From Russia with love.
That is essentially how Russian President Vladimir Putin has characterized what is an invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces last week.
The majority of the world views the recent unrest in Ukraine as a democratic revolution deposing a corrupt president in an attempt to pull Ukraine from the vice of Russian influence. But for Russia, the revolution was a coup by a minority perpetrated to persecute Russian sympathizers, and their response was simply a peacekeeping mission. Or at least that is what Russia wants us all to believe.
In reality, Russia saw what essentially has been a vassal state in Ukraine breaking free, and decided to take militarily what it could no longer control politically: the historically and strategically significant Crimean Peninsula. The Russian military had an agreement with the now-deposed Pro-Russian government to house a significant amount of troops in Crimea. They realized the revolution was a threat to their strategic agreement and took the opportunity to take land that many Russians consider the high water mark in Russian imperial history and most consider rightfully theirs.
Despite the fact no violence against Russians in eastern Ukraine has been reported, the Russian military has swept in the name of peacekeeping.
There can be no mistake, though: the taking of military and civilian posts by unmarked soldiers in Crimea is a Russian action. And what is transpiring right now is a Russian invasion of a US ally.
President Obama is only threatening economic sanction currently, and that is the right move. Threatening United States military action right now would be a dangerous escalation. But the United States must be willing to take military action if needed.
If Ukraine requests military aid from the United States, we must comply. We cannot abandon a potential future ally.
Right now, Russia has nominal influences in many Eastern European countries like Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia. In many ways these are the last vestiges of the Soviet Union’s influence.
Russia has abandoned its two-decade long experiment with democracy and given Putin near-dictatorial powers at the expense of their constitution. As a result, the former KGB officer has shown a willingness to use military action to hold on to these nominal puppet states.
We cannot allow Russia to expand its influence at the expense of free democracies, even if that means sending troops to Ukraine.