Russia…With No Love

Mitt Romney might have been right when most thought he had committed a gaffe: Russia is our biggest foe on the world stage. Certainly in the last month Russia has re-emerged as America’s primary opposition.

A couple weeks ago, a former student contacted me about Russia. We had always enjoyed political discussions in class, and he had stated his intent to serve our country as a member of the United States military. I have a lot of love for this former student, and he honored me by seeking out my response concerning the Russian invasion of Crimea.

His concern was that he saw the Russian seizure of Ukrainian military bases, specifically the surrender of the head of the Ukrainian navy, as similar to the start of the Third Reich. He intimated that these might be the signs of a third World War. His question: “Isn’t this what the German political and religious leaders [did] for Hitler?”

I responded as follows:

It is good to hear from you; though, the circumstances for the correspondence are anything but good. In answer to your question, it does seem like aspects of the Russian insurgence appear to mimic the formation of the Third Reich. Certainly, the act of military leaders pledging allegiance to a world leader has some similarities. However, I’m not ready to make the leap to declaring a third World War.

The situation in Ukraine has, admittedly, been viewed through primarily American lens, especially considering the Olympic coverage that occurred simultaneously. Our media coverage saw the insurgence in Kiev as a tragic, yet necessary protest in order to free the people from Russian dictatorship and create an alliance with the EU. The deaths and violence were noble and created an opportunity to remove a dictator and create a new democratic government (a theme that seems to occur annually in the Middle East and Europe).

What seems slightly hypocritical to me is what is occurring right now with Crimea. Crimea’s people have stood up in greater numbers and declared their allegiance to Russia. It is isolated from the Ukraine, and it could easily be annexed [to Russia] from the Ukraine with little economic or social impact; yet, Crimea remains part of the country of Ukraine, so you have the posturing.

I’m not trying to justify Putin. He obviously is attempting to maintain Russia’s investment in the Ukraine. Sticking it to American sensibilities does seem to be an added bonus. I notice most people in the media are very careful about mentioning military opposition against Russia (even though any attempt to promote Obama’s weakness is a favorite tactic of certain news networks, I don’t believe even Fox News would advocate throwing slings and arrows at Russia at the first provocation).

I believe that if the Russian military maintains its position in Crimea AND Ukraine is willing to [lose] the territory of the mostly pro-Russian population, then further escalation will cease. We actually have precedent for this situation when you review the military cessation of Georgia from a few years back. America imposed sanctions and declared diplomatic threats, but Russia still did what it wanted to do in their own backyard.

It is most difficult to make predictions because of one person: Vladmir Putin. He is most unpredictable, and he does not seem to regard most other world leaders. It is also obvious he does not respect American considerations and values (honestly, like many Russians, Europeans, or anybody that does not live in America). If Putin does decide that the military presence must push through Ukraine, then it will essentially force the hand of the European Union AND the United States of America. I do not think Putin is so vain (or stupid) to presume that it would be a good idea to instigate a war of such magnitude. I think the military presence will hold its position in Crimea for the unforeseeable future. I do not think this is the start of World War III.

After a few weeks of reflection, I regret a few claims in my correspondence, especially my concluding remarks. I am starting to wonder if this is indeed the start of the next World War. I realize that I was taking a paternalistic stance in my response, and I tried to appease my student’s sensibilities (especially considering he might be a member of any ground forces dispatched to the Ukrainian country). Furthermore, I was dismissively ignoring the similarities of the start of past World Wars because I, like many other people, cannot fathom the possibility of another World War in 2014. Like so many other socially violent possibilities, it is just easier to be ignorant of the probability.

I also regret how I framed the ease of Russia annexing Crimea away from the Ukraine. I remember how easy Georgia was invaded, and I saw little response from the rest of the world, especially America. I also see how Russia’s stubbornness has allowed massacres to continue occurring in Syria, while America stands around with its hands tied, as Syrian children are shot, gassed, and exploded daily. I just figured the occupation of Crimea would be another instance of Russia getting away with it, with little intervention or choice by other nations. Perhaps, I underestimated the proximity of the world media exposure the Olympics earned for Russia.

