Ukraine is a country in east Europe, bordered by Belarus and Poland among others, but to their east lies Russia. If you haven’t heard of the recent developments in the region, please read this buzzfeed article, which provides a quick overview of the history and current events in Ukraine.
My heart is with the people of Ukraine. Although the Latvian peoples are Balts and the Ukrainians are Slavs, the two countries share a similar history. Both spent a significant number of years illegally incorporated into the USSR, both regained their independence in 1991, and now both (it seems) have lost territory to Russia’s aggression: Latvia lost Abrene in 1945, and it seems just a matter of time before Crimea is seized and assimilated into Russia. Similarities don’t end there, for the reason why these two territories have such a high percentage of Russian inhabitants (the main excuse Putin has used to defend his actions) are the deportations that took place after World War II, when Crimea’s native Crimean Tatars and Abrene’s native Latvians were deported en masse to Central Asia and Siberia, and Russians were resettled in the area to replace them.
Looking at the bigger picture the world’s reaction to this illegal occupation sets a terrible precedent. By not countering, Putin has been given the go-ahead to do as he pleases. Crimea is an important port in the region, giving Russia access to the Black Sea and therefore the Mediterranean (currently Sevastopol is the key to Moscow military strategy as the country's only warm-water seaport that can operate year-round)… A port on the Baltic Sea would be extremely beneficial, a fact which puts the Baltic countries and even Poland at significant risk. In fact, Russia has already increased their military presence and has been conducting readiness drills near the Lithuanian and Polish borders (in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave tucked between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic sea, which is headquarters for the Russian Baltic fleet, but is not directly connected to Russia and therefore not an ideal port). Must we be reminded that World War II started with the invasion of Poland, resulting in 50 million to 85 million fatalities?
See also "Ukraine Crisis Stokes Baltic Nerves" from Reuters
and The Atlantic's "Russia's Seizure of Crimea is Making Former Soviet States Nervous"
The jump from annexation of Crimea to World War is a big one, but maybe not so far-fetched. Putin wasted no time between the end of the Olympics and his invasion of Ukraine, ruining the expensive new image of Russia he had so carefully crafted in Sochi. He is risking financial stability, the support of his allies and possibly the compliance of the Russian people. He is violating international law as well as the Budapest Memorandum, the treaty signed in 1994 by the US, Britain, Russia and Ukraine guaranteeing the integrity of Ukraine’s borders. Is it so unbelievable he might take it to the next level? And although I believe the United States should already be more involved (America gave its word that Ukraine would be protected), it will have no choice but to engage if the Baltics are threatened. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are members of NATO, assuring European and American involvement if their borders are breached.
|A Lenin statue is toppled in Kiev source here|
See also Time's "4 Reasons Putin is Already Losing in Ukraine"
In the most danger are the Ukrainian people themselves. The Crimean Tatars know from experience to fear for their lives if the peninsula comes under Russian control, and the Ukrainians have substantial historical knowledge of life as part of the Soviet Union as well: mass deportations, disappearances, rampant robbery and destruction.
Read Radio Free Europe's "Fear is in the Air Among Crimean Tatars"
and "Putin's Career Rooted in Russia's KGB" by the Washington Post
also "Who is Putin Protecting from Whom in Ukraine" on CNN
This is why the whole world should sit up and pay attention. This is why it isn’t just “some former republic of the Soviet Union” that is at stake. This is why we can’t just sit and watch the events unfold on our televisions and mobiles.
The first step is to raise awareness of the events in the region. Be informed on current events, and utilize social media to disseminate information. Write letters to the editor, call in to radio stations, tweet, like and share good posts.
Sign petitions; contact your local representatives and even the White House. Let them know you are concerned about the lack of response by the US, especially when we gave our word that Ukraine would be protected.
Attend demonstrations in your area. (Click here for demonstrations in Rīga, Latvia, Washington DC and even Russia)
|Facebook event link here|
This situation does not have to end in war. Through diplomatic maneuvering and economic sanctions Putin can be made to understand he does not have full license to do as he pleases. Lithuania has banned entry into the country for 18 former Ukrainian government officials suspected of human rights abuses and use of force and violence against peaceful protesters. Canada has taken the first steps in recalling their ambassador to Russia, and many European and Asian countries have officially come out against Russia’s illegal move into the sovereign country of Ukraine. But there is so much more that can be done. The West needs to send aid to Ukraine, in form of energy, training for financial and election institutions and anti- corruption efforts. There must be economic sanctions for Russia, and access to global financial markets must be restricted. Russia needs to be kicked out of the G8, the forum for the governments the leading industrialized countries in the world. I’m no political or economic guru, but even I can see limiting Russia’s funding for a war effort would make Putin rethink his recent incursion. Oh, and renew plans for the missile defense complex in Poland and the Czech Republic... we'll need it.
|via Kristaps Skutelis on twitter|
As insignificant as this blog article may be in the grand scheme of things, it is what I have to offer the Ukrainian people. Dear friends, may you be free to elect a government, rebuild your country and live in peace. May the rest of the world open their eyes to Putin’s true intentions, and may this crisis resolve peacefully.
|Artist: Linda Anna Raistere|