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Omar’s Oration: West must counteract Russian aggression

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Vladimir Putin does not care what the West thinks. All post-Cold War truces seem to be more or less off the table. Since the Winter Olympics ended, Putin, rarely agreeable to begin with, has intensified his hostile behavior by further separating himself from the United States and the European Union. By invading Ukraine, Putin made a shrewd political move, the impact of which will be felt far beyond Eastern Europe. As other leaders are falling flat, Putin is storming ahead.

In the buildup to the Olympics, Russia instituted a strict anti-gay policy. The timing of the bill was surprising — why introduce such controversial legislation right before an international event intended to paint Russia in a positive light? Putin’s reasoning is clear: to underline his “I don’t care what others think” agenda and, in doing so, re-establish Russia as a dominant world power. If Putin held any regard for the opinions of participating countries, he would have revoked the discriminatory law. By choosing to stand firm, however, he frustrated established powers that had no choice but to remain largely neutral in light of the upcoming Olympics.

Ukraine is in turmoil. Its foreign reserves are running low, its former president is in hiding, and Independence Square no longer resembles its former state. Yet, Ukraine matters — it is Putin’s last remaining hope in developing his dream of a Eurasian Union. Military intervention is necessary if the United States plans to prevent Russia from gaining this degree of international dominance.

Putin’s hostility toward the West has rendered any political and economic alliance impossible. The United States needs to drive out Russian influence in Ukraine to keep the country afloat. If Ukraine joins the European Union, Russia will become a nation independent of Western allies. Although this scenario runs the risk of resembling the Cold War era, Putin needs to feel pushback now so that he becomes tangibly aware that he is not the only president capable of playing offense.

Putin is on a campaign for unadulterated power. Display after display of his bravado have yielded subdued international response, proving that his Machiavellian efforts are succeeding. All the while, Russia continues to be a global player. Discounting Putin’s capacity for harm is a mistake — as it has before, one man’s hubris can bring down a nation. At this point, diplomacy is an insufficient means by which to bring Putin to his end.

Omar Etman is a deputy opinion editor. Omar’s Oration is published every Tuesday. Email him at [email protected]

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