JACK SIMPSON: Tense situation with Russia



Diplomacy has prevailed so far as Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine have eased crises and compromised to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict. President Obama remains skeptical.

Geography has placed Russia and Ukraine in close proximity making their economies dependent upon one another. The Crimean Peninsula is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet and the area is ethically Russian.

Russia has had little faith in Ukraine’s government and has moved troops to the borders. Russia has undermined Ukraine sovereignty in an effort to keep it from further alignment with the West.

Russia has been using volunteers led by military intelligence officers in plain uniforms with few visible major weapons to take over military facilities, police stations and public buildings.

President Putin says the United States has defended its interests in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and Russia should have equal rights. He has sent troops to Ukraine and is nibbling away in the country not fearing consequences. To Putin, sanctions have been laughable to date. It appears Russia is hoping for a civil war in Ukraine after which it can benefit from a peacekeeping mission. President Putin says Russia has every right to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and Russia has a historical claim to the area.

So we watch and wait to see what response President Obama makes. Sen. John McCain says European sanctions on Russia are minimal and “almost a joke.” British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the situation in East Ukraine is a deliberate and premeditated violation of the independence and sovereignty of the country, and he calls for further sanctions against Russia. The United States has not placed boots on the ground, has barred travel and placed crippling measures on the Russian economy. Russia has not backed down so far and even had its aircraft make passes at U.S. Ship Donald Cook in the Black Sea. Russia must feel it has not yet paid much of a price for its provocative moves.

No, President Obama has not yet threatened to rebuild our missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. Such a move might get Russia’s attention.

Meanwhile, the Geneva agreement recently reached may ease tensions as diplomats continue talking to de-escalate and the United States contemplates appropriate responses.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.