Dealing with Putin and Kim: action versus sanction

According to The Economist, Russian President Vladimir Putin is striving to make his country more aggressive on the world stage, oppressing other countries so they become subject to his post-Soviet principles. This is what he seems to be aiming to achieve recently in the Ukraine. Upon reaching its independence after Soviet rule, Ukraine had every reason to succeed, mostly due to its geographically strategic position on the Black Sea and, later, its democratic Orange Revolution. However, after Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s now-impeached former president, came into power, things took a turn for the worse, making the country appear to regress 50 years. His rule over Ukraine has been compared to Stalin’s rule over the Soviet Union almost 80 years ago. In the last months Ukrainian streets were filled with violence as the the government fought against and even killed its own people, similar to when Stalin killed Russian citizens by sending them to the gulags.

Mirroring Mr. Yanokovych’s Stalinistic views is Kim Jung Un’s behavior. His human-rights abuses recall the horrors of last-century Germany: Kim’s actions have similarities to Hitler’s approach, such as Kim’s construction of a so-called prison (more like a concentration camp) that employs methods of torture by those who committed genocide over 70 years ago against the Jews, gypsies, and gays. Yet, according to The Economist, the world has reacted as it has for decades, turning its head and doing nothing. Even after Michael Kirby, a former Australian judge, presented the UN with a 400-page report on the different types of torture and human-rights violations occurring in North Korea, the UN chose not to act. The report is fierce: it compares the environment in North Korea with the situation in Nazi Germany, a situation the world is not keen to see repeated. When confronted with these accusations, North Korea bluntly denied them; however, there have been multiple reports stating China has chosen to aid North Korea by sending North Korean escapees back to their country for punishment.

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agree that the ideal response in these situations is to cut economic connections with Russia and North Korea in order to weaken them and make Putin and Kim feel the consequences for violating international law . However, North Korea’s most significant economic partner is China. Bafflingly, though, China is not willing to cut trade with North Korea even though, economically speaking, trade between the countries is insignificant to China. This leads to the conclusion that China supports what North Korea is doing ideologically, since it has not only helped Kim by deporting escapees back to North Korea but has also rejected the UN report.

Similarly, Russia faces isolation from the world. After Putin’s recent annexation of Crimea, countries like France, Great Britain, and the US are starting to cut trade connections with Russia, imposing economic sanctions like freezing assets, including cronies of Putin. Although no military action has been taken yet, threats of action have been put on the table as the world’s four other nuclear powers besides Russia await Putin’s next move. Yet, while the world holds its breath, the overriding response remains inaction. Whether it is Russian aggression or North Korean oppression, the world largely stands aside and remains silent.