Today, warning shots were fired as an international team of military observers tried to enter the region, but was turned back.

Crimea is becoming a larger problem as every day goes by, with the West trying to keep Putin’s intentions suppressed, and with Putin trying to take back as much territory as he can. And Crimea is the first of his targets.

Putin acted on the pretence that the Russians in Crimea were under threat by the newly appointed parliament in Ukraine. Saying that they were fascists and that the Russian-speaking population was in danger. People cannot help but be reminded that Hitler used the same technique to seize control of the Sunderland and Austria in the 1930’s. Crimea welcomed this act with open arms, as pro-Soviet chants broke out throughout Crimea as they were now under Russian military control.

Throughout eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin had been quick to play some propaganda tricks, broadcasting the intents of the new Ukrainian government, playing on the ethnic and historical divides of Russians and Ukrainians, all part of Putin’s tactically planned out chess game.

Crimea is more than just a tiny region donated to the Ukrainians by Russians in 1954, which only truly became a part of Ukraine after the Soviet demise in 1991. It plays an important role to Russia for many reasons.

Firstly, Crimea is very important, military-wise. There are military bases and factories located on the peninsula and Russia can’t afford for that to get into the West’s control, obviously. But that wouldn’t be the worst of their problems. If Russia loses control of Crimea, it would allow the EU to border Russia, from more than three countries, which is exactly what Russia doesn’t want. So Putin made it clear that the revolution in Ukraine would not go unanswered.

Secondly, more than 50% of Crimea is ethnic Russian, so it would make sense that they have a divide between Ukraine and Russia. They want to hold a referendum on March 16th to decide whether Crimea should be a part of Russia or Ukraine. But the West is unwilling of that, saying it is violation of both Ukraine’s constitution and international law, although Crimea does have it’s own parliament and has had one for several years.

The Crimean parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday. With that, the EU held an emergency meeting to come up with alternatives for the crisis. The Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said that the region was and will remain an integral part of the nation. Tensions continue to rise over the peninsula and that can lead to a greater conflict. Is it really a referendum when there’s a gun being held up to your head?

Putin had said that the 1994 Budapest memorandum, where Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in return for Russia’s protection, is no longer valid because of Ukraine’s overthrown government. Yet another boundary that Putin crosses, and there has been nothing done to stop his actions.

This will surely not be the end of Putin protecting Russians in foreign countries, and although he said a war in Ukraine would be unnecessary, if he chose to invade eastern Ukraine, the move would be entirely legitimate.

The West cannot give up Crimea that easily though, because once you allow a man to steal once and get away with it, what will stop him the next time. This is a very fragile situation for the West, for if they mishandle it, Crimea will be but the stepping stone for larger conflicts.

(Image credit MATEUS_27:24&25, Flickr) licensed under CreativeCommons