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Brother at the Gate

The new Ukrainian government should be praised for working with Western countries in response to Russia’s military aggression in Crimea. G7 members and Ukraine have alienated Russia, which has lost credibility in the eyes of many countries.

While Russians traditionally enjoy top down Tsar-type leaders, Russian opposition forces and civil society representatives have strongly condemned the invasion of Crimea. G7 countries are refusing to work with Russia, but more actions need to be taken against the “Slavic brother” (a term used by many Russians when referring to Russia’s relations with Ukraine). As Ukraine faces further military actions by Russia, the West may have to build another Iron Curtain if the “brother” is to be stopped. Russia’s military campaign has been based on lies, fear mongering, and disrespect for international law.

Russian armed forces occupied a part of Ukrainian territory two days after the interim Ukrainian government was established by the parliament following 3 months of protests. The new government formed following the revolution against Ukraine’s corrupt former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the country and turned up in Russia. As Ukraine’s economy was mismanaged and run into the ground, the new government is now attempting to stabilize the country’s finances while dealing with Russian military aggression.

Domestically, one of the biggest mistakes of the new government leading up to the unconstitutional referendum in Crimea was the lack of communication with the Russian-speaking population. Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, finally announced major commitments to support the Russian language in areas where the majority of people use it everyday, but this took place after the referendum in Crimea. This was also important to counter the Russian propaganda in the media, which portrays the new government is Kyiv as anti-Russian and anti-Jewish. In fact, key Jewish community leaders in Ukraine should be commended for speaking out against Russian propaganda.

Internationally, the West is divided. The United States and Canada are imposing serious visa restrictions and asset freezes against top Russian advisers implicated in the invasion. On the other hand, the European Union’s response has been weak and uncoordinated, despite having greater economic and trade ties with Russia. The West needs to be more coordinated while it attempts to push Russia back.

The annexation of Crimea sets a dangerous precedent as Putin’s regime is playing Russian roulette with the Russian economy, international diplomacy, and global security. What would happen if Russia decides to use military force against Japan in its attempt to resolve its ongoing territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands? As Kaliningrad is cut off from Russia-proper, would Western countries be willing to retaliate by annexing the Russian enclave?

The West and many European countries have developed strong economic links with Russia. However, they have also turned a blind eye to countless human rights violations and Russia is now posing a threat to international security. Without coordinated measures, Russia will continue to attack Ukraine and its neighbours. A strong response by the West and G7 countries is urgently needed before it is too late.

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