There is obviously much outrage about the Russian occupation of Crimea, a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine. There has been widespread condemnation among western nations for Russia's "invasion."
However, the United States has a credibility problem when it seeks to condemn the Russian invasion, as the U.S. has been no stranger to invading foreign nations which are further away and less of a national security interest than Ukraine is to Russia. So when the U.S. attempts to appeal to moral authority, it finds that little to none actually exists. Russia is essentially practicing their version of the Monroe Doctrine.
None of the above means I condone Russia's specific actions. I want the people of Ukraine to decide their fate. More on that below.
Like dozens of other European conflicts past and present, the Ukrainian one lies in recklessly drawn boundary lines. One side is pro-western culture and pro-EU. The other side is pro-Russia and pro-Orthodox. And, predictably, it is divided in terms of east and west.
This graphic provides a good breakdown:
And this one shows why Crimea was taken without a shot:
The solution to the Ukrainian crisis is partition. The United States should not attempt economically harmful sanctions which could potentially and unnecessarily draw us into another Cold War. And military action should certainly be off the table. We have no real leverage, and as I mentioned before, no solid moral authority. In lieu of those qualities, we need to claim the role of arbitrator, which would give us moral authority which could in turn be used as leverage.
I propose the U.S. negotiate a deal with Russia which would allow free elections in each Ukrainian region. Each region could decide whether to remain Ukrainian, become independent, or allow Russia to annex them. This would put Russia in a tough position. Their justification for invasion is the fact that Crimea has an ethnically Russian majority. I predict that Russia was grudgingly accept this compromise, since Crimea and possibly more regions would vote for annexation. At the same time, the rest of Ukraine is free to pursue membership in the European Union. Ultimately, Ukraine should determine it's own path, united or separated. It should not be a pawn in the middle of a U.S./Russia geopolitical chess match.
I agree with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, who said in this excellent column:
"Just as important should be our respect for the rule of law. Those who win elections should make the policies and laws. That's not what happened in Ukraine, where tensions between eastern and western factions boiled over and became today's bloody crisis.
... Americans should not feel compelled to determine the outcome. In the post-Cold War world, we Americans must show more patience."
And that means no knee-jerk reactions from hawks like Lindsey Graham, or empty-threats from amateurs like Obama. Instead, let's sit down and try to talk this out first, and then analyze what comes after.