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Russia’s occupation of Crimea

So Russia has seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and Ukraine has withdrawn its military forces from the Russian-occupied region. Only hours before this, the acting prime minister of Ukraine had signed a political agreement with the European Union, which Russia opposed. US President Obama declared Russia’s action “a breach of international law.” And so it is. But what is the world going to do about it?

By seizing Crimea, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, is forging ahead with his grand plan to expand the Russian Federation. What is scary about this bold move on Russia’s part was the self-satisfied smile on Putin’s face when he made the announcement. He is obviously convinced that no one will force him to withdraw his troops.

In recent years both the European Union and the United States have signalled that the time for military conflict is past, and international problems should be settled diplomatically. But with Russian troops already occupying Crimea, there is little room left for diplomacy. Putin apparently was confident that he would get away with this swift takeover of another country. And so far, he has. The European Union has already filed a protest with the United Nations Security Council. And the US has condemned Russia’s'’ annexation of Crimea, and announced that it is preparing new, tougher sanctions against Russia. But, according to Mr. Putin, Russia can live with sanctions, and that is about the only weapon the West has, short of armed conflict.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has gone to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, to propose ways to negotiate the Crimean problem between Russia and Ukraine, to be overseen by a multilateral organization.  The US will not intervene, but wants to prevent an escalation of the conflict. Germany, Russia’s primary trading partner, has announced it opposes sanctions and wants “ a more diplomatic response: to the Russian occupation in Crimea.

The most unfortunate result of this invasion, thus far, is that it will probably end what has been nearly 25 years of US-Russian cooperation on such important issues as Iran’s nuclear program, Syria’s civil war, Afghanistan’s security problems, and managing the unpredictable young leader of North Korea.

Because of the Crimea issue, the relations between the US and Russia today are at their worst since the end of the Cold War. And NATO’s top military expressed his organization’s concern about what country Russia will seize next.