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Ukraine

Mar 3, 2014, 7:51 PM | Updated: 7:51 pm

Can we all take a deep breath? I keep hearing over and over again that President Obama should “do something” about the Russian incursion into the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. What, exactly? Russia has nuclear bombs. Much of eastern Ukraine’s population is Russian. They speak Russian, they identify themselves as Russians and they support the Russian incursion.

Much of western Ukraine’s population isn’t Russian. In fact, they hate Russia because of what they call the Holodomor. That’s Ukrainian for “extermination by hunger.” It took place in the early to mid-1930s and killed millions of Ukrainians.

I suspect eventually Ukraine will break into two countries, one in the west allied with Europe and one in the east allied with Russia. It happens all the time, most recently when South Sudan broke away from the rest of Sudan. It also happened in Yugoslavia, an artificial country created at the end of World War I, which broke apart in a deadly and chaotic war in the 1980s.

Here’s the key. The port city of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula is Russia’s only dependable year-round ice-free port. While the Russians have a lease agreement with Ukraine for the port through 2042, Vladimir Putin can’t risk losing year round access to the high seas just because a lot of Ukrainians hate Russians. He will do whatever he needs to do to make sure that doesn’t happen. We can scold him. We can refuse to trade with him. We can refuse to attend the G-8 meeting he’ll host in June, even cancel the meeting, and even kick Russia out of the G-8. None of that comes anywhere close to the strategic importance of that port. We have no more chance of keeping Russia out of the Crimea than we do getting China out of Tibet.

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Ukraine