The Russian invasion of Ukraine underway right now could well provoke a nuclear controversy in the very near future. It has the potential to destabilize the world in ways that arguably go beyond the Iranian crisis and the crisis with North Korea.
Indeed, it is not saying too much to acknowledge that the possibilities for geopolitical destabilization from this cold-blooded incursion could well create international incident the likes of which we have not seen, or even considered, since the end of the cold war.
Let me explain.
In December 1994 in Budapest, the nations of Ukraine, Russia, United States, and Great Britain signed a treaty called the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance.
The impetus behind the agreement was for Ukraine to dismantle its nuclear weapons according to Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In return, the co-signers would guarantee the protect Ukraine against military and nuclear threats. This protection meant that the cosigners would respect the sovereignty of Ukraine and its borders and that they would abstain from any force against Ukraine.
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Fast-forward to today and look at the Crimean peninsula is the Southern coast of Ukraine, situated on the Black Sea. Ukraine has a separate agreement with Russia to hold its naval fleet there. The agreement also allows Russia to keep some troops on special designated areas of the shore.
This week, Russia clearly and unambiguously violated the terms of the naval base lease by taking its troops out of the designated zones and into the public areas of Crimea. Eye-witnesses saw tanks on regular roads and swarms of large helicopters in the air carrying military personnel. These troops took over Ukrainian military bases and airports, as well as Crimea’s government buildings, while even more troops arrived from Russia. And all this happened even before Putin asked his Senate to officially approve his move into Ukraine Saturday morning.
Putin is invading Ukraine on the premise that he must protect his citizens that reside in Crimea from Ukrainian nationalists. However, Ukrainians have not attacked or used any violence and/or oppression against ethnic Russians, nor do they have a reason to.
Putin has justified a military invasion on the basis of pure fiction.
He went as far as to create a fake video that shows men in masks (presumed to be Ukrainian ‘terrorists’) shooting civilians in Crimea. However, the unidentified men in masks were holding the newest guns that only Russian military could have. And the wounded civilians that were laying on the ground in the video showed no signs of being hurt or shot.
This scene was orchestrated by the Russian military, dressed in civilian clothing, to cover up proof of a military invasion. And it was played on Russian television stations to encourage the public to approve the war.
So what does this mean for the world outside Ukraine? Putin has broken the terms of the Budapest Memorandum and the other co-signedcountries must protect Ukraine from Russia’s aggression.
If the agreement is no longer upheld, Ukraine will have the right to restart its nuclear weapons program, becoming the third largest nuclear power in the world.
To be sure, Ukraine is very concerned about their nuclear facilities and its sovereignty not being protected in accordance with the Budapest Memorandum.
It clearly took President Obama a while to understand that he is directly involved in this situation, whether he likes it or not. He is, after all, a big proponent of disarming nuclear programs in Iran.
Ukraine is in serious danger and “warnings” from Washington seem to be doing little to nothing to deter Putin from his imperialistic goals.
Obama needs to take serious action now, or else regret what could escalate into major global unrest.
If Putin is not stopped, he will keep taking over country by country.
Polish president, Bronislav Komorovsky, has already voiced serious concern about its neighbor, Ukraine, understanding perfectly well that Poland could be next.
There are plenty of options that do not need to involve military intervention. No one needs, or wants, another war. However, Obama needs to make tough economic and political choices to pressure Putin, instead of simply threatening him.
Putin sees threats as weakness. Decisions need to be made and fast. Warning Russia that it will be further and further isolated is not the same thing as actually taking specific actions, such as sanctions, against Putin.
During both the 2008 and 2012 elections, the Republican side warned Obama that Russia was a geo-political threat. Obama laughed and dismissed those warnings as a thing of the past. But the situation is not so funny anymore.
Russia is a threat to the world’s security. What role will the U.S. play or not play in upholding it’s international promises? We have to wait and see.
Tetyana Shvachuk is a Ukrainian-American political activist and writer. She is CEO of Enlightened Beauty and will be publishing her first book in 2014.