Unlike Syria, Backing Away From Red Line Is Not An Option

In response to Russian troop movements in Crimea, President Barack Obama delivered a statement stating further intrusion inside Ukrainian borders would “represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people.  It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of
international laws.”

Walter Russell Mead notes that Obama finds himself in a bind as he must take measurable action to compel Russia to pull back militarily while not damaging the potential for cooperation on issues of great concern to the US.

“Two of the President’s highest goals—progress on nuclear arms control in general and a peaceful end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions—depend in large part on Russia’s willingness to act as an American partner. Just as his Syria strategy (talks at Geneva to prepare a political transition) fell horribly flat when the Russians backed away, his Iran and nuclear strategies would face some very rough sledding if Russia’s promises of help prove hollow,” Mead argues.

Unlike the red line drawn in Syria, Obama and his European counterparts are obligated to take action to defend Ukraine as a result of the Budapest Memorandum, which was signed in 1994. While it is not a treaty, Barry Kellman, a professor of law and director of the International Weapons Control Center at DePaul University’s College of Law, says it “is binding in international law, but that doesn’t mean it has any means of enforcement.”

It states:

The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine … to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.

More on the Budapest Memorandum

The situation is complicated because the acting leadership in Crimea is closely allied with Russia and has called for their intervention.

“I ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to help keep peace and calm on the territory of the Republic of Crimea,” Sergei Aksyonov, the autonomous republic’s new prime minister, said in a statement broadcast on Russian state television.

Russia has 15,000 men stationed at a base in the Crimean port town of Sevastopol on the Black Sea.

Meanwhile, Russian media was reporting that gunmen from the Ukraine had attempted to seize Crimea’s Interior Ministry and released a statement saying it because of the “decisive action of self-defense squads, the attempt to seize the building of the Interior Ministry was derailed” and asserted the attack “confirms the intention of prominent political circles in Kiev to destabilize the situation on the peninsula.”

David Bocking of Der Spiegel examines the state of Ukraine’s finances and whether the International Monetary Fund can act in time – or has to capacity to act – to rescue the nation’s financial future.

Ukraine’s foreign currency reserves had dropped from $17.8 billion  to $15 billion just since the beginning of February.

According to IMF head Christine Lagarde, the organization planned to dispatch a “fact-finding mission” to Ukraine next week and the European Union and the US were monitoring the situation and could rapidly supply emergency funding of up to $1 billion each should the need arise.

“A long-lasting economic crisis in Ukraine, though, would not be in Russia’s best interest. “That naturally also has repercussions for joint companies we have with Ukraine,” Russian Economic Minister Alexei Ulyukayev told German business daily Handelsblatt. DZ Bank economist Bielmeier believes as well that these close ties may well be what save Ukraine in the end,” he writes.

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