Why the Ukraine crisis matters

As we continue our daily routine at Santa Monica College, focusing on grades, exams, and parking headaches, dangerous storm clouds are now gathering far away in Eastern Europe.

What happens all over the world should matter to the average student because it affects all of us in one way or another. We have a large community of veterans on this campus who fought in an Iraq War launched from Washington, D.C. and now Emperor Obama and his majesty the Russian Tsar, Vladimir Putin, could be driving the world towards an even greater catastrophe.

It is tragically fitting that this year marks 100 years since the start of World War I in August 1914. Now once again the world's egomaniac rulers are close to starting a major war over territory and influence.

The Ukrainian uprising that began in November and culminated in the overthrow of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych because he favored closer ties to Moscow over an economic union with the European Union (plus rampant corruption and other economic woes), has morphed into a dangerous beast threatening the stability of Europe and the world.

The new Ukrainian government, backed by the United States and its allies, is composed of weak-kneed bureaucrats as well as thugs like Dmitry Yarosh, leader of the fascist party Right Sector which was responsible for much of the extreme violence during the protests.

According to the Russia Today, a proposal was submitted to the Ukrainian parliament, suggesting that Right Sector be transformed into a regular unit of the armed forces.

With no true revolutionary alternatives, violent parties with toxic ideologies are filling the void.

The Miami Herald reported that another Right Sector leader, Igor Mazur, has called for liberating Ukraine from "Jewish oligarchs." As Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky wrote when the Nazis rose to power in Germany, "capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism."

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. A deed with greater implications for us all just took place in Crimea, a region located in the eastern half of Ukraine.

Crimea is a majority Russian-speaking population that also identifies itself as ethnically Russian. Crimea used to be a part of Russia until 1954 when Soviet premiere Nikita Khruschev annexed it to Ukraine. Russia has now sent about 22,000 troops into Crimea to secure its current naval base there, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.

On Sunday Crimeans voted in a referendum where 96 percent voted in favor of joining Russia and separating from Ukraine and its new government. On Tuesday, Putin officially signed papers annexing Crimea to Russia.

Howls of protest have been heard from the White House and European Union. The new government in Kiev, the Obama administration, and the EU are refusing to recognize the vote, because votes only count when they go our way, or if you're a friendly medieval regime like Saudi Arabia, that's fine too.

Our blowhard Secretary of State John Kerry now threatens Russia on a daily basis. Like warlords storming heaven to the sounds of Wagner's "Ride Of The Valkyries", President Obama, denied the chance to bomb Syria, and other leaders such as Germany's Angela Merkel are now threatening Russia with sanctions and other economic punishments.

On Tuesday morning reports trickled in of a Ukrainian soldier being shot dead possibly by Russian troops in the port city of Simferopol in Crimea. Ukraine's new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk stated according to The Guardian "the conflict had moved from the political to the military stage."

Professor and scholar of Russian studies at New York University, Stephen Cohen appeared on CNN last week claiming the crisis is the "most serious we have faced since the Cuban Missile Crisis."

It boils down to this: The U.S. and its "allies" (they have no choice when Caesar calls) support the new Ukrainian government, even if it has a few deranged fascists. Russia is determined to secure Crimea as a buffer zone between itself and the new regime in Ukraine and in essence a closer U.S. presence near its borders.

It's not about good guys vs. bad guys, it's about two big powers fighting over their zones of influence with Ukraine's beleaguered masses caught in the middle.

So why should we care? As students we have enough problems finding parking on this campus and trying to get accepted into universities with four letter abbreviations.

Consider the following: If economic sanctions against Russia don't work (and they won't, Russia is too much of an economic player on the world stage and supplies Europe with most of its natural gas supply), there will be two options: Let Crimea join Russia, or war.

The stakes are incredibly high. Imagine if Ukraine's new rulers get trigger happy and decide to fire on those Russian soldiers in Crimea and the Russian bear decides to go all the way into Ukraine.

What if the U.S. decides it needs to jump in and then total war spreads over Europe? Third World War anyone?

Still not convinced? OK, let's say there is no war...yet, and Russia fights back against U.S. sanctions with it's oil/gas sanctions against the West. Get ready to pay $20 for each gallon of gas next time you go out clubbing.

Paying attention yet?