WASHINGTON, March 4, 2014 — Something is rotten in Ukraine. She has been invaded by a foreign power and former overlord, her territory seized and her people in disarray. The military of Ukraine could not hope to stave off a full-fledged Russian attack, and infighting, protests, and separatism threatens to tear the country apart.
Vladimir Putin, who is essentially dictator of the Russian Federation, has invaded a sovereign nation seemingly at the behest of ethnic Russians in Crimea, he has called for the surrender of the Ukrainian military, and for the reinstallation of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. He has made the demand that the Ukrainian Opposition, who is now in power, and the people of Ukraine honor the deal previously struck which calls for December elections and the promise of a new start. He calls the coup in which opposition forces overran government police units “unconstitutional” and demands that his puppet be placed back on the stage.
In addition, it would seem in an attempt to assuage international fears, he has declared that he has no intention of making Crimea a part of the Russian Federation.
When Putin invaded Crimea, the World could almost justify it. The area is ethnically Russian, many were calling for Russia to save them from what was being called lawlessness in the Ukrainian capital. Russia exerted that they had a duty to the predominantly Russian people of Crimea to come to their rescue, and they did so without a shot. That is almost explainable if were not for the fact they invaded a sovereign nation.
However this latest declaration by Vladimir Putin concerning the legality of the latest coup, and the legitimacy of his puppet Viktor Yanukovych, has destroyed whatever cover of credibility and legitimacy that the Russian President could call to his defense.
The people of Ukraine rose up against what they considered a tyrannical and power hungry dictator. He responded to peaceful protests with violence and death. He responded to truce and peace talks with automatic weapons and broken promises. He responded to the victory of the opposition like a coward, running away while proclaiming that he was still in control. If he indeed believed he was the legitimate and uncontested leader of Ukraine he would have stayed and stated his case from his jail cell.
Viktor Yanukovych spent billions of dollars of the Ukrainian peoples’ money on himself, he rejected the legitimate calls for reform by the opposition, and he ordered his own people killed at the hands of his police. He is unfit to rule anything, and the opposition had every right to force his exile.
This behavior, this tyrannical hording of power by the executive branch of a government, is as we have seen supported by Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation. The former President of Ukraine was a personal friend of Putin, he maintained close ties to Russia while keeping the EU and Western powers out of Ukrainian politics, and he spent lavishly and lived like a king. That was what he was, for all intents and purposes, a king.
And now Vladimir Putin asserts that he invaded a sovereign nation in order to restore adherence to that country’s constitution? That is an absurd notion. Russia herself violated international law by invading Crimea, surrounding and occupying Ukrainian military assets, and threatening physical violence to force compliance and surrender. That nation, who is in violation of all of those international codes, cannot then justify those actions with the thinly veiled pretext of upholding the law.
Vladimir Putin and Russia broke international law to force Ukraine into following their own national law.
Ukraine as of now stands on the precipice of disaster, and is in danger of setting a dangerous precedent for World politics.
If Ukraine acquiesces to Russia’s demands and reinstates Yanukovych as President and restores the previous constitution, then they will have established the legitimacy of a power directly and successfully interfering with the internal politics of a bordering nation and demanding compliance in the face of overwhelming force. If Ukraine refuses to reinstate Yanukovych, then Russia will have no choice but to invade Ukraine proper and return him to power by force.
This will start a war on a massive scale. While Russia can bring to bear on Ukraine roughly a quarter million troops, air power, and naval assets, they will face millions of armed guerrillas eager to defend their national sovereignty. The European Union and the United States will send weapons and advisers to Kiev, Crimea will use the opportunity to declare independence and will throw assets behind Russia. It will be both a global war and a civil war, all in the name of regional compliance to Russian will.
That is what is at stake here, just how much power is the World willing to allow Russia to exert over Asia and Europe. The West cannot allow Russia to insert itself into the politics of a sovereign nation and demand compliance, it needs to show force. Before it was Russia in Crimea, a move that while many condemned few could do much about. But now the President of Russia is demanding that Ukraine submit to his will, and accept a President in Yanukovych as a leader, the man who ordered the killings of his own people.
The people of any nation have the right to rise up in response to injustices perpetrated upon them by their government. The people of every nation do not only have this right but the obligation to resist the abuse of power at the hand of leaders who define the limits of their own power. The law of the land does not and cannot justify tyranny, the law of the land no matter how iron clad and how old cannot justify the infringement or revocation of rights not only held by the people but granted to them by the very nature of their existence.
What is stake here is the right of a people to decide their own destiny. What is at stake here, is the right of the people to resist the tyranny of government. What is at stake here, is the Russian Federation denying the existence of the right of a population to rise up against their masters.
The last few days has seen Russia move from the somewhat benevolent interlopers, seeking to protect ethnic Russian Ukrainians from a lawless government, to the enforcer of tyrants, the arm of the strong against the weak, the hammer of the government against the anvil of the people. In the days to come we will witness as Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation demand Ukraine to bend the knee, or it will be bent for them.