World View: Kerry Threatens Sanctions Against Russia

This morning's key headlines from
  • Kerry threatens sanctions against Russia, but 'nothing personal'
  • Germany's Angela Merkel warns of a 'catastrophe' and sanction war
  • Saudi cleric issues fatwa against all-you-can-eat buffets

Kerry threatens sanctions against Russia, but 'nothing personal'

On Sunday, Ukraine's Crimea peninsula will hold a Russian-sponsored referendum on whether Crimea should secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. With thousands of Russian troops in Crimea blockading all Ukrainian troops and arresting or beating anyone who demonstrates against the referendum, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that the measure will pass. Russia's Duma is preparing a constitutional change that will allow Crimea to join the Russian Federation.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops in Russia along the border with eastern Ukraine, there is widespread fear that Russia will invade the rest of Ukraine. Since Ukraine supplies almost all of the fresh water, electricity, gas, and food that Crimea consumes, Russia's president Vladimir Putin may well justify an invasion as being necessary to guarantee that these supplies reach Crimea.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who apparently have become BFFs, met for six hours on Friday, ending in disagreement. Lavrov said:

As to practical measures foreign countries could take, we do not share a common view of the situation; disagreements remain but, of course, the conversation was useful.

Russia has and can have no plans to invade southeastern regions of Ukraine. We assume that the rights of Russians, the rights of Hungarians, the rights of Bulgarians and Ukrainians should definitely be ensured and should be protected.


We have confirmed our stance stipulated repeatedly by the Russian president that we will respect the declaration of the will of the Crimean people during the coming referendum of March 16.


I'll be bold enough to assure you that sanctions are a counter-productive instrument and if such a decision is taken in Western capitals, it means it will be their decision. One thing for sure is that this will not help mutual interests, business interests, the interests of our partnership in general.

At the same press conference after the meeting, Kerry warned of "very serious" consequences if Russia uses the referendum as a "back-door annexation" of Crimea, including almost immediate economic sanctions against Russia such as travel restrictions and asset seizures of private Russian businessmen and officials close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kerry said:

After much discussion, the foreign minister made it clear that President Putin is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday.

If the referendum takes place, there will be some sanctions. There will be some response, let me put it that way.

I think, in fairness, Foreign Minister Lavrov is going to report that proposal back to President Putin as he did all of the proposals that we put on the table this afternoon. President Putin will be well aware of all the options.

We are prepared to respect his interests and rights, and they can be fully respected.

We hope President Putin will recognize that none of what we’re saying is meant as a threat; it’s not meant in a personal way.

So the threat of sanctions is not a threat, and it's nothing personal.

Voice of Russia and ABC News

Germany's Angela Merkel warns of a 'catastrophe' and sanction war

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was not nearly as circumspect as John Kerry. According to Merkel:

If Russia continues down the course of the past weeks, it would not only be a catastrophe for Ukraine.

It would not only change the relationship of the European Union as a whole with Russia. No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.

The first round of sanctions have already been announced – postponement of various meetings.

If a second round is necessary, high-ranking Russian officials will face EU visa restrictions and their EU-based bank accounts will be frozen.

The third round, if necessary, might freeze the assets and bank accounts of politicians, civil servants, and military personnel, possibly to include Russian businessmen.

In response, Russia has threatened to "seize property, assets and accounts of companies in the United States and the countries that adopt the sanctions against us," according to a Russian official. Russia could also cancel big contracts with European companies. For example, Moscow could drop its proposed purchase of French naval helicopter carriers.

Some reports suggest that Russia is transferring its Treasury bond holdings out of the Fed in order to protect them from an asset freeze. Deutsche Welle and Deutsche Welle and WSJ

Saudi cleric issues fatwa against all-you-can-eat buffets

A Saudi cleric named Saleh al-Fawzan has issued a fatwa against all-you-can-eat buffets in Saudi Arabia. "Whoever enters the buffet and eats for 10 or 50 riyals without deciding the quantity they will eat is violating Sharia (Islamic) law," he said. Twitter users mocked the fatwa mercilessly: "What is going on in this world?! i am speechless really! Fatwa prohibits 'All You Can Eat' offers" and "Fatwa against all-you-can-eat buffets. You can't even parody this stuff. And we're supposed to respect it?" International Business Times

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