Responding to the Crisis of Crimea and Ukraine

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In the past two months, the Crimea and Ukraine crisis has grown. Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian militia are engaged in a back and forth standoff in eastern Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened that the conflict “essentially puts the nation on the brink of civil war.” The United States has been at the forefront of building international support for Ukraine, and the Obama administration continues to assemble Western support. However, efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement, or at least to reduce immediate tensions, are still in progress.

As the Obama administration prepares its next steps in response to Russia in Ukraine, it can examine lessons from two other administrations in times of crisis. First, the Reagan administration’s reaction in 1983 to the Soviet downing of a civilian Korean airliner and its response to the terrorist attack against U.S. Marines on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Second, the Clinton administration’s initiative to proactively expand and deepen partnerships in Europe during the 1990s through its Partnership for Peace.

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