Ukraine requires diplomatic balance

Ukraine, a country currently in the midst of an internal conflict, got an unwelcome visitor March 2 when neighboring Russia sent troops into its Crimea region, a strategic military hub. While no fighting has occurred between the two countries, the move has attracted criticism from foreign powers for the threat it poses to Ukrainian independence.

President Barack Obama made a statement Feb. 28 supporting Ukrainian independence and condemning Russia’s military movements, saying the United States will not take military action but opposes Russia’s threat.

Obama’s statement, while relatively non-bellicose, has escalated tensions with Russia. The U.S.’ interference in Russian affairs, no matter how it is phrased, has been seen as condemnation, which could threaten diplomatic relations and economic ties.

Russia may claim to be protecting Ukraine’s Russian nationals, but it should take into account the potential damage it may inflict upon itself as an international power. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will not mobilize troops anywhere outside the Crimean peninsula, where it has a military base, but it is still a major world power sending its military into a smaller country. If violence erupts, it could be perceived as Russia waging war on Ukraine for economic and political control.

As a world power, the U.S. has a responsibility to help maintain the balance and stability of the international community. Obama threatened Russia with economic sanctions in his Feb. 28 speech, saying if Russia escalated its incursion into full-blown war, the U.S. would impose an embargo upon the country. While powerful in theory, that plan would be more damaging than helpful. Russia is an enormous importer and exporter of goods and services—in 2013, the U.S. imported nearly $27 billion in goods from the country and exported $11 billion in goods to Russia, according to the Census Bureau. Simply stopping commerce could damage both economies and escalate tensions.

As a world power, the U.S. can engage in a great deal of saber-rattling and threats, but caution is the better route. Considering Russia’s long-standing relationship with Ukraine, the two governments will still have to live with one another at the end of the conflict, and too much U.S. interference could end in further poisoning the relations. If the U.S. fully supports Ukrainian independence, it needs to support the government without overshadowing it.

World powers have an obligation to help negotiate peace between countries in turmoil, but the fine line between diplomacy and intervention needs constant redefinition. Obama has many factors to consider when deciding America’s policy regarding Ukraine, but it is much better to play it safe than take intemperate actions that could exacerbate the conflict, ultimately causing Ukrainian citizens to suffer.