All posts by denise

Obamabear Penalty

A bear, symbolizing Russia, bites into Crimea, a region of Ukraine, while U.S. President Barack Obama trims the bear’s nails with clippers labeled “sanctions.”
A bear, symbolizing Russia, bites into Crimea, a region of Ukraine, while U.S. President Barack Obama trims the bear’s nails with clippers labeled “sanctions.”

In 2014, Ukraine was a country that many Americans had not heard of- let alone could point to on a map. Buffeted through the wars and conflict of the 20th century, Ukraine had to fight for its independence while being treated as a voiceless territory by Russia and other European neighbors. Into the 21st century, Ukraine had a short-lived independence from the early 1990’s to 2014, until Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula and triggered an armed conflict over the territory that has continued into 2018. Ukraine’s internal divide between pro-Russian and nationalist regions allowed Russia to easily infiltrate the government and invade the peninsula under President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s persistent and unforgiving leader. Global powers have and continue to criticize Russia to no avail; ultimately, Ukraine has been left to fend for itself against a country with a centuries-long record of militaristic and political prowess. A 2014 article in the Christian Science Monitor, titled “Russia Advances into Ukraine, West Wonders What to Do Now,” discusses reactions to the Ukrainian crisis, yet the root of the conflict starts a century before, not 2014. In A.F. Branco’s cartoon, “Obamabear Penalty,” Russia’s aggressive actions are showcased in the form of a bear unflinching to the meager efforts of the U.S President, Barack Obama, as he clips the bear’s nails. Russia is shown tearing into Crimea, representing its self-serving purpose and apathetic regard for Ukraine’s struggles.

Ukraine had been a land made up of many ethnicities, influenced greatly by Poland and Russia before the 20th century. It’s own sense of nationalism emerged in the mid 19th century. Ukraine began to establish political parties and a stronger government, but ethnic and cultural conflicts persisted in some of its regions (Yekelchyk). Through WWI, Russia had become so involved in Ukraine that in 1917 Ukraine was absorbed into Russia as a province- Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea was of key interest to Russia (Yekelchyk). This was during Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, and as politics shifted, Ukraine tried to distance itself from Russia. Soon, both countries were claiming opposite ideas about Ukrainian independence. After a short conflict, Russia ceded Ukraine a year later, and Ukraine claimed the Crimean Peninsula as its own. Crimea had previously belonged to Russia since the 18th century (Kuzio). However, the country endured political unrest until Ukraine, along with Crimea, fell back into Russia’s hands in the 1920’s (Yekelchyk).

The Union of Soviet Social Republics(U.S.S.R.) was formed in 1922, with Ukraine as one of the four founding states, yet Russia ruled over the other members of the union with unequal power. Ukrainian resentment towards Russian mistreatment began to grow.

WWII threw Europe into extreme turmoil and Ukraine was occupied by Germany. Many of Ukraine’s Jews were exterminated. After the war Russia liberated the country, once again absorbing it and bringing back into the Soviet Union for the next five decades.

A movement for independence began to develop, and in 1991 the U.S.S.R. was disbanded because of Russian political unrest (Brown). Ukraine was now autonomous, yet not without difficulties. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Crimea began to develop a movement for pro- Russian secession, yet nothing came to fruition because of Ukrainian pressure and lack of Russian support (Kuzio). Crimea, along with other eastern regions, identified more with Russia because of an intimate history, geographic proximity and a shared language(Russian). Ukraine had a rocky independence through the 1990’s and 2000’s with many economic issues. Nevertheless, Russian relations remained friendly, especially since they were still allowed access to the Black Sea through the Crimean Peninsula (Kuzio).

In 2013, the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, was facing criticism for deciding not to sign a European Union trade deal. Russia pressured Ukraine to not get too close to the EU and to keep Russia as its main ally. This sparked some protests in the capital city of Kiev, as citizens were angry that the President was throwing away a beneficial deal. The violence began in February 2014 when protesters were attacked and killed by government snipers and police(Thompson). President Yanukovych fled to Russia, and within days Russian troops entered Crimea effortlessly; east Ukraine was sympathetic to the cause as the troops slowly began to establish checkpoints (Simpson). The government in Kiev started a campaign against pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine, with fruitless ceasefires being established only to be broken repeatedly.