I also regret giving Fox News and certain Republican pundits the benefit of the doubt when it comes to mouthing off about foreign affairs. It seems like there is no opportunity to bash Obama that can go unused. I just hope that most citizens realize that it is preposterous to assume, because Obama might look “weak” on the world stage, that Ukrainian protesters decided to oust their Russian-aligned prime minister AND allowed Russia to occupy Crimea. Apparently, every country in the world acts according to America’s whims and wishes, and since Obama is the worst President in American history (according to these pundits), Vladmir Putin feels compelled to instigate American repercussions and violate Ukrainian sovereignty.

I understand that Ronald Reagan has achieved god-like status in Republican minds as the ideal model for the American President. I think most Republicans believe that if Reagan were President in 2014, he would have cowered Russia into folding in upon itself, doing away with any notion of opposing America’s wants or opinions in the Eurasian theater. In fact, I believe many Republicans have a fantasy in their minds that involves a shirtless Reagan, shooting bears from atop a horse, with Vladmir Putin in tow as squire to Reagan’s valiant knight.

Let me be clear: Vladmir Putin would be invading Ukraine even if Ronald Reagan were today’s president.

What I do not regret conveying in my correspondence with my student is how I painted Putin. He is instigating America with purpose. He is convincing his people that a war with America would result in a Russian victory. He is responsible for this—not Barack Obama—and he might be instigating a military war with America and the European Union. Vladmir Putin is at fault, and he might be as vain and stupid as I assumed he was not.

It would behoove Americans to stop blaming everything on Barack Obama and create a show of strength behind our representative leader in the face of foreign aggression. I’d like to stop hearing how strong a leader Vladmir Putin is; there are those who paint an idolatrous picture of Putin, intended to besmirch Obama’s image. The opinions broadcast on Fox News border on treason. If the Cold War has been reinvigorated, then it would be in America’s best interest to become United…as our country’s name indicates, but our political affiliations have marred.

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  1. I see where you were coming from with your response though, this could easily be propaganda. It’s a fact that the people, not just the leaders, but most of the civilians accepted Russia taking back control of the Crimea. This all happened without a single person being wounded or killed, while I will admit this was also seen with Germany in WW2. They showed such a dominate force that the other countries leaders knew that fighting them would be suicide for their people. Off subject. North Korea is showing a surprising uprising, and with our shady background could we see an alliance like that with Japan during WW2? Vladimir Putin did not side himself with Korea, but showed support in Korea flaunting their military presence over the past year. This all seems very familiar. The only thing I have to take out of the equation is how Vladimir Putin is doing it. Hitler’s method was brash, and ruthless. Vladimir has took the Crimea, had their Navy commander swear allegiance. This was done swift, and tactical something any experienced military tactician would of done. Something Hitler was not. Ukraine outside of political queries about the issue, haven’t made a move outside of an appeal to the UN. It seems that Vladimir is in the right even through the eyes of the UN. If Russia was to attack Ukraine it would be a considered a civil war, if he avoided breaking any of the Red Cross, and Geneva codes he could easily take control of Ukraine. America wouldn’t have a legitimate reason to bring to the UN to stop them without simply the ” because we consider this wrong ” argument. Which doesn’t seem like it would hold up to well with Vladimir. I would suspect that’s when threat of Nuclear war will arise again. This seems like a slippery slope with several agenda that will eventually effect another countries agenda.steep choices ahead for America. While the news isn’t everyday saying Russia is doing this, or Korea is doing that. Just like every other country, they are constantly organizing themselves. Rather for war, for advancement in science, or for human rights. Every country has an

  2. Hello Daniel. I’m glad you caught this blog, and I’m happy to see your response. A couple counterpoints: 1) there have been a few casualties in Crimea now, with reports of some torture and military strong-arming, though it’s difficult to verify. 2) The UN has rejected Russia’s annexation of Crimea with a healthy majority vote.

    Russia’s agenda seems to be wholly about interference, posthaste. I am worried primarily because I see the preparations of war. Ukraine has dug a trench across much of its land bordering Russia. Russia is advancing military units in strategic positions. There are videos of tanks driving through Ukrainian military outposts where there is no need for such shows of force other than fear-generation. Apparently, some of the members of the crowds in Crimea are participants from the Russian motherland, sent to promote the annexation’s passage by organizing crowds. Russia is broadcasting to its citizens news reports assuring them that they are the only country that can effectively destroy the United States of America (and they’ve been doing it for awhile).

    I don’t think this will de-escalate. I think Putin has plans to invade Ukraine. I also think this will pull America into a ground war. I’m having a hard time thinking of anything more frightening at the moment. I sincerely hope that I am dead wrong, in this case.

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