Referendum in Crimea

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Crimea Approves a Secession Vote as Tensions Rise,” describes what European and American officials say is one more line crossed by Russia and its occupying force in Crimea. The holding of a referendum represents an unconstitutional step without approval by all of Ukraine. Regions can not just decide to become independent of their own accord.

Due to be held on March 16, the referendum will without doubt be held to authorize the presence of Russian troops. Meanwhile, pro-Russian supporters in provinces of Eastern Ukraine are starting to hold their own demonstrations in favor of a Russian incursion there, and it may not be long before Russian troops occupy these areas as well.

President Obama held another hour long conversation with Vladimir Putin, but he might as well be talking to Republicans in the House for all the progress he is making. The Russians will do whatever is in their own self-interest regardless of the pleas of others.

Limited sanctions have already been imposed, and the European Union seems to be a little less recalcitrant these days. The seizure of Russian assets is not far down the line, especially if events unfold in the way that seems most likely: with a Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine as well as Crimea.

H.I.V. Breakthrough

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Early Treatment Found to Clear H.I.V. in 2nd Baby,” describes a breakthrough and possible cure for babies born with H.I.V. passed down by their mothers.

The treatment involves aggressive use of anti-AIDS drugs within 30 hours of birth. The recent case represents the second time this course of action has, in effect, cured the disease.

The first time involves a child who is now three years old and AIDS free while in the current case the child is now nine months old.

Other H.I.V. breakthroughs have been in the news lately including a genetic way to protect white blood cells from the ravages of the disease. More trials will, of course, be necessary.

More than 250,000 babies are born with H.I.V. every year, so the idea of treating them within 30 hours could save many lives. Before the cure is widely disseminated, a trial with 60 babies has been arranged. And it is important to know whether the H.I.V. is completely cured or just in remission.

This can be accomplished by removing the “baby” from the drugs, a course of action that would be unethical. However, if the child is two years old and still exhibiting no sign of infection, the doctor would consider stopping the drugs to determine whether the cure is total.

Putin’s Side of the Story

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Putin, Flashing Disdain, Defends Action in Crimea,” describes Putin’s reaction to the wave of condemnation after Russian troops crossed the border and occupied Crimea.

The Crimean peninsula is important for Russia because it provides the country with its only warm water port, and the invasion could have been expected on this basis alone. It is important to note that Russia hasn’t expanded its attack into eastern Ukraine, something many commentators expected.

According to Putin, the previous government in Kiev was overthrown in an unconstitutional revolt, and he is correct in this statement. What he doesn’t mention is Russia’s complicit role in these events because the protests only started after the previous President, Viktor Yanukovych, accepted a $15 billion loan from Russia instead of integrating more closely with the European Union.

However, no matter the provocation on both sides, the grievances do not justify the unvarnished use of force to affect the situation without any support from any other body except the Russian Parliament. Russia should withdraw its extra troops from Crimea, perhaps leaving a contingent to defend its Black Sea military base, with the assurance that it will receive some kind of alliance from the pro-Western government in Kiev and will continue to play a role as an ally of that nation.