US and EU Impose Sanctions on Russia and Crimea after Referendum
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc ): The USA and EU have imposed sanctions on Russia and Crimea after Sunday’s referendum and the Crimean government’s application for accession into the Russian Federation. Russia earlier stressed that it would reciprocate with sanctions. A global currency war is looming, warn Chinese and Russian Diplomats. The security situation in Ukraine and Crimea continues deteriorating with Ukrainian troops and National Guards amassing in Eastern Ukraine and along the Ukrainian – Russian border and the new Kiev government brandishing terrorism threats against pipelines and Russian interests.
“The actions and policies” of the Russian government with respect to Ukraine “undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.”
The sanctions were imposed by executive order and apply to seven top Russian officials, including aide to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Vladislav Surkov, presidential adviser Sergey Glazyev, State Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky, member of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament (the Federation Council) Andrey Klishas, head of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament Valentina Matvienko, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and State Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina. Obama’s executive order states that it came into effect at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on March 17, 2014.
The U.S. Treasury has imposed additional sanctions on four Ukrainian individuals for “their actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine and in undermining the Government of Ukraine”. These sanctions include the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, Crimean top officials Sergey Aksyonov and Vladimir Konstantinov, and the former Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk.
Obama to visit Europe to Speak with NATO Partners. The U.S. President held a brief, televised address to the nation from the White House, acknowledging that the executive order “expands the scope of sanctions against Russia and is making it clear that there are consequences for their actions”. Obama added that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be travelling to Europe later on Monday evening, to meet with U.S. officials in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and that he, himself, would be travelling to Europe next week to speak with the United States’ NATO partners. The U.S. President said:
“The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. … If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions.”
The European Union has imposed sanctions on 13 Russians and 8 Crimeans which will be in force for six months, said Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Morgheini, after EU ministers and officials met in Brussels. Moreghini said that the sanctions will include visa bans and financial restrictions, but that they will not affect representatives of the Russian leadership, journalists or employees of non-governmental structures.
The Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Linas Linkevicus, said that these sanctions are likely to be expanded when EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. The 21 persons included in the provisional EU list are part of a previous EU list that included some 120 – 130 people, reported the Reuters news agency.
EU Can Dictate Unified Foreign and Defense Policy. The EU requires the concurrent vote of all of its 28 member states to impose sanctions. Some EU members, including Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Portugal have expressed certain reservations against sanctions. It is noteworthy that the EU’s Treaty of Maastricht includes provisions that allow the EU to “impose a unified foreign and defense policy on member states in times of crisis.
The Maastrich Treaty’s provisions go as far, as to holding the governments of individual EU member States accountable for “assuring that member state’s MPs refrain from issuing public statements in opposition to such a unified policy. Consequently, it is likely that the governments of Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Portugal, or any other EU member that has reservations against sanctions will come under considerable pressure from the EU’s “strongman” Germany, France and the UK.
Threats of sanctions by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, last week, prompted the Chinese government to respond through China’s ambassador to Berlin, who warned that sanction risk igniting a global currency war.
The Paris based OECD announced earlier that it has postponed all activities related to talks with Russia about its accession to the organization, stating that it instead will focus on strengthening relations to the Ukraine.
NATO’s North Atlantic Council issues Statement on “So-Called Referendum in Crimea”. NATO has issued a statement saying the NATO considers the so-called referendum held on 16 March in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea to be both illegal and illegitimate. The alliance states that the referendum violated the Ukrainian Constitution and international law, and Allies do not recognize its results.
NATO adds that the circumstances under which it was held were deeply flawed and therefore unacceptable and that this was demonstrated by the rushed nature of the poll under conditions of military intervention and the restrictions on, and the manipulation of, the media, which precluded any possibility of free debate and deliberation and deprived the vote of any credibility. (emphasis added) The statement adds:
We urge the Russian Federation to de-escalate the situation, including by ceasing all military activities against Ukraine. The so-called referendum undermines efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine. We further call upon the Russian Federation to honour all its international commitments, return to the path of dialogue and seek a peaceful, political solution, including through direct dialogue with the government of Ukraine. We therefore urge the Russian Federation not to take any steps to annex Crimea, which would be a clear violation of the United Nations Charter.
The statement concludes that NATO Allies reiterate their full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for the principle of the inviolability of its internationally recognized borders. The statement issued by NATO underlines a massive media and political misinformation campaign, using images of Russian troops in Russia, while alleging a “massive invasion”. nsnbc has documented this disinformation and propaganda campaign in several articles.
Russia will Reciprocate While both the U.S. and E.U. sanctions are relatively limited for the time being, they are likely to increase as the political crisis intensifies and the security situation continues deteriorating.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has earlier said that the damage inflicted by sanctions would be mutual, stressing both the fact that economic sanctions cannot be limited in an increasingly global economy.
