Dina Badie: West provoked Putin in Ukraine

March 16, 2014 

Dina Badie is assistant professor of politics and international studies at Centre College.

While American officials on the right and the left loudly complain about Vladamir Putin's move into Crimea, the roots of the crisis seem to have been forgotten.

Those opposed to the American opposition cite the U.S. occupation of Iraq to question American credibility on the issue. However, the parallels are limited and not particularly useful to understanding the current crisis.

Instead, rewind to November of last year when the European Union tried to woo Ukraine with an economic package. Russia responded in kind, offering to now-ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich a better deal. Yanukovich took Putin's offer.

In response, Ukrainians, deeply divided over "East vs. West" orientations took to the streets to oppose the deal struck with Russia.

The U.S. and other European nations were quick to support the protesters, which allegedly included U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland distributing pastries to anti-government protesters.

Likely emboldened by Western support, the opposition ousted Yanukovich while he was abroad at a summit.

While media outlets reported that he was "impeached," the parliament in fact did not reach the constitutional threshold for impeachment. He was, in fact, ousted.

Given that Ukraine is squarely in Russia's core national interest (right on its doorstep in fact), Putin's concern seems warranted.

That is not to say that occupation or annexation are justified, but to say that Russia did not in fact precipitate the crisis.

If anything, the expansion of NATO onto Russia's doorstep, Western attempts to pull Ukraine into its sphere, recent support for protests against the democratically elected leader and seemingly immediate recognition of a new, anti-Russian government that came to power on dubious grounds are undeniably provocative.

Were Russia to expand its sphere of influence and security agreements into Latin America, support anti-American protesters in Mexico, overlook an unconstitutional seizure of power there, and recognize the new pro-Russian regime, I would hope that the U.S. would express the same concern that Russia has in Ukraine.

Dina Badie is assistant professor of politics and international studies at Centre College.

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