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Obama Demands Russia Leave G-8; June Summit Cancelled While Ukraine Deploys Army Along Borders | Zero Hedge

Obama Demands Russia Leave G-8; June Summit Cancelled While Ukraine Deploys Army Along Borders | Zero Hedge.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that it is “absolutely clear” that the G-8 Summit scheduled for June in Sochi, Russia will not go ahead. But it is President Obama that appears to be pressing the hardest for major changes:

  • OBAMA SAID TO PRESS ALLIES TO SUSPEND RUSSIA FROM G8: WSJ

This comes at a time when Ukraine forces are being withdrawn from Crimea and deployed to North, South, and East borders of the region.  Meanwhile, Ukraine is taking its soldiers pulled from Crimea and deploying them along all other borders.

  • UKRAINE’S PARUBIY: PRIORITY IS TO PROTECT BORDERS, LEAVE CRIMEA
  • UKRAINE DEPLOYS ARMY TO NORTH, SOUTH, EAST BORDERS: PARUBIY
  • UKRAINE HAS MOBILIZED MORE THAN 10,000 PEOPLE, PARUBIY SAYS

David Cameron says G-8 Summit Scrapped…

There will be no G8 summit in Russia this year, David Cameron said in a further ign of efforts to isolate Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

The Prime Minister said it was “absolutely clear” the meeting could not go ahead.

Speaking in The Hague ahead of a meeting of G7 leaders, he said: “We should be clear there’s not going to be a G8  summit this year in Russia. That’s absolutely clear.”

Preparations for the planned June summit in Sochi had already been suspended as a result of Russia’s actions in neighbouring Ukraine.

And Obama is calling for Russia to be kicked out of the G-8.

  • OBAMA SAID TO PRESS ALLIES TO SUSPEND RUSSIA FROM G8: WSJ

Obama Demands Russia Leave G-8; June Summit Cancelled While Ukraine Deploys Army Along Borders | Zero Hedge

Obama Demands Russia Leave G-8; June Summit Cancelled While Ukraine Deploys Army Along Borders | Zero Hedge.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that it is “absolutely clear” that the G-8 Summit scheduled for June in Sochi, Russia will not go ahead. But it is President Obama that appears to be pressing the hardest for major changes:

  • OBAMA SAID TO PRESS ALLIES TO SUSPEND RUSSIA FROM G8: WSJ

This comes at a time when Ukraine forces are being withdrawn from Crimea and deployed to North, South, and East borders of the region.  Meanwhile, Ukraine is taking its soldiers pulled from Crimea and deploying them along all other borders.

  • UKRAINE’S PARUBIY: PRIORITY IS TO PROTECT BORDERS, LEAVE CRIMEA
  • UKRAINE DEPLOYS ARMY TO NORTH, SOUTH, EAST BORDERS: PARUBIY
  • UKRAINE HAS MOBILIZED MORE THAN 10,000 PEOPLE, PARUBIY SAYS

David Cameron says G-8 Summit Scrapped…

There will be no G8 summit in Russia this year, David Cameron said in a further ign of efforts to isolate Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

The Prime Minister said it was “absolutely clear” the meeting could not go ahead.

Speaking in The Hague ahead of a meeting of G7 leaders, he said: “We should be clear there’s not going to be a G8  summit this year in Russia. That’s absolutely clear.”

Preparations for the planned June summit in Sochi had already been suspended as a result of Russia’s actions in neighbouring Ukraine.

And Obama is calling for Russia to be kicked out of the G-8.

  • OBAMA SAID TO PRESS ALLIES TO SUSPEND RUSSIA FROM G8: WSJ

Russian Bank Impacted By US Sanctions Hit By Mini Bank Run Over The Weekend | Zero Hedge

Russian Bank Impacted By US Sanctions Hit By Mini Bank Run Over The Weekend | Zero Hedge.

