Putin must show restraint, reasonCrisis-hit Ukraine is bracing for the possibility of a war after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to the Crimean Peninsula, an autonomous region of eastern Ukraine traditionally loyal to neighboring Russia. On Saturday, Putin won an endorsement from the Russian parliament to use military force to protect Russian citizens and interests, defying the West’s strong warning against military intervention. Russian tanks could cross the border upon Putin’s call.
The confrontation could be the biggest showdown between Moscow and the Western world since the cold war. The United States and the European Union will inevitably get involved if Russia invades Ukraine, where a pro-Western interim government recently took power after ousting Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. The traditional split between east and west Ukraine deepened after Yanukovych disavowed a deal with the EU for closer ties.
Now, pro-Russian and pro-government forces are facing tense standoffs. Russia claims its rights to protect the citizens of Russian origin and its soldiers after calling the ouster of the president “a seizure of power” that “will end with the new revolution and new blood.” Ukrainian officials strongly denied any threat to the safety of citizens and pledged no harm to Russia-backed residents.
The advancement of Russia’s military into Crimea raises suspicions that there will be a similar repeat of the events in Georgia in 2008, when Russian tanks and troops invaded Georgian territory after cross-border conflict. If Moscow plans to annex the Crimean autonomous region during the crisis stage, it will stand in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which the West and Russia are obligated to “protect the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine.” It would also contradict its opposition to Western intervention in Libya and Syria.
If it is concerned about the safety of Russian citizens, Moscow should ensure their safety by negotiating with the new interim government. It could also work within the international framework of the United Nations Security Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Jumping to military intervention without diplomatic procedures is a dangerous breach of international obligations. We seriously advise Putin to exercise reasons and restraint.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 3, Page 30