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Shadows of the Past

By: Emiliano Vazquez-Parrales, Section Editor for Student Voices (evazqu20@uic.edu)

For the past ten years or so, the U.S. and its allies have had most of their focus drawn towards the Middle East, where they have for years dealt with bouts of political instability, tribal/secular warfare, and various humanitarian crises.  In the last couple of years the world has also witnessed various revolutions in Egypt, Syria, Venezuela, The Philippines, and Ukraine. Ukraine has become the worst of these because it has gotten to the point where an old enemy has chosen to make its presence known and stand its ground.

Following the overthrow of the Viktor Yanukovich’s government, the new Ukrainian government was met with opposition from Crimea, an area of southern Ukraine that borders Russia and was responsible for the election of Yanukovich and supporters of his pro-Russian policies. Last week, Russia, who had been mobilizing troops since the start of the revolution, invaded the Crimean state under the pretense of protecting the ethnic-Russian citizens from the new Ukrainian government.  Russia’s president, and former K.G.B colonel Vladimir Putin has been grinding an axe for quite some time and  has now decided to swing it.

Sound familiar? It should, considering there was another old enemy who used a similar tactic to begin the expansion of his would-be empire.  In 1939, Adolf Hitler invaded an area of Poland known as the Polish Corridor, which formerly belonged to Germany until 1919, under the pretext that they were there to free the majority German port city of Danzig.  Ominous indeed.

This is a trying  time for the Obama administration, which already has its hands full with multiple crises in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran.  I believe that is going to be the greatest test that President Obama will face during his administration, similar to Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs.  It is no secret that Russia and the U.S. have had an unsteady relationship since the Cold War – most recently things have gotten quite strained when Russia sided with China in protecting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from the U.N. security council.

Also in a time when the U.S. is becoming more accepting of its LGBTQ community, Russia has basically outlawed homosexuality, which was the cause of a lot of protest in the U.S., as well as across the world. Russia has also been cracking down hard on public dissent and protest going as far as jailing those people who participate in such events.  It’s like looking into a reversed mirror -the U.S. does one thing and Russia does the opposite. To a certain degree I wonder if it is out of spite, or if Putin really is that much of a narcissist.

I think that what we are seeing now is the beginning of an extremely dangerous and delicate geo-political power struggle right in the middle of Europe.  What makes this situation dangerous is partially that it mostly rests on the shoulders of President Obama, because as head of NATO, he is literally the only man with the authority and  muscle to back him up against Russia.  No one in Europe can stand up to Russia other than the U.S., so Obama really has no choice but to lead.

What makes this situation even more dangerous is a statement made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that said she told President Obama that, after having spoken to President Putin, she was not sure that Putin was completely in touch with reality.  In other words, he’s lost his mind, and the only history has shown that the only thing worst than a corrupt politician in a position of power is a crazy corrupt politician in a position of power who just invaded his neighbor without provocation.

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