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Byrne Comments on Ukraine Situation

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

According to Ukrainian government officials up to 16,000 Russian Federation soldiers have crossed by land, sea, and air into Ukrainian territory seizing control of the Crimea.  U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R) from Montrose has released a written statement on the situation in Ukraine.

Congressman Byrne said: “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation whose people have demonstrated a strong desire to align with the West.   The Ukrainian prime minister says his country is on the brink of disaster as Russian military forces rapidly increase their control over the Crimean region. This is a totally unprovoked act of naked aggression, clearly in violation of international law.”

Rep. Byrne said, “It is no coincidence that Russia took this action in the same week that the U.S. Secretary of Defense announced a reduction of U.S. armed forces to the lowest level since before World War II, undercutting the Navy’s plans to build a new fleet by cutting back on the production of the Littoral Combat Ships.   Vladimir Putin, the international bully and Russian dictator, saw this announcement as a sign of our weakened resolve, and decided to take advantage. This could not be a clearer demonstration that when we project weakness on the international stage, the enemies of freedom and international cooperation will act in their own interests, with potentially catastrophic results.”

Rep. Byrne said, “The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of our armed forces.  I call on him to take decisive action.  So far, the President has projected weakness and timidity by dithering away while Russia asserts its control on the ground. The President must demonstrate strong leadership by rescinding the announcement this week that he will weaken our national defense. We should show our strength as a nation by appropriately investing in our military based on the strategic needs of our combatant commanders and military leaders in the field.”

Ukraine has two major ethnicities: Ukrainian and Russian that speak different languages.  The Ukrainian government had applied to enter into the European Union.  The ethnic Russian minority opposed this move and won recent elections that gave them control of the government.  Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich promptly ended plans to join the EU and instead proposed that the government of Ukraine strengthen its ties to the Russian Federation.

Ethnic Ukrainians objected to this change in policy and took to the streets in the capital city of Kiev in November to demand the ouster of Yanukovich.  Those protests became increasingly violent.  After dozens of people were killed and his chief of staff, Andriy Klyuyev, was wounded by gunfire in an ambush, Yanukovich fled the country for Russia on February 22nd.

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A thousand years ago, Kiev was the capital of feudal Russia.  In the thirteenth century the whole area was conquered by the Mongols.  The Russian principality of Moscow eventually got autonomy and then independence from Mongol domination and began growing.  Since then the Ukraine has changed hands between the Russian Empire, the Mongols/Tartars, and the Islamic Ottoman Empire with periods of Ukrainian independence or autonomy. Eventually the area was absorbed into the Russian Empire.  When the Communist Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian Empire during World War I, Ukraine was forced to become a Republic in the Russian dominated Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR).  When Karl Marx’s failed economic and government theories proved hopelessly inadequate for the real world, the USSR collapsed and Ukraine suddenly became a separate country in the 1990s.

The cash starved Ukrainian government surrendered a vast nuclear arsenal it inherited from the USSR in exchange for promises that the U.S. and Great Britain would protect its borders.  The Ukraine has since radically downsized its military.  Ukraine has an estimated 135,000 troops but they are underpaid, poorly equipped, and poorly trained.  It is not known how many Ukrainian troops are actually loyal to the Ukrainian state.  A Russian admiral today called on two Ukrainian ships to surrender.  As part of the treaty dividing the military assets to the two former Soviet Republics, Russia retained naval bases in the Crimea…..bases that made the Russian occupation of the Crimea relatively easy.  Russia denies that this is an invasion of the Crimea, citing a post-Cold War treaty giving it the right to base up to 25,000 troops in the Crimea.

Since entering office, Russian President Vladimir Putin (a former KGB operative) has sought to revive many of the old Russian Imperial traditions and grow Russia’s sphere of influence.

Russia presented a letter to the United Nations today from President Yanukovich (who is in Russian custody) asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops to his country to restore order.  The Ukrainian Government insists that it has lawfully removed Yanukovich by a vote of Parliament and he no longer represents Ukraine, but Russia insists that he is still the President and that they are acting to protect the human rights of the Russian minority…..a charge that the acting Ukrainian Government strongly denies.

Interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has accused Moscow of declaring war.  Yatsenyuk said, “Nobody will give Crimea away. … There are no grounds for the use of force against civilians and Ukrainians, and for the entry of the Russian military contingent,” he said. “Russia never had any grounds and never will.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s first Congressional District.


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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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