For months, Russian president Vladimir Putin has been able to have his way with the Ukraine and for months, much of the western world has turned a blind-eye, or seemed indifferent to his actions.
For months, threatening words by US president Barack Obama have fallen on deaf ears in Russia. Putin was playing his cards and called ‘bluff’, knowing full well that Obama has a solid history of making empty threats.
So, for months, Putin, under the guise of Russian separatists, has pushed further into the Ukraine, beginning late last year when Kiev announced it was suspending trade and association talks with the European Union and rekindling economic ties with Moscow.
The move went almost unnoticed by the west. The ensuing protests and riots attracted a few news cameras, but still no sanctions or action by the western governments.
In December, Putin “bought” $15 billion of Ukrainian debt, but it wasn’t until the following month that the EU and United States started threatening sanctions.
The threats held no weight and in February, Russian troops invaded the Crimean peninsula. It would take Putin until April to admit they were even Russian troops. However, both houses in the Russian legislature voted on March 1 to allow Putin the right to use Russian troops in Crimea.
On March 13, Canada contributed $220 million to a Ukraine bailout, and four days later, imposed sanctions against Russian business leaders. Harper was the first G7 leader to visit Kiev on March 22.
Even the NATO suspension on April 1 did not deter Putin.
Despite numerous sanctions at various levels from Canada, the United States, European Union, and a host of other countries, there has been no stopping Putin and his separatists.
While, they want it to appear the rebels are operating as an entity all their own, there is clear influence from Putin, who is pulling all the strings.
Last Thursday, striking down of a civilian airliner should be a wake-up call to not only Putin, but to the western leaders as well. How many slaps on the wrist is he going to be allotted and how many innocent people have to perish before something concrete is done to stop him?
On Sunday, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Putin to end Russian support of the rebels in Ukraine in an op-ed in the Sunday Times.
“If this is the case we must be clear what it means” this is a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias, and training and arming them,” he wrote.
The time for threatening words and further sanctions are over. Let the monitors and forensic teams to the crash site to start their investigation. Let the 298 victims go home so their loved ones can lay them to rest. Hand over the black boxes…intact and with manipulation, so there can be some answers to what happened. (On Sunday, it was announced that the black boxes would be handed over to the International Civil Aviation Organization, but it was not made known when that would be taking place.)
There has already been evidence of the pro-Russian rebels interfering with the crash site, so it is quite likely that if they can alter the information on the black boxes, they will do it prior to giving them to the investigators.
Cameron was correct in his op-ed that that Europe must now “respond robustly”.
“We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action,” he wrote.
And so should the rest of the democratic world.
Obama, on the other hand needs to stop it with his passive-aggressive approach to foreign policy, grab a backbone, and stand up to Putin, along with the rest of western leaders.