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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violates international law and its long-standing agreements. Russian aggression must cease, and Moscow must withdraw its military forces and cease interfering and undermining the sovereignty and domestic politics of its neighbor. Moscow’s flagrant disregard for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, in addition to its continuing support of some of the world’s most oppressive regimes, should spur a long overdue reassessment of our policy towards Russia.
To deal with the crisis in Ukraine and respond to Russia’s provocation, I have asked our House committee Chairmen to develop plans to assist the government of Ukraine, put pressure on Russia, and reassure allies throughout the world that the United States will not stand idly by in the face of such aggression. Specifically, the House will review how we can expeditiously consider assistance to Ukraine in the form of loan guarantees. I believe there is bipartisan support for such assistance, but we must make sure it is done responsibly and any legislation is not delayed by adding divisive provisions. We should be focused on moving such a package as quickly as possible.
We will also begin reviewing what authorities, similar to the Magnitsky Act, we may provide the Administration so that the President can take actions to impose sanctions on Russian officials, oligarchs, and other individuals complicit in Russia’s efforts to invade and interfere with Ukraine’s sovereign affairs. I have spoken to Administration officials to express our interest in working together to ensure that President Obama has the appropriate tools to impose real consequences on Russia for this aggression.
Thank you Madam President. Listening to the representative of Russia, one might think that Moscow had just become the rapid response arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality.
Let’s begin with a clear and candid assessment of the facts.
It is a fact that Russian military forces have taken over Ukrainian border posts. It is a fact that Russia has taken over the ferry terminal in Kerch. It is a fact that Russian ships are moving in and around Sevastapol. It is a fact that Russian forces are blocking mobile telephone services in some areas. It is a fact that Russia has surrounded or taken over practically all Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea. It is a fact that today Russian jets entered Ukrainian airspace. It is also a fact that independent journalists continue to report that there is no evidence of violence against Russian or pro-Russian communities.
Russian military action is not a human rights protection mission. It is a violation of international law and a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the independent nation of Ukraine, and a breach of Russia’s Helsinki Commitments and its UN obligations.
The central issue is whether the recent change of government in Ukraine constitutes a danger to Russia’s legitimate interests of such a nature and extent that Russia is justified in intervening militarily in Ukraine, seizing control of public facilities, and issuing military ultimatums to elements of the Ukrainian military. The answer, of course, is no. Russian military bases in Ukraine are secure. The new government in Kyiv has pledged to honor all of its existing international agreements, including those covering Russian bases. Russian mobilization is a response to an imaginary threat.
A second issue is whether the population of the Crimea or other parts of eastern Ukraine, are at risk because of the new government. There is no evidence of this. Military action cannot be justified on the basis of threats that haven’t been made and aren’t being carried out. There is no evidence, for example, that churches in Eastern Ukraine are being or will be attacked; the allegation is without basis. There is no evidence that ethnic Russians are in danger. On the contrary, the new Ukrainian government has placed a priority on internal reconciliation and political inclusivity. President Turchinov – the acting President – has made clear his opposition to any restriction on the use of the Russian tongue.
No one has to explain to Ukraine’s new government the need to have open communications, not only with leaders of the country’s Russian ethnic minority in the Crimea and elsewhere, but also with its neighbors. That is why, when the current crisis began, the government sent its former Chief of Defense to the region to try to defuse the situation. A second emissary was prevented from entering the Crimean Rada to engage in discussions. And it is why Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly reached out to Russia. Russia needs to reciprocate and begin to engage directly with the Government of Ukraine.
I note that Russia has implied a right to take military action in the Crimea if invited to do so by the prime minister of Crimea. As the Government of Russia well knows, this has no legal basis. The prohibition on the use of force would be rendered moot were sub-national authorities able to unilaterally invite military intervention by a neighboring state. Under the Ukrainian constitution, only the Ukrainian Rada can approve the presence of foreign troops.
If we are concerned about the rights of Russian-speaking minorities, the United States is prepared to work with Russia and this Council to protect them. We have proposed and wholeheartedly support the immediate deployment of international observers and monitors from the UN or OSCE to ensure that the people about whom Russia expresses such concern are protected from abuse and to elucidate for the world the facts on the ground. The solution to this crisis is not difficult to envision. There is a way out. And that is through direct and immediate dialogue by Russia with the Government of Ukraine, the immediate pull-back of Russia’s military forces, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and the urgent deployment of observers and human rights monitors, not through more threats and more distortions.
Tonight the OSCE will begin deploying monitors to Ukraine. These monitors can provide neutral and needed assessments of the situation on the ground. Their presence is urgently necessary in Crimea and in key cities in eastern Ukraine. The United States calls upon Russia to ensure that their access is not impeded.