Last week, after western sanctions against Russia expanded to include not only the first financial institution, Bank Rosiya, but also SMP bank whose main shareholders were on the sanctions list, unexpectedly both Visa and MasterCard halted providing transaction services to the two banks, without providing an explanation. Over the weekend, one of the banks got its full credit card functionality back after Visa Inc and MasterCard both resumed services for payment transactions for clients at Russia’s SMP bank.

As a reminder, SMP, which has about 100 branches covering more than 20 Russian cities, has co-owners Boris Rotenberg and older brother Arkady,  who received large contracts in the Sochi Winter Olympics, and who were both added to the expanded US sanctions list, and as we reported before, SMP had said on Friday that Visa and MasterCard had stopped providing services for payment transactions for clients at Russia’s SMP bank. The bank said the decision to stop providing services by Visa and MasterCard was unlawful because the sanctions were imposed on shareholders, not the bank, which said it has no assets in the United States.

“We are glad that the two biggest international payment systems have heard our arguments and reversed their decision to block (SMP bank transactions),” SMP bank CEO Dmitry Kalantyrsky, said in a statement.

What was the purpose of this escalation? Simple: as Reuters reports, SMP Bank said on Monday around 9 billion roubles ($248 million) had been withdrawn by depositors since U.S. sanctions were announced last week.

Washington imposed sanctions on Thursday against 20 Russians close to President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, including Boris Rotenberg and his older brother Arkady, the co-owners of SMP Bank.

SMP CEO Dmitry Kalantyrsky told a news conference that an estimated 4 billion roubles had been withdrawn by individuals and 5 billion by organisations.

In other words, the staggered escalations against Russian banks, to which credit card processors have joined without any specific reason, were meant solely to incite a bank panic and to promote bank run conditions. With SMP this succeeded partially, with quarter of a billion withdrawn, however hardly enough to cripple the bank. At least for now.

As Bloomberg reports, as the new Cold War escalates between the West and Russia, the next most likely event is a Russian recession:

Banks including state-run VTB Capital say the world’s ninth-biggest economy will shrink for at least two quarters as penalties for annexing Crimea rattle markets, curb investment and raise the cost of borrowing. Sanctions that have so far focused on individuals via visa bans and asset freezes may be expanded to target specific areas of the economy.

President Vladimir Putin sent his popularity surging to a five-year high by making Crimea a part of Russia again after 60 years and says he won’t be swayed by foreign retaliation. Even so, the costs of the decision are starting to unfold, with Russian stocks this year’s worst performers and the economy set to suffer more than the West, said Mircea Geoana, Romania’s government representative for diplomacy and economic projects.

“We’re witnessing the start of a new geopolitical and economic Cold War and I think it will take at least two to three years to establish some sort of equilibrium,” he said. “The ones who’ll pay the bill for this aggression, no matter how popular and patriotic it looks, will be the Russian people because there’s a huge difference between the economic force of the EU and the U.S. and that of Russia.”

* * *

Russia will probably dip into a recession in the second and third quarters of this year as “domestic demand is set to halt on the uncertainty shock and tighter financial conditions,” according to Moscow-based VTB.

Russia’s central bank unexpectedly raised its benchmark interest rate by 150 basis points after the armed takeover of Crimea triggered a rout in the ruble. Putin completed his annexation of the Black Sea peninsula March 21.

Russia may shun foreign debt markets in 2014 because of higher borrowing costs, according to Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. He expressed frustration at disruptions to MasterCard Inc. and Visa services for cards issued by banks on or linked to persons on the U.S. sanctions list.

“Some people say these sanctions won’t affect Russia’s financial system but they already are,” he said March 21.

Of course, as we reported last week, any dramatic deterioration in the Russian economy will simply push it closer to China, which for all intents and purposes is the provider of funding for Western “discretionary spending” anyway, so why not just cut the middleman, and the petrodollar, entirely?

Russian Bank Impacted By US Sanctions Hit By Mini Bank Run Over The Weekend | Zero Hedge

Russian Bank Impacted By US Sanctions Hit By Mini Bank Run Over The Weekend | Zero Hedge.