Russian President Putin denied Russia’s involvement in Ukraine for many months, attempting to remain as unassuming as possible despite clear evidence of its military in Crimea. Russia was able to skirt behind the line so that its actions could not be considered a direct invasion. This left the United Nations unable to punish Russia harshly, resulting in only sanctions as a threat. Yet these sanctions did not hinder Russia, as portrayed in Branco’s cartoon.

96.7% of Crimeans voted to join Russia in a referendum, yet the ballot didn’t even have the option of remaining in Ukraine (Tamkin). Through 2015, over 1,000 people had been killed in Ukraine, and casualties continued to rise as the stalemate proceeded through the years, trapping Eastern Ukrainian citizens in a bleak war zone to this day(Tamkin).

The Christian Science Monitor article, “Russia Advances in Ukraine, West Wonders What to do Now”, explains the dilemma of the U.N. as it decided how to act when Russia first entered Crimea. The United States had denied providing armed assistance to the Ukrainians, fearing an escalation of conflict with Russia. Russia responded to criticism by blaming Ukraine for the conflict and warning Western countries not to interfere. Although President Obama had spoken of providing arms, training and equipment to Ukraine, no action was taken to realize such a plan.

This inaction on the U.N.’s part is reminiscent of the conflict over Manchuria in the early 1930’s, when Japan invaded the region and broke a global agreement of peace. A political cartoon by the Dallas Morning News’ John Knott in 1932 depicts Russia as watchful of Japan’s hold over Manchuria. At the time, the League of Nations only imposed sanctions in response to the invasion. Russia was a key player in that dispute since it had interests in Manchuria’s sea ports, much like the access to the Black Sea in Crimea. In both situations, Russia was able to avoid resistance from other powers because of its patient tactics. In Manchuria, Russia waited for Japan to be weak enough to (re)claim power in that territory. Similarly, Russia avoided military conflict by influencing rebellion within the Ukrainian population, secretly sending in troops without a grand expression of violence that would warrant heavy punishment from the United Nations.

Russia has always been an imperial, assertive force, whereas Ukraine never has been able to find peace. The back-and-forth relationship between Ukraine and Russia has stretched over the past century with peace never lasting long. Russia had always believed it had a right to Ukraine, and its divided population has made it unclear what would be best for regions such as Crimea. Perhaps the stalemate dragging on today might convince the two countries to finally come to an agreement.

Works Cited:

Branco, A F. “Branco Cartoon – ObamaBear Penalty.” Le·Gal In·Sur·Rec·Tion, Le·Gal In·Sur·Rec·Tion, 24 Mar. 2014, legalinsurrection.com/2014/03/branco-cartoon-obamabear-penalty/.

BROWN, ARCHIE. “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1608-1610. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3404101426/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=aec45a99. Accessed 1 May 2018

KUZIO, TARAS. “Crimea.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 339-340. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3404100316/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=0a98946e. Accessed 18 Apr. 2018.

LaFranchi, Howard. “Russia Advances into Ukraine, West Wonders What to Do Now.” The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 Aug. 2014, m.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2014/0828/Russia-advances-into-Ukraine-West-wonders-what-to-do-now.

Simpson, John. “Russia’s Crimea Plan Detailed, Secret and Successful.” BBC News, BBC, 19 Mar. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26644082.

Tamkin, Emily. “A Timeline of Vladimir Putin’s Excuses and Evasions Regarding Russia’s Actions in Ukraine.” Slate Magazine, The Slate Group, 5 Sept. 2014, www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/09/05/the_art_of_doublespeak_a_timeline_of_vladimir_putin_s_excuses_and_evasions.html

Thompson, Nick. “Ukraine: Everything You Need to Know about How We Got Here.” CNN, Cable News Network, 3 Feb. 2017, www.cnn.com/2015/02/10/europe/ukraine-war-how-we-got-here/index.html.

