In the minds of young collegiate scholars, International conflict (contemporarily) is best defined as unrest in the Middle East, borne out of religious extremism and characterized by unbridled aggression towards the west. Names like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have long characterized the very essence of conflict. As such, few of us have been substantively exposed to other sorts of international conflict, in which our national security is not a factor and in which world powers make significant and even aggressive moves. That is why the world was so thoroughly shocked when Russia somewhat unexpectedly annexed Crimea, a small peninsula in Ukraine. It is gravely important to consider the implications of this action, but perhaps even more so, to explore the possible motivations and internal/external factors that ultimately led Russian President Vladimir Putin to approve this action.
The clear answers are two fold, one being a matter of national pride and the other a calculated international affairs move. In the case of the former, historical context is crucial to our understanding. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the western world, none the least being the United States, generally treated Russia as a faded and irrelevant nation. The Russian economy was in shambles with little to no support from developed nations. As such, this move could be portrayed as a post-imperialistic attempt to re-establish a sense of Russian pride. It is also crucial to consider the US involvement in the transition of the Ukrainian government. Ukraine has long been a bastion of Russian influence, though admittedly that influence has waned over the past two decades. The United States was directly involved in supplanting the previous Ukrainian government, and as a result, it is reasonable to draw a correlation with Russian outrage. Certainly, this was a primary motivation behind Russian aggression.
In regards to the latter, being a calculated geopolitical move, one only needs to gauge the world’s reaction to the Russian annexation in order to realize that Russia is most certainly considered a serious actor in contemporary international affairs. Directly following this bold move, the world’s eyes were riveted on the unfolding “crisis”, the airwaves suddenly filled with posturing pundits and poignant images. World leaders began to rumble and arguably for the first time since the conclusion of the cold war, the world was wholly preoccupied by the movements and motivations of Russia. The Council of the European Union met to discuss how to proceed with diplomatic relations with Russia and scores of countries applied sanctions to key players in Russia’s oligarchy.
In review, Russian leaders have a long list of practical domestic and international motivations to act aggressively with particular interest in Ukraine given their waning influence there. These conclusions however leave us with more questions than answers. Some things to consider in your comments below:
- What sort of trajectory will Russia take in the Future?
- Will Russian aggression escalate or decrease in Ukraine?
- Is Russian involvement in Syria a deliberate attempt to draw attention away from aggression within the European continent?
- What is the appropriate response from the Ukrainian government? The United States?
- What are some possible end goals for Russia? How might this crisis conclude?
Examine the following three links to investigate expert analysis and policy responses to Russian aggression:
What Russia is up to in Ukraine: Economic Motivationshttps://www.google.com/search?q=russian+aggression&biw=1440&bih=751&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0CAgQ_AUoA2oVChMI8rin6dTiyAIViRo-Ch3s9AMj#imgrc=L9denDaO6WuvrM%3A