What is happening right now in Ukraine?
The noise you hear when you listen to news reports about Ukraine is saber rattling: Russia's President Vladimir Putin sent troops to supposedly protect ethnic Russians in Crimea — a peninsula jutting out into the Black Sea from Ukraine’s southeast — and those soldiers have “secured” buildings including the Parliament, Russia’s rented naval base, and the offices of the Ukrainian navy, among others, in the capital of Simferopol and the port city of Sevastopol. The semi-autonomous Crimean government has declared it will hold a referendum to decide whether it will remain part of Ukraine at all in March. The ousted Ukrainian president has called his removal an illegitimate coup, and the interim Ukrainian prime minister called Russia’s actions “a declaration of war” and called up its military reserves on Sunday.
How did we get here?
Let’s start with the short term! Last November, then-president Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with a Russian-led trade bloc and touched off several weeks of increasingly violent protests by Ukrainians against his government.
But, that doesn’t explain the sudden Russian involvement!
Right you are! In the original Cold War, part of the Soviet Union’s strategy to prevent troops — particularly NATO troops — from reaching Russian soil was to surround itself with satellite countries to act as buffers. Putin, in particular, and Russia, in general, see NATO and the United States as an ongoing threat to Russia’s plans, if not its continuing existence. So, the more the Ukrainians leaned West, the more Russia felt threatened.
So, what does this mean for us in America?
In the short term, it mostly means that we’ll be stuck listening to politicians posture about what the right thing to do is or was or could’ve been — even Sarah Palin came out of near-hiding to slam President Obama about it. Republicans will continue to claim that this is just more proof that Obama lacks leadership and this is why countries don’t respect us. And, Democrats will claim he’s doing a great job. And, everyone will fret about a new Cold War.
But, weren’t we going to bomb Syria last year because they were being all aggressive? They didn’t even invade anybody.
Syria doesn’t have nukes. (Notably, this is why a lot of rogue states, like North Korea and Iran, would like to have nukes.)