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Repeated History? Another Assassination Could Lead To A Global, Military Showdown

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Russian President Vladimir Putin launched accusations Wednesday that Ukraine allegedly organized a terrorist attack in Russian-occupied Crimea over the weekend, which could signal a major escalation between the U.S and Russia.

Russia’ state security service claims the Ukrainian government sponsored an attack that killed a Russian federal agent. Putin further hinted he would likely pull out of scheduled September talks between France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine. After the attack, Putin called the talks “pointless” and added that Russia “cannot pass this by.” Ukraine’s government has denied any incursion into Crimea and dismissed Putin’s claims.

Meanwhile, independent reports indicate Russia is massing large forces on the Ukrainian-Crimean border. Crimean Tartar activists are reporting large amounts of Russian heavy weaponry moving through Crimea toward Ukrainian. Reports also indicate Russia is harboring a Nanuchka-class missile ship in Crimea. The Russian Ministry of Defense portrays the mobilization as a routine troop rotation, but independent reports dispute that interpretation.

Putin has a history of using the Olympics to launch aggressive attacks. Putin invaded neighboring Georgia in 2008 and permanently occupied nearly a third of the country. Preceding the invasion, Putin employed similar accusations and followed by massing his forces on the Georgian border.

The Ukrainian military has noticed Putin’s machinations and is deploying forces to the Crimean border. Amid this period of heightened tensions, Ukraine has a seen a prolonged increase in Russian separatist fighting in the disputed eastern Ukrainian states, and suffered historic casualties in July. Ukraine’s government says 57% of its casualties were caused by weapons banned under an agreement between Ukraine and Russia.

An eruption of full-scale war between Ukraine and Russia could trigger a showdown between the West and Russia. Other than its illegal annexation of Crimea, Russia has guised its invasion of Ukraine by sending troops with no identifying uniform insignia, so called “little green men,” to fight against the Ukrainian government.

President Obama has acknowledged Russia’s aggression, but has been unwilling to ship heavy weaponry to the Ukrainian military. An overt Russian invasion of Ukraine, especially under dubious pretenses, could mark a change in western policy toward Ukraine. If the West decides to heavily arm the Ukrainian military, it would mark the most direct confrontation with Russia since the end of WW2.

Obama’s critics argue that by not arming Ukraine, the U.S. has shown little commitment to a friendly government under Putin’s direct assault. NATO’s Baltic states have been especially of Obama’s inaction in Ukraine, fearing the lack of U.S. response puts them in danger of their own Russian invasion.

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