Russia and Ukraine tossed around charges and countercharges on Friday as the war of words remains in the realm of rhetoric — at least for now. Ukraine PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russia of fomenting World War III and warned of war in Europe for the first time in fifteen years:
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia on Friday of wanting to start World War Three by occupying Ukraine “militarily and politically”.
“The world has not yet forgotten World War Two, but Russia already wants to start World War Three,” Yatseniuk told the interim cabinet in remarks broadcast live. “Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe.”
In some of the strongest language he has yet used in a war of words between the former Soviet neighbors, as both sides have deployed troops close to their frontier, Yatseniuk accused Moscow of acting like a “gangster” supporting “terrorists”.
“It is clear that Russia’s goal is to wreck the election in Ukraine, remove the pro-Western and pro-Ukrainian government and occupy Ukraine politically as well as military,” added the premier.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leveled his accusations against the West, accusing the US and Europe of attempting to seize control of Ukraine:
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the West on Friday of plotting to control Ukraine and said the pro-Russian insurgents in the southeast would lay down their arms only if the Ukrainian government clears out the Maidan protest camp in the capital Kiev.
“The West wants — and this is how it all began — to seize control of Ukraine because of their own political ambitions, not in the interests of the Ukrainian people,” Lavrov said on Friday.
He wasn’t too keen on John Kerry’s rhetoric yesterday, either:
On Friday, Lavrov criticized what he says was Kerry’s “unacceptable, accusatory tone.”
Well, there’s a lot of accusatory language flying around the Ukraine crisis these days, and Lavrov hardly has room to complain. But it’s not just language that has Ukraine worried, either. Russian forces on the Ukraine border have begun “pulsing” movements, either as “exercises” (as Russia claims), or perhaps as an attempt to provoke Ukrainian forces into a response or to expose their defensive strategies:
Russian military forces are “pulsing the border” and making a “run toward Ukraine” — but pulling up well short — in their “training exercise,” U.S. officials told NBC News on Thursday.
But it’s not clear whether the Russian forces are actually preparing to cross the border into Ukraine or simply putting on a “show of force,” the officials said.
The Russians drew Georgia into a war in 2008 by provoking them through infiltration and actions similar to what has happened in Crimea and eastern Ukraine over the last several weeks. So far, though, the Ukrainians aren’t biting on the lures. This appears to be a test of Ukrainian border-guard discipline, and at least for now the Ukrainians are passing the test. This makes it quite clear that Yatsenyuk is at least correct to the extent that Russia wants a war — not WWIII, but a quick war that it can use to seize more territory while claiming to be acting in self-defense.
What’s the end game for that strategy? Eastern Ukraine isn’t the wealthiest neighborhood, after all, so it’s not an end in itself. Transnistria is hoping they’re part of the larger game:
I doubt it stops at Transnistria, either.