Putin continues to proceed with the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Russian forces control 11 border guard posts across the Crimea.
Putin declared a week ago that Russia had the right to protect Russian citizens and Russia’s parliament cleared the way to make a Crimean takeover easier.
Secretary of State John Kerry continues with his rhetoric, telling Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Russia should exercise restraint.
“He made clear that continued military escalation and provocation in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine, along with steps to annex Crimea to Russia, would close any available space for diplomacy, and he urged utmost restraint,” a U.S. official said.
Meanwhile U.S. President Barrack Obama called Western leaders on Saturday, including leaders in France, Italy, UK and the Baltic States, Latvia,Lithuania and Estonia assuring them that the Western Alliance would be there support them. These promises are without teeth, since the use of military force has already been taken off the table. The US has deployed fighter jets to the Baltic states to shore up patrols and more have been deployed to Poland. The deployment to Poland may also have included U.S. ground troops, which the U.S. denies.
The Russian response and legal test on annexation
Russia’s war of ward intensified this weekend and the Russian Defense Ministry has threatened to stop inspections on the START treaty.
“The unfounded threats towards Russia from the United States and NATO over its policy on Ukraine are seen by us as an unfriendly gesture,” the ministry said in a statement distributed to Russian news agencies.
The statement argues that the Western response has created circumstances, which gives Russia the right to pull out of the inspections under the START treaty and a separate arrangement with the OSCE. Russia continues to argue that it is on solid legal grounds, when it seeks to Protect Russian living in the Crimea.
A BBC analysis reports on an analysis by Professor of International Law Marc Weller at Cambridge University, who examined the legal issues raised by Russia’s invasion of the Crimea. The region became part of the Soviet Ukraine in 1954 and remained part of the Ukraine in 1991, after the Soviet collapse.
Russia has clearly and unambiguously recognised Ukraine and its present borders. This was confirmed in:
The Alma Ata Declaration of December 1991, which consigned the Soviet Union to history,
The Budapest memorandum of 1994, offering security guarantees to Ukraine in exchange for removing nuclear weapons from its territory
The 1997 agreement on the stationing of the Black Sea fleet in Crimean ports.
Weller argues that the 1997 agreement was extended for 25 years and includes stationing of a large Russian force to support the infrastructure, however needs consent by the Ukraine for major troop movements and cannot be done unilaterally. The agreement was violated by Russia when it unilaterally increased its forces, stationed them outside the agreed bases and took over strategic military bases on the Peninsula.
Russia on the other hand does not recognize the interim government in Kiev and likened the overthrow of Yanukovich to a coup. The U.S. has also been accused of meddling.
Stupidity or a misstep could escalate this situation to the point where it gets out of control. Both sides claim the high ground and quite frankly Western powers are not united on this. While they proclaim a strong alliance, reality shows that they are not together on the sanctions.