Ukraine v. Russia: What WJ students would do if they were the President

Jona Jancewicz

More stories from Jona Jancewicz

The J&J Show: Episode 1
September 21, 2022
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Photo Courtesy of Flickr

President Joe Biden has come under fire for electing to transport 3000 American troops to help defend Ukraine. The longer the situation goes on, the more tense it grows.

Intense pressure, constant stress and immense responsibility are common phrases used for describing the role of the President of the United States. President Joe Biden’s actions regarding the situation in Ukraine have come under fire. Recently, Russia has deployed over 100,000 troops in three different locations surrounding the borders of Ukraine. Russia’s actions have caused shockwaves in the international community.

The Line of Control was implemented in 2014 to separate Ukrainian and Russian forces. The line has seen constant skirmishes since it has been implemented. (Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The conflict surrounding Ukraine and Russia began in 2013; the people of Ukraine protested against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a deal that would have further integrated Ukraine into the European Union. The Ukrainian people believed that their president was siding with Russia instead.

A year later, in March 2014, Russian troops took control of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that it was necessary for Russia to annex the Crimea region to protect the rights of the Russian speakers in Crimea and southeast Ukraine.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia reached a boiling point as pro-Russian separatist forces took control of eastern Ukrainian cities Donetsk and Luhansk. Conflict broke out between Ukraine’s military and the pro-Russian seperatist forces. In July. 2014, a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down over Ukrainian airspace. The incident got the United States (U.S.) and European Union (E.U.) involved in the situation.

On Sep. 5, a ceasefire was reached when Ukraine and Russia signed the Minsk Agreements. The agreements layed out a 12-point plan, which was supposed to de-escalate conflict in the region.

The following years have proved to de-escalate conflict, as only small skirmishes have popped up following the Minsk Agreements. On the other hand, the tension remained; Ukrainians still feared a large-scale invasion by Russia.

The U.S. and E.U. have worked together to provide aid to Ukraine, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.) has conducted yearly training exercises in regions close to Crimea. That’s why when CNN and other news sites reported that 100,000 Russian military troops had amassed on the Russian-Ukrainian border, shockwaves were sent through the international community. The movement of 100,000 Russian troops to the border was the biggest escalation of conflict since 2014.

Mass protest broke out in Ukraine’s capital Kiev in 2014. The Ukrainian people believed former President Viktor Yanukovych was siding with Russia over the E.U. (Photo Courtesy of Flickr)

The international community now fears that Russia’s positioning of troops is a sign of invasion. The E.U. and U.S. are working together to try and prevent conflict, but it is a tricky situation, namely for the U.S. According to NBC News, U.S. President Joe Biden is deploying 3,000 U.S. military troops to help defend “European allies.” The U.S. runs the risk of creating more tension in the region, as Russia has clearly stated that they do not want U.S. intervention. On the other hand, the U.S. cannot risk losing an ally (Ukraine) as important as Ukraine is to Russia.

These types of decisions are for the President of the United States. Whatever President Biden decides to do, he will be heavily scrutinized by media outlets and people around the world. Students have a wide range of opinions on how President Biden is handling the situation and what they would do if they were in the president’s shoes.

“The one thing we need to do most of all is work in unity. We have focused so much of our attention on Ukraine that we risk losing ties with other allied countries in the area…With NATO forces and everything in the region it is only escalating the tensions in the region. The top priority is to avoid war in the region, and if I was the President, I would focus on trying find some way to convince Putin and Russia to not attack instead of preparing for war,” junior Hussain Muhammad said.

On March 18, 2014. Russia signed the treaty of accession with Crimean leaders in Moscow, successfully annexing the territory of Crimea. Ukraine had long seen Crimea as Ukrainian territory by Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that native Russian speakers needed the protection of the Russian government. (Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Others followed a similar sentiment, that focusing on trying to convince Russia to prevent war is the goal. Russia and the U.S. have had a tumultuous relationship; the two superpowers want to show their strength to the world without going too far and acting in aggression to one another. If it was possible for the U.S. and Russia to work together diplomatically and prevent war in Ukraine, it would be a large step in a new direction for the two giants. 

“Any chance at de-escalating the situation is worth it. Putin recently did say that he would stall the troops, but unfortunately he did not. But I believe that any chance of preventing full blown war and World War three is worth it. I think this has become an issue of that this is purely a land grab… I think we have gone beyond the point of offering them a deal in exchange for them to stop from invasion. Now we have to start putting stricter economic sanctions on them and I think in terms of global politics right now the Olympics is the center point. I think we should ban all Russian athletes from competing at the Olympics unless Putin orders the Russian military to pull back,” junior Aidan Hoenig said.

Other students are confident that the U.S.-Russian relations are so tattered that it would be a waste of time to try and diplomatically solve the solution. They believe that war is imminent and that President Putin has gone too far to turn back now. Ukraine was a key part of the Soviet Union, as it provided the rest of the nation with direct access to the Baltic Sea, increased agricultural production and  allowed the Soviet Union to be close with European powers. Geopolitical experts have speculated since President Putin’s first days in office if he would go after Ukraine. To some students, that time is now, and the people of Ukraine need protection from Russian forces.

“[If I were the President] I would evaluate the situation and try to work with Ukraine to try and ease tensions. First, I would try to defuse the conflict but if that does not work, sending troop[s] would be the next step. I think [sending troops] would help Ukraine because Russia would be getting the message to not try and invade,” senior Alex Fitenko said.

Signed on Sep. 5, 2014, the Minsk Protocols were enacted to try and find a solution to the Russo-Ukrainian war. The protocols enacted a line of control around the eastern part of Ukraine. The line is meant to be the stopping point for Ukrainian and Russian forces. (Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

No amount of debate, from either side, can truly detail what the people of Ukraine are going through. Whether it is mass revolts, protests in the capital, pro-Russian separatists forces occupying the very eastern part of the country or an invasion force of over 100,000 on the border, it is the people of Ukraine who have the most to lose. The natural rights and freedoms an individual has is the basic foundation of a democracy. That is what the Ukrainian people are fighting for, freedom.

Most people from the U.S. and certainly the WJ community have the ability to take their basic freedoms for granted. It is what they are accustomed to; it is what they have grown up with throughout their lives. Many have not experienced any form of war. That is why, to some students, if the U.S. sits back and does not take measures to protect Ukraine, they believe that the U.S. is turning their backs on 44 million innocent people. 

Every new day brings a new set of questions. What will Russia do if Ukraine is invaded? How will NATO respond if the invasion takes place? Will there be any countries who support Russia? The future of Ukraine is dependent on the actions taken right now.

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