The leadership in Moscow may well be unhappy about former President Yanukovych’s decision to flee Ukraine and move in with them. Russia may be displeased with the new government, which was approved by Ukraine’s parliament by an overwhelming majority, including members of Yanukovych’s own party. Russia has every right to wish that events in Ukraine had turned out differently, but it does not have the right to express that unhappiness by using military force or by trying to convince the world community that up is down and black is white. Russia’s calls to turn back time to implement the February 21 Agreement ring hollow. It was Yanukovych who failed to abide by the terms of that agreement, fleeing Kyiv, and ultimately Ukraine.
The United States categorically rejects the notion that the new Government of Ukraine is a “government of victors.” It is a government of the people and it is one that intends to shepherd the country toward democratic elections on May 25th – elections that would allow Ukrainians who would prefer different leadership to have their views heard. And the United States will stand strongly and proudly with the people of Ukraine as they chart out their own destiny, their own government, their own future.
The bottom line is that, for all of the self-serving rhetoric we have heard from Russian officials in recent days, there is nothing that justifies Russian conduct. As I said in our last session, Russia’s actions speak much louder than its words. What is happening today is not a human rights protection mission and it is not a consensual intervention. What is happening today is a dangerous military intervention in Ukraine. It is an act of aggression. It must stop. This is a choice for Russia. Diplomacy can serve Russia’s interests. The world is speaking out against the use of military threats and the use of force. Ukrainians must be allowed to determine their own destiny. Thank you Madam President.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: Good afternoon everybody. I’m delighted to be here at the OSCE at this high-level meeting.
ON THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE: there should be no question where the United States stands on this matter. President Obama has made very clear that we condemn in strongest terms the violations on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by forces from the Russian Federation. We reject these breaches of international law and Russia’s own obligations under international law, under the Helsinki Final Act, and with regard to its undertakings directly with the government of Ukraine. The United States strongly supports and welcomes the transitional government in Ukraine; we are committed to helping this government and the people of Ukraine restore stability, restore unity, and restore political and economic health to their country on the way to free and fair elections in May as called. As you know, Secretary Kerry will be in Ukraine tomorrow to underscore these messages and to bring concrete support from the United States.
We have made clear – President Obama has made clear to President Putin – that even as we reject and condemn the action they have taken, that there is way out of this situation. The way out of this situation is through direct dialogue with the sovereign government of Ukraine, the pull back of forces, the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to make use of the tools of international organizations like the UN, like the OSCE, to address any concerns that anyone may have with regard to the current situation in Ukraine.
I was very gratified by the session that we had, to see that so many of the tools that the OSCE has are going to be deployed in Ukraine as soon as possible. As you probably know, the HCNM is already in Ukraine, the Chair’s Representative Ambassador Guldimann will go tomorrow; today there was an announcement that the OSCE will begin deploying tonight monitors to Ukraine who can provide neutral facts, make a true assessment of the situation on the ground. We hope that these monitors will be permitted to travel to Crimea where they are needed most and also to key cities in eastern Ukraine, and begin to provide reassurance and a true honest assessment of what is going on and to provide some protection and comfort for the Ukrainian people.
Over the longer term, we believe that the OSCE should launch a full-scale monitoring mission. We hope there will be consensus for that here. There was a proposal made by Canada which the United States strongly supports. This monitoring mission can go first and foremost to Crimea to de-escalate tensions and can provide an out for the Russian Federation if it so chooses. It can pull its forces back to base and have them replaced by independent monitors from the OSCE and from the UN.
Over the longer term, this organization can also help the Ukrainian people with the other challenges that it has – first and foremost, to have free and fair elections. There was an announcement today that ODIHR will begin deploying its first team to Ukraine. The United States will strongly support all of these missions with personnel and with finances. The OSCE has also taken a decision to begin deploying police experts and others who can help with the normalization of the security situation not only on the streets in Kyiv and key cities but also in Crimea if Russia would allow that to happen.
So again, I want to stress that all of the issues that may be of concern to any nation and to the Ukrainian people, whether it is the condition of national minorities, whether it’s security and stability, whether it is the capability for free and fair elections, whether it is independent observation – all of those missions can be supported by the OSCE. That is why we are here today. We call on Russia to make the right choice: pull back your forces, deploy and support international monitors to Crimea and to eastern Ukraine and begin a real and productive dialogue with your neighbor in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian government support all of these things, and the United States stands with them in those requests.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: As you know, President Obama spoke to President Putin two days ago; Secretary Kerry will see Minister Lavrov in the coming days in Europe; Secretary Hagel, our Secretary of Defense, spoke to the Minister of Defense Mr. Shoigu yesterday or the day before, those contacts continue. The Vice President is endeavoring to speak to Prime Minister Medvedev; so we are using all of our channels of dialogue to make the case to Russia that it doesn’t have to be this way, that it should make a 21st century choice to settle its issues politically and through negotiations, not with military force.
