Pressure tactics upped on Russia

Published: March 3, 2014 - 17:37

Russia’s ‘invasion’ of the Ukrainian province Crimea has thrown the West into a tizzy as they rush to contain the damage
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

Russian President Vladimir Putin is defiant. Not one to cow down to the self-righteous criticism by European leadership and the western media over his tough handling of the bizarre happenings in Ukraine, which saw a democratically-elected Prime Minister Yankovych being made to flee his country to seek asylum in Russia. Former KGB man Putin has put the Western powers in a precarious position after he decided to send in troops to take over Crimea post a pro-West coup in Kiev. The bloodless takeover of Crimea had the analysts calling it the “worst crisis for Obama”. But what needs to be seen is: who will blink first? And if they don’t, then there could be a bloody scrap waiting to be beamed on television screens all over the world. 

It is the second time that Putin has trumped the West. Recently, he had earned massive support from anti-US-Arab street, after he brokered a deal on the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons arsenal, upsetting the calculations of the hawks in Washington and elsewhere who were advocating a military intervention.  

Last week, after a 90 minute telephonic conversation with Putin, American President Obama could not convince him to withdraw the 6,000 Russian troops stationed in Crimea, the largely autonomous Eastern Ukrainian peninsula. Obama’s assertion that “continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community,” and that “there will be costs to invading Crimea” too has fallen on deaf ears in Kremlin. Reportedly, Putin has clearly told the US President that Russian troops will continue to stay and protect the rights of the fellow Russians in Ukraine till the time US and Europe don’t sanitise Kiev of what he calls the “fascist gangs,” perhaps a reference to the Far Right groups like Svoboda, Pravyi Sektor and so on, who initiated a violent confrontation with the authorities.

Experts suggest that the situation has the potential to snowball into a full scale conflict if aggressive diplomacy fails. The US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to fly to Kiev tomorrow for talks with the Ukrainian government, which is actively seeking international support against the Russian aggression. On Sunday, Kerry also suggested that “all options were on the table” and the US may take the sanctions route to pressurize the Russians. Other allies, including the British, too, echoed a similar tough stance.

However, Putin doesn’t appear to be too keen on giving up his interests in the Black Sea, home to its only warm water naval base in Sevastopol. He has, meanwhile, accepted the German offer for allowing a fact-finding mission.

Putin enjoys enormous support within his own country for the tough stand he has taken on Ukraine. Even in other parts of the world, people believe that the United States has actively meddled in Ukraine’s affairs. The phone interception of US Secretary of State, Viktoria Nuland, with the US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt clearly indicates that they were trying to put a regime together. There are also pictures of the busy Ms. Nuland distributing cakes at the Kiev's Maidan to Ukrainian police. Nowhere else in the world would have any sovereign country allowed this kind of meddling, but clearly Prime Minister Yankoyvich had lost control over his country after the violence unleashed by neo-Nazis and other right-wingers. 

This is a grim face-off that will not find easy answers. However, the process to punish Russia for its “invasive” tactics has already begun. A joint statement from the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the President of the European Council and President of the European Commission, claims that Russia’s actions in Ukraine contravene the principles and values on which the G-7 and the G-8 operate. “As such, we have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G8 is able to have meaningful discussion,” said the statement, which came out on March 3 in Washington. 

Russia’s ‘invasion’ of the Ukrainian province Crimea has thrown the West into a tizzy as they rush to contain the damage 
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

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