Putin also stressed that Moscow would respond to sanctions, while not necessarily mirroring them. Already in January, Russia’s Minister of Economic Development, Aleksey Ulyukaev, warned that the world is headed for a global currency war. In an interview, following the latest Western threats of sanctions, Ulyukaev said in an interview with the Vesti 24 TV channel, that Russia, among others, would shield itself, from Western sanctions, by boosting trade in other currencies that the US dollar. Ulyukaevsaid:
“We need to increase trade volume conducted in national currencies. Why, in relation to China, India, Turkey and other countries, should we be negotiating in dollars? Why should we do that? We should sign deals in national currencies- this applies to energy, oil, gas, and everything else”.
Kiev Deployed Tanks and heavy Military Materiel to Russian Border, Threatens Military Action, Arrests and Terrorism. Diplomats will be making many rhetoric statements today, the development with regards to sanctions remains to be seen later on Monday and throughout the week.
Meanwhile, the security situation in Ukraine is deteriorating rapidly, as a growing number of protesters in Kharkov Donnetzk, Dneprpetrovsk and other Eastern Ukrainian cities demand to hold a referendum equal or similar to the one that has been held in Crimea on Sunday.
The situation is becoming aggravated by the fact that the new Kiev government, especially the ultra nationalist and overtly Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party and Pravy Sector are bussing bus loads full of the same radicals to the Eastern Ukraine, who already created deadly violence at the Euro-Maidan in Kiev.
Heavy Ukrainian Military Equipment Masses along Ukrainian – Russian Border.
Ukrainian heavy military equipment, including armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles have been heading towards the Russian border since 14 March and continue to amass, leading both Russian and Ukrainian speaking residents in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk to protest and to block roads and railway lines to prevent a military escalation.
Residents have uploaded various videos of the heavy military equipment moving through the eastern Ukrainian regions. The process triggered protests which erupted in the cities of Kharkov, Donetsk and Lugansk.
The Russian TV channel RT reports that on Thursday, local activists of Lugansk and Donetsk regions blocked the columns carrying the military equipment.
Near Donetsk, the Donbas people’s militia forced the Ukrainian troops to turn around, while in Lugansk the activists stopped the columns, setting up a 24-hour patrol guarding the military equipment and preventing its further movement. Meanwhile, the Ukraine’s new Minister of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, said:
“To date, the border with the Russian Federation is practically blocked. This raises tensions in Kharkov and Lugansk in particular. This is because the Border and National Guard are blocking passage from Russia [to Ukraine] of civilians with questionable intentions”.
Avakov said that some 15.000 – 20.000 troops of the newly-formed “National Guard” are being deployed to the Eastern Ukraine. During a government session, Avakov said:
“We suppose that the mobilization will involve all of the Ukrainian territory in figures of 10 to 15 thousand and will be carried out in the next 15 days”.
When it is fully formed the Guard will be comprised of 60,000 men and women appointed by the Verhovnaya Rada upon the recommendation of the acting president Turchinov.
The majority of both the Russian speaking majority and the majority of Ukrainian speaking Ukrainians in the country’s eastern regions stress that these National Guard troops will predominantly be recruited among ultra nationalists, Fascists and Neo-Nazi organizations which stood behind the violence in Kiev, including the hiring of snipers to shoot both protesters and police officers alike, to blame it on the ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich. It is considered an absolute certainty that these troops will be commanded by radical Neo-Nazi and Fascist commanders.
Adding to the increased risk of civil war and a military confrontation is that Pravy Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh has called for sabotaging gas and oil pipelines. Yarosh, against whom Interpol has an outstanding arrest warrant on terrorism charges, had earlier called on Chechen fighters to to attack Russian interests in solidarity with Kiev. About the deployment of the newly-formed “National Guard” and sabotage of pipelines, Yarosh said:
“We cannot allow the enemy to carry out a blitzkrieg attack on Ukrainian territory. We mustn’t forget that Russia makes money sending its oil through our pipelines to the West. We will destroy these pipelines and deprive our enemy of its source of income”.
On the eve of Sunday’s referendum, Crimean self-defense forces foiled an attempt to sabotage a gas pipeline at Arabat Spit, reported the Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov. The, would be, saboteurs identified themselves as “the Border Guard”.
Analysts warn that the protests against the Kiev government and the military escalation in Odessa, Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Melitopol, Yevpatoria, Kerch and Mariupo, combined with the deployment of 15.000 – 20.000 ultra nationalist “National Guards”, and terrorism threats are a recipe for disaster, that could lead to an uncontrollable escalation, a civil war and a direct military stand-off, that could escalate and spin out of control. Some analysts warn that the USA and UK have long perceived the development of EU – Russian economic and political ties as a threat to the “Atlantic Axis”, and that both the UK and USA have reasons to aggravate, rather than to defuse the crisis – A strategy that is directed against Germany, the EU and Russia.
Ch/L – 17.03.2014