- - Sunday, December 1, 2013

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to re-create a Russian sphere of influence in Ukraine, while President Obama is occupied with politics at home and in Iran. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been intimidated like Mr. Obama, and took the wrong side against eastern neighbors by proposing European Union-Russian talks about long-independent states. Congress and Mr. Obama should help Ukraine retain free markets, and the freedom and democracy of their people (“Protests continue in tense Kiev as Ukraine tilts away from West toward Moscow,” Web, Nov. 25).

Ukraine has thus far resisted many attempts by the Kremlin to bring it back under Russian control since the collapse of communism. Some Russian actions have been subversive and violent, while others have been diplomatic. Mr. Putin wants to restore control of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in order to dominate oil and gas markets. Central Asia is rich in resources, and Moscow fears Chinese and Islamist ambitions there. Mr. Putin wants the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia enslaved as a buffer against NATO and the West. Other nations in Central Europe are also in Mr. Putin’s sights for takeover, but Ukraine is the greatest prize, as it would bring back a large part of the lost Russian empire.

With Ukraine back in the fold, Russia would have the potential to become a great power whose interests the European Union would not be able to disregard. This Russian counterpart to the EU would bring back the former captive nations that are now free for integration into the Kremlin dictatorship. The Cold War would be continued as before, as now-free nations would be ruled by Mr. Putin, who would become one of Russia’s greatest czars.

The European Union also seeks Ukraine’s membership, which would put it on the road to becoming an even greater world power, able to better compete with China, Japan and America. As Ukraine is being pressured, there is frantic activity. Neither side wants to lose this prize with all its resources and strategic location on the Black Sea. The EU now offers Ukraine benefits of a trade deal, pushes the International Monetary Fund to offer $15 billion and provides gas supplies in case Russia cuts the nation off again. Russia has responded with threats, held up Ukrainian exports and warned of even more serious consequences. Some Russian threats against Ukraine have been so severe that even Mr. Putin’s natural allies in the country are looking west.

Mr. Obama and the White House should help Ukraine avoid Russian-captive status by aiding it in joining the European Union.

LT. COL. DOMINIK NARGELE
U.S. Marines (Retired)
Arlington