Miramonte Substitute Draws Attention to Ukraine Crisis

Margaret Ross, News Editor

The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, instigated by civilian riots following Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to abandon an agreement with the European Union, continues to cause violent clashes. Russian President Vladimir Putin initially ordered Russian military and marines to occupy the Crimean Peninsula, an autonomous republic that was previously part of Russia. Russian officials and representatives have effectively taken control of government buildings in 10 eastern Ukrainian cities. Ukrainian military response has been deficient. The hostility is far more complex than a simple East vs. West confrontation; many believe it will stimulate world-wide impacts.
“If we define our interests narrowly, if we applied a coldhearted calculus, we might decide to look the other way. Our economy is not deeply integrated with Ukraine’s. Our people and our homeland face no direct threat from the invasion of Crimea. Our own borders are not threatened by Russia’s annexation,” President Barack Obama said in a meeting with European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in Brussels on March 26. “But that kind of casual indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of [Europe]. It would allow the old way of doing things to regain a foothold in this young century. And that message would be heard, not just in Europe, but in Asia and the Americas, in Africa and the Middle East.”
While nation leaders around the world agree that the seemingly isolated situation could have international implications, it is natural for Americans, especially high school students, to feel that the conflict is far from home.
Regular Miramonte substitute Ravi Ravindranathan holds a doctorate from Oxford and taught Russian and European History as a professor in Canada for 20 years. Ravindranathan left academia to write his book Death Only Wins: The Stalin Trilogy; only the first of the trilogy has been published.
“Be well-informed when international events like this happen. Also, you have to question all the stuff that you read in newspapers and on the internet; are sources always correct? Sometimes it’s not. In my opinion, if you read the newspapers here, you get the impression that Putin has no reason for doing what he’s doing. But history’s a lot more complicated than that. You have to get someone else’s perspective. . . Find out what the Italian papers are saying,” Ravindranathan said.
Ravindranathan points out that European businessmen have invested, and rely on, the involved nations and economies far more than businessmen in the United States. If there were to be restrictions or embargos on Russia, the impact would affect those European businesses. For that reason, Ravindranathan argues, the United States is unlikely to be majorly involved, aside from investment in European companies and presence at diplomatic events.
“I don’t think [the United States] will get involved. It’s not possible. Russia is not a ‘banana republic,’ so it’s not like you could send in troops and take over Ukraine and defeat the Russians. I don’t think this is an alternative,” Ravindranathan said.
“I hope that your generation, that all high school kids, would take more of an interest in what’s going on there and find out where Ukraine is, what Crimea is, what the Crimean question is, and how Crimea happened to be in Ukraine; these are some of the things that are important,” Ravindranathan said.