Russia: We may move into eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians there too

posted at 9:21 am on March 14, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Will the “responsibility to protect” mandate backfire on the West, who used that claim of authority to depose Moammar Qaddafi in Libya? Russia warned the West this morning that it may have to intervene on behalf of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine next, which has been roiled by demonstrations in Donetsk in particular, because Moscow “reserves the right to take people under its protection.”  Sound familiar?

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart met in London Friday in a last-ditch effort to find some common ground over theRussian invasion of Crimea, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a warning suggesting Moscow was willing to expand its military actions in Ukraine into another region.

The Foreign Ministry released a statement, according to the Reuters news agency, saying Moscow “reserves the right to take people under its protection” in light of clashes between pro-Moscow and pro-Western demonstrators in the city of Donetsk on Thursday.

One person was killed Thursday evening as the clashes — which have occurred almost daily in the majority-ethnic Russian region — became violent for the first time.

“Russia is aware of its responsibility for the lives of compatriots and fellow citizens in Ukraine,” said the statement obtained by Reuters.

Russian forces have massed along the eastern border of Ukraine, and acting president Oleksandr Turchynov — recognized by the West but not Russia — warned yesterday that Moscow was on the cusp of invading his country. He publicly held out hope that it could be prevented, but pleaded for support in forcing Russia to stand down:

Russian forces on the border with Ukraine were “ready to invade,” Ukraine’s acting president said Thursday, but he also believed that Moscow’s “aggression” could be stopped.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov made the statement to a Ukrainian television channel, the Reuters news agency reports, citing a statement posted to the presidential website.

We are doing all we can to avoid war, whether in Crimea or in any other region of Ukraine,” Turchynov said, adding that the country’s forces were at full combat readiness. …

“All of civilized humanity supports our country,” said Turchynov. “All the leading countries of the world are on the side of Ukraine, and I am sure that this united effort in the international arena, bringing together all democratic countries, can still allow us to halt this aggression.”

So far, though, the US has stalled on offering anything but rhetorical support. Congress froze on an aid package after the White House and Senate Democrats insisted on adding unrelated IMF funding to the bill, and won’t take it up again until at least March 24th. Investors Business Daily argues that Barack Obama could have led an energy-supply offensive on Russian economics, but that he’s failing to learn from Ronald Reagan:

President Obama should have stunned Putin with a massive unleashing of fracking activity, both in the U.S. and Europe, as a way to undercut Russia’s energy cash stream. He should have pursued sales of U.S. natural gas to Europe to underscore his seriousness. But right now, those moves are not even on the table.

And that’s a shame because, historically, huge moves on energy have had real power to check Russia.

One of the most powerful factors in President Reagan’s breakup of the Soviet Union was then-CIA director Bill Casey’s personal persuasion of Saudi Arabia to slash the price of oil in 1982 to cut into Russia’s energy earnings and loosen its stranglehold on Europe.

That move bankrupted the Soviet Union.

We see no such leadership now from the Obama administration. From the stoat-like eyes of Vladimir Putin, the U.S. refusal to whip out its biggest trump cards immediately signals a flatfooted opponent not nimble enough or willing enough to act while the glow of history beckons.

Angela Merkel spoke out against Russian activity on Ukraine’s border, predicting a “catastrophe,” and warning of “massive” economic and political consequences for Moscow:

In an unusually robust and emotional speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of “catastrophe” unless Russia changes course, while in Ukraine a man died in fighting between rival protesters in a mainly Russian-speaking city.

In Berlin, Merkel removed any suspicion that she might try to avoid a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin,

“We would not only see it, also as neighbors of Russia, as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia,” she told parliament. “No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”

We’ll see if that has any effect, although Russia did agree to international monitors in eastern Ukraine and Crimea yesterday. So far, though, the West has been all talk and very little real action.

Yesterday, Ukraine and Russia went toe-to-toe at the UN. What do you think the chances are of the UN doing anything significant about it? Er … yeah, me too:

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Schadenfreude on March 14, 2014 at 3:54 PM

“Who is going to pay for this war the American Elites want?

Another Libertarian on March 14, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Ron Pauls biggest affront to common sense has been the conflation of “libertarian” to “appeasing moon bat”.

V7_Sport on March 14, 2014 at 10:57 PM

Mural showing heroic putin reaching out to save people of #crimea

Murphy9 on March 14, 2014 at 9:59 AM

So Putin is even copying Hitler’s propaganda images now…

Norwegian on March 15, 2014 at 1:20 AM

“Who is going to pay for this war the American Elites want? Another Libertarian on March 14, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Ron Pauls biggest affront to common sense has been the conflation of “libertarian” to “appeasing moon bat”. V7_Sport on March 14, 2014 at 10:57 PM

I’d bet that you could have answered the question in as many words.

Akzed on March 15, 2014 at 12:25 PM

Russia has reclaimed the Crimea, that will be done in the next week.

This leaves at least three issues to be settled, and they are, lines of communication, Russian investments, and Odessa. Each of these must be resolved in Russia’s favor because they are each one important enough for Russia to go to war to achieve.

Nobody is writing about these, but they are the Russian needs to establish a secure souther border after Ukraine’s collapse/alienation.

The military need for Crimea includes lines of communication with Crimea.

There are whole industrial cities that the Russians have built in Ukraine, they are not in the mood to walk away from those resources.

Odessa has been a free port longer than Moscow has existed. Moscow will retain the commercial advantages of Odessa, under whatever nationality.

Russia is willing to go to war to achieve these goals. No other military power is willing to go to war to deny Russia.

I doubt Kerry understands why Russia took Crimea in the first place. I doubt he sees their goals. So, another generation of those involved will be condemned to lives of conflict and poverty.

ShadrachSmith on March 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

H#LL, it worked so well the 1st time….

…and the United states has no leverage, no leader, and no [email protected] to do anything about it.

I heard someone say this is the ‘Cold War Part 2’…Ummm, NO! A ‘War’ takes 2 sides willing to FIGHT. Obama is Putin’s [email protected]!

The U.S. has fallen so far in the eyes of the world in terms of respect that even a 3rd-World punk like Venezuela’s Maduro is calling Obama out on the world stage! SAD!

easyt65 on March 17, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Putin is doing the right thing, from an old-fashioned point of view, protecting his nation’s interests.

An American government with the same national focus would be all about the Mexican border.

It’s completely rational for the Russians to focus on the country next door. America should be doing the same.

David Blue on March 17, 2014 at 10:13 PM