By Alena James
For the past several months, Russia, it seems, has been unable to avoid the spotlight.
In June 2013, we watched Russian President Vladimir Putin pass legislation prohibiting the portrayal of homosexuality—or “propaganda”—in the media. The action sparked a backlash among LGBT Rights protesters.
In August, we witnessed Putin serve as a liaison between Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, and the rest of the international community by encouraging Assad to concede his country’s chemical weapons stock piles after the use of chemical weapons in Damascus. This action led to increased tensions between the US and Russia.
In February 2014, we saw Russia in all of its glory as they hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi, even despite rumors that the games would be the target of a Chechen terrorist attack. Now this March, we see Russia back in the spotlight for its gutsiest move of the year.
Last weekend, Russian troops (bearing no Russian insignia) invaded Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The invasion came at a time when the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, created a leadership vaccum and left pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian factions to fight against each other to determine the fate of the new Ukrainian government. Until last week, Putin had remained silent on the issue, but has now announced the mobilization of troops into the region to be at the request of PresidentYanukovych; who is wanted by the interim Ukrainian government for the mass murder of at least 75 protesters. Ukrainians protesting the mobilization in Crimea are appealing to western countries for support and a NATO meeting was scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the Crimean Crisis.
In an interview, Putin announced his unwillingness to consider the intermediate leaders controlling the Ukrainian government legitimate, and said Yanukoych is still Ukraine’s president. The Russian President further declared that the mobilization of troops into the peninsula was done at the request of the Yanukoych and within his scope as Russian President in order to protect all Russians residing in Ukraine.
So, what is Putin thinking? Could his negotiations with the ousted president be another display of his own political pageantry and expression of dominance in the region? Or are his intentions genuinely within the interests of the Russian people residing in Ukraine? Is it possible that Putin really just wants to test the US to see hard it can push? Or is Putin dreaming of a newly reconstructed Soviet Union envisioning himself as the supreme leader? Perhaps, he is just tired of western powers engaging in the region? Let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.
For a transcript of Vladimir Putin’s interview can be found from the Washington Post.
Image Credit: http://www.kremlin.ru.