Sitting side by side in the Oval Office with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Obama said he hoped last-ditch diplomatic efforts might lead to a “rethinking” of Sunday’s Russian-backed referendum. If the vote does occur, Obama said, the U.S. will “completely reject” its results. And he warned that the international community would be “forced to apply a cost to Russia’s violation of international law.”
“There’s another path available and we hope President Putin is willing to seize that path,” Obama said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “But if he does not, I’m very confident that the international community will stand firmly behind the Ukrainian government.”…
“Ukraine is and will be part of the Western world,” Yatsenyuk said, speaking in fluent English.
Yatsenyuk told reporters after his meeting with O that if Putin’s allowed to seize Crimea, it’s a fait accompli that he’ll move on other parts of Ukraine. The G7 says it won’t acknowledge the results of the upcoming referendum on annexation; meanwhile, Merkel and Polish PM Donald Tusk are giving Putin until Monday to sit down with an international group to work something out or else a series of sanctions will start to take effect. Think he’s listening? Here’s a fun tidbit from Noah Rothman:
In a call with Mustafa Dzhemilev, the former head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tarter people, Putin reportedly dismissed his concern that a referendum scheduled to be held this weekend in Crimea, which would decide whether the territory should be annexed to Russia, would violate the terms of a 1994 treaty with Western nations guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereignty.
According to Dzhemilev, Putin also said that it was debatable as to whether Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union, acquired in 1991, was even legal.
He’s just taking back what’s rightfully his, you see. And by “he,” I mean the 220,000 Russian troops, supplied with 1,800 tanks, that are now stationed near the Ukrainian border. To give you a sense of how large that force is, the average monthly number of American troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan never exceeded 188,000. This guy’s not messing around. If Ukraine’s slipped off your news radar over the past few days, now’s the time to pick the signal back up.
Credit to O, at least, for showing solidarity with Ukraine by inviting Yatsenyuk to the White House. In fact, this was a big day for him on all fronts: If you think his foreign-policy guest list was impressive, wait until you see who he met with on health care. Exit quotation: “I don’t have time to waste. The clock is ticking.”