High-Stakes Russian Poker

As the crisis in Ukraine advances, various questions and opinions have risen. A question I have asked is, why does the U.S. always seem to find itself in the middle? Then again, who else would? Rather than turning a blind eye to the wrongdoings of international communities, America has, for some time, decided not to leave countries unchecked-we keep watch, we get involved, for we are the only nation who has the military and political might to stop international aggressions.

Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is threatening to the international world order brought about after World War II. America has found itself entangled in another mess, for how can we permit the Russians to overtake another land by sheer military force without suffering consequences? While many debates are taking place within America as to whether to make advances in the conflict, I advocate for our involvement-something needs to change, or else more dangerous issues will arise in the future. How can we turn our backs when we are fully conscious that Ukraine’s occupation implies that 46 million people are hostage to Putin? An article in The Economist has compared Putin’s occupation of Ukraine to Hitler’s seizure of territories in Europe in the 1930s, for Putin is now similarly justifying his occupation as a duty to protect his fellow “Russians and Russian-speakers.” Thus, if Americans are to avoid countering Putin’s actions in Ukraine, will Putin not feel that he must assume this duty by regaining all territories previously part of the U.S.S.R.?
As America and its free-world allies jointly oppose Russia’s actions, many question what the EU will do, as there are economic factors to consider. While it is relatively easy for the U.S. to establish economic sanctions, Russia is a significant trading partner of EU member states, making sanctions an economically and politically unappealing move.

In this way, Putin has been extremely calculated in his actions, and his occupation of Crimea is premeditated. While he knew to expect uproar from America, Putin was well aware that countries in the EU need Russia for trade-it is, therefore, not easy simply to sever their ties to Russia. Furthermore, Putin’s triumph in his overtake of Crimea has revealed his strength, as he assures Russians that they are gradually recapturing their past legacy and dominance. Putin hungers to dominate Kiev again. Ukrainians just rid themselves of an autocratic ruler and now find themselves dealing with the next. But could this crisis end up creating a division in Ukraine? As Kiev and Lviv turn westward for help, knowing that Russian control would cause their country to weaken and lose sovereignty, those in Crimea turn to the East. As I write this article, Russian troops line the border of Crimea and the rest of Ukraine. Could the end of this crisis ultimately cause the break-up of what we currently know as Ukraine? Would this truly be viewed as a “resolution”?

However, I think the solution to this crisis is to isolate Russia as best we can, and that calls for the EU to bite the bullet. Germany seems to be the biggest threat to Western unification against Russia, as Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to protect Germany’s commercial interests. But Merkel must also recognize that her commercial partner has not left behind Russia’s autocratic past-far from it, in fact. Thus, we should seek to remove Russia entirely from international forums-making a G-7 instead of a G-8, for example-communicating that Russia is no longer viewed as a suitable partner to the Western world. In this way, Russians themselves hopefully will grow tense in their views of Putin, as their country will lose global strength and power.

I do not think that recent events are sparking what could be another Cold War, as Russia does not have nearly the same strength as it did back then. Putin’s aggression and autocratic rule does not command the power, economic might, or allies needed for the next Cold War. At this point, I even wonder if we can adopt an ending that was similar to the end of the Cold War-negotiation. After the many years that have passed since the fall of the Soviet Union, Putin has reinvigorated Soviet actions and ideologies, making friendly, diplomatic talk seem impossible. Let’s not forget Russia’s possession of nuclear weapons. At the same time, he is aware that no country seeks to wage a war against Russia. Is isolation our only chance of avoiding war, or is war inevitable? Just like any poker game, no win is guaranteed.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.