CREDIT: AP/John Minchillo
U.S. officials on Sunday said that Russia now has de facto military control of the Crimean peninsula, even as Russian and Ukrainian soldiers continued their standoff in the most recent iteration of a crisis that has seized the Eastern European country for months. On Monday, the Kremlin kicked things up a notch, demanding that Ukrainian forces in Crimea lay down their arms within the next 24 hours, a call that the interim government has rejected.
While options exist for the United States to respond to Russia without using force, none of them will be as effective without a little help from its friends. Here’s how some of the multilateral institutions that the U.S. is a part of are reacting to what appears to be Moscow’s slow-motion invasion of its neighbor to the West and what next steps potentially lie ahead:
So far: Back in 1997, the Group of 7 most powerful economies in the world — France, Germany, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States — extended an offer to a Russia still recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union to join their ranks. Since then, the informal forum has been referred to as the G-8 and Russia has taken part in its annual summits without concern. In a strongly worded statement issued Sunday night, however, the “leaders of the G-7″ took the host of their next meeting to task.
The statement had all seven members’ leaders, and the Presidents of the European Council and European Commission, “join together today to condemn the Russian Federation’s clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and its 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine.”
Noting that Russia’s actions went against G-7 principles, the leaders announced that they had “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 British, French, and Canadian governments had all previously joined the American suspension of preparation, but adding on the rest of the G-7 gave the decision added weight.
What’s next: Suspension of preparatory talks for the annual summit isn’t the same as canceling it all together, though it’s a start. The statement left open the possibility that Russia could relent enough that the meeting at Sochi could still resume, giving Russian president Vladimir Putin a diplomatic off-ramp. In the event he doesn’t, though, the members of the G-7 could arrange a shadow summit in which they meet without Russian participation or vote to remove Russia from the arrangement either temporarily or permanently.
So far: At the behest of the Ukrainian government, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on the Ukrainian crisis on Saturday. Several hours passed, however, where the meeting was a debate about the meeting’s format — the United States wanted a full open meeting with the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N. present, while Russia insisted on closed-door informal consultations. The U.S. won out in the end, giving the chance for public airing of grievances on both sides.
Russian ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin insisted that Russia had not yet used force against Ukraine, saying that troops could be deployed “on the territory of Ukraine,” but not “against Ukraine.”
“It is ironic that the Russian Federation regularly goes out of its way in the Security Council chamber to emphasize the sanctity of national borders and sovereignty,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said after the meeting. “Today, Russia would do well to heed its own warnings.”
What’s next: While Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has spoken out against the Russian incursion, it’s not likely that the world body’s most powerful organ takes action over Ukraine. Power suggested during Saturday’s meeting that the United Nations or the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe could deploy observers into Crimea and other parts of Ukraine to report on the situation on the ground. But Russia — as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council — has the ability to veto any proposal before the body. That said, Russia itself has called for a meeting of the Council for Monday afternoon, meaning the U.N. isn’t completely sidelined yet.
So far: Given its Cold War origins, it would seem that Russian military moves into Europe would be precisely the sort of crisis NATO was formed to handle. But Ukraine in 2010, soon after now former President Viktor Yanukovych came into office, rejected the possibility of a NATO Membership Action Plan that would have eventually integrated it into the defense pact. Kyiv’s status as being a partner of NATO, but not a member, makes any military response from the organization highly unlikely.
That doesn’t mean NATO is standing idly by, however. At the request of Poland, which said it feels threatened by Russia’s actions, the North Atlantic Counil — NATO’s political arm — met on Sunday to discuss the situation. Afterward, the body issued a statement declaring that it “condemns the Russian Federation’s military escalation in Crimea” and called for Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.
What’s next: NATO is spending Monday meeting with the NATO-Ukraine Council, a formal meeting format for talks between the organization and its partner. While the Brussels-based organization could suspend talks with Russia as a sign of its displeasure with Moscow, so far it has yet to do so, instead planning on activating the NATO-Russia Council in the near future to discuss the situation.
International Monetary Fund
So far: An often overlooked component to the political crisis Ukraine is going through is the simultaneous economic crisis. After Yanukovych’s ouster, Moscow said that the terms of its $15 billion loan to keep Kyiv from financial collapse would have to be renogiated. That’s left the interim government in Kyiv strapped for cash, with the interim finance minister saying at least $15 billion in capital was needed — and fast. In their statement last night, the G-7 leaders pledged to help Ukraine weather the financial storm and put together an IMF loan package to at would keep Ukraine afloat.
What’s next: The IMF on Monday announced that it would be sending an assessment team to Ukraine starting tomorrow to begin the process of determining the terms behind a bailout. The acting government has said they will institute the political and financial reforms the IMF requests of them, but it appears unlikely that they will see the loans in their treasury earlier than April.