Conflict between Ukraine and Russia has become increasingly violent with Ukrainian forces killing five pro-Russian militants on April 24 around the southeastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, according to CNN. The murders were in response to Russia initiating military drills near the border, which was seen as “openly threatening” to Ukrainian acting President Oleksandr Turchynov.
The mounting tension between Ukraine and Russia led to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visiting Ukraine and reaffirming U.S.’s support on April 22. After the events on April 24, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake,” according to CNN.
Although the U.S. has not made promises to intervene militarily, should it be involved at all?
The clashing of Ukraine and Russia may be making headlines now, but conflict between them has existed for centuries. Although Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine is not justified, the U.S. stepping in may worsen the situation, especially if our intentions are not for the good of the Ukrainian people.
“When we think about this issue, people get very emotional about it and you have to try to gauge where that emotion is coming from,” said global studies professor Sundar-Jovian Radheshwar in a Google+ webcam interview. “If it’s coming from an authentic desire to help Ukrainian people because of the fact that we understand, and are historically invested in their conflict, then that’s one thing. But, if it comes from the idea that we have to go save the world and be the world’s police, I think that could only end up badly.”
The U.S. intervening too quickly could make the situation escalate into something much more violent than if Ukraine and Russia were to discover possible solutions among themselves.
“We need to be cautious… We both have nuclear weapons and we can’t really do a full out invasion or anything like that. I think we just need to help Ukraine assert itself and give them aid,” said Brandon White, a senior political science major.
As nice as it would be to imagine countries helping other countries solely for the good of the people, it is more likely that assistance comes when personal interests need protecting. For the U.S., supporting Ukraine and its independence from Russia would protect the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Ukrainian pro-democracy organizations.
When anti-Semitic leaflets were distributed to Jews in eastern Ukraine on April 28 asking Jews to register and pay a fine, Kerry denounced the act as “grotesque” and “beyond acceptable”, according to ABC. The media was quick to place blame on the Russian government and although anti-Semitism should not be tolerated, the US should not be so quick to react without knowing the truth behind the situation.
“That’s kind of a really confusing situation because there’s two options here: whether they’re really anti-Semitic and or there’s a false-flag operation which means someone else is trying to frame the Russian government,” White said. “Either way there’s problems there about who is at fault.”
The U.S. may have a right to protect its interests, but if intervening will lead to increased violent tension then perhaps patience and strategic, separated involvement will provide a better result.
“These countries can develop something on their own, so if we get involved and we steer things towards whatever our interests or agenda happens to be, people on the ground will be alienated,” Radheshwar said. “The voices of people in those nations are actually left out of the equation.”
Putin furthering the borders of Russia by invading eastern Ukraine by force is something that has not been done since Hitler and it sets a bad example for the rest of the world. Global studies professor Francois Zdanowicz believes Putin’s justification is that people of that area speak Russian and so Russia has a right to protect those people. What is to stop other countries from invading and controlling areas where citizens speak their language and identify with their culture?
“Now in the 21st century, in a time when we have the United Nations and global coalitions, it’s no longer seen as a good option to invade other countries in order to gain land. Russia is really just invalidating all of these global treaties and all of this peace that’s happened in the past few decades,” White said.
The U.S. has every right to protect its allies and interests, but getting involved too soon or too forcefully will only produce a more violent outcome.
“I think that at this point the best thing to do for the US government is not to intervene. If the Russians really invade, the Americans don’t have to send soldiers. Very easy, all they have to send is weapons. They can do it very quietly,” Zdanowicz said.
“First, we have to see how the Ukrainian forces will manage on their own. If there’s no evidence that the population in eastern Ukraine is harmed by the crackdown from the separatists then maybe things will die down by themselves,” Zdanowicz said.
Published April 30, 2014