The Ukraine-Russia Crisis and the Western Response
The American Interest
by David J. Kramer
President of Freedom House
Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his brazen disregard for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and his threats to defend Russian-speakers beyond Crimea, in other parts of Ukraine and in other neighboring states, represent an assault on the very concept of freedom and the ability of people to choose their own political destiny. The democratic community of nations has faced no greater test since the end of the Cold War.
Not since World War II has one European country seen its territory forcibly annexed by another, as Putin did with Crimea and may be trying to do with parts of eastern Ukraine. Putin has shattered numerous treaties and agreements and sought to unilaterally alter the international system that has been in place since the collapse of the USSR more than two decades ago. Full-blown war between two of the largest countries in Europe cannot be ruled out, and the spillover effects of that are incalculable, given the common borders that Ukraine and Russia have with several NATO member states.
The current crisis is Putin’s creation, and his goals are to: retain Crimea (though Putin may rue the day given the costs involved), destabilize Ukraine to make it unattractive and unappealing to the West, and force postponement of the Ukrainian presidential elections, scheduled for May 25.
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