March 14th, 2014
Yesterday Secretary of State and flip-flopper extraordinaire John Kerry advised Russia that Vladimir Putin has until Monday to pull back his forces from Ukraine. Failure to do so would lead to serious repercussions. Kerry was light on details, but we can assume he was talking about some sort of economic sanctions:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a top critic of President Obama’s foreign policy, asked what the administration would do if Russian forces advance farther into the eastern area of Ukraine, and the new government in Kiev asks the U.S. for weapons to fight the Russians.
Kerry responded carefully, saying “we have contingencies – we are talking through various options that may or may not be available.”
“Our hope is not to create hysteria or excessive concern about that at this point in time,” he said. “Our hope is to avoid that, but there’s no telling that we can.”
It’s quite obvious, based on Kerry’s statement, that the Obama Administration really has no idea what to do, as they are still talking through “various options,” something that probably should have been worked out well before President Obama began slinging rhetoric over the crisis.
What the Obama administration assumes will happen is that they’ll force Russia into compliance by coming after their economy. Obama will hit the Late Night TV circuit to tout his success, we’ll all laugh about it, and then go on our merry way. Putin will be left embarrassed and laying in the fetal position sucking his thumb. At least that’s the plan.
But two can play at that game and China, which has stood by Russia’s show of force in Europe since the get-go, has now upped the ante.
It’s a brilliant move designed, once again, to show the world that President Obama and the United States are no longer running the show.
“Sanctions could lead to retaliatory action, and that would trigger a spiral with unforeseeable consequences,” warns China’s envoy to Germany adding that “we don’t see any point in sanctions.” On the heels of Merkel’s warning that Russia risked “massive” political and economic damage if it did not change course, Reuters reports ambassador Shi Mingde urged patience saying “the door is still open” for diplomacy (though we suspect it is not) ahead of this weekend’s referendum. Russia’s Deputy Economy Minister Alexei Likhachev responded by promising “symmetrical” sanctions by Moscow. So now we have China joining the fray more aggressively.
China’s top envoy to Germany has warned the West against punishing Russia with sanctions for its intervention in Ukraine, saying such measures could lead to a dangerous chain reaction that would be difficult to control. In an interview with Reuters days before the European Union is threatening to impose its first sanctions on Russia since the Cold War, ambassador Shi Mingde issued the strongest warning against such measures by any top Chinese official to date.
“We don’t see any point in sanctions,” Shi said. “Sanctions could lead to retaliatory action, and that would trigger a spiral with unforeseeable consequences. We don’t want this.”
Using her [Merkel’s] toughest rhetoric since the crisis began, she warned in a speech in parliament on Thursday that Russia risked “massive” political and economic damage if it did not change course in the coming days.
Russia’s Deputy Economy Minister Alexei Likhachev responded by promising “symmetrical” sanctions by Moscow. But Shi urged patience, saying the door for talks should remain open even after a referendum on Sunday in which Ukraine’s southern region of Crimea could vote to secede and join Russia. Merkel and other western leaders have denounced the referendum as illegal and demanded that it be canceled.
“We still see a chance to avoid an escalation. The door to talks is still open. We should use this possibility, also after the referendum,” Shi said.
The White House’s deadline for Russia to pull back is Monday.
Will Obama blink again, as he did in Syria?
Let’s remember that China holds trillions of dollars of US debt. All they have to do is hint (not even actually do it) that they will pull back on Treasury purchases and we’re toast within days.
We shouldn’t be at all surprised if, on Monday, Vladimir Putin thumbs his nose at the west again and actually sends his troops across the Crimean border into Ukraine.