By Thomas Scott
Russia has become more emboldened in its traditional sphere of influence, which jeopardizes regional security in Europe. In order to curb this threat, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) plans to increase its military presence in Eastern Europe amid a large-scale military buildup along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government is using every means at its disposal to weaken Ukraine. On Sunday Russia’s state-owned oil company, Gazprom, hiked Ukraine’s natural gas price from $268.00 to $485.50, according to The Guardian. Russia is also attempting to introduce federalization in Ukraine, which would considerably weaken Ukraine’s central government.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the idea of looser administration of Ukraine’s provinces while meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris last week. With close to 40,000 troops at Ukraine’s doorstep, Russia could easily initiate a blitzkrieg offensive in Eastern Ukraine according to IHS Jane’s 360.
Despite claims by the Russian government of a reduction in the number of troops in that area, satellite imagery indicates a large troop presence near the Ukrainian border at a training facility at Belgorod.
The West took a more defiant stance after Crimea was formally annexed by the Russian Federation on March 21 as Russian protesters, soldiers and paramilitary ‘self-defense’ forces stormed Ukrainian military bases throughout the province.
According to Max Tirey ’15, Russian annexation “appears to be a land grab by an authoritarian government,” which is “something that the international community should not allow. On the other hand Crimea voted to be free. A sign of democracy,” but also “a complete political quagmire,” since “the only answer is a compromise the will leave both sides unhappy.”
With 12 of Ukrain’s 27 major ships in Russian hands, this seizure of military bases has left the Ukrainian Navy in tatters. Czech exchange student Marek Matas ’14 claims that Russia wants to make “sure that they will be a dominant power in the Black Sea.” On March 16, Crimeans supposedly voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the Russian Federation.
This turn of events came after Ukrainians rose up and overthrew dictator Victor Yanukovych who fled the country on Feb. 21. A week later, Russian troops wearing unmarked uniforms took control of airports in Simferopol and Sevastopol, located on the Crimean peninsula, after pro-Russian demonstrations broke out in the territory.