Editorial: Putin’s aggression requires US, EU condemnation to improve future global standing

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed in The New York Times calling upon the United States government to refrain from using military action in Syria. He warned that an American-led strike could “throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”

This past week, the Russian Parliament allowed Putin to enter Ukraine’s Crimea, a region largely inhabited by Russians, and disperse thousands of unidentified troops in the area.

Aside from the largely contradictory nature of Putin’s actions — namely the unlawfulness of essentially closing Crimea off from Ukraine on the perfidious reasoning that Russians were endangered by the Ukrainian government — his decisions have the potential for serious global implications. Moving Russian troops into Crimea has not only exploited the Ukrainian crisis, cuing the unstable Ukrainian government to move reserve troops into the region, but also pushed the United Nations and the European Union, under the leadership of the United States, to punish Russia.

United States President Barack Obama, leader of NATO, who has been unofficially recognized by the global community to lead the movement of nonproliferation in the region, has to conduct matters with a strong, multifaceted, non-militaristic approach. The European Union and U.S. government both have the power to make Russia pay economically, a move they should certainly pursue. Beyond that, both Western powers have to make Putin aware of the international implications of his recent cynical behavior. Most importantly, however, these powers have to aid the Ukrainian government, which has been marred by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s misdeeds.

Putin’s reasons for invading Crimea are unsubstantiated and downright erroneous during a time when Ukraine is weak. In Crimea, where Putin claimed Russians were being marginalized and their interests compromised, his actions are misguided. Crimea, which houses Russian military bases in addition to Russian citizens, has seen very little exploitation of that demographic. If Putin is worried about the Russian population and interests in Crimea in light of the instability of the Ukrainian Parliament, inserting unmarked military personnel is not the way to express this concern.

The need for dialogue, at least, instead of military action should have trumped any other action. Since that did not occur, and the situation is on the verge of escalation, Obama and the European Union must take active measures to freeze Russia’s assets, implement trade sanctions and perhaps even expulse Russia from the upcoming G-8 summit. It won’t make much sense to threaten Putin anymore — he has set precedents of such behavior in the past.

The last time Russia attacked one of its neighbors was the invasion of Georgia in 2008. The situation panned out far from the ideal outcome.

Words can only go so far. Actions short of military intervention have to be taken immediately to ensure Putin realizes he has violated the same international rules of law he so eloquently warned the United States about in September.

Putin’s choices are innumerable, unfortunately: He has the ability to assist the instability in Kiev or cause further problems abroad. For any action he does take, the U.S. and EU must be strong in letting him know what the consequences of his actions are, including the future state of Russia in the global community.

As Putin wrote in his op-ed, “The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.” 

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