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You wouldn’t catch Putin destabilizing the “brotherly peoples” of Ukraine with meddling like that. He hasn’t, according to him, even sent in any troops. The heavily armed men riding around in armored personnel carriers are just “local self-defense forces” with no connection to Russia, he said. Forget the Kalashnikovs and bazookas. They’re not wearing Russian uniforms, are they? Just go to your local shop and see for yourself. “The post-Soviet space is full of such uniforms,” Putin told the journalists gathered to hear him speak.
Hearing this stream of consciousness from Putin for more than an hour — during which he bantered on the definition of revolution with a Reuters reporter, complained about how a Ukrainian oligarch had “swindled” a Russian oligarch out of billions, and openly mused about the death of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych (who made a point of insisting he was very much alive during his last public appearance) — makes you feel a little bit sorry for his Western interlocutors, who put up with long telephone rants from him over the weekend. Angela Merkel apparently now thinks he was “in another world,” according to theNew York Times. His insistence that he would only invade Ukraine “in line with international law” and with (very lengthy) views on Ukrainian constitutional procedure didn’t appear to impress Barack Obama.
“I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations,” the U.S. president said Tuesday, “but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.” Secretary of State John Kerry, in Kiev Tuesday to pat the new government on the back and stick his tongue out at the Kremlin, scoffed at every word Putin said: “Not a single piece of creditable evidence supports any one of those claims,” Kerry said.
To an extent, Putin’s opponents in the West are right. Putin is living in a world of his own making. Right now, it doesn’t sound like a nice place to be. He is disingenuous about the legitimacy of Ukraine’s new government. He is paranoid that U.S. secret services are wreaking havoc on his turf. His pretext for invasion, which mostly centers around a Gulf of Tonkin-style “attack” on Crimea for which no evidence (bar an obviously fake video) even exists, is risible.
But even with tough economic penalties, some regional analysts say it may already be too late to reverse course in Crimea.
"The idea that there's a contest over Crimea is a little silly," said Matthew Rojansky, a Russia analyst at the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington. "It's in Russian hands and it was always on the verge of being in Russian hands."
Rojansky said the most pressing concern for the U.S. is instead to keep Putin from pushing into Russian-friendly areas of eastern Ukraine, where U.S. officials are warily eyeing ethnic skirmishes. Putin on Tuesday said he saw no reason for Russia to intervene there at the moment but added that he reserved the right to take that step if Russian speakers in the region were in danger.
The Crimean peninsula is separated from the rest of Ukraine by geography, history and politics. It only became part of Ukraine when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula to his native land in 1954, a transfer that hardly mattered until the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 and Crimea ended up in an independent Ukraine.
Crimea's port city of Sevastopol is also home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and its thousands of naval personnel. Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian president, extended the fleet's lease until 2042, but Russia fears that Ukraine's temporary pro-Western government could evict it.
The U.S. is not calling for a full Russian withdrawal from Crimea, the Obama administration official said, but does want Moscow's forces to return to their normal operating position at their base, where they have an agreement with Ukraine to keep up to 11,000 troops. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the situation by name and would speak only on condition of anonymity.
The situation in Crimea has drawn comparisons to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway territories of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Russia has continued to maintain a military presence in both, violating a cease-fire that ended its 2008 military conflict with Georgia and ignoring repeated condemnations from the U.S. and Europe.
Barry Pavel, who worked on the White House National Security Council under both Obama and President George W. Bush, said reasserting control of Crimea may be even more important to Russia than the Georgian territories.
"Russian nationalists consider this to be practically Russian territory," said Pavel, who now serves as vice president of the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. "The chances of Russian forces ever leaving where they are are very low."
Key elements of the package agreed today:
• €3 billion from the EU budget in the coming years, €1.6 billion in macro financial assistance loans (MFA) and an assistance package of grants of €1.4 billion;
• Up to €8 billion from the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development;
• Potential €3.5 billion leveraged through the Neighbourhood Investment Facility;
• Setting up of a donor coordination platform;
• Provisional application of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area when Association Agreement is signed and, if need be, by autonomous frontloading of trade measures;
• Organisation of a High Level Investment Forum/Task Force;
• Modernisation of the Ukraine Gas Transit System and work on reverse flows, notably via Slovakia;
• Acceleration of Visa Liberalisation Action Plan within the established framework; Offer of a Mobility Partnership;
• Technical assistance on a number of areas from constitutional to judicial reform and preparation of elections.
A lot of the focus today and over the last several weeks has been on international affairs, and I’ll be happy to give you more details of what’s happening in Ukraine.
The essence of it is, is we have a country that has been in a difficult situation for quite some time, that had a President that was closely associated with the Russians, who a large segment of the Ukrainian population did not feel was representing them well, although he had been democratically elected. You had a crisis inside of Ukraine as a consequence of his decision not to sign an agreement that would have oriented their economy a little more towards the West. That got out of control and we got involved only to prevent initially from bloodshed occurring inside the country and succeeded in doing that. But, ultimately, a deal that was brokered for a power-sharing arrangement in an election led to him fleeing and we now have a situation in which the Russians I think are engaging in a fundamental breach of international law in sending troops into the country to try to force the hands of the Ukrainian people. We may be able to deescalate over the next several days and weeks, but it’s a serious situation and we’re spending a lot of time on it.
In some ways, it reflects a broader trend around the world, which is authoritarian regimes, ineffective regimes -- corrupt regimes are in this age of social media -- having a much harder time clinging on to power. At the same time, in many of these societies, you don’t have strong traditions of civil society and organization that allow orderly transfers of power, and that makes for an often chaotic situation. And part of what we have to navigate -- not just this year or next year but for years to come, not just in the Middle East, but around the world -- is going to be our ability to help countries provide a voice for people who have previously been voiceless; to allow them to determine their own destiny, but to do it with some humility, recognizing that in each of these societies, we’re not going to be able to impose order. We’re going to have to work with these communities and the international community on the basis of some core principles.
And the central principle is that each individual is worth something, means something -- their dreams, hopes, and aspirations matter -- and that they should have a voice in the direction of their lives and they should be able to, if they work hard, aspire to some semblance of security and prosperity. And that’s obviously a reflection of who we are as Americans.Delete
The Deputy Secretary-General met today with H.E. Mr. Oleksandr Turchinov, acting President of Ukraine, who informed him in detail of the very serious developments taking place in the country.
The Deputy Secretary-General highlighted the crucial need for a diplomatic solution to the country's current crisis. He said that the United Nations' efforts in this regard are rooted in the UN Charter, in particular the principles of territorial integrity and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
The Deputy Secretary-General expressed appreciation for the authorities' measured response to unfolding events and took note of the high level of engagement by the international community to contribute to a peaceful, political solution.
He also commended Ukraine for its valuable contributions to United Nations peacekeeping.