Last week, after western sanctions against Russia expanded to include not only the first financial institution, Bank Rosiya, but also SMP bank whose main shareholders were on the sanctions list, unexpectedly both Visa and MasterCard halted providing transaction services to the two banks, without providing an explanation. Over the weekend, one of the banks got its full credit card functionality back after Visa Inc and MasterCard both resumed services for payment transactions for clients at Russia’s SMP bank.

As a reminder, SMP, which has about 100 branches covering more than 20 Russian cities, has co-owners Boris Rotenberg and older brother Arkady,  who received large contracts in the Sochi Winter Olympics, and who were both added to the expanded US sanctions list, and as we reported before, SMP had said on Friday that Visa and MasterCard had stopped providing services for payment transactions for clients at Russia’s SMP bank. The bank said the decision to stop providing services by Visa and MasterCard was unlawful because the sanctions were imposed on shareholders, not the bank, which said it has no assets in the United States.

“We are glad that the two biggest international payment systems have heard our arguments and reversed their decision to block (SMP bank transactions),” SMP bank CEO Dmitry Kalantyrsky, said in a statement.

What was the purpose of this escalation? Simple: as Reuters reports, SMP Bank said on Monday around 9 billion roubles ($248 million) had been withdrawn by depositors since U.S. sanctions were announced last week.

Washington imposed sanctions on Thursday against 20 Russians close to President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, including Boris Rotenberg and his older brother Arkady, the co-owners of SMP Bank.

SMP CEO Dmitry Kalantyrsky told a news conference that an estimated 4 billion roubles had been withdrawn by individuals and 5 billion by organisations.

In other words, the staggered escalations against Russian banks, to which credit card processors have joined without any specific reason, were meant solely to incite a bank panic and to promote bank run conditions. With SMP this succeeded partially, with quarter of a billion withdrawn, however hardly enough to cripple the bank. At least for now.

As Bloomberg reports, as the new Cold War escalates between the West and Russia, the next most likely event is a Russian recession:

Banks including state-run VTB Capital say the world’s ninth-biggest economy will shrink for at least two quarters as penalties for annexing Crimea rattle markets, curb investment and raise the cost of borrowing. Sanctions that have so far focused on individuals via visa bans and asset freezes may be expanded to target specific areas of the economy.

President Vladimir Putin sent his popularity surging to a five-year high by making Crimea a part of Russia again after 60 years and says he won’t be swayed by foreign retaliation. Even so, the costs of the decision are starting to unfold, with Russian stocks this year’s worst performers and the economy set to suffer more than the West, said Mircea Geoana, Romania’s government representative for diplomacy and economic projects.

“We’re witnessing the start of a new geopolitical and economic Cold War and I think it will take at least two to three years to establish some sort of equilibrium,” he said. “The ones who’ll pay the bill for this aggression, no matter how popular and patriotic it looks, will be the Russian people because there’s a huge difference between the economic force of the EU and the U.S. and that of Russia.”

* * *

Russia will probably dip into a recession in the second and third quarters of this year as “domestic demand is set to halt on the uncertainty shock and tighter financial conditions,” according to Moscow-based VTB.

Russia’s central bank unexpectedly raised its benchmark interest rate by 150 basis points after the armed takeover of Crimea triggered a rout in the ruble. Putin completed his annexation of the Black Sea peninsula March 21.

Russia may shun foreign debt markets in 2014 because of higher borrowing costs, according to Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. He expressed frustration at disruptions to MasterCard Inc. and Visa services for cards issued by banks on or linked to persons on the U.S. sanctions list.

“Some people say these sanctions won’t affect Russia’s financial system but they already are,” he said March 21.

Of course, as we reported last week, any dramatic deterioration in the Russian economy will simply push it closer to China, which for all intents and purposes is the provider of funding for Western “discretionary spending” anyway, so why not just cut the middleman, and the petrodollar, entirely?