YEKELCHYK, SERHY. “Ukraine and Ukrainians.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1600-1605. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3404101422/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=77b16099. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

The Bear Craves Seawater

 

Sitting on the Eurasian continent, and armed soldier (Japan) guards territory labeled "Manchukuo" as a bear (Russia) looks on hungrily from Siberia.
Sitting on the Eurasian continent, and armed soldier (Japan) guards territory labeled “Manchukuo” as a bear (Russia) looks on hungrily from Siberia.

Japan’s invasion of Manchuria was a highly significant occurrence in the erratic, sensitive time between the first and second world wars, garnering many reactions from across the globe. Manchuria was a historically disputed region in East Asia predominantly belonging to China. However, China’s weak economic condition in the late 1800’s allowed external powers to exert spheres of influence in many regions of China. Beginning in the mid 19th century, Britain had boldly colonized Hong Kong and other Chinese islands (Kong). This prompted the U.S. to introduce the Open Door Policy as an attempt to halt further colonialist intentions in the early 1900’s. However, peace did not last as geopolitical turmoil and war plagued the following decades.

The growth of fascism in this post-WWI period pitted countries against each other, as superpowers clashed for control over weaker regions of the globe. Ultimately, it was the greed and aggression of Japanese imperialism in overtaking Manchuria in 1931 that broke the Open Door agreement among the superpowers . Relations among Russia, Japan and China fluctuated between amnesty and conflict, creating the tension that culminated into the Manchurian conflict.

Two looming figures fill the political cartoon “The Bear Craves Seawater” by John Knott, a former cartoonist for the Dallas Morning News. One is a thirsty bear labeled “Russia” eyeing a soldier, “Japan,” who guards territory labeled as “Manchukuo,” which can be can be identified as Manchuria from its geographic placement on the map. In an editorial accompanying Knott’s cartoon, “Russia Thinks of the Future,” the focus is specifically on Russia, an expanding militaristic force as Japan, and its reactions to the invasion. At the time this cartoon was published, October 1932, the world was suffering from the Great Depression, and the tension leading to World War II was beginning to thicken. However, the cartoon was specific to the relationship between Japan and Russia in this conflict over land.

Russia had a presence in Manchuria through the 1800s, and as China’s Qing dynasty declined, Russia was able to convince China, through bribery and intimidation, to allow the Chinese Eastern Railway to be built through Manchuria. This allowed Russia to exert more dominance and control in the region by ensuring access to the Pacific Ocean through their port of Vladivostok (Perrins). At that time, Russia was run by tsars, or emperors, who all prioritized expansionism for economic and nationalistic reasons. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was a pivotal turning point for Russian history; ending the age of the tsars and bringing in socialism (Millar), which eventually influenced Chinese ideologies. Over the next few years, there were close relations between the communist parties in both nations. However, in 1927 the new Chinese ruler Chiang Kai-shek, a nationalist, turned against communism and the Russians. This left their relations tattered by 1932, causing Russia to lose an ally in China.

Chinese relations with Japan were just as negative. In the late 19th century, Japan had been expanding into Korea, China’s vassal state, which led to the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894 (Perrins). Korea was colonized through Japan’s victory, an experience that caused tremendous anti-Japanese sentiment among the Koreans- a factor that the Dallas Morning News editorial points out as a disadvantage to Japan. During World War I, Japan imposed its “21 Demands” on China, which was an attempt to assert more Japanese military involvement in China with an emphasis on Manchuria (Davis). The U.S. helped ward off Japan through diplomatic pressure along with the aid of a Chinese boycott of many Japanese goods. However, after WWI was over, China was left to itself and couldn’t resist military intrusion in its weak post-war state, despite anti-Japanese sentiment. Although Japan signed the Nine-Power agreement in 1922, acknowledging China’s principal hold on Manchuria, peace did not last (Davis). The Japanese military invaded Manchuria in 1931 over a fabricated conflict and violently took hold of the region, implementing a puppet government as an “independent” state renamed “Manchukuo.” The League of Nations condemned Japan yet did not take action, and in response, Japan simply left the League. China and Japan’s relations would remain volatile, leading to the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. It wasn’t until the end of World War II that Japan relinquished control over Manchuria (Perrins).

