Stillwater News Press


March 29, 2014

FRANKLY SPEAKING: Crisis in the Ukraine

STILLWATER, Okla. — After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia signed a treaty that delineated its borders with former Soviet states and defined the terms of their future relationship with Russia.

Last February, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a longtime dictator with pro-Russian opinions, fled the country due to mass protests regarding citizen disagreements about the direction of the country.

Shortly thereafter, a new president was designated to restore a sense of democracy and represent their interests on the international level. As a result, Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened by annexing the Crimean Peninsula.

The situation in Ukraine is simple: President Putin has violated longstanding international treaties outlining the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula. His brazen incursion into sovereign territory has been unilateral and in complete defiance of the international community.

While the situation thus far has been largely non-violent, it has indeed increased the tensions in an already tense regional environment.

Unfortunately, Putin’s unilateral actions do not bode well for U.S.- Russia relations or the international community. Russia’s annexation of Crimea will further isolate them from the international community, and my hope is that we work in concert with our friends in Europe to impose effective sanctions.

To provide a rapid and firm response, Congress has moved forward to provide support for Ukraine. The House passed legislation that expanded the existing sanctions on Russian officials and enhanced security cooperation with Ukraine.

Additionally, the legislation reinforces U.S. support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and condemns Russia’s armed intervention of Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea. It is imperative that the U.S. and our allies demonstrate solidarity with the Ukrainian people and support their right to sovereignty.

While this situation falls short of necessitating unilateral U.S. military intervention, I am concerned about the ongoing spending reductions to our Department of Defense and how those cuts may have invited some of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Further, if member countries within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization begin to feel threatened by Putin’s land grab, NATO has the responsibility to respond accordingly in order to protect its members.

Unfortunately, I believe the recent cuts in our national defense would make it difficult to get involved in another military conflict.

As this crisis continues to escalate, it is of utmost importance that the U.S. continues to work with allies to condemn Putin for the aggression Russia has demonstrated. We must send a clear and concise message that this type of antagonism will not be tolerated, and there will be consequences if they continue down this path. As the Congressman representing Oklahoma’s Third Congressional District, I will continue to monitor the situation and work with my colleagues to provide support for Ukraine.

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas represents Payne County. He is chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.

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