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March 4, 2014

Danger from Crimea, professor warns

SALEM — Russia’s actions in the Ukraine represent a real and present danger to the United States and the world, and few Americans seem to be aware of it, Salem State University professor Kanishkan Sathasivam said.

Urging a vigorous response to the Russian government’s infiltration of Crimea, Sathasivam, 46, advocates military action should President Vladimir Putin push farther into western Ukraine. Without such a response, the guarantees for nervous NATO countries, such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania, will be seen as hollow, he said.

“And what does that do to U.S. standing in the world?” he asked.

Born in Sri Lanka, Sathasivam came to the United States as a youth and has lived here 30 years, becoming a citizen. Originally, he studied aeronautics but switched disciplines, eventually achieving a doctorate in political science from Texas A & M. He’s taught at Salem State for more than a decade. And while he’s been heartened by the interest his students have shown in the current crisis, he sees little of that reflected either in the news media or in the general public.

That’s a worry, because the actions of the Putin government have grim, far-reaching implications, Sathasivam said.

While some might note that the people of Crimea are largely Russians anyway, Sathasivam said that letting Putin’s actions stand has international implications beyond the Ukraine. It’s a concept called “irredentism,” he said, in which countries push to incorporate lands beyond their borders because the people there speak a common language.

He notes that the Russian and Ukrainian languages are 90 percent alike, and Ukrainian speakers almost always speak both languages.

It was the pretext for Hitler’s 1938 annexation of the Sudetenland, a portion of what was then Czechoslovakia. Western power acquiesced in the takeover at the infamous Munich conference.

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