Both Russia and Japan were proud, imperial nations with interests in Manchuria’s resources and tactical position since the 19th century. Russia had been wary of Japan throughout the late 19th century, involving itself in the outcome of the first Sino-Japanese war of 1894. Japan had to give up the Liaodong peninsula, one of its war prizes, because of pressure from Russia, Germany and France (Davis). The clashes between the two in Manchuria culminated into the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, which ended with President Theodore Roosevelt’s Treaty of Portsmouth (Dobbs). The treaty granted more privileges to Japan, as the U.S. was closer to Japan at the time before the growth of authoritarianism. The Open Door Policy allowed Japan to have such smooth access to Russia’s former property, including its precious railway. Russia did not have the means to engage Japan through the following years and first world war. By 1932, A New York Times article explained that Russia chose to focus on it’s 5 year plan on infrastructure and would not fight Japan because it knew China would not cooperate (Solkolsky). Russia also knew of China’s profound hatred and boycotting of Japan in recent years, and thus relied on that to be a hurdle for Japan.

The Dallas Morning News editorial suggests that Russia was watching Japan’s actions intently, but backed off from any violence, in order to know when it might have the chance to reassert dominance over the region; hence, the watchful bear in Knott’s cartoon. Russia decided to wait for Japan’s inevitable downfall, seeing the flaws in its arrogance and opposition from former allies. The humor from Knott’s art stems from the characterization of the countries. Both are hyperbolized as absurd huge figures the size of giants sitting on the globe. One can tell that Russia seems to have the desire to take Manchuria from Japan through the characterization of the curious bear and the alert soldier.

The editorial’s predictions of Russia’s future actions weren’t untrue. Towards the last days of World War II, Russia invaded Manchuria and pushed back Japan’s weak forces. For years, Russia continued to plunder the region until China reacquired it (Perrins). The deep-running histories between China, Russia and Japan need to be understood to comprehend how such a dangerous, territorial brawl over Manchuria could have taken place. This conflict influenced WWII greatly, with Japan’s aggression and resignation from the League of Nations contributing to the growth of fascism plaguing the globe in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The power-hunger and imperialism of Russia has also persisted to the modern day, the Bear’s teeth biting into many world affairs and upholding Russia’s reputation as a relentless force.

Works Cited:

“Russia Thinks of the Future”, The Dallas Morning News, 23 October 1932, Section 3:8

“Manchuria, Japanese Invasion of (1931).” Encyclopedia of Invasions and Conquests: From
Ancient Times to the Present, edited by Paul Davis, 2nd ed., Grey House Publishing, 2006,
pp. 372-373. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3487400201/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=40f6f0f6. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Dobbs, Charles M. “Manchuria.” America in the World, 1776 to the Present: A Supplement to the
Dictionary of American History, edited by Edward J. Blum, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2016, pp. 641-642. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3630800322/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=0fd11509. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Kong, Belinda. “Hong Kong (Britain/China).” Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, & Africa: An
Encyclopedia, vol. 3: East and Southeast Asia, SAGE Reference, 2012, pp. 288-290. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX4182600620/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d4c4bfd1. Accessed 27 Apr. 2018.

Knott, John, “The Bear Craves Sea Water”, The Dallas Morning News, 23 October 1932, Section 3:8

Millar, James R., editor. Encyclopedia of Russian History. Vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. Gale
Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/pub/5BUJ/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL. Accessed 10 Apr. 2018

Perrins, Robert John. “Manchuria.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, edited by Karen Christensen and
David Levinson, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 27-29. Gale Virtual Reference Library,http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3403701854/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=36824cf2. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Solkolsky, George E. “THE CONFLICT IN THE FAR EAST: RUSSIA’S OBJECTIVES AND
JAPAN’S: While Accepting the Situation Created in North Manchuria, the Soviets Elsewhere Press Their Plans for Wide Domination.” The New York Times, 19 June 1932, p. XX3.