Watching the resurrection of Russia on the world stage and their predictable power grab is fascinating. It wasn't that long ago that the Soviet Union was breaking up, their military was in shambles and their finances were weak. I can even recall some conversations which involved questioning their role as Magog of Ezekiel 38-39 due to the fact that they seemed so weak at that time. However, we knew it would only be a matter of time before Russia regained prominence and indeed they have.
This article, which comes from Front Page Mag sums it up the situation with some interesting insight. It is a long article but may be one of the most worthwhile reads you'll find in circulation at this time and it is definitely worthwhile prophetically:
In the midst of the discussions following the Security Council vote, Ukrainian UN Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev made the dramatic announcement that he had just been informed of the movement of Russian troops from Crimea into the Ukraine mainland, signifying a dangerous expansion of Russia’s aggressive moves into Ukrainian sovereign territory. “Stop the aggressor,” he pleaded to the Security Council. His plea came two days after Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk turned toward the Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, and bluntly asked whether “Russians want war.” Ambassador Churkin responded that neither the Russian government nor the Russian people wanted war.
Perhaps the Russian people themselves don’t want war, but Russian President Vladimir Putin takes no stock of what the Russian people may think or want if he has a different opinion. He has turned the Soviet Union Communist dictatorship into a pre-Soviet style Russian imperial oligarchy under one-man political rule. Now, as the New York Times described the situation in Crimea,
“[W]ith a mix of targeted intimidation, an expansive military occupation by unmistakably elite Russian units and many of the trappings of the election-season carnivals that have long accompanied rigged ballots across the old Soviet world, Crimea has been swept almost instantaneously into the Kremlin’s fold.”
The provocative actions of Russian forces inside Crimea, and now possibly within the Ukrainian mainland, speak louder than Ambassador Churkin’s assurances of Russia’s peaceful intentions.
Russia’s persistent attempt to justify the Crimean referendum as an exercise in self-determination is, as Ambassador Power said last Thursday in response to my question regarding this Russian assertion, nothing more than an attempt to define self-determination as “Russia-determination.”
In deference to the principle of territorial integrity, international law is loath to recognize a unilateral right of secession for all peoples. Russia acknowledges in principle that secession is justified in only exceptional circumstances, but claims that what it calls a coup d’état in Ukraine by “radicals” justifies the right of the Crimean people to secede from Ukraine if they wish. The problem with this argument is that it is not up to Russia to determine the legality of the change of government in Kiev and, on that basis, inject its own military presence in Crimea in support of the referendum.
Russia is free to accept as citizens in its own country Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine who no longer feel safe living in Ukraine under present circumstances. But the Tartar minority now living freely in Crimea, who have suffered deportation and killings at the hands of the Soviets when they controlled Ukraine, have nowhere else to go and remain safe. Crimea is their homeland. Russia of all countries, given its past brutal treatment of the indigenous Tartar population in Crimea, has no business forcing its will to favor one ethnic group over another in an independent country on the other side of internationally recognized borders with Russia.
In any case, Russia’s oft-stated rationale for providing military support to the Russian-speaking citizens in Ukraine — that these citizens’ rights are being violated by ultra-nationalist “radicals” entering Crimea from other parts of Ukraine – is bogus. According to international monitors who have tried to gather evidence of human rights violations in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine, no evidence to date has been found to back up the Russian claim. And Russia and its allies in Crimea are not providing any support for such international monitors to enter Crimea safely, suggesting that it is they who have something to hide.
As for Russia’s superficial comparison of the Crimea referendum to Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, United Kingdom’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant summed up the response best in his remarks to reporters after Saturday’s UN Security Council meeting:
There is no comparison between the two cases. The Kosovo vote for independence, declaration of independence, came after a brutal war in which, as you say, there were massive human rights abuses; hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and the Security Council Resolution 1244 itself accepted that the status of Kosovo was disputed. None of those conditions apply in Crimea.
In his remarks on Saturday explaining Russia’s veto, Ambassador Churkin lashed out at both the proposed resolution and its supporters. He accused Ukraine of having blood on its hands as a result of the violent protests last month that led to the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. And he challenged Washington “to tell the truth” about its own role in the events leading up to the crisis.
Speaking about truth, U.S Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said during her condemnation of Russia’s veto that, while Russia has the power to veto a Security Council resolution, “it does not have the power to veto the truth.” She placed the blamed for the crisis squarely on Russia’s shoulders:
The crisis came with a label – made in Moscow. It was Moscow that ordered its armed forces to seize control of key facilities in Crimea, to bully local officials, and to threaten the country’s eastern border. It was Moscow that tried to fool the world with a false narrative about extremism and the protection of human rights – about refugees fleeing, and about attacks on synagogues. The reality is that the part of Ukraine where minorities are threatened is Crimea, where Russian forces have confronted Ukrainians, and spread fear within the Tatar community - which has endured Russian purges and ethnic cleansing in the past and fears now that this bitter past will serve as prologue.
Ambassador Power accused Russia of double standards when it came to the issue of territorial integrity, a principle which Russia has supported in the past. As for the Crimean referendum, the “whole world knows,” Ambassador Power said, that it “was hatched in the Kremlin and midwifed by the Russian military. It is inconsistent with Ukraine’s constitution and international law. It is illegitimate and it will have no legal effect.”
Russia had not a single supporter on the Security Council. No other member spoke out in favor of the Russian position. Most of the members forcefully condemned Russia’s actions and rationales. Some noted the cardinal UN Charter principles at stake, as well as Russia’s violation of its own bilateral and multilateral agreements with Ukraine in which it promised to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
China, while abstaining and raising concerns about the timing of the resolution, emphasized its consistent support of the principle of territorial integrity and the need for political dialogue. Its Ambassador Liu Jieyi was the voice of moderation and reconciliation, suggesting the establishment of an international coordinating mechanism to discuss the crisis, restraint by all parties to the conflict and increased financial assistance to Ukraine through international institutions.
The price Russia will pay for its naked aggression against Ukraine will, at minimum, be international isolation and sanctions. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned of serious consequences for Russia as early as Monday if Russia does not back off. The European Foreign Ministers will be meeting on Monday. The United Kingdom’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after the Security Council session adjourned that “[I]f the referendum goes ahead on Sunday, then I think we can see a reaction from the European leaders on Monday.”
Sanctions and asset freezes may be too little too late. Moreover, Putin can retaliate, causing severe disruptions to American and European businesses operating in Russia and cutting off fuel supplies to Europe. Moreover, Asian countries are far from likely to participate in any sanctions.
There is only one language that Putin understands – military pressure. That means, at minimum, an announcement by the Obama administration that it will install missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic after all. And, for good measure, the Obama administration should make clear that it will plan for installation of such systems and other highly sophisticated military equipment in the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and in western Ukraine if Russia does not immediately withdraw its troops back to where they belong.
Today Russia stands exposed as an outlaw state operating in the same manner that led to two World Wars. As French UN Ambassador Araud noted, “We are going back to 1914, and we are in 2014.”
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