Ukraine has become quite the buzzword in every corner of the globe with an Internet connection. Turning on any national news show or channel will likely result in being buffeted by a bout of renewed confrontations between the power brokers who have entrenched themselves in this riveting — and equally convoluted — situation.
On Wednesday, Russian military and Pro-Russian protestors stormed and captured the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Crimea. Ironically enough, this comes nearly four months after protests erupted in Kiev demanding more distance from the Russian regime.
In November, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suspended a popular agreement that would have drastically increased relations with the European Union through a Free Trade Agreement. It also would have forced the Ukrainian government to enact sweeping reform. Russia, who has expressed interest in forming an EU-esque alliance with previous Soviet Union satellite states, was not the biggest fan of this agreement. With a considerable monetary offer as well as a considerable amount of political pressure, Putin convinced the Ukrainian government that Russia was the preferable option.
Around 50 percent of the population, especially on the west and in Kiev, was not pleased with what it perceived to be a step backwards for the reform of Ukraine. Thus, Ukraine was embroiled in three months of lethal protests — left to fester after authoritarian protest laws were enacted — that ended in parts of Kiev on fire and President Yanukovych fleeing the country.
Then the other shoe dropped, and Putin decided that negotiations and political pressure had grown a bit blasé, and he sent troops, sans the typical Russian insignia, to secure strategic locations throughout Crimea — under the guise of protecting ethnic Russians in the area.
The geopolitics of Crimea fill the situation with shades of grey. The peninsula has long served as an important port for Russia and has been a hub of immigration, with a clear ethnic Russian majority on the peninsula. Which is why the Crimean people have voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, despite no constitutional right to make such a prodigious decision.
These events have, obviously, left the majority of the international community reeling. The EU and America have taken aggressive postures but, though sanctions would have a substantial impact on Russia’s not so diversified economy, oil and gas dependency and fear of full-scale war have made most threats empty.
Ukraine is twiddling its thumb fearing full-scale war — one they are unlikely to win. Eastern European states like Lithuania and Latvia fear Russia’s oppressive gaze turning their way. Meanwhile, some Russians are all too aware that, despite the international communities prolonged dismay, this aggression will not go unanswered, with perceptions of Russia reverting to Cold War-era indignation.
Though the trivial details of everyday life may make the chaos in Ukraine distant, and it may all seem tenuously connected to events here in Youngstown, the attention of the electorate in the nations involved can and will have a profound impact on their leader’s actions.
Citizens — in Youngstown, America and across the seas — are far too dismissive of the machinations of distant leaders. This incident will impact us. It may lead to reinvigorated aggression between the U.S. and Russia, or it could result in tough sanctions that could partially reshape our economy and trade. This conversation seems daunting to students who are still working their way through the Affordable Health Care Act or even just trying to pass their newest calculus class, but, one way or another, this will seep into our day to day life and our elections. It is best to be prepared.
Right now, world leaders are standing with their guns out of the holster, but they aren’t quite sure where to shoot — if they should shoot at all. The people forget they have the power to aim and pull the trigger.