Sunday, February 1, 2015

Liberal Rant: The Crisis in Ukraine

When I was a middle school student, I was taught that Taiwan would be the most likely cause of World War III. At the time, it made sense; Taiwan was and still is trying to obtain its independence from China, who has no intention in losing it. The western world would love to see an independent Taiwan and China seems willing to fight for it. However, given recent events, I believe WW3 won’t be caused by Taiwan; it will be caused by a fight over Ukraine.

Right now Ukraine is in the middle of a civil war. Ukrainian forces have been fighting pro-Russian rebels for quite some time now. The rebels have proven to be a surprisingly tough opponent, which many have attributed to Russian support. Of course, Russia denies any connections to the rebels, which is puzzling given how well equipped and supplied they are. What, did those weapons just materialize out of cold air? Did the rebels just have some spare Grad rockets in their garage?

But I digress. Right now, the UN is debating on new sanctions on Russia. This may seem like an empty gesture, but the current sanctions are actually working. The ruble is in a freefall, with its value dropping 50 percent. And with the recent drop in oil prices, Russia is feeling the burn more than ever. Its forecasted that Russia’s GDP is to drop 3 percent, and the Kremlin is planning a 2.34 trillion ruble (about $35 billion) stimulus aimed at Russian banks. The sanctions are definitely hurting Russia right now.

Of course, this won’t mean anything if Ukraine doesn't roll back the rebels soon, and I mean soon. Ukraine’s economy right now is in the tank. Its currency, the hryvnia, is at an all time low, and the Ukrainian government is considering cutting off utilities in rebel held areas. With the economy being so strained by the fighting, Ukraine is asking for monetary aid from western countries. Don’t get me wrong, Russia’s economy isn't doing to hot either, but its more likely to outlast Ukraine’s if things continue.

And believe me, things will continue. Both sides have too much to lose to back down. Ukraine is fighting to keep itself whole, and Russia has too much to lose by backing down after all that posturing. Of course, there’s a more rational reason for why Russia wants eastern Ukraine. Historically, Russia has been brutally invaded from the west (remember World War II?) and a buffer would be ideal in case another invasion ever happens. In Russia’s mind, letting go of Ukraine is letting go of something that could save them in case of another European war.

Then there are the rebels. They've said many times that they are willing to fight to the man to make Donetsk (the area of main fighting) its own autonomous region. Given how close eastern Ukraine identifies as Russian, this is understandable. Even if Russia stops supplying the rebels, they’ll go on fighting with a zealous determination. They’re just as dedicated to their cause as the Ukrainian government forces, which is pretty terrifying.

With all this in mind, its easy to see Ukraine as the starting point of another World War. National sovereignty is a cornerstone of an international society, and violating it is not something that can go unpunished. While the west is hesitant to get involved in a war with Russia, they will ultimately have to if things continue to escalate. This may sound like chest-thumping war mongering, but the reality is that if Russia continues its policy of expansionism at the expense of other nations’ sovereignty, then they will have to be stopped. In a day and age were the entire world is interconnected, national sovereignty is a must.

I’m not advocated for going to war with Russia, but I think its a very real possibility, and we are quickly running out of other options. At this point, I think the best thing outside of sending troops into Donetsk is spending monetary aid. Since the US is already supplying government forces with armored trucks, we should focus on making sure Ukraine’s economy doesn't go totally belly up. I certainly don’t want to see a war in Europe, but in order to avoid it, we’ll have to get involved, even if we don’t want to.

Note: Wow, this wasn't very liberal, was it? Don’t worry, it can only go left from here. I chose to write about Ukraine mainly because its an issue close to me; a friend of mine has a boyfriend in Ukraine.