During my visit to Poland in 2011 my 80 year old grandmother pointed out that today people have such beautiful homes and she hopes that war does not come and destroys them. I dismissed it and stated that this is 21st century and wars do not happen anymore. Today looking at the events unfolding in Ukraine was I too fast to dismiss my grandmother's words?
On August 24, 1991 Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union. Never since that day has Ukraine’s freedom and sovereignty been more threatened then it is today. While celebrations were on going in Ukraine’s capitol of Kiev on its eastern borders intense fighting was raging on. With incoming information that Russian army is crossing the border the conflict looks more like open war every day. Does this conflict have the potential to escalate into an open war between Russia and the rest of Europe?
The root of this conflict dates back to the war in Georgia in the summer of 2008. The separatists in South Ossetia backed by the Russian army took over control of that region. What did the European powers do? Absolutely nothing, they only condemned Russia and its actions. Then President of Poland Lech Kaczynski speaking in Tbilisi Georgia said “ Today its Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine, the day after tomorrow Baltic states, and finally my country, Poland”. Back in 2008 these words were rejected in Poland as crazy.
As the conflict in Ukraine unfolded earlier this year and Russia was getting ready to take over Crimea the European powers did nothing thinking this is a Ukrainian issue.
It had to come to a tragic event like the shooting of the Malaysian airliner for the world to finally get involved. Europe and other countries put sanctions on Russia which so far Putin has ignored. It looks like these sanctions will not end the conflict.
The only way the violence in Ukraine will stop is when that army receives military equipment from abroad. The Ukrainian government officially asked Poland for military equipment but Poland will wait till the NATO summit in early September to make its decision. But it is perfectly alright for France to sell warships to the Russians? Ukrainian army needs support and equipment in order to fight the separatists which are supported by Russia. Ukrainian army needs to regain the control of their eastern border to cut of Russian support for the separatists. Ukraine cannot do it alone and currently they are fighting not only for their own country but for the rest of Europe.
How long can this conflict go on? How long can Ukraine keep sending equipment and soldiers to the eastern border? What might happen in the eastern part of Ukraine is a referendum like the one in Crimea and a formal creation of countries like Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic. The eastern part of the country has majority of the country’s industry, can Ukraine survive without it? Another major question is where will all this end, will the separatists stay in the east or keep moving west? Current reports suggest that they are trying to open a new front in the southeast and are aiming to take over the city of Maripol which would give them a strategic control over the access to the Sea of Azov. Putin will not stop unless Ukraine is weak and destabilized.
No one will go to war with Russia over Ukraine. That country will have to defend itself. But what about the rest of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states? Most of these countries are in NATO they should technically feel safe. But there does not have to be a Russian invasion to have an open conflict, we just have to look at eastern Ukraine. We have an open conflict in which people are dying , cities are being destroyed, and Russia never technically invaded, it is supplying the separatists with equipment. Under the Medvedev Doctrine which states that Russia has a right to protect its nationals in every country like they did in Crimea and South Ossetia no country that has any number of Russian nationals can feel safe. Russia can use this doctrine as a pretext to invade in order to support its nationals. Just in the Baltic states there are over one million ethnic Russians.
We are in this situation because European nations preferred to do business with Russia and Putin instead of standing up to him years ago. The entire world knows about human rights violations in Russia yet the world allowed Putin to host Winter Olympics and will be hosting the World Cup in 2018. The world has to wake up and see that this is no longer only Ukraine’s problem this is a world’s problem. Allowing Putin to take over eastern parts of Ukraine or even the entire country will only strengthen him and make him hungry for more. Where will he stop then? If Putin has truly lost it and is unstable no one knows what might happen. But currently Putin is doing whatever he wants with only a tiny slap on the hand. If the world does not stand up to Putin now and strongly support Ukraine the words of President Kaczynski and my grandmother might come to fruition, and at that point it might be too late.