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What The Ukraine?

This weekend’s big story has been the escalating conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. (What’s up with the muted reaction to the Optic Nerve story?)

It’s a complex situation, but I find that I just can’t move beyond the dread that the United States and Russia could be moving toward a new Cold War.

I want to hear other people’s perspectives on this issue. What is your understanding of what’s happened with Russia and the Ukraine? How much should it matter to those of us who don’t live in either Russia or the Ukraine? What do you think is likely to happen next? What should the United States do, or not do, next?

———
Green Party Alert: I can’t find a single note on this story from anyone in the Green Party. The Green Party itself, the Green Shadow Cabinet, and even Green Party Watch have been silent on this issue (and Optic Nerve too!) for days. How come?

Are the Greens just as stunned and bewildered by the story as I am? Are they just tired? Is there no one left over at Green Party headquarters to turn out the lights?

How can anyone expect the Green Party to offer an actual alternative political vision if the Greens don’t speak to the most important issues of the day?

6 comments to What The Ukraine?

  • Mark

    FIrst of all, the country is “Ukraine”, not “the Ukraine”. You don’t say “the France” or “the Russia”, do you?

    Crimea was part of Russia until 1952 when the USSR transferred it to Ukraine. The vast majority of people in Crimea are ethnic Russians and speak Russian as their first language. Russia maintains its Black Sea fleet headquarters in Crimea. Looking at if from their perspective, they have a vested security interest in keeping control of Crimea.

    What can or should we do about the situation? Not much in my opinion. If the EU wants to get involved, let them take the lead. Otherwise, I say as long as it doesn’t get violent, and I see no reason why it should, we should stay out. Is this really any different than Israel having taken control of the Golan Heights and the West Bank?

    Now, if Russia should invade the rest of Ukraine, that changes the situation dramatically.

    • Jim Cook

      Interesting note on the historical alternatives “the Ukraine” vs. “Ukraine”:

      http://mentalfloss.com/article/32098/why-did-ukraine-become-just-ukraine

    • J Clifford

      Mark,your linguistic note carries political connotations. It’s linked to the assertion of Ukranian national identity as separate from that of Russia’s and so the dropping of the “the” is more likely to be supported, I think, in the western part of the country, rather than the east.

      As Jim’s link notes, the use of “the” carries with it a suggestion of a geographical area, or of a plurality joined into a single unit. We do say The Seychelles, or The British Isles, or The Philippines, or The Netherlands or The United States or The United Arab Emirates.

      Given that Ukraine means “borderlands”, I think that the use of “The” as a part of the country’s title is more linguistically appropriate. It feels horribly awkward to simply refer to Ukraine. It’s like saying, “In morning I go to cafe to buy newspaper to read in chair while gazing at sky.” I can’t bring myself to do it.

      Your comparison to Israel’s seizure of the Golan Heights is an interesting comparison, as many people suggest we SHOULD do something about it.

      I share your hesitation about getting the United States involved in any other manner besides diplomacy. The trick is that there is a series of alliances that may unravel if we don’t take action. I’d rather see alliances unravel than see the United States get involved in another foolish war.

    • Mark

      You’re right that using the article before Ukraine is political. But, when the people and government of Ukraine prefer it not be used I will bow to their preferences.

  • J Clifford

    I understand what you mean, but I wonder if we can really talk about “the people” and “government” in that country in the singular. It seems, rather, that people there have significant disagreements about the underlying uses.

    Of course, that makes my use of “the” just as political as your decision not to use it. I’m weighing in on the side of “the” because the linguistic awkwardness of its lack is irritating to me. I don’t think of myself as pro-Russian in this situation, but I am growing concerned about a rather lopsided coverage in American news media about the situation. There are some arguments to be made in favor of the idea that the Russian invasion of the Crimea is not an invasion so much as a locally-welcomed transfer of power. I’m not sure that I agree with those arguments, but I’d like to see them at least considered.

  • Bill

    What’s happening in Ukraine today is, sad to say, just good old-fashioned bare knuckles geopolitics, a la 1950. Russia has always viewed Eastern and Northern Europe as its buffer zone, since the time of Stalin at least (and, really, well before then, too). Also as a source of educated labor, industrial infrastructure, good farmland, and strategic military bases. Putin is little different than the rest of his thugocratic forebears, except that he’s probably too smart to knowingly ignite a world war over his territorial ambitions. Instead he bides his time and carves off a slice here and there as developments permit: first Abkhazia and South Ossetia, now Crimea, next…???

    It’s too short-sighted to simply say, as Mark does above, that “The vast majority of people in Crimea are ethnic Russians and speak Russian as their first language.” While this is true, it is true only because Stalin brutally starved the Crimeans and Eastern Ukrainians out of their homeland and replaced them with waves of Russian immigrants. It’s a little like saying that Native Americans have no claim on U.S. soil because the vast majority of Americans are of European descent and speak English. The story’s the same the world around: this land is our land, but it was your land before it was our land, and it was their land before it was your land.

    Working and building for world peace is the right thing to do, even if it ultimately proves to be an impossible goal. And if we’re ever to get there, this constant bloodshed and bullying over turf has to stop. If the majority of Crimeans elect to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, more power to ‘em; we should defend their right to do so. But if, as we see now, Russia gins up some thin excuse to invade and annex Ukraine, we should fight to oppose that. Yeah, I know…pretty ironic to suggest that fighting is the road to peace. But, alas, sometimes it is. Chamberlain was wrong to appease Hitler, ultimately consigning millions to their deaths and insuring a world war. I say it would be wrong to appease Putin today. A nice carrier group accompanied by a school of killer subs sailed into the Black Sea would, I’m confident, convince Putin to back down, just as Kennedy convinced Khrushchev to back down in Cuba without firing a shot.

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