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

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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