Oil the underlying factor in Russia’s land grab

By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist, Sophomore

The Ukrainian Revolution, the Russian invasion of Crimea and diplomatic relations between the United States and the rest of the world all have a common theme – oil.

It’s a consensus among politicians and the media that there’s an international crisis in Eastern Europe, and our nation’s leaders decided to go on spring break this past weekend. President Barrack Obama spent his time in the Florida Keys and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to the Virgin Islands with his wife. While I by no means think that the most important positions in our American democracy don’t deserve a day off (because they do have the most stressful jobs in the world), their words and actions have great influence on this matter.

On March 1, President Obama made a phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin pleading him not to invade Ukraine and use diplomacy – a tactic Putin suggested Obama do during talks over the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria. Obviously, Obama couldn’t persuade Putin. Since gaining “de facto control” of the Crimean Peninsula, the Ukrainian citizens living in the region will be voting Sunday, March 16, on whether they will want to join the Russian Federation or declare allegiance to the new Ukrainian government. There is no doubt it is a tough choice for not only Ukrainians, but other nations as well.

As I mentioned in my column back in January, this is left-over Cold War economics playing out, which is why our nation’s leaders need to be engaged in the dialogue. The new Ukrainian leaders such as interim President Olexander Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk are both members of the Batkivshchyna, also known as the All-Ukrainian Union “Father Land” party, who advocate for Ukrainian membership of the European Union, a higher standard of living for the people, and to eliminate corruption in politics and economics. Sounds good, right?

Nevertheless, the media recently has supported anything that isn’t “Soviet.” The Russians have been portrayed as authoritarian, ruthless, and communist as they were before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This is probably because the Russian Federation representative to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, announced to the world, “Moscow does not recognize the legitimacy of the current Ukrainian power,” and officially ended all diplomatic relations with them. With an expected 2 million Crimean residents to vote for the annexation of the region, Crimea could quite possibly be a part of Russia by the end of the month.

I don’t believe there is any good reason for the United States or NATO to intervene in Crimea because it sounds like things are under control, despite Russia being accused for attempting to rule with an “iron fist.” However, I see Russian leaders making very selfish decisions. It started with them ending talks with the new Ukrainian leaders showing Russia doesn’t care about the future of their nation, but they should. Ukrainian citizens who are “pro-Russia” see their country heading into default as there are real no solutions to pay off their $16 billion worth of debt.

Oil, as I said before, is the underlying factor behind the Russian invasion of Crimea, and why the US and several European nations are reluctant to intervene. The peninsula is critical to the Russian economy, as it supplys the E.U. one third of its energy, with Germany being the biggest buyer.

This affects the United States as well, who purchases 5 percent of its oil from Russia. So what, gas prices here in America will only rise for a short time if things don’t go smoothly, right? I ask that you look at the big picture.

The crisis in Ukraine does affect us, and only because of one reason, our dependency on foreign oil to fuel our way of life. As the Russians fight for the security of their own economy, it brings up the elephant in the room, which is that we will probably be fighting for oil security in the very near future.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimates that by 2050, the estimated 1.3 trillion barrels that remain on Earth will be gone. Of what’s left, two-thirds are in reserves in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iran.

President Obama and the leaders of our country now have an opportunity to discuss the oil situation in the midst of a revolution in a former Soviet Union-controlled country, and need to be the voice of the American people. We need their leadership now and I hope and pray that they will make wise decisions in their international dialogues.