What’s Happening in Crimea? A small Ukrainian region fights for independence

World War III

Another World War is an alarming thought, but it’s a more real concern now than possibly ever before. In early 2014, Ukrainian citizens began to protest several controversial economic policies with Russia. These protests quickly turned into a full blown, violent riot. As they died down, Ukraine was pretty unstable, which the Russian government saw as a good opportunity to invade with the goal of taking the Crimean region. Although what Russia has done here may not be the right thing to do, it’s important that the U.S. doesn’t try to interfere. This is important to everyone in the U.S. because any U.S. aggression toward Russia could quickly cascade into a major war on a comparable scale to World War II.

Why is it happening?

The entirety of this conflict is, for right now at least, entirely in a region of Ukraine called the Crimean Peninsula. After the Soviet Union fell apart, no one was really sure who Crimea belonged to. Russian officials claimed that they owned the territory and were just giving Ukraine access to it, while the Ukrainian constitution said that it was Ukrainian territory. It gets even more convoluted when you look at the population statistics. Crimea is the one place in Ukraine where Russians actually make up the majority. In Crimea, 58 percent of the population is Russian and 24 percent is Ukrainian. The Russian population of Ukraine is most often sympathetic to the Russian government. Additionally, Putin has recently become increasingly unpopular within his own country. This could also be seen as a power play, trying to increase his number of supporters by taking a heavily Russian-allied region.

How can it get worse?

For starters, it is uncertain what Russia’s next move is. The Crimean government agreed to secede from Ukraine and become an independent country, which Russia’s military responded to by storming Crimea in a style that Hillary Clinton compared to Hitler’s annexation of Poland in World War II. Although the possibility is there for a peaceful transition, the number of different factions and rebellions could quickly turn violent. Russia could use unrest in the region as a motivation to invade even more territory, and the U.S. would not want to be caught up in that situation. Russia’s hyper-militarized actions are also worrying, with a surplus of soldiers being placed close to Crimea. Russia is clearly preparing for a fight here.

Why is this a threat?

Russia and the U.S. have long been considered the worlds’ two leading superpowers, and the two countries have historically never gotten along. During the Cold War, we were on the brink of World War III when Russia stored nuclear weapons in Cuba, 90 miles from our shores. If the U.S. takes action before it’s absolutely necessary, we would be running a very major risk of reigniting those tensions. Considering both countries lead the world in regard to nuclear weapons, all out war with Russia would be disastrous on a scale that would put World War II to shame.

The U.S. has tried to be the world’s police, but this is one situation where intervening isn’t worth it. Even the slightest risk of restarting the Cold War would quickly turn destructive, and as alarmist as it may sound, a worst case scenario nuclear war could bring the world to its knees. If Russia does in fact turn hyper-aggressive, it will be worth a second glance, but right now, the risk isn’t worth it.

– Julian Hoffman