Beginning in February of this year, civil unrest due to pro-Russian separatists began to tear apart the nation of Ukraine. The conflict has not been categorized as a war however, despite continued Russian advances and military operations and the fact that the violence has caused approximately 36 deaths per day according to the United Nations. While the Ukrainian military’s operations have not left their hands clean, the separatists have caused the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths and property damage, as well as reportedly detaining almost 500 people who have suffered a litany of human rights abuses.
NATO has presented evidence of Russian government involvement, including satellite imagery of Russian forces on the wrong side of the Ukrainian border. Counter to these claims, Russia continues to deny involvement with the rebels who somehow possess new and functioning high-tech military equipment.
The United States as well as the United Nations have yet to intervene with any tangible results, mostly out of concern for expanding the conflict to potentially include more countries and a larger scale of violence. Political experts claim that if President Obama and his peers explicitly accuse Russia of an outright invasion then they will be immediately obligated to take action to be in accordance with United Nations standards.
After weeks and weeks of dodging the issue, Vladimir Putin on Aug. 29, openly commended the pro-Russian rebels for a recent victory. Putin plans to force the government of Kiev to negotiate, allowing him to control the nation of Ukraine while avoiding the majority of physical acts that constitute an invasion. However the Merriam-Webster definition of invasion includes the phrase “incursion of an army for conquest or plunder”. President Obama has repeatedly used the word “incursion” to describe Putin’s actions in Ukraine, and if the Russian leader is successful in his strategy he will have used his military to control another territory.
With so many other military conflicts threatening to burst out of their relatively confined theaters of war, the United States and NATO nations are hesitant to intervene in one and risk the consequences of neglecting another. However some critics would argue that the same hesitation simply allows for all of the conflicts to spiral out of potential control, all the while allowing innocents to be swallowed up in the process.
With much of the international media now focusing on the atrocities of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, many Americans have let the conflict in Ukraine slip to the back of their minds. It is nearly impossible to say which could be considered more important. The brutal swath that ISIS has cut through the Middle East has certainly caused a much higher death toll, but an unchecked Russia brazenly breaking UN laws is potentially more dangerous to the world as a whole.
Both conflicts continue to escalate while political rhetoric outside of the war zones continues to run in circles. Whether there will be enough time for world leaders and their citizens to reach a consensus or if ever-increasing violent action in Ukraine will force their hands remains to be seen.
By Matt Isaacs