The global event will once again give Russian President Vladimir Putin to showcase Russia in the middle of a global conflict. One would have thought that a boycott, including a possible move of venue to Vancouver, Calgary or Salt Lake City would have send a loud and clear message and would have humiliated Putin.
Ukraine will compete in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi despite Russia’s military moves in Crimea.
The Ukrainian Paralympic Committee decided against boycotting the games, announcing a few hours before Friday’s opening ceremony that its athletes would stay.
The decision came after discussions between Ukrainian officials and athletes over whether to pull out in light of the crisis back home and Russia’s military takeover of the Crimean peninsula.
Source: USA Today
Instead Putin is brushing President Obama’s warnings one by one. Many of the measures announced are for public consumption and Russia’s ambassador to Canada contends that the sanctions proposed by Western allies will only hurt them. He was also annoyed or suprised that no one talked to him about the Ukrainian crisis prior to receiving a dressing down last Saturday.
Instead of taking heed, President Putin is speeding up efforts to consolidate his hold on the Crimean Peninsula. A referendum will be held on 16 March, despite the West’s objection on constitutional grounds. The question is, what will be the West’s next act?
Meanwhile US Fighter jets have been deployed to the Baltic States and Poland and there are also reports that 300 US troops are in the former Soviet satellite. The US denies this. A US warship is also on its way to the Black Sea, which the US says is part of a routine rotation.
Secretary of State John Kerry, during a press availability in Rome, Italy discussed the Ukrainian crisis, reiterating the policy put in place to punish President Putin. In addition President Obama, according to White House reports, spent another hour on the phone with Putin. The question is does the former KGB head really care? Not likely.
Now, let me say a word about a subject that I know is on everybody’s mind, and that’s the question of Ukraine. Just a few moments ago, President Obama spoke in Washington and laid out the steps that he has ordered with respect to this situation at this time, which are in keeping with precisely what we said last week we would do as a consequence of the steps that Russia decided to take with respect to Crimea. As you have heard me say all week, the choices that Russia has made escalated this situation, and we believe that Russia has the opportunity now – together with the rest of us – but Russia particularly has the opportunity now to make the right choices in order to de-escalate.
The United States also has choices to make, and President Obama has been clear that we cannot allow Russia or any country to defy international law with impunity. There’s no place in the community of nations for the kind of aggression and steps that we have seen taken in Crimea in Ukraine in these last days.
So today, as we announced we would last week, we have taken specific steps, and the State Department also has taken specific steps in response to what has occurred. Starting today, at President Obama’s direction, the State Department is putting in place tough visa restrictions on a number of officials and other individuals. And the United States will not grant visas to those who threaten the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and if they already have one, it will be revoked in those individual cases.
While the referendum vote on the Crimean Peninsula may be manipulated by Russia, it will give Putin the credibility and legitimacy for Russia’s presence. President Obama’s world view leaves a lot to be desired and there is no question that he will find it difficult to discount a popular vote. While the referendum was declared a violation of international law, the fact is that the Peninsula is occupied by a majority of ethnic Russians.
While sports should generally not be used to make political points, a boycott of the Sochi paralympics seem to have been an appropriate step to make a point. Isn’t this hypocrisy of the highest order?