A local perspective to the crisis in Ukraine

Crimea, the southern peninsula of Ukraine is being occupied by the Russian military and the Prime Minister says Ukrainian military units are surrendering and pledging allegiance to his pro-Russian government.

The first shots in Russia’s occupation of Crimea were fired Tuesday.

“It’s their access into the Mediterranean warm water ports, economically for Putin, it’s their Caribbean.”

Dr. Eric Franco is an Assistant Professor at WaldorfCollege, he has done extensive research on American policy and international relations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has concerns about Russian citizens and ethnic Russians living in the area.

But Franco says it’s important for people to understand what Putin is doing.

“We’re looking at Russia taking advantage of a power vacuum, in Ukraine, or at least a perceived power vacuum. And so we’re looking at Putin using Russia and with this “humanitarian crisis” as he called it an opportunity to show Russia can do what it wants, whenever it wants,” says Franco.

One of the many questions that remains is will there be fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops now that Russia has taken control of Crimea, Dr. James Scarry is among those who don’t foresee that happening.

“They’re being very cautious, they’ve called this a declaration of war by Russia but they’ve done nothing to provoke any kind of fighting or outbreak of violence to this point so my guess would be no,” says James Scarry, Associate Professor of History.

Crimea has a significant impact on Russia’s economy, about half of Russia’s natural gas runs though pipelines in Ukraine and about 30% of natural energy to the rest of Europe.

But what impact if any will it have on the United States?

“The European Union has probably the most to lose economically if Russia continues to assert it’s power but here I don’t really see it having too much of an impact,” adds Franco.

Just today US Secretary of State John Kerry offered the Ukrainian government a one billion dollar aid package.

President Obama says he will continue to make calls to international leaders and introduce sanctions to try and de-escalate the situation.

The turmoil in Ukraine is affecting some Iowans’ upcoming travel plans.

IowaStateUniversity is cancelling an upcoming study-abroad trip to the Ukraine and Russia.

In north Iowa, The Clear Lake Evangelical Free Church cancelled a youth mission trip to Ukraine which was scheduled for spring break.

Youth leaders say they’ve made the trip to the country for several years but have decided to re-book the trip due to recent events.

They’re working on arranging another trip but are running into some problems with switching airline tickets.

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