“Westerners just don’t get it. Putin is doing what he has to right now in Ukraine.”
That’s what I overheard a few days ago while in a crowded Seattle airport. The gentleman behind me was attempting to explain to a fellow passenger why Russia sent troops into Crimea. His remarks surprised me, so I listened in for more.
He continued, “…the people in Crimea don’t like that Ukraine is politically unstable. They want Russia to give them more stability. That’s really what Putin is doing.”
Interesting, considering Russia’s meddling with Ukrainian politics for decades – who exactly is responsible for the instability, I wondered. And what does “stability” look like? To Putin, it’s all about control.
In defense of his actions, Putin has said the pro-Russian government that was overthrown in Kiev was done so illegally, and that the country’s president requested Russian intervention (however, any troop presence in the region, are “local self-defense groups”, he claims).
The United States and the international community reject this outright, and acknowledge that Russia has been itching for a reason to intervene in Ukraine for years. So why now? In my opinion, former Secretary Rice nails it in this op-ed, and Putin is nothing if not opportunistic and calculating.
The Cold War may officially be over, thanks to President Reagan and Lady Thatcher, but Russia’s desire for control remains hot.
So what can the average American learn from this? Aside from understanding Putin and the Russian government is not to be trusted, the American public needs to invest time into understanding the international landscape.
There’s been an obvious disinterest in foreign policy in the past decade – some can attribute this to war weariness – and while domestic issues such as the economy, healthcare, and social issues hit more closely to home, disengaging ourselves from how we are perceived abroad and the repercussions of our actions (or in this case, inaction) will ultimately find their way back to our doorstep. In today’s global economy, that is inevitable.
The American public must invest time in understanding the international landscape. Otherwise, we’ll resemble the man in the Seattle airport – contaminating public opinion with uninformed nonsense.
Not to mention annoying fellow passengers.
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