Following President Obama’s lead in warning that there would be “consequences” for any unduly aggressive behavior in Ukraine, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned Russia today to “avoid provocative actions” and “be transparent” about any military activity in the region.
The Associated Press reports that Hagel made the comments after leaving a meeting of NATO defense ministers who had congregated to discuss the delicate situation in Ukraine. With former President Viktor Yanukovych out of office for good and allegedly fleeing with the help of Russia, the new opposition government has begun to establish an organizational structure and cabinet. This has not meant a cessation in violence or turmoil, however, as pro-Russia agitators have begun to cause strife in the southern province of Crimea. The Crimean Parliament is currently in the middle of an armed standoff as pro-Russia forces try to pry the district from the opposition government. Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov warned in a speech this week that he perceives “separatism and infighting” as threats to the stability of an opposition government.
“I expect other nations to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and avoid provocative actions,” Hagel told the press in his statements after the meeting with NATO officials. He specifically signaled out Russia, adding that he “expected Russia to be transparent” about any military activities near Ukraine or their relationship with Yanukovych, and to be wary of committing actions that “could be misinterpreted or could lead to miscalculation at a very delicate time.” Hagel’s attempt to dissuade Russia from any imperialist aggression comes after President Obama’s new “line” that Ukraine should not “step over” unless it wants “consequences” of some sort from the United States.
Hagel and the President will not be alone in addressing the issue. The Secretary of Defense told the media that his staff was trying to get him in contact with the Russian defense minister, but that he alone would not be talking to Russia; Secretary of State John Kerry is also said to be readying talks with his Russian analog, Sergei Lavrov.
Hagel called for Russia to exercise “cool, wise leadership.”
Watch Hagel’s comments on Russia, via the AP, below: