Obama to Russia: Stop supporting rebels or … you’ll be really isolated, or something

posted at 12:01 pm on July 21, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama gave a short speech today on the attack on Malaysia Air Flight 17, in which he warned Russia to start using its influence with separatists more positively. His statement, delivered 25 minutes late, included plenty of warnings about isolation for Vladimir Putin, but zero mention of any specific consequences for the shootdown and for the obstruction of the investigation into the explosion that killed 295 people:

“Now is the time for Russia and Putin to pivot away from the strategy he been taking and get serious about” about resolving the conflict in Ukraine, Obama said in a statement Monday morning in the White House Rose Garden.

He also issued a vaguely worded threat.

My preference has and continues to be finding a diplomatic solution with regard to Ukraine, he said. “If Russia continues to back these separatists … then Russia will only further isolate itself with the international community” and increase its costs within the international community, he said.

For a live, impromptu presidential address, that’s remarkably weak sauce. Calling a presser under these conditions would normally raise expectations that a President had something significant to add in a crisis situation, which this has clearly been since Thursday. Instead, Obama added nothing at all, not even a hint about any further economic consequences as a result of Russian-backed rebel obstruction and very likely mass murder of innocent travelers in legal airspace. Even John Kerry sounded tougher than Obama in this presser, raising the question once again of what the White House is thinking when they have Obama engage without anything to say.

Compare that reaction to that of our partners in Europe. Enraged by the shootdown of a passenger airliner over Ukraine and the obstruction and obfuscation from Russia-backed separatists, the UK announced this morning that it would seek sectoral sanctions against Moscow with the EU, tightening the economic screws on Vladimir Putin:

Britain will push for EU sanctions targeting whole sectors of the Russian economy in the wake of the Ukraine plane disaster even if it means taking a short-term “hit” to the economy, its ministers said on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said “the time has now come for sanctions to be tightened further”, and stressed that inaction so far over the Ukraine crisis had “not served us well”.

EU foreign ministers meet on Tuesday to decide whether to impose sanctions if Russia does not press Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin separatists to allow access to the crash site of flight MH17 and reduce Moscow’s support for the rebels.

Canada announced that it was increasing sanctions on Russia at nearly the same time Obama was pointedly not mentioning the possibility:

Canada’s prime minister announced on Monday further economic sanctions against Russian entities and individuals, saying the downing of flight MH17 was a “direct product of Russia’s military aggression and illegal occupation” of Ukraine.

“The outrageous and criminal act of shooting down a civilian airliner last week is a direct product of Russia’s military aggression and illegal occupation of Ukraine, and demonstrates the need for the international community to continue applying pressure on the Putin regime,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. …

“It is clear that the Putin regime’s continuing provocative military action against Ukraine, its illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula, and its failure to end its support to armed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine constitute a threat to international peace and security,” Harper said.

He called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to order a withdrawal of his troops from its border with Ukraine, stop a flow of weapons and militants into Ukraine, urge the rebels to lay down their arms and to allow investigators access to the crash site.

Message received? Perhaps at least in part:

Pro-Russian rebels at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have granted European monitors and experts nearly “unfettered access” to wreckage Monday, according to a spokesman for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The rebels even provided some perimeter security to keep journalists at bay, creating a “dome of tranquility” for the OSCE monitors, three Dutch forensic experts and a handful of Ukranian aviation experts now at the scene, Michael Bociurkiw said Monday in a briefing hosted by the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center.

His assessment follows a trend of improving access for monitors at the site, which is in the middle of territory held by rebels fighting Ukraine’s central government.

However, it remains difficult to get to the site, and Bociurkiw had no information about the status of a team of international crash experts staging in Kharkiv to inspect the debris.

Well, message somewhat received. Ukrainian rebels have been arresting journalists attempting to cover the looting of the crash site, including one reporter for the Daily Beast:

An hour had passed by since our detention; we still did not know if we, two female writers and one male writer from American and European publications, were doomed to spend our Sunday and who knows how many more days in jail.

Our interrogators, a group of militiamen from the security service of the Donetsk People’s Republic, or DNR, as it’s known, wanted to tell us why America is to blame for the civil war tearing apart town after town in Donbass, the eastern Ukraine.

The rebels are not alone in these beliefs. Many people in pro-Russian Donbass are convinced that the United States orchestrated the anti-Russian revolution in Kiev, supported Ukrainian military forces fighting the war against pro-Russian separatist troops; and now it is America accusing them of shooting down the Malaysian Boeing 777 on Thursday that cost the lives of almost 300 innocent people.

For four days, the militia of the self-proclaimed republic has been collecting “evidence” to prove that it was a Ukrainian missile that shot down the plane, so that the world would believe them, they told us. But, the rebels wondered aloud: Where were the Americans? Why didn’t they come to Donetsk to see for themselves? Then the rebels answered their own questions: “Because America hates us.”

It takes an impressive level of chutzpah to keep investigators out of the crash site at gunpoint, arrest American journalists (and others), and then complain that America hasn’t shown up to see the site for themselves. The so-called “pro-Russian separatists” must feel what little sympathy they had received earlier entirely evaporating, so they are contenting themselves with fantasies of an American war being raged in eastern Ukraine while demanding that Americans arrive. John Kerry accused them of being drunkards yesterday, which might explain the cognitive dissonance:

Drunk or not, they’re on the losing side of the propaganda war. They may already have absconded with evidence on the ground, and their determination to keep experts out of the debris field certainly gives the appearance of known guilt in the shootdown. The US has not moved on sanctions yet, but claims to be collecting evidence of rebel complicity in the attack — with Russian help:

The Obama administration expanded its case Sunday accusing Ukrainian separatists and Russian forces of working hand in hand to acquire and operate a missile battery believed to have shot down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner last week, killing nearly 300 people.

Citing an “enormous amount of evidence,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry accused Russia of providing SA-11 antiaircraft missiles to the pro-Russian rebels and training them how to fire the advanced weapons. He also said U.S. intelligence agencies “saw the launch” of a missile from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine and recorded its trajectory at the moment the passenger plane vanished from radar.

Meanwhile, in Kiev, the U.S. Embassy said American intelligence analysts had confirmed the authenticity of recorded conversations in which rebel leaders bragged about shooting down what they thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane moments after the Malaysian jetliner was blown apart. The Ukrainian government had previously aired the audio excerpts, but the U.S. statement vouching for their reliability buttressed the charges against the rebels.

For their part, Russia claims that no missile was launched at the time from the ground, and they want the US to share its satellite data to test its claims. Moscow categorically denies supplying any Buk systems to the rebels, but now claims that a Ukrainian military fighter flew in close proximity to MH17 and demands an explanation. That seems pretty unlikely, though, as the rebels don’t have an air force and any plane at 33,000 feet over eastern Ukraine and heading southeast would pose no threat to Ukraine anyway. Anything Ukraine puts up in the air is much more likely looking for ground targets, not air threats, and certainly not at 33,000 feet.

The escalation of sanctions is the strongest step the West can take short of war, and sectoral sanctions will hit Putin where it counts: in his oligarchy. The economic barons of Russia have done well by Putin, but how long will they stick with him when they find that they can’t access Western markets or even travel in the West any longer? When the balance sheets start turning red, perhaps Russians might start thinking about just how red they really want to be.

Of course, they’ll have to openly revolt, and the Daily Mail says they’re not quite ready for that:

According to Igor Bunin, who heads the Center for Political Technology in Moscow, Russia’s businessmen may be scared of the sanctions but they are even more scared of Putin.

Mr Bunin told Bloomberg.com: ‘The economic and business elite is just in horror.

‘Nobody will speak out because of the implicit threat of retribution… Any sign of rebellion and they’ll be brought to their knees.’

They helped build the monster, and eventually they’ll have to dismantle him. Without the oligarchs and a decent economy, Putin can only survive for so long on brute strength.

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Comment pages: 1 2 3

Not as clueless as someone who think that America is actually handing Tehran money for development.

coolrepublica on July 21, 2014 at 3:47 PM

I know, that’s not in your OFA talking points, so it just can’t be happening.
Just keep your head in the sand like a good little “useful idiot”.

dentarthurdent on July 21, 2014 at 5:20 PM

Video of Rebel Buk Launchers Headed Back to Russia? No – Images From Ukraine-Held Territory Since May

On the CBS program “Face the Nation,” Mr. Kerry referred to a video that the Ukrainians have made public showing an SA-11 unit heading back to Russia after the downing of the plane with “a missing missile or so.”

The video referenced by the New York Times was, in fact, posted on the Facebook account of the Ukrainian Interior Minister. The allegation was that the launcher was crossing the border with Russia.

However, going by the billboard and other features of the scenery, Russian bloggers and news sources claim to have identified the road in the video as having been taken in or near the town of Krasnoarmeisk (“Krasnoarmiysk” in Ukrainian), which has been under Kiev’s control since May.

In fact, the billboard is supposedly advertising a Krasnoarmeisk car dealership. Also, one of the structures in the background is said to be a construction materials store on Gorkii Street, Krasnoarmeisk.

Please note that this town is (very roughly) 120 kilometers from the Russian border and 80 kilometers from where the Malaysian 777 went down. And again, it has been under Kiev’s control since May.

At least one other clip of the “Russian Buk” that has been made available also suggests that the Ukrainians are showing their own equipment.

VorDaj on July 21, 2014 at 5:39 PM

verbaluce on July 21, 2014 at 4:32 PM

But then, conveniently, and way more recently, you forgot two items, of utmost idiocy:

Hillary’s reset button and

“Wait until I’m re-elected, I’ll have more flexibility”.

You’re too easy.

Schadenfreude on July 21, 2014 at 5:50 PM

As if any world leader cares anything about what Obama has to say.

bartbeast on July 21, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Thanks for sharing!

Del Dolemonte on July 21, 2014 at 4:45 PM

You’re welcome!
Nice to see you make the occasional trip off the farm.

verbaloon on July 21, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Er, I live less than a mile from an Interstate highway.


Do you also agree with some other direct Tomasskey quotes?

1. “It’s irrefutable. Sugar makes people fatter and, in all likelihood, dumber. But what does that matter to Republicans? I mean, hey; more fat and dumb kids just means more future Republican voters.”

2. “The (O’bamacare) rollout won’t be a hurricane.”

3. “Just mentioning the president’s daughters in an ad full of violent imagery and sounds—silhouettes of assault rifles, profiles of heavily armed soldiers, martial music—is an invitation to certain viewers to make certain mental connections. I’ll stop there. But it’s really a shocking thing.”

Here, your hero claims that the NRA wants to kill O’bama’s daughters.

I can see why you fall for this stuff. You have our deepest sympathies.


Del Dolemonte on July 21, 2014 at 6:32 PM

Neville Chamberlain reincarnated. Not that I want to go to war with Russia, but he’s not helping us avoid it. They’ll be the Soviet Union again before we can blink.

PastorJon on July 21, 2014 at 6:39 PM

No oil out of the Black Sea, by tanker or pipeline. Period.

PastorJon on July 21, 2014 at 6:44 PM

ABC11 WTVD [email protected]_WTVD 9m

#breakingnews Rebels say they will carry out ceasefire in 6-mile radius of Flight MH17 crash scene http://abc11.tv/1pxeJNT

davidk on July 21, 2014 at 6:47 PM

‘Telegenically Dead Palestinians’: Why Israel Is Losing the American Media War


davidk on July 21, 2014 at 6:51 PM

Malaysian colonel in Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk says 2 black boxes from downed plane are ‘in good condition’ – @Reuters

davidk on July 21, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Ukraine separatist leader Alexander Borodai: ‘282 bodies and 82 pieces on train. Dutch and Malaysians will guide the train’ – @mirceabarbu

davidk on July 21, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Federal judge dismisses Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act – @matt_smithWBAY

davidk on July 21, 2014 at 6:56 PM

Diehl did have one (very relatively) comforting thing to add: “The airplane most likely had a rapid decompression which, at those altitudes, would make you pass out.” That, combined with “the G-forces of the airplane spinning around probably meant, mercifully, that most of these people weren’t conscious on the way down.”


davidk on July 21, 2014 at 7:02 PM

Obama to Russia: Stop supporting rebels or … you’ll be really isolated, or something

They are not “rebels” – they are from Russia and “acting like rebels”…..

redguy on July 21, 2014 at 9:27 PM

Neville Chamberlain reincarnated. Not that I want to go to war with Russia, but he’s not helping us avoid it. They’ll be the Soviet Union again before we can blink.

PastorJon on July 21, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Yeah, remember before WWII we were big suppliers of oil to Japan…..

I know we have to wait 2 years before Obama is gone, but Americas oil & gas industry can
crush Russia and Iran…..

redguy on July 21, 2014 at 9:29 PM

Neville Chamberlain reincarnated.

heh, in the first Obama administration I had dozens of Photoshops
I did of Obama as, Neville Chamberlain, Che, Stalin, Hitler, Carter, Nixon and King George…..
I trashed them all after he won again….no point….
I think the King George one is still around….it was copied and reposted thousands of times….


redguy on July 21, 2014 at 9:35 PM

I smell a hashtag coming

RdLake on July 21, 2014 at 9:53 PM

Worth reading the information released by the Russians today about the crash

There was a serious gap in the information currently fed to the public about the crash: Ukrainian air traffic control approved the new path over the rebel area, and advised MH17 to reduce altitude on the new path, but air traffic control has never released the transcripts – which are one of the few pieces of evidence that could have been released right away,

however, Ukrainian Security Services immediately released an alleged intercepted conversation between rebels acknowledging they hit a passenger plane

RU has released a bundle of info, and challenges the US to produce info from US satellite that was over the crash site to compare to RU images

The satellite challenge is hard for the US to fake, because of the possibility there are third sources of the same data

I believe Putin may have once more cornered Obama

entagor on July 21, 2014 at 11:20 PM

Don’t usually write at length but:

The Rule of Law is imperative to the maintance of a civilized society. The Law should always be king. We have been since time immemorial been under the rule of men and will continue to be threatened by such until the end of time.
All of the barbarians are not without the gate. The most dangerous of that horde are bred w/i the walls of civilization and protected by the Rule of Law. These demons take advantage of the weak sisters that eventually rule and warp the law. They do so firstly by attacking the notion that their is an absolute RIGHT. All to them is relative; there is no right or wrong; there is no God or even gods. The family,church and tradition are all suspect and accused of the worst atrocities. Finally the weak sisters of our elites, desiring to be modern and cool and progressive, come to see that the demon’s way is the way to absolute power. Thus the cult of personality triumphs over The Rule of Law for man is the measure of all things now God or some absolute being.
I guess i should be optimistic but I think we are DOOMED! I will not be here to see the fall but it will happen for the flesh is weak and disobedience of the Rule of Law brings death. See putin’s Russia and oman’s America.
At some later date we might benefit from an Oliver Cromwell to right things but i hate to go that route when all we have to do is adhere to our principles as stated in The Constitution,our Law which is to rule us.

Sherman1864 on July 22, 2014 at 3:38 AM

This guy reminds me of the schoolyard conflict when the timid wimp says, “Oh yeah, you push me like that again and I’ll go get my big brother…..”

Don L on July 22, 2014 at 6:49 AM

The Law should always be king.

I think it’s much deeper than that. It is the king who makes the laws. Laws are both good and evil. Were the laws against the Jews in Nazi Germany a “king” to be followed?

Laws that are immoral are different than laws with an attachment to God and goodness. It is the diabolical controlling left that seeks to have so many laws and regulations.

Even the 10 commandments only receive their validity because of the Supreme good that is encompassed within them.

Don L on July 22, 2014 at 6:56 AM

If Russia keeps this up, I fear our President may go too far with his cowboy bluster… placing Putin on “DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION”.

B4B on July 22, 2014 at 8:03 AM

You’re welcome!
Nice to see you make the occasional trip off the farm.

verbaloon on July 21, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Dear snob,

From this last comment I can see you’re a typical snooty intellectual who judges those who live a rural life to be below you in stature.

Consider this; there are many that choose this lifestyle because we would prefer not to have to rub elbows with the arrogant such as yourself. We live in smaller cities and lead useful lives, like putting the cornflakes you’re slopping up this morning on your breakfast table.

While you’re thinking of that, consider that most of the goods you consume and use are because individuals in smaller communities help put them there. If you’re living in any city, the only reason it doesn’t collapse is because of hundreds of thousands of individuals who make their living provide for goods you can’t make yourself.

Adam Smith wrote about this 300 years ago. Pick it up and read it; if Washington was the Father of our Country, Adam Smith was our mentor. And yes, I have read it, in the original old English for my first-year doctoral thesis.

I’m writing this for all those who work in fly-over country, who do productive work, who want to be left alone and allowed to enjoy their lives, who look at what goes on in big cities and wonder if the world has gone mad.

So enjoy your life, and we’ll enjoy ours, and leave the sneer out of your writing if that’s possible.

itsspideyman on July 22, 2014 at 9:12 AM

You’re welcome!
Nice to see you make the occasional trip off the farm.

verbaloon on July 21, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Dear snob,

From this last comment I can see you’re a typical snooty intellectual who judges those who live a rural life to be below you in stature.

So enjoy your life, and we’ll enjoy ours, and leave the sneer out of your writing if that’s possible.

itsspideyman on July 22, 2014 at 9:12 AM

You misunderstood me. I meant ‘the farm’ as in ‘the plantation’ – as in away from an ideological or fixed state of mind.
I never really considered at all where Del lives.
(Maybe a condo in a cul-de-sac in VA?)

Apologies for the in-articulation on my part.
If I have any feeling about those who live the rural life, it’s envy.
My few months of it a year are never enough.

verbaluce on July 22, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Obama to Russia: Stop supporting rebels or … you’ll be really isolated, or something

Russia to Obama:

How is it possible for us to be more isolated than YOU???

landlines on July 22, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3