- By David Van Dyk
- Published: March 25th, 2014
Tensions rise as Russian troops take over Ukrainian military bases in Crimea with no hope of compromise
Two things have remained consistent with the current occupant of the Oval Office: red lines and “don’t go any further” warnings.
This time, however, President Barack Obama followed through with his tough talk, slamming down sanctions on Russian financial leaders, which are expected to cripple Russia’s economy.
Or will they?
Thanks to Obama’s first round of sanctions against President Vladimir Putin, Moscow lumbered forward like a Serbian bear hit with pebbles, annexing Crimea from Ukraine and securing their Black Sea Fleet and key military installations found throughout the strategic peninsula.
I sadly realized Putin had done all this while laughing at us, saying, “Whoever put these sanctions together is a joker,” according to a Forbes report on Ukraine.
Though the former sanctions were weak and ineffective in stopping Putin from snagging Crimea, my hope is that these next sanctions will deal some more substantial damage.
According to the Forbes report by Paul Gregory, this next round of sanctions will “bite where they hurt.”
“Moreover, the U.S. Treasury has sent Vladimir Putin a chilling warning: We know where your money is, and we can expose you for what you are,” Gregory wrote. “The Treasury hinted at a ‘direct (financial) relationship’ between Putin and owner of a shadowy oil trading company chartered in Switzerland, who happens to be on the sanctions list.”
However, in response to a question asking if these sanctions will cripple Putin and his administration, Associate Dean Ron Miller of the Helms School of Government said he believed they would not.
“The sanctions are a small price to pay for Russia to reassert itself on the world stage as a nation with which to be reckoned,” Miller said.
I can certainly see Miller’s point. With Russia gaining a valuable piece of land and keeping their strategic hold in the Black Sea, these sanctions seem to pale in comparison. However, I see these sanctions inflicting a deep wound in the Russian economy as well as having consequences over time.
Economic leaders and friends of Putin will certainly feel the sting of financial instability work its way into their frozen assets and visas. As the economy dips and Russia’s mass propaganda begins to fade, the people, I hope, will begin to awaken and see the mess around them.
As for Europe, there is speculation Ukraine will be given association status with the European Union (EU). I do not see any more measures against Russia being taken by Europe, as Russia has a firm grip on energy production within Europe.
“Aside from sanctions, there is little Europe can do,” Miller wrote. “The EU and NATO may seek closer ties to those former Soviet republics, which now see the Russians as a threat to their sovereignty, but closer cooperation with the West could further aggravate tensions between those republics and Moscow.”
The real interest lies within the nations bordering Russia, those who separated from the former Soviet-era policies. These past Soviet republics will be watching with a wary eye the events surrounding Ukraine and Crimea. One of these nations is Moldova, where its own little Crimea, known as Transnistria, is trying to seek Russian integration and admission into the Russian Federation.
Countries including Latvia and Estonia have enjoyed their new NATO status, but they are dependent on Russian energy production. Scott Neuman of NPR said in his article that these Baltic countries are watching Russia with an uneasy discernment, no doubt wondering how much further this will go.
As for a military conflict in the foreseeable future, Miller said he believes Putin will coordinate Russia’s moves carefully.
“President Putin will be very deliberate in how he uses military force,” Miller said. “Unless provoked by Ukrainian forces, I don’t envision all-out war.”
While war may be unlikely, the tensions felt throughout the Russian perimeter are having substantial effects on the citizens of bordering countries and their governments. The uneasy strain will only stretch further until it is snapped or satiated.