Russian troops near Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine

Standoff In Ukraine Continues

The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, as Russia has essentially taken control of the Crimea peninsula. The US has taken action after issuing stern warnings for days. The Obama administration has announced an aid package to the new Ukrainian government, and is also preparing economic sanctions against Russia that will be unveiled in a matter of days.

The aid package consists of energy aid, training for financial and election institutions, and anti-corruption efforts. In a show of solidarity, US Secretary of State John Kerry has traveled to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and spent 5 hours meeting with government officials.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is quickly working on ways to punish Russia for its violation of international law. Military options are off the table at this point. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and thus the US has no obligation to defend it. However, several of Ukraine’s neighbors are NATO members, and they are becoming increasingly worried about a resurgent Russia.

The US has pulled out of preliminary G8 meetings that were scheduled to occur in Sochi. There is now talk of kicking Russia out of the G8 altogether. The US military has also cancelled military-to-military engagements with the Russians, including exercises, conferences, and port visits. More sanctions are expected later this week.

There was initially fear that Russia would advance into eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian speaking population. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled troops back from the Ukrainian border, easing those fears for now. An escalation of the conflict is still not out of the question though.

Crimea is the real prize at the moment. The Russians have a base there which gives them access to the Black Sea. The Obama administration opposes letting Russia annex the territory. However, they have signaled they would agree to a referendum allowing the people of Crimea to decide which nation they want to be a part of, if the Ukrainian government supports such an option. At this point, that may be the best out for all parties involved.