West won't allow Ukraine carve up - Obama

2014-03-07 07:28
(Jewel Samad, AFP)

(Jewel Samad, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Washington - President Barack Obama ordered the West's first sanctions in response to Russia's military takeover of Crimea on Thursday, declaring his determination not to let the Kremlin carve up Ukraine.

He said a hastily scheduled referendum on Crimea seceding and becoming part of Russia would violate international law.

European leaders announced their own measures but split over how forcefully to follow the US lead. Obama threatened further steps if Russia persists.

After announcing his sanctions at midday, Obama emphasised his resolve in a personal telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin later on Thursday, the White House said. In a one-hour discussion, Obama affirmed his contention that Russia's actions violate Ukraine's sovereignty.

The US president told Putin there was still a way to resolve the dispute diplomatically, the White House said - with Russian forces moving back to their base in Crimea, the governments of Ukraine and Russia holding direct talks and international monitors arriving.

All signs pointed to a continuing diplomatic battle over Ukraine's territorial integrity and what could prove a broader fault line in Europe's post-Cold War order.

European hesitancy

While East and West no longer threaten nuclear war and have vastly expanded commercial ties, Russia is determined to dominate the future of the former Soviet republics along its borders. Washington, its Nato partners and others across the continent are striving to pull these nations out of Moscow's orbit.

Underscoring his resolve to President Vladimir Putin, Obama issued an executive action slapping new visa restrictions on Russian and other opponents of Ukraine's government in Kiev and authorising wider financial penalties against those involved in the military intervention or in stealing state assets.

None of the measures appeared aimed at the Russian president personally.

"Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve," Obama said at the White House.

"That's what we're going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis."

Obama hailed US co-operation with the European Union, which imposed its own sanctions on Russia on Thursday.

In an emergency meeting in Brussels, EU leaders decided to suspend talks with Putin's government on a wide-ranging economic agreement and on granting Russian citizens visa-free travel within the 28-nation bloc - a long-standing Russian objective.

Yet at the same time, Europe's presidents and prime ministers were divided on more drastic steps such as freezing assets and issuing travel bans on Russian officials.

European hesitancy reflected the reality that targeting influential Russian businessmen or major Russian companies would also harm Europe's economic interests.

International law

Russian investors hold assets worth billions in European banks, particularly in Britain and Cyprus, and major exporters such as Germany and the Netherlands have far more at stake than the United States in Russia's consumer economy. Many other European countries depend on Russia for oil and gas supplies.

Russian troops have seized control of much of Crimea, where ethnic Russians are the majority. Moscow doesn't recognise the Ukrainian government that came to power after protesters ousted the country's pro-Russian president last month.

Putin and other officials have cited strategic interests as well as the protection of ethnic Russians in making the case for intervention. Russia leases a major navy base there.

The Western debate over how strongly to penalise Russia is important given that neither the US nor Europe is advocating the use of force. The US military has stepped up joint aviation training with Polish forces and American participation in Nato's air-policing mission in its Baltic countries. But the Pentagon, like its Nato partners, has strictly ruled out military options.

In the latest threatening move on Thursday, Crimean lawmakers voted 78-0 to schedule a referendum on 16 March on whether the region should secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Obama said such a vote would "violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law". Because Ukraine is a member of the United Nations, any action that is unconstitutional in Ukraine would be considered illegitimate in international law.

But the West supported Kosovo's independence six years ago, which included no consent by Serbia's government and occurred despite Russian objections, Obama might have been trying to differentiate Ukraine's situation by arguing that borders shouldn't be "redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders".

‘No enthusiasm’

The US sanctions push has prompted a rare case of broad agreement among the Obama administration and most Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

The House of Representatives voted 385-23 on Thursday in favour of the first US aid bill for Ukraine's fledgling government, following on an Obama administration promise of $1bn in loan guarantees.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved a separate resolution condemning Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea and urging visa, financial and trade sanctions. Senators are at work on a larger bill putting together all elements of a US response and hope to introduce the legislation next week.

The EU offered $15bn in aid to help Ukraine's cash-depleted economy on Wednesday, still far short of the $35bn that Ukraine's government says it needs in bailout loans through next year. The US, EU and others are trying to work out a package with the International Monetary Fund.

Showing greater caution than Obama on sanctions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European penalties against Russia depend "on how the diplomatic process progresses".

EU President Herman Van Rompuy said travel bans, asset freezes and the cancellation of an EU-Russia summit could still come. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk acknowledged "no enthusiasm" in Europe for economic sanctions.

‘Crimea is Ukraine’

Western leaders fear Russia is becoming entrenched in Crimea and could turn its focus to Ukraine's industrial heart in the east, where Russian speakers similarly are a majority. Central and Eastern European countries that lived for decades under the Soviet Union's domination are especially sensitive to the threat.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite warned, "After Ukraine will be Moldova, and after Moldova will be different countries".

For the US and its allies, the spectre of Georgia's 2008 schism looms large. After a nine-day war between Russia and Georgia's then pro-Western government, the Kremlin supported two regions in breaking away from Georgia.

Most of the world doesn't recognise their independence, but Russia protects their autonomy. Then, as now, the US and EU reaction was limited in scope and included no military moves. In the United States, Obama initiated a "reset" of ties with Russia less than a year later.

With Ukraine at risk of a similar fate, the US has suspended talks on an investment treaty with Russia. Nato has halted military co-operation with Russia and has decided to review all aspects of the relationship with Moscow.

The US and European countries have halted preparations for a planned June summit in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

But so far Putin hasn't budged. His government claims that Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president, remains the leader of Ukraine. The pro-Russian Yanukovych fled to a location near Moscow for protection.

Also on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry met again with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Kerry stressed a need for a direct Russian-Ukrainian dialogue and the importance of allowing international monitors into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Diplomatic progress appeared elusive.

Speaking to reporters later, Kerry emphasized that Ukraine must remain whole.

"Crimea is part of Ukraine," Kerry said. "Crimea is Ukraine."

- AP
Read more on:    eu  |  vladimir putin  |  viktor yanukovych  |  barack obama  |  john kerry  |  russia  |  ukraine  |  us  |  ukraine protests
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
64 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Get fit on a budget

It’s time to throw the “I can’t afford to exercise” excuse out the window.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Tips for paddling your first Dusi
Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may prefer to be in charge because then you can call the shots. You are not as flexible as you like to make out to be and you...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.