Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Kiev’s post-revolutionary leaders to end its military adventure in Eastern Ukraine, trying to reclaim territory lost to pro-Russian separatists. Accepting a legitimate revolt against Ukraine’s new leaders, Putin sees things differently from Washington and Brussels, who see Russia violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity. When Putin seized Crimea March 1, Washington and Brussels convulsed, not realizing the Feb. 22 anti-Russian coup that toppled the elected government of Viktor Yanukovich was illegal by anyone’s metrics. White House and European Union officials were quick to jump on the pro-Western bandwagon of newly minted 49-year-old Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchinov and 39-year-old Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Putin sees the unrest in Eastern Ukraine as a rebellion against Ukraine’s post-revolutionary leaders.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have shown no regard for Russia’s position that they don’t recognize Ukriane’s upstart anti-Kremlin leadership. Punishing Moscow with economic sanctions hasn’t stopped Putin from warning Kiev that more military action against Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine might trigger the Russian military to cross into Eastern Ukraine. Obama and Kerry blame Putin for all unrest in Eastern Ukraine when Russian-speaking citizen’s don’t support Ukraine’s pro-Western government. Putin watched with his hands tied hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics watching a pro-Western coup led by 42-year-old former heavyweight boxing champion Vitale Klitschko drive Yanukovich out of Kiev Feb. 22. Once the games ended Feb. 23, it took Putin only a week to seize Crimea March 1 in response to the U.S.-EU-backed coup.
Putin told German Chancellor Angel Merkel that the government’s anti-terrorist operations in Eastern Ukraine shouldn’t harm Eastern Ukrainian citizens. With Turchinov re-upping the draft, he hopes to have better luck than Ukraine’s voluntary military that refused to fight in Eastern Urkaine. Pro-Russian separatists have taken over the regional capital city of Donetsk. Seizing the regional prosecutors office, hundreds of anti-Kiev separatists seized government buildings with little resistance. Ukrainian military, paramilitary and police officials refused to fight the pro-Russian militiamen. Once the political center of Yanukovich’s power, Donetsk shows no signs of acquiescing to government demands, forcing Kiev to threaten a new draft. U.S. and EU officials haven’t admitted the anti-Kiev protests were not orchestrated by the Kremlin but by locals refusing to accept Kiev’s new leadership.
Just 110 kilometers [70 miles] from Donetsk, pro-Kremlin protesters in Slovyansk show no signs of backing the Kiev government. Turchinov’s anti-terrorist operations or new draft won’t change locals’ loyalty to the Kremlin. Organization for Security and Cooperation officials remain under pro-Russian custody. Merkel asked Putin to have the OSCE officials released into U.N. custody. “The continuing hostage-taking of the OSCE observers by separatists in Eastern Ukraine” must stop, according to Merkel’s spokeswoman Christine Wirtz. Wirtz hoped that Putin would prevail on the separatist to free OSCE hostages. If Obama and Merkel want Putin to cooperate, they need to end the sanctions and draw up plans to remove Turchinov and Yatsenyuk from power. Agreeing on suitable replacements to both Kiev and Estern Ukraine would be the first order of business to end the crisis.
Calls for Obama to take tougher action in Ukraine grow louder on Capitol Hill with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calling for the U.S. to arm the Ukrainian military. Not one U.S. official can explain the national security significance of the Ukraine, other than dredging up the obsolete Communist domino theory. Putin’s issues with Crimea and Ukraine go back to Tzarist Russia, before the 1912 Bolshevik revolution led to the 1922 Soviet Union. U.S. and especially the EU have far more cooperative business relationships with Moscow on energy, regional security, nuclear cooperation and global terrorism to simply restart the Cold War. Whatever happened Feb. 22 in Ukraine, it’s up to Moscow, Kiev and Eastern Ukraine to find an acceptable fix. Taking sides simply to oppose the Kremlin doesn’t benefit U.S. foreign policy or national security.
Threats by Kiev to re-up the draft to send troops into harm’s way in Eastern Ukraine will only push Putin to do what he did to Georgia in 2008, seize about 20% of Georgia’s sovereign territory. U.S. and EU officials need to accept the reality in Eastern Ukraine that they don’t want Kiev’s new post-revolutionary anti-Russian regime. If the U.S. and EU wish to be helpful, they need to work with Moscow to find consensus leaders that can govern Kiev and Eastern Ukraine or face the very real prospects of partitioning the country. “The main thing was for Ukraine to withdraw its troops from Southeastern Ukraine, stop the violence and quickly star a broad national dialogue on constitutional reform,” said the Kremlin, offering a way out of the current crisis. As long as Turchinov and Yatsenyuk remain in power, there’s no stopping the current civil war that’s split the country.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.