QUESTION: China has declared its support for the action of Russia – is this a reason for us to be more nervous(inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: I haven’t seen the statements by China, but I cannot imagine that it is in the interest of the Chinese government to support a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any state. Other questions?
QUESTION: (inaudible) OSCE missions (inaudible)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: Well again, under the authorities of the Chairman in Office here, the Swiss Chairman, a number of advance teams are being deployed today, both on the human rights side, on the observation and investment side, and on the election side – it is up to Russia to make the right choice. The body here is beginning to scope what a permanent monitoring mission will be. Based on the conversation in there it will be a very, very broad consensus for that monitoring mission. We call on Russia to join that consensus, make the right choice and pull back its forces.
QUESTION: Do you see any softening by Russia (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: When President Obama and President Putin spoke, our President made clear that we would hope that we could have a good conversation here, and President Putin did not close the door to that, so we will keep working here because that is the right course of action.
Thank you very much.
“Right now my advice to the Ukraine government is to maintain maximum restraint, but to prepare for the worst, because I don’t think Vladimir Putin is going to stop where he is. He is not going to stop anywhere until he gets rid of the leadership in Kiev,” Saakashvili said in an interview with The Daily Beast on Monday. “The West should be ready that there might be a war here.”
There several similarities between Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and its 2012 invasion of Ukraine and one main difference. Russia has yet to cross militarily into greater Ukraine, outside Crimea, and wage a full scale invasion of the country, as it did in Georgia. But Saakashvili said he sees plenty of signs that’s exactly what Putin plans to do next.
There are multiple Russian intelligence organizations stirring up trouble all over Ukraine’s south and east with a goal of preparing a pretext for a large-scale military intervention, he said. The huge military exercises currently ongoing on the Russian side of the border are of the same scale to those that immediately preceded the Russian invasion of Georgia, he pointed out. Russia is also putting out massive amounts of propaganda to establish a narrative that could support a large scale intervention, again eerily similar to their actions in 2008.
“Putin certainly has plans for large scale military intervention in the whole of Ukraine,” said Saakashvili. “I think Russia is looking for a hot war.”
Secretary General announces North Atlantic Council to meet following Poland's request for Article 4 consultations
The North Atlantic Council, which includes the ambassadors of all 28 NATO Allies, will meet on Tuesday 4 March, following a request by Poland under article 4 of NATO's founding Washington Treaty.
Under article 4 of the Treaty, any Ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.
The developments in and around Ukraine are seen to constitute a threat to neighboring Allied countries and having direct and serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area.
The United States should hold off on punishing Russia until the European community is on board with a specific response to the growing crisis in Ukraine, the Senate’s top Democrat said Monday.
In an interview, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Congress should let the situation play out for “a while” before trying to impose any new sanctions on Russia, which is dispatching military forces into Crimea — forcing the West to scramble for a response.“The most important thing is for us – the United States – to make sure that we don’t go off without the European community,” Reid said Monday in the Capitol. “We have to work with them. Their interests are really paramount if we are going to do sanctions of some kind. We have to have them on board with us.”
The comments are Reid’s first since the crisis in Ukraine deepened over the weekend. Congressional leaders from both parties have condemned Russia’s actions in recent days but have said little about how they might proceed.
Reid said he’s spoken to White House chief of staff Denis McDonough “a couple times” about the situation and was scheduled to get a classified briefing from CIA Director John Brennan on Monday. McDonough also has spoken with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Ukraine is the world’s third largest exporter of corn and fifth largest exporter of wheat, which has caused some havoc in those markets lately.
While political unrest continues to grow in and around the country, global grain prices have charged upwards. ”The importance of the Black Sea region to global grain markets should not be understated,” Luke Mathews, an analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said in a note this morning (paywall).
Global corn prices have risen by over 8% since the beginning of the year.
The problem isn’t this year’s harvest—the country is sitting on some 4 million tons (3.63 million tonnes) of corn and 2.5 million tons of wheat, according to estimates by Agritel SA. The problem is that local farmers are sitting on their stockpiles instead of selling them off, because they’re worried about the possibility of an imminent and potentially debilitating currency depreciation.