In response to Russia’s surprise takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, the Obama administration on Sunday floated an array of punitive measures aimed at isolating Moscow, including economic sanctions and visa bans. Though Secretary of State John Kerry called the Russian incursions a "brazen act of aggression," a senior administration official downplayed the likelihood of a U.S. military intervention, revealing the limits of Washington’s influence over the situation.
The initial warning to Moscow came from Kerry, who warned that Russia could face asset freezes on businesses and expulsion from the Group of 8 industrialized nations. "There could be certainly disruption of any of the normal trade routine," Kerry told NBC. "This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext."
Though Kerry emphasized that "all options are on the table," a senior administration official pushed back against the use of military force in Ukraine in a phone call with reporters. "I don’t think we’re focused right now on the notion of some U.S. military intervention," the official said. "I don’t think, frankly, that would be an effective way to de-escalate the situation."
Thus far, efforts to condemn Russia have relied on soft-power tactics. On Sunday, seven world powers — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — suspended preparations for the scheduled G-8 summit in a joint statement condemning Russia’s actions. "[W]e have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G-8 is able to have meaningful discussion," the statement said. It’s unclear how much the event means to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who failed to show up at the 2012 G-8 summit, citing the need to make important cabinet decisions.
During the weekend, Russia’s incursions in the country escalated dramatically, with thousands of Russian forces invading the Crimean peninsula in a bloodless takeover. On Sunday, Russian troops encircled a Ukrainian army base to the fury of U.S. officials: In a 90-minute phone call on Saturday, President Barack Obama had demanded that Putin draw down his forces.
In response to Russia’s troop movements, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk ordered Ukrainian troops to begin mobilizing. "We are on the brink of disaster," he said. "We believe that our Western partners and the entire global community will support the territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine."
Meanwhile, the United States is pushing for officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to earn entry into Ukraine to monitor the conflict in the place of Russian forces. "We will be looking at what we can do immediately to get monitors into eastern Ukraine," said a senior administration official. "The OSCE, as you may know, has a very strong record of providing observation and monitoring in conflict situations." The assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Victoria Nuland, will be meeting with OSCE officials on Monday, and Kerry will be traveling to Ukraine on Tuesday.
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| The Cable |
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |