Because of the deep divide between those in Ukraine leaning toward the west (toward the European Union) and those in Ukraine leaning toward the east (toward Russia), it’s unclear whether or not the world is actually ready to call the military action a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nearly 60 percent of Crimea’s population views itself as Russian, according to a 2001 census, while just about 24 percent view themselves as Ukrainian. Russian President Vladimir Putin has argued that Russia maintains a right to protect its interests and its people in Ukraine. The logic is contrived, but combined with an opaque political landscape, it has paralyzed global policymakers.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will be holding an emergency meeting on Sunday, but the organization isn’t actually obligated to come to the defense of Ukraine because it isn’t a member. Still, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said, “What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations Charter. It threatens peace and security in Europe. Russia must stop its military activities and its threats.”
In the United States, President Barack Obama has accused Putin of breaching international law, but it’s unclear that the U.S. has the political will or authority to get involved. However, President Obama has warned that “there will be costs” if Russia violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, which it clearly has. The White House has said that it will suspend its participation in preparatory meetings for a G-8 summit being held in Sochi, Russia, in June.