Interpreting Putin’s Decision | The Diplomat

Interpreting Putin’s Decision | The Diplomat.

Interpreting Putin’s Decision
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Interpreting Putin’s Decision

From Western weakness to its Eurasian Union project, a look at the factors that drove the annexation of Crimea.

By Wei Zongyou
March 23, 2014

People around the world were astounded by Vladimir Putin’s rapid decision to annex Crimea in response to the latter’s referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, which Kiev and the West view as illegal. The decision also drew worldwide criticism and vehement condemnation by the West and Ukraine, and triggered a second wave of economic sanctions from the United States, and soon afterwards Europe. Relations between Russia and the West are at their chilliest since the end of the Cold War.

So why has Putin risked Russia’s economic welfare and political space to swallow Crimea, push Ukraine out, and alienate the entire Western world? Is Putin “in another world” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed he is? In my opinion, there are at least two considerations behind Putin’s decision.

The first is the realist, geo-political consideration. In Putin’s world, since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, Russia has lost nearly one fourth of its geography, one half of its population, and more than half of its GDP. Among the “lost” territories are those that are strategically important or militarily advanced, such as Ukraine and the Baltic states. With the eastward expansion of NATO, and the integration of former Soviet satellite states and republics in Eastern Europe and the Baltics into Europe, the traditional buffer zone between Russia and the West is increasingly squeezed and Russia’s space for strategic maneuvering becomes smaller with each year. When Russia craved for entry into the West, this might not have been particularly worrisome or embarrassing for Moscow. But since Russian leaders decided long ago that joining the West was neither particularly helpful to Russia’s political standing nor particularly attractive in terms of economic gains, it has begun to view the expansion of the West at its own strategic expense as both ill-intentioned and threatening.

Ukraine holds a unique position in Russia’s geo-strategic consideration. First, it is crucial territory in the passage of Russia’s oil exports to Europe. Each year more than one third of the oil Russia ships to Europe travels via the Ukraine pipeline. Second, Crimea gives Russia’s Black Sea Fleet access to the Black Sea. If the pro-West Kiev government were to have decided to end its lease to the Russian naval base in Crimea, Russia would have lost its strategic gateway to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Third, Ukraine is deemed the most crucial member of Russia’s Eurasia Union project, an economic and strategic plan to closely connect Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Central Asia. If all goes according to plan, this union will integrate these former Soviet republics and now independent countries economically, politically, and diplomatically with Russia, and go some way to restoring the glory of the Soviet empire at its peak. The “coup d’état” in Kiev and the political orientation of the new government put all these things in jeopardy, if Russia remains disinterested and passive.

The second consideration is more psychological in nature. Following the end of Cold War, embracing the West was the first priority of Russian foreign policy. But to Moscow’s dismay, it found that the West still harbored strong reservations and considerable distrust. Years spent courting and wooing provided little of what Russia craved most: equal membership in the West and economic prosperity. Though Russia became part of the exclusive G8, it never enjoyed the full status and say of the other seven members, always remaining an “other.” Economically, the shock remedy proposed by the West and faithfully implemented by Boris Yeltsin didn’t bring the expected economic benefit. Instead, it took Russia’s economy into freefall, leaving the average Russian worse off than before. Russia’s look West ended in humiliation and disaster.

It was Putin who saved Russia from its miserable condition. He readjusted both Russia’s domestic and foreign policies, and distanced the country from the West, instead seeking opportunities to resurrect past Soviet glories. As the Russian economy improved, the West found that its time was passing. The 2008 economic crisis hit the U.S. and Europe hard and they found themselves more reliant on the emerging powers, Russia included. It is Britain, France, and even Germany who are now busy appealing to Russian oil barons to buy more and invest more. The balance of power between Russia and the West has shifted. The small war in Georgia in the summer of 2008 only strengthened this trend and the response from the West impressed Russia greatly: Europe is rotten and the U.S. has become too weak to lead. Then came the Arab Spring and the Syria crisis. In the former case, the U.S. “led from behind,” and in the latter it was Russia that decided the course of the Syria civil war.

Russians, and especially Putin learned a hard lesson from the post-Cold War romance with the West: For all the talk of democracy and freedom, the fact remains that the strong dictate to the weak.

With Europe rotten and United States weakened, a resurgent and confident Russia will definitely not let a geo-strategically important former Soviet republic fall entirely into the West’s camp. By annexing Crimea, Putin not only secured Russia’s naval base and its strategic gateway to the Black Sea, he also sent a powerful message to Ukraine and the West: Ignore Russia’s legitimate strategic concerns at your own peril.

Wei Zongyou, is Professor and Vice Dean of the Institute of International and Diplomatic Affairs, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai, China. His main research interests cover Sino-U.S. Relations, american foreign policy, humanitarian intervention and R2P

Interpreting Putin’s Decision | The Diplomat

Interpreting Putin’s Decision | The Diplomat.

Interpreting Putin’s Decision
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Interpreting Putin’s Decision

From Western weakness to its Eurasian Union project, a look at the factors that drove the annexation of Crimea.

By Wei Zongyou
March 23, 2014

People around the world were astounded by Vladimir Putin’s rapid decision to annex Crimea in response to the latter’s referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, which Kiev and the West view as illegal. The decision also drew worldwide criticism and vehement condemnation by the West and Ukraine, and triggered a second wave of economic sanctions from the United States, and soon afterwards Europe. Relations between Russia and the West are at their chilliest since the end of the Cold War.

So why has Putin risked Russia’s economic welfare and political space to swallow Crimea, push Ukraine out, and alienate the entire Western world? Is Putin “in another world” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed he is? In my opinion, there are at least two considerations behind Putin’s decision.

The first is the realist, geo-political consideration. In Putin’s world, since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, Russia has lost nearly one fourth of its geography, one half of its population, and more than half of its GDP. Among the “lost” territories are those that are strategically important or militarily advanced, such as Ukraine and the Baltic states. With the eastward expansion of NATO, and the integration of former Soviet satellite states and republics in Eastern Europe and the Baltics into Europe, the traditional buffer zone between Russia and the West is increasingly squeezed and Russia’s space for strategic maneuvering becomes smaller with each year. When Russia craved for entry into the West, this might not have been particularly worrisome or embarrassing for Moscow. But since Russian leaders decided long ago that joining the West was neither particularly helpful to Russia’s political standing nor particularly attractive in terms of economic gains, it has begun to view the expansion of the West at its own strategic expense as both ill-intentioned and threatening.

Ukraine holds a unique position in Russia’s geo-strategic consideration. First, it is crucial territory in the passage of Russia’s oil exports to Europe. Each year more than one third of the oil Russia ships to Europe travels via the Ukraine pipeline. Second, Crimea gives Russia’s Black Sea Fleet access to the Black Sea. If the pro-West Kiev government were to have decided to end its lease to the Russian naval base in Crimea, Russia would have lost its strategic gateway to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Third, Ukraine is deemed the most crucial member of Russia’s Eurasia Union project, an economic and strategic plan to closely connect Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Central Asia. If all goes according to plan, this union will integrate these former Soviet republics and now independent countries economically, politically, and diplomatically with Russia, and go some way to restoring the glory of the Soviet empire at its peak. The “coup d’état” in Kiev and the political orientation of the new government put all these things in jeopardy, if Russia remains disinterested and passive.

The second consideration is more psychological in nature. Following the end of Cold War, embracing the West was the first priority of Russian foreign policy. But to Moscow’s dismay, it found that the West still harbored strong reservations and considerable distrust. Years spent courting and wooing provided little of what Russia craved most: equal membership in the West and economic prosperity. Though Russia became part of the exclusive G8, it never enjoyed the full status and say of the other seven members, always remaining an “other.” Economically, the shock remedy proposed by the West and faithfully implemented by Boris Yeltsin didn’t bring the expected economic benefit. Instead, it took Russia’s economy into freefall, leaving the average Russian worse off than before. Russia’s look West ended in humiliation and disaster.

It was Putin who saved Russia from its miserable condition. He readjusted both Russia’s domestic and foreign policies, and distanced the country from the West, instead seeking opportunities to resurrect past Soviet glories. As the Russian economy improved, the West found that its time was passing. The 2008 economic crisis hit the U.S. and Europe hard and they found themselves more reliant on the emerging powers, Russia included. It is Britain, France, and even Germany who are now busy appealing to Russian oil barons to buy more and invest more. The balance of power between Russia and the West has shifted. The small war in Georgia in the summer of 2008 only strengthened this trend and the response from the West impressed Russia greatly: Europe is rotten and the U.S. has become too weak to lead. Then came the Arab Spring and the Syria crisis. In the former case, the U.S. “led from behind,” and in the latter it was Russia that decided the course of the Syria civil war.

Russians, and especially Putin learned a hard lesson from the post-Cold War romance with the West: For all the talk of democracy and freedom, the fact remains that the strong dictate to the weak.

With Europe rotten and United States weakened, a resurgent and confident Russia will definitely not let a geo-strategically important former Soviet republic fall entirely into the West’s camp. By annexing Crimea, Putin not only secured Russia’s naval base and its strategic gateway to the Black Sea, he also sent a powerful message to Ukraine and the West: Ignore Russia’s legitimate strategic concerns at your own peril.

Wei Zongyou, is Professor and Vice Dean of the Institute of International and Diplomatic Affairs, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai, China. His main research interests cover Sino-U.S. Relations, american foreign policy, humanitarian intervention and R2P

Russia Returns Favor, Sees Chinese Yuan As World Reserve Currency | Zero Hedge

Russia Returns Favor, Sees Chinese Yuan As World Reserve Currency | Zero Hedge.

Following China’s unwillingness to vote against Russia at the UN and yesterday’s news that China will sue Ukraine for $3bn loan repayment, it seems Russia is returning the favor. Speaking at the Chinese Economic Development Forum, ITAR-TASS reports, the Chief Economist of Russia’s largest bank stated that “China’s Yuan may become the third reserve currency in the in the future.”

 

Managing Director and Chief Economist of investment company Sberbank Yevgeny Gavrilenkov said at the 15th governmental Chinese economic development forum in the Chinese capital on Sunday (via ITAR-TASS):

China’s yuan (renminbi) may become a third reserve currency in the world in the future

 

“This forecast can be made on figures of domestic economic growth. Probably the country will keep high GDP growth rate and the GDP volume will increase to around 14-16 trillion U.S. dollars for a brief period of time, the indicators comparable to the European Union and the United States.

 

Meanwhile, Chinese securities are more attractive for the countries that have a surplus in economy, particularly the Middle East states; and China will obviously follow the path of securing the country’s assets,”

The forum which opened in the Chinese capital on March 22 discusses a broad range of issues of economic reforms and China’s stronger role as the second largest world economy. First Deputy Prime Minister of the Chinese State Council Zhang Gaoli, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde and top managers of major world corporations participate in the forum as honorary guests.

Of course, as we noted previously, nothing lasts forever

 [12]

 

and with Friday’s “Petrodollar Alert” perhaps things are moving faster than many assumed.

Russia Returns Favor, Sees Chinese Yuan As World Reserve Currency | Zero Hedge

Russia Returns Favor, Sees Chinese Yuan As World Reserve Currency | Zero Hedge.

Following China’s unwillingness to vote against Russia at the UN and yesterday’s news that China will sue Ukraine for $3bn loan repayment, it seems Russia is returning the favor. Speaking at the Chinese Economic Development Forum, ITAR-TASS reports, the Chief Economist of Russia’s largest bank stated that “China’s Yuan may become the third reserve currency in the in the future.”

 

Managing Director and Chief Economist of investment company Sberbank Yevgeny Gavrilenkov said at the 15th governmental Chinese economic development forum in the Chinese capital on Sunday (via ITAR-TASS):

China’s yuan (renminbi) may become a third reserve currency in the world in the future

 

“This forecast can be made on figures of domestic economic growth. Probably the country will keep high GDP growth rate and the GDP volume will increase to around 14-16 trillion U.S. dollars for a brief period of time, the indicators comparable to the European Union and the United States.

 

Meanwhile, Chinese securities are more attractive for the countries that have a surplus in economy, particularly the Middle East states; and China will obviously follow the path of securing the country’s assets,”

The forum which opened in the Chinese capital on March 22 discusses a broad range of issues of economic reforms and China’s stronger role as the second largest world economy. First Deputy Prime Minister of the Chinese State Council Zhang Gaoli, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde and top managers of major world corporations participate in the forum as honorary guests.

Of course, as we noted previously, nothing lasts forever

 [12]

 

and with Friday’s “Petrodollar Alert” perhaps things are moving faster than many assumed.

Would America Go to War with Russia?

Would America Go to War with Russia?.

|

March 22, 2014

Vice President Biden was in Warsaw last week to reassure our eastern NATO allies that they have the support of a “steadfast ally.” But if Russia moved against Poland or the Baltic States, would the United States really go to war? Or would we do nothing and effectively destroy the NATO alliance?

President Obama has ruled out a “military excursion” in Ukraine. America is not obligated legally to take action against Russia for annexing Crimea. We would not go to war if Russia mounted a large-scale invasion of Ukraine to restore the ousted, pro-Moscow government of Viktor Yanukovych, currently under U.S. sanctions. And we would not even send troops if Ukraine was partitioned, or absorbed by Russia. Americans have no interest in such a conflict, and no stomach for it.

NATO allies are a different matter. The North Atlantic Treaty is a mutual-defense pact, and Article 5 says that an armed attack against one member state “shall be considered an attack against them all.” This is a clear red line. The only time Article 5 has been invoked was in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and most NATO allies sent troops to support the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Could the current crisis expand to touch NATO? The developing situation in Ukraine has been compared to Germany’s absorption of Austria in 1938, or the subsequent partition and dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Hillary Clinton compared Russian president Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, which by extension puts President Obama in the role of British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who famously failed to achieve “peace in our time” at Munich.

Push the analogy further. The Second World War was sparked by Warsaw’s resistance to Berlin’s demand to annex the Polish Corridor, a small stretch of land—smaller than Crimea—separating the German provinces of Pomerania and East Prussia. Hitler responded by invading Poland and partitioning it with the Soviet Union. Britain and France had pledged to defend Polish independence, and two days after Germany invaded, they declared war. In his war message, Chamberlain explained that Hitler’s actions showed “there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force.”

This may or may not describe Mr. Putin, as Mrs. Clinton alleged. But if similar circumstances arise in the near future, will the United States honor security guarantees made to Poland and the Baltic States when the Russian threat was only a theory?

Mr. Biden stood with Estonian president Toomas Ilves Tuesday to “reconfirm and reaffirm our shared commitment to collective self-defense, to Article 5.” He wanted to make it “absolutely clear what it means to the Estonian people” and that “President Obama and I view Article 5 of the NATO Treaty as an absolutely solemn commitment which we will honor—we will honor.” Shortly thereafter, Moscow “expressed concern” about the treatment of ethnic Russians in Estonia. Mr. Putin justified his actions in Crimea as “restoring unity” to Russian people. Estonia’s population is 25 percent ethnic Russian, compared to 17 percent in Ukraine, mostly in the north and east part of the country. Suppose anti-Russian riots “spontaneously” broke out in Estonia. What would the United States do if Moscow invoked a “responsibility to protect” these people and bring them “back” to the Motherland? Would President Obama take military action against Russia over a small, secluded piece of a tiny, distant country? Would it be like the Polish Corridor in 1939? This is highly doubtful—highly doubtful.

Aren’t we obligated by treaty to intervene? Mr. Biden mentioned the “absolutely solemn commitment which we will honor.” It was so important he said it twice. However, Article 5 says that NATO members pledge to come to the assistance of the attacked state using “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.” It doesn’t take a White House lawyer to see the gaping loophole—President Obama can simply deem that the use of U.S. force isn’t necessary. He can walk back the red line, as he did with Syria. Stern talk and minimal sanctions would follow, but Estonia would lose some, if not all of its territory. And in practical terms it would mean the end of NATO, which is one of Moscow’s longstanding strategic objectives. Mr. Putin’s chess game does not end in Crimea.

James S. Robbins is Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC.

Ukraine Official Warns “Chance Of War With Russia Growing” As Mike Rogers Calls For Sending Weapons To Ukraine | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Official Warns “Chance Of War With Russia Growing” As Mike Rogers Calls For Sending Weapons To Ukraine | Zero Hedge.

Concurrently with out post on what the odds are of a war between the US and Russia over Ukraine, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, and war hawk, appeared on TV this morning saying that the United States ought to provide weapons to the Ukrainian army “so it could defend the country from a Russian invasion.” This is the same Mike Rogers who last August did everything in his power to perpetuate the lie that Syrians had used chemical weapons against “rebels” (who subsequently turned out to be mostly Qatari-funded Al Qaeda mercenaries and other Islamic extremists) “There are things that we can do that I think we’re not doing. I don’t think the rhetoric (from Obama administration officials) matches the reality on the ground,” he said.

Seemingly oblivious that all Russia desperately wants is further escalation in the conflict, which can then immediately be seen as a provocation for further incursions into either the Ukraine and/or other former Soviet counteries, Rogers said that, while ruling out the deployment of U.S. military forces in Ukraine, he called for sending small arms and radio equipment that the Ukrainian military could use to “protect and defend themselves. And I think that sends a very clear message.”

Absolutely it does: the message it sends is that US foreign policy has just hit rock bottom in terms of game theoretical escalation cluelessness. At least in Syria someone put some effort in fabricating YouTube videos and at least putting together a media campaign demonizing Assad. And still failed.

More from NBC:

Speaking from Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, a country that Russian forces invaded in 2008, Rogers said on NBC’s Meet the Press that the Ukrainians “passionately believe” that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will be on the move again in Ukraine, especially in the east.”

He said both Ukrainian and U.S. intelligence officials “believe that Putin is not done in Ukraine. It is very troubling. He has put all the military units he would need to move into Ukraine on its eastern border and is doing exercises.”

If Putin orders Russian forces into the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – which are NATO member states and which the United States is obligated by the NATO treaty to defend — then “we (will) have allowed people who want to be free, who want to be independent, who want to have self-determination, and we’ve turned our back and walked away from them.”

In an apparent allusion to the seizure of Czechoslovakia which was a prelude to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, Rogers added, “The world did that once – and it was a major catastrophe.”

The full clip:

And while US neocons are warmongering, Ukraine is all too happy to raise the tension level just a bit more, hoping that NATO will finally intervene and present Putin with at least some hurdle to overrunning all of East Ukraine, using exactly the same template as already show in Crimea. From WSJ:

Ukraine’s top diplomat warned Sunday that the chances of war with Russia “are growing” due to the buildup of Moscow’s forces along his country’s eastern border. In an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia said Kiev “is ready to respond” should Russia–which has already seized the Crimea–move further in Ukrainian territory.

The situation is becoming even more explosive than it was a week ago,” Mr. Deshchytsia said.

He said Ukraine’s first approach to the Russian threat on the frontier would be diplomatic. But, he said, “people are also ready to defend their homeland.”

Meanwhile, Putin is sitting back in his chair and smiling, since everything so far continues to unwind precisely according to his plan.

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