There won’t be any winners to come out of Cold War II.
After the Russian Federation annexed Republic of Crimea from Ukraine last year, the Western world (most of Europe, the United States, Australia, Japan and Canada) imposed sanctions against the old Soviet Union, then ditched the G8 meeting in Sochi and suspended Russia from the club.
Russia doesn’t seem very eager to give Crimea back to Ukraine. In an address to his citizens, Russian President Vladamir Putin reinforced the legitimacy of the takeover, claiming their referendum was a democratic procedure that was in line with international law.
Crimea has been a Russian state in the past, and has seen its national identity change many times over the past 1,500 years. Shortly before its most recent transfer, Ukrainians destabilized their country by deposing their president, which afforded Russia the opportunity to reclaim its former territory.
Doubts have been expressed over whether the referendum was done in good faith or not, but it’s hard to imagine Western leaders supporting the territorial expansion of any rival superpower.
There’s a delusion that Crimea will be returned to Ukraine after the trading prohibition cripples the Russian economy, but Putin’s one-track mind isn’t showing any signs of relent. Probably because the imposed sanctions seem to have a lot more tail than teeth. His country’s chief export is oil; Russia produces more oil than any other country in the world – even Saudi Arabia. Yet the sanctions against Russia don’t ban the export of oil. Nonetheless the cost of doing business has increased for every country involved.
Russia’s a developed nation. Their military isn’t comparable to the United States, but it’s large enough to give them considerable throwing power (the military spending of the United States is roughly half of Russia’s entire GDP). Instead of stockpiling weapons against each other, a co-operative military approach would solve far more problems. For example, both the U.S. and Russian military are contributing to the war on terror with bombing campaigns against the Islamic State, but they won’t work openly together, even when trying to achieve the exact same goal. At the same time, Russia and the West are deploying an abundance of troops and hardware in and around Poland, where they get to flex their figurative muscles in front of each other.
Since neither side appears willing to fold, the headstrong mentalities should be taken back to the drawing board. Maybe have a third-party pose Crimeans with a referendum – it’s very likely that the majority of Crimeans would actually prefer to be part of Russia. Or perhaps the West should bury the hatchet and accept that a territorial change occurred.
Of course, powerful countries shouldn’t be allowed to take what they want simply because they can. But it happens – China took over Tibet, and even the United States admitted in 1993 to unlawfully annexing of Hawaii 100 years earlier.
It’s silly to think this contention might result in a nuclear holocaust or World War III, but there’s a great deal of missed economic opportunity over an egotistical standoff. The Western world and Russia had strong ideological differences leading up to the Second World War, but teamed up to rid the world of evil.
“If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told his parliament when proposing to invite Russia to join the Allied Forces.
After the Russians joined the good guys, the war in Europe was all but over. Between the Invasion of Normandy on the western front, and Operation Barbarossa to the east, the Germans were forced into submission – they didn’t stand a chance.
It shouldn’t have to take the Nazi regime to show us it’s better to work together.
Dan Walton is a reporter for the Penticton Western News.