THE CRISIS IN UKRAINE: AN UPDATE ON THE DIPLOMACY
"Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum in 10 days' time in a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian region that drew a sharp riposte from U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama ordered sanctions on those responsible for Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine, including bans on travel to the United States and freezing of their U.S. assets. He echoed European Union leaders and the pro-Western government in Ukraine in declaring that the proposed referendum would violate international law. The sudden acceleration of moves to bring Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and has effectively been seized by Russian forces, formally under Moscow's rule came as EU leaders held an emergency summit groping for ways to pressure Russia to back down and accept mediation. The EU condemned Russian actions in Crimea as illegal, voiced support for Ukraine's territorial integrity but took only minor steps suspending talks with Moscow on visas and a new investment pact while warning of tougher steps if there is no negotiated solution within a short period. In a signal to Moscow, Obama announced plans to punish Russians and Ukrainians involved in what he called "threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine". A U.S. official said Russian President Vladimir Putin was not on the list of those to be sanctioned. "The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law," Obama told reporters at the White House. "Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine." After talks in Rome, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was personally delivering proposals to Putin to end the crisis in Ukraine. "We have agreed to stay in close touch in order to see if there is a way forward to try to get to a negotiating table to get the parties necessary to be able to stabilize this," Kerry said. Kerry said the executive order on sanctions signed by Obama on Thursday provided a legal framework for imposing sanctions but also left open the door for dialogue over Ukraine.... The Crimean parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday "to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation". The decision, which diplomats said could not have been made without Putin's approval, raised the stakes in the most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War. The vice premier of Crimea, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, said a referendum on the status would take place on March 16. All state property would be "nationalized", the Russian ruble adopted and Ukrainian troops treated as occupiers and forced to surrender or leave, he said.... On the ground, a mission of 35 unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was stopped from entering Crimea by unidentified men in military fatigues when they travelled from the port of Odessa, Poland's defense minister said."Alissa de Carbonnel & Luke Baker, "Crimea votes to join Russia, Obama orders sanctions." Reuters. 6 March 2014 in www.reuters.com.
"President Vladimir Putin’s March 4 press conference could create the impression that he has backed down, and that this backing down is the result of the Western pressure. In reality the Russian president has decided to use his imitation technique and experience in creating cognitive dissonance in the minds of the audience. He said that he is not going to use the troops in Ukraine, unless it is needed. He said that he is not annexing Crimea, despite the fact that Russian troops are staying there. He said that the Ukrainian authorities are illegitimate but he will deal with them if they accept the Russian terms. Thus, the Kremlin has been pretty open—the game continues. Only its forms could change now. The West should have no illusions about it. Putin himself has none of the cognitive dissonance that he tries to create in others. Today Putin suggests to the West: “Let’s play as if nothing happened.” He believes that the West will be ready to forget the unpleasant Ukrainian interruption and the big guys will continue their dinner together. Putin is right to hope because this is exactly what happened after the Russo-Georgian war. If the Western leaders agree to get collective amnesia about Ukraine, they may get a new surprise pretty soon".Lilia Shevstova, "Ukraine: Law of Unintended Consequences Illustrated, Part II". Carnegie Moscow Center: Eurasian Outlook. www.carnegie.ru/eurasiaoutlook The diplomacy of the crisis in Ukraine since the beginning of the week are singularly depressing. At least to this observer of the diplomatic scenery. With Russian President Putin's press conference on Tuesday being the perhaps most important event of the week. As Lilia Shevstova has aptly noted the true upshot of Putin's mots was that the 'facts on he ground', which he has created will not be changed and that if need be, new facts on the ground will be created depending upon circumstances. Or should one say, how Putin sees circumstances. So, if the opportunity presents itself or conversely if he wishes to disrupt, overthrow, or otherwise destabilized the new, anti-Russian regime in Kyiv, he will be quite willing to send Russian forces into Eastern Ukraine. As per Crimea, he is endeavoring to create a fictional narrative that what has occurred in Crimea was an indigenous uprising by the population in response to the policies of new 'fascist' regime in Kyiv. Et cetera. The lack of reality as per this narrative, does not prevent it from being trumpeted hic et nunc by Putin, et. al. The so far unresolved question (as of to-day) is if the Western powers will summon up the will to exercise effective pressure on Moskva. Obviously, Germanic fantasies aside, it is quite impossible to imagine that Russia, will voluntarily remove its forces from Crimea in exchange for some face savings gestures 1. And, while perhaps if Moskva were to eventually climb-down, some sort of diplomatic crumbs might indeed be offered it, that time has not yet come. Au fond, Putin aims to treat Crimea in the same fashion that he treats the Ossetia and Abkhazia. Pur et simple. The aim of Western diplomacy should be to show precisely that he cannot and will not be able to do this. And for that to occur, it will be necessary to take hard steps via diplomatic and economic sanctions against Moskva. As well to increase the Western military presence in Poland and the Baltic States. Having matushka Russia edged out of Crimea will not occur either to-day or to-morrow. However, if the Western powers summon up the will to apply the requisite pressures, it can be done. What in fact is needed is a new version of the late, great American diplomat George Frost Kennan's 'containment' policy:
"It is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of an long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansionist tendencies. It is important to note, however that such a policy has nothing to do with outward histrionics; with threats or blustering of superfluous gestures of outward 'toughness'....it is the sine qua non of successful dealing with Russia that the foreign government in question should remain at all times cool and collected and that its demands on Russian policy should be put forward in such a manner as to leave the way open for a compliance not too detrimental to Russian prestige 2."For those who believe that a 'containment policy', is an artifact of the Cold War, it is perhaps worthy of note, that the Russian-based political analyst and commentator Dmitri Trenin among others, has recently stated that we are now indeed in the midst of a mini-Cold War for the time being. With only the downfall of the Putin regime perhaps changing that scenario. Therefore, under these circumstances what we need is precisely a new version of Kennan's containment doctrine 3. 1. Philipp Wittrock & Gregor, "Crimean Crisis: All Eyes on Merkel." Spiegel online International. 4 March 2014 in www.spiegel.de 2. 'X', "Sources of Soviet Conduct". Foreign Affairs. (July 1987) [first published in the same periodical in July 1947], pp. 861-862. 3. See: Dmitri Trenin, "Welcome to the New Cold War II. Foreign Policy. 4 March 2014, in www.foreignpolicy.com. See also: Olga Oliker, "Does Putin Want a New Cold War?" The Rand Corporation. 4 March 2014, in www.rand.org.