The Crimea: A modern day crisis & the re-emergence of power-politics

By Nick McGargill

Peering out my window on a peaceful Sunday afternoon, I watch my neighbors shoveling their driveway after a recent snow fall from the previous night. Another day goes by as ordinary people live out the American Dream. I look out my window to see the beautiful and prosperous city before me that has been my home for the past three years knowing that any at moment could be erased from time by nuclear annihilation. Time has stood for me dwelling on the thought that with each passing breath drawn into my body could be my last. Since this morning, I have been distracted by constant ringing of church bells piercing through the unforgiving cold air as I attempt to concentrate my attention to the graphic novel, Watchmen, written by Alan Moore that I am reading for my Interpretation of Literature class. Perhaps there is a wedding at a church nearby, or even a funeral - I cannot say which. Personally, I find Alan Moore's graphic novel a fascinating and ingenious piece of work reflecting the contemporary anxieties of the Cold War as the United States and the Soviet Union edged closer to the brink of nuclear war. Staring out my window, I cannot help but imagine the dreadful feelings of fear and impending doom my grandparents experienced as endless minutes passed by during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As I flip through each page in the graphic novel, Watchmen while reflecting on recent events developing in the Ukraine, I cannot help but to wonder whether or not the world has changed much since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  

Revolution and madness has engulfed the Ukraine tarnishing the validity of sanity of brotherly countrymen as violence and chaos fuels ultra-nationalist movements in an atmosphere of anarchy, which threatens to rip apart the fabric of Ukrainian nationality. The world stands on the brink of nuclear disaster as a result of the re-emergence of power-politics in international relations amongst leading global powers - namely between the United States and their European partners against Russia. The current Crimean Crisis draws eerie parallels to the Cuban Missile Crisis where the existence of humanity was threatened by nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, where the slightest miscalculation had the potential to result in nuclear catastrophe. Although, the Cuban Missile Crisis wasn't the only confrontation between the superpowers - Yom Kippur War 1973, Able Archer 1983, even during the intense stand-off between NATO and Russian forces at the Pristina Airport during the Kosovo War. The world is now frozen in time amid an intense confrontation as global leaders scramble to bring about peaceful solution to end the Crimean Crisis. The question now is that since the Cold War has been over for the past 23 years, have global leaders forgotten how to manage and deescalate crises?

The Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine is a major setback that has unhinged President Vladimir Putin after the resounding success of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi bringing pro-western democratic movements too close to the gates of Moscow for comfort. The Russian mentality prides itself that their country is a great power capable of influencing the outcome in world affairs. Retaining a competitive foreign policy directed towards the United States, Vladimir Putin has shifted Russia into a position of power having taken advantage of a weakness of the Obama Administration that is both aghast and reluctant to respond to the deployment of Russian troops the Crimea. Ultimately, Putin's decision to intervene in Ukraine will be a reversal of fortunes for Russia granting an opportunity to the United States to respond in a similar fashion to the ingenious and well-executed political coup Russia took to avert American military intervention in Syria last year. In addition, the pretext for military intervention in the internal affairs of other states in order to protect citizens abroad will present a dangerous precedent the Russian government is establishing in global affairs - a precedent in which could be used against Russia in the Far East by their political rival, China. Hoping to ride the "rally 'round the flag" effect while tightening the screws in Russian society and political system, eventually the edifice will begin to crumble as decision to intervene in the Ukraine will ultimately be the beginning of the end for Vladimir Putin in a similar fashion to George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq. While the United States had to accept the repercussions of military intervention in Iraq, Russia must be prepared to the do the same in Ukraine.

Russia's military presence in the Ukraine has shocked Western leaders resurrecting memories of the days of the Cold War; however, Putin's decision to intervene presents the best opportunity to the Obama Administration for an end the Crimean Crisis. The United States cannot be pardoned from blame for establishing reckless a dangerous precedents in the international affairs. Promoting democracy and protecting human rights abroad has been the cornerstone of American foreign policy used to justify unilateral military intervention and regime change in foreign states outside the authority of the United Nations Security Council, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Over the past 20 years, the Russians have witnessed the encroachment of NATO up to their boarders along with US military interventions in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, which along with the unrest in Ukraine has made government officials in Russia even more paranoid to protect the sovereignty of the Russian state. While attempting to redefine American foreign policy, the Obama Administration is faced with an increasingly powerful and competitive rival administration in Russia that refuses to be sidelined in international affairs as witnessed during in Kosovo and Syria. Supporting a referendum for the people of the Crimea to determine their future under the presence of an international observers and peacekeeping force through the United Nations is the best option to de-escalate the conflict. Putin's decision to intervene militarily in the Ukraine presents a unique opportunity to flip the tables on Russia and return the favor in Syria by backing Putin into a corner with a constructive solution - a forceful approach will not work.

Nuclear deterrence holds high the contradictory idea of preserving peace and averting military aggression by threat of nuclear annihilation, which imbeds itself in the logic of the Security Dilemma that is both tenable and ludicrous. Having journeyed to the Soviet Union in 1983 as a Goodwill Ambassador, Samantha Smith is a personal hero of mine who was the embodiment of idealism and a champion of cross-cultural exchange and peace between the United States and the Soviet Union during the heighten tensions of the Cold War. After speaking with Yuri Andropov by telephone during her trip to Moscow, Samantha swiftly deduced the fallacy of nuclear deterrence realizing reluctance of the United States and the Soviet Union to start a nuclear war. The very logic of nuclear deterrence and the Cold War itself was utterly destroyed by the mind of a 10 year old girl in the space of a minute on live television. Today, as the United States and the Russian Federation draw closer to the prospect of nuclear war during this crisis, it is a shame above all shames that people have not listened to Samantha's wisdom. Nevertheless, it reassuring that Samantha Smith will go in history as brave young girl who championed for world peace.  

Reflecting on the unfolding events in the Ukraine as the world takes another step closer to the prospect nuclear war, I read through the chapter of Watchmen, where Dr. Manhattan reflects on his thoughts towards the existence of humanity. Truly, humanity could destroy its very existence well within 30 minutes in the event of nuclear war, yet the stars would not even notice. Having witnessed our greatest achievements and tragedies over the course of millennia, the Moon would continue to orbit the Earth unfazed as our foolishness would bring about our own doom. The church bells continue to ring in my ears distracting me from my reading as I ponder about end of the world. As a graduating college student, I shouldn't be think about the end of my life - my life is just beginning. Yet, there is an every prevalent feeling of dread and precariousness silently slithering up and down my spine tormenting my inner conscious that the next day could be my last. Thinking about to how my grandparents must have felt at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis comes to mind a passage from Romans 8:36; "we are being put to death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." Fear and terror of nuclear war grips my throat as I hold my breath along with the world for this crisis in Ukraine to end. As I attempt to occupy my mind with optimistic thoughts for the future as I yearn for the dream of living in a peaceful world where nuclear weapons are non-existent. Then the uncanny realization overcomes me - the world will never know peace as long as power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of the few.

Nick McGargill

Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov