Dangerous Games in Ukraine

Date:

Troops stand guard in Balaklava, Crimea, Ukraine on Saturday, March 1. AP photo
Troops stand guard in Balaklava, Crimea, Ukraine on Saturday, March 1. AP photo

What’s going on in Ukraine has raised the stakes for a dangerous West-Russia confrontation

STEPHEN LENDMAN

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ngoing events are scary. Everyone should be worried. Reports reveal heightened tensions. Conditions resemble nations preparing for war.

On March 1, Voice of Russia (VOR) said Ukraine’s border guard ships are on “battle alarm” at sea. “(E)xtreme measures (are being taken) to avert the seizure of a territory in Sevastopol.”

Valentina Matviyenko is Russia’s highest ranking female politician. She chairs its upper parliamentary Federation Council.

Under ongoing “circumstances,” she said, “we might send a limited contingent of troops to ensure security of the Black Sea Fleet and Russian national residing in Crimea.”

“Surely, it’s up to the president to decide as he is commander-in-chief, but we don’t rule out such a scenario. We must protect our compatriots.”

Russian senators visited Crimea. They briefed their colleagues. Moscow can’t be indifferent to the security and safety of its nationals, she added.

Lower house State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin asked Putin “to take measures to stabilize the situation in Crimea and use all available possibilities to protect the population of Crimea from lawlessness and violence.”

Interim Ukraine coup d’etat defense minister Igor Tenyukh formerly headed Ukraine’s navy.

In 2010, Yanukovych sacked him. He did so for initiating hostile action against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

During Georgia’s 2008 aggression against South Ossetia, he ordered Ukrainian ships to block Sevastopol waters. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was involved in “forcing Georgia to come to peace.”

On Friday, Tenyukh accused Russia of invading Ukraine. Interim coup d’etat prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk said the country won’t be “drawn into a military conflict by Russian provocations in the Crimea region.”

On the one hand, his words ring hollow. Ukraine’s military is no match against Russia’s. It’s unclear which side its commanders favor. They could intervene to impose their own authority.

Vladimir Chizhov is Russia’s EU ambassador. He responded to Ukrainian accusations, saying:

“There are no troops whatsoever (in Crimea), no Russian troops at least.”

Asked why “self-defense” groups were formed, he added:

“They have been hearing threats that so-called ‘friendship trains’ loaded with armed supporters of the Kiev Maidan were on their way to Crimea. Naturally the local population is worried.”

He dismissed John Kerry’s bluster, saying:  “The US with its tradition of interfering in other countries and sending troops overseas, may be acting according to its own mentality, I would say.”

“But this is not a case of Russian interference. Actually many people in Russia are asking questions about why is the Russian government keeping such a low profile.”

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said:

“We have an agreement with Ukraine on the presence of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, and we have been acting within the framework of” its provisions.

It’s dated April 21, 2010. Presidents of both countries signed it. It permits the presence of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.

Throughout Ukraine’s crisis, Putin remained uncharacteristically quiet. On Saturday, he asked Russia’s Federation Council to authorize use of armed forces in Ukraine.

He issued a statement, saying: “Due to the emergency situation in Ukraine and a threat being posed to the lives of Russian nationals, our compatriots, and the Russian military contingent stationed in Ukraine (the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) in compliance with international agreements, I ask the Federation Council for permit to use Russian armed forces on the territory of Ukraine until social and political situation in the country stabilizes.”

Under Article 102 of Russia’s Constitution, Federation Council members are responsible for deciding whether to deploy government troops externally.

On Saturday, at 11:23 EST, they voted unanimously to do so. More on this below.

America’s Sixth Fleet ships were detected in the Black Sea heading for Crimean waters.

At the same time, unconfirmed reports suggest NATO forces arrived in western Ukraine’s Lviv region. They came to protect the US-installed coup d’etat government.

It’s unclear how Ukraine’s military will respond. NATO’s presence suggests concern about whether its commanders remain loyal to Yanukovych.

What’s going on in Ukraine raises the stakes for a dangerous East/West confrontation. Perhaps it makes Crimean independence more likely. Perhaps eastern and southern Ukraine will break away.

The Security Council met on Saturday. Members “discuss(ed) the situation in Ukraine,” according to an informed source.

They met on Friday. Ukrainian permanent representative, Yuri Sergeyev, urged its members to consider the Crimean situation “most seriously.”

EU ambassadors are meeting in Brussels. They’re discussing Ukraine ahead of an emergency Monday Foreign Affairs Council meeting.

NATO called an emergency Monday meeting. At issue is Ukraine’s deteriorating situation.

Russia’s Federation Council asked for Russia’s US ambassador to be recalled. Russian Federation Council Deputy Chair Yuri Vorobyov called Obama a “direct threat” to the Russian Republic.

He crossed a “red line,” he said. He “insulted the Russian people…We know that Maidan fighters were trained in Lithuania and Poland,” he added.

“Now they want to take their activities to eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea.”

Federation Council member Vyacheslav Shtyrov expressed similar sentiments. “(E)vents occurring in Ukraine are the upshot of the extensive work that was done with the participation of foreign countries,” he said.

“The US played a major role.” Strings are pulled in Washington. Plans were made well before violence erupted last November.

Federation Council chair Valentina Matviyenko instructed the Committee on International Relations “to prepare an appeal to (Putin) without delay and send it to (him). (He’ll) consider it and make the decision,” she said.

President Obama governs by Washington rules.  He opened a can of worms. He’s getting more than he bargained for.

How he’ll respond remains to be seen. Putin won’t roll over for him. He’ll defend vital Russian interests.

A previous article suggested Ukraine may be his red line. For sure, in Crimea to protect Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

On Saturday, thousands of Crimeans marched through Simferopol streets. They displayed large Russian tricolor flags.

They chanted pro-Russian slogans. They carried posters reading “No to fascism.” “No to Nazism.”

Russian flags were raised in Odessa, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities. Battle lines increasingly are drawn.

Will the President blunder into more mistakes than already? He may dare go where angels fear to tread.

He doesn’t understand the irresponsible risks he’s taking.  It bears repeating what previous article stressed. Today is the most perilous time in world history.

Imagine the worst of all possible outcomes. If that’s not motivation enough to resist, what is?

 

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