In an address to the German Parliament (Bundestag) Merkel strong condemned Russia’s action in the ongoing Crimean crisis. Merkel said that Western nations were working on political and diplomatic path of of the crisis, which include a channel for talks between Kiev and Moscow. She made clear that any question of Crimea breaking away from the Ukraine was off the table.
“Let me be absolutely clear so that there is no misunderstanding, the territorial integrity of Ukraine is not up for discussion,”
Merkel warned Putin that Russia is taking an enormous risk if it does not enter into negotiations that achieve results to resolve the situation in the Ukraine. She said that if Russia does not work toward deescalating the crisis, the 28 EU nations, the United States and other trans-atlantic partners would soon introduce sanctions that would hit Russia economically. While she explicitly ruled out military action, Merkel said Russia’s deployment of troops to Crimea “was a breach of international law.”
“The territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be called into question,” Merkel told lawmakers, three days ahead of a referendum that is to be held in Ukraine’s Crimea on joining Russia.
The German chancellor also said Europe was ready to stand by former Soviet republic in the face of possible Russian aggression, such as Moldova or Georgia.
“In a period of enormous uncertainty in the Ukraine, Russia has not proven to be a partner for stability for neighboring countries which it has close links to but it uses their inherent weaknesses,” Merkel said.
Under the guise of helping ethnic Russians, who were being discriminated against by the interim Ukrainian government, Putin deployed thousands of troops into the Crimean Peninsula. Moscow does not acknowledge that any of these troops are Russian but has defined them as local defense forces.
With the referendum scheduled to take place on Sunday, there has been ongoing diplomacy by Western nations and yesterday both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy in Washington. Arseniy vowed that his country would not buckle under Moscow’s pressure. The United States has pledged solidarity with the Ukraine. John Kerry has agreed to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Thursday.
Although the Obama Administration has also taken military action off the table, the Pentagon has dispatched fighter jets to the Baltic States and Poland. Several Airborne Warning and Control System (AWAC) have also been deployed over Poland and Romania. These aircraft have the ability to look into Russia and observe troop movement.
Merkel’s address to the Bundestag is the strongest statement of resolve coming from the EU yet. Germany receives about 30 percent of its natural gas for electricity from Russia and many analysts opined that this would curtail European resolve.
Merkel has upped the stakes for Russia and the next move is Vladimir Putin’s. The 28 member EU will meet on Monday to discuss stronger sanctions against Russia.