No easy way out

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The ongoing crisis in Ukraine threatens to become a full-blown civil war that can have dire consequences in the region.

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Armed pro-Russian activists seized government buildings in Slavianka, which was preceded last week by the seizure also of government buildings in Donetsk Luhansk.

Washington sees a similar pattern in the uprisings and the invasion of Crimea, which already voted to be part of Russia.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia of “additional consequences” if it fails to pull its troops back from the Ukraine border, as Kiev accused Moscow of aggression in its restive east.

With the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, which started with the ouster of erstwhile pro-Kremlin leader Viktor Yanukovych, the West and Russia will find themselves embroiled in a situation that may not be resolved over the short or even medium term.

Washington and the European Union have also been acting with lesser resolve in the situation, simply threatening weeks back to impose more sanctions on Russia and personalities close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, Russia has stationed troops, tanks, artillery pieces and aircraft near the border of Ukraine, and even pressed Ukraine for the payment of its gas debts.

Under a worst-case scenario, a civil war will break out in Ukraine and can turn into a proxy war, with the West helping the current regime in that country, and Russia aiding the pro-Kremlin rebels.

The Ukrainian crisis, however, will not likely degenerate into a war between Russia and the West. The United States very well knows the cost of going to war with its allies against Russia, because it also has the responsibility of guarding China in the Pacific.

Europe’s dependence on Russia for gas should also be a lesson to the West.

As four-way talks between Russia, Ukraine, Europe and the US near, the best thing the parties should remember is there is no easy way out of the current crisis, especially if the conflict on the ground escalates into a shooting war.

The US and Europe must come to the table with a firmer resolve to impose more economic sanctions on Russia, and must this early seek alternative sources of power or gas.

Clearly, Russia’s involvement in the events at Ukraine and Crimea cannot be justified in any way, and its stationing of troops and war equipment along the border of Ukraine clearly shows that it has interests of putting part of that country back into its territory. In the first place, Ukraine never threatened to make military incursions into Russia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can also lead to its long-term isolation from the world, and the possible collapse of its economy. Russia, with its vast resources and heavy industries, still has the potential to become an economic power if it plays its cards well, and its escalating the conflict in Ukraine could turn out to be its biggest error in the 21st century.

Surely, there is no ducking the current crisis in Ukraine, and the Europe and US should realize that before the four-way talks start before the end of this month. In the meantime, Russia must stop dreaming about re-establishing the splintered Soviet Union.

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