WASHINGTON, March 7, 2014 — Over the last few weeks, Americans who previously could not find Crimea on a map received a crash course on Ukraine.
Protests sparked by a government decision to scrap a deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties to Russia built over three months, ultimately deposing the corrupt government of Viktor Yanukovych.
The opposition established a “government of unity” in Ukraine, naming lawyer, economist and politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister to rule until elections set for May 2014.
Yanukovych fled to Crimea, an autonomous region in southeastern Ukraine which has a largely ethnic Russian population and sympathies to Moscow.
The crisis intensified earlier this week when Russia, at the request of the self-appointed Prime Minister of Crimea, sent troops into the Crimea. Russia said it made the move to as a humanitarian effort to protect ethnic Russians in the region.
Yesterday, the Crimean parliament voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. It announced it will hold a referendum on the issue on March 16 to allow citizens to decide whether to remain an autonomous region or whether to become part of Russia.
The United States, the EU, Canada and others have widely condemned Russia’s actions and blame Moscow for inciting Crimea to secede. President Barack Obama strongly criticized Crimea’s decision to hold a vote, saying it violates not only the constitution of Ukraine, but also international law.
Although the EU is holding emergency talks aimed at ending the crisis in Ukraine, the EU and the US have announced they will implement three step sanctions against Russia, depending on its reaction to the crisis.
To most Russians, the US response to its actions in Ukraine are perplexing.
President Vladimir Putin, they say, is not only protecting ethnic Russians, but also ensuring the security of military assets at the port of Sevastopol.
They also note that the opposition illegally ousted a democratically elected official in a coup, which the international community should not recognize as legitimate.
As one former KGB officer who is now a businessman in Moscow asked, “What if Sevastopol was Okinawa?”
The scenario, he explained, would look like the following:
What if North Korean activists in Tokyo violently removed the Japanese government by force and installed themselves as the government?
Residents of the island of Okinawa, who have a long-term relationship with the US through the US base there, contact Washington and ask for protection.
The new government in Tokyo outlaws all languages except Korean. The residents of Okinawa become more concerned and beg the US for help.
Meanwhile, the US bases in Okinawa, which contain American citizens, military equipment, weapons and secrets are at risk.
The former Russian intelligence official asks, “Under these conditions, would the US still say intervention is wrong?
He shrugs his shoulders and adds, “And would President Barack Obama care if Putin said it was?”