As Western allies scramble for a proper response to Putin’s plans for annexation of the Crimea, the Russian president seems to have his eyes fixed for further expansion into the sovereign territory of the Ukraine.
Unconfirmed sources in the eastern Ukraine report that residents of Donetsk, Kherson & Odessa are packing and leaving for the West. the report that the situation in the eastern Ukraine are worse than reported in the western media. Russian hooligans have been inserted in those cities and taking control. The Ukraine has called up 20,000 reserves, with Russia’s military poised to launch at the East Ukraine border.
U.S. President Barrack Obama talked to Putin on the phone on Sunday, again emphasizing that the U.S. will never recognize the annexation of the Crimea. Secretary of State John Kerry again spoke with Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov. While the U.S., EU and the majority of the UN Security Council, including China declared the referendum illegal, Putin is unmoved.
On Sunday, 16 March, the Crimean Peninsula voted overwhelmingly to become independent of the Ukraine and join Mother Russia. On Monday Crimea’s parliament voted to authorize the annexation with Russia. Putin is scheduled to address the Duma (Russian parliament) on Tuesday, but there is uncertainty on how the transfer will occur.
The Wire reports that this weekend’s major developments were:
Russia and Ukraine have agreed to a military truce, which will last until March 21. Meanwhile, troops from both countries are heading toward the border between the two countries.
Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has called up 20,000 men for a new national guard to tighten the borders and stem the influx of separatists seeking to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty “under the cover of Russian troops.”
Russian citizens and children were seen casting ballots in what was characterized as a valid vote with a high turnout by Russian news sources. The referendum was assailed and boycotted by the West, pro-Ukrainian groups, and the Tatar community in Crimea.
Pro-Russia crowds mobbed a government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, igniting fears that south and east Ukraine could be the next targets to fall under Russian sway.
In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed concern about the safety of ethnic Russians in east and south Ukraine. Both the EU and American officials reiterated that they do not accept the outcome of the referendum.
Source: The Wire
The European parliament is meeting on Monday to discuss the approach and possible sanctions against Putin, but a military response has been left off the table so far.
With a military option taken off the table by the United States and the EU, the unfolding crisis will be primarily decided by two people, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
The North American main stream media has concentrated on the diplomacy of the Obama Administration with four phone calls to Putin by POTUS with negligible results. Politisite reported that Angela Merkel has given a clear warning to Putin.
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.”
Germany has the strongest trade and investment ties with Russia and gets about 35 percent of its natural gas requirements from Russia. According to Bloomberg, Germany’s annual exports amount to 38 Billion euros ($53 million), which explains Germany’s reluctance to impose sanctions on Putin. 6,000 German companies have investments in Russia and account for 300,000 jobs on the German economy.
With the Crimean referendum out of the way, it is clear that a much stronger response is required by Merkel. A stronger response requires sacrifice for Germany, but also support from the remainder of the EU and the United States.
With Merkel as the pivotal player, the German chancellor and the EU must commit to a stronger response. Merkel should make clear to Putin what collective sanctions he would face if a Russian soldier crosses into eastern Ukraine. Tougher sanctions would hit Russia’s elite and be potentially crippling to Russia’s economy.
The U.S. should move to close the energy gap for the EU by putting policies in place that would export liquified natural gas and increase oil exports to Europe.
While Europe’s resolve will be tested, that resolve be be eased with implementation of these measures by the U.S. All bets will be off if Putin decides to invade eastern Ukraine, a process that appears to be well under way.
should commit to that strong response now, in private to Putin if necessary, before the first Russian soldier has crossed into eastern Ukraine. She should make clear to him exactly what collective sanctions he would face from the EU, Russia’s biggest trading partner and the provider of an estimated 75 percent of its foreign direct investment.
Those measures should include financial sanctions that would severely hit the Russian elite (and the City of London) as well as the ability of Russian banks to process transactions, including for the export of oil and gas.
The White House on Monday announced sanctions on seven Russians following the referendum in Crimea. The announcement came as the European Union slapped sanctions on 21 officials who were believed to have been involved in Crimea’s effort to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.