With the deadline of a Crimean vote on independence set for Sunday, the world awaits for Russia’s next step in taking over the entire Ukrainian territory. So far, nothing Secretary of State John Kerry has said or done seems to have impacted Russia’s belligerence towards Ukraine.
Kerry was in London Friday, meeting with his Russian analog, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. No details have surfaced of their talks yet, just pictures: of the couple sitting by an open field, of the two tossing about a soccer ball, of the frustration Lavrov appears to show at having to participate in this charade at all. Kerry had previously stated that there would be “serious consequences” if Crimea votes to secede, just as President Obama warned there would be “consequences if people stepped over the line” on Ukraine generally.
Kerry began his diplomatic efforts with some scathing comments on Meet the Press: “Invasion is not the act of someone who is strong. It is the act of someone who is weak.” He also threatened “consequences” on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, with no detail. He then visited Kiev and promised the new government $1 billion in diplomatic aid, which only prompted more talk from Russia that the new Ukrainian government was overrun with “Nazis and anti-Semites.” Last week, Kerry threatened that Western nations were ready “to go to the hilt” on the matter. Today he called talks “constructive.”
Meanwhile, Russia advances ever closer to completely annexing the southeastern Ukrainian state of Crimea. Militias sympathetic to the Russian cause aide Russian soldiers already in the area in keeping pro-Ukrainian forces at bay. Ukraine is considering the move a full-scale invasion, according to interim President Oleksandr Turchynov. Reports are surfacing that Russian soldiers are beating journalists in Crimea, and the Russian government itself has stated it does not feel the need to stop in Crimea.
“Radical far-right gangs armed with traumatic firearms and clubs, who began to arrive in the city yesterday from other regions of the country, attacked peaceful protesters… Russia recognizes its responsibility for the lives of countrymen and fellow citizens in Ukraine,” the Russian foreign ministry said today in a statement–and not one about Crimea. Russia is asserting its right to invade the eastern city of Donetsk.
Lavrov’s comments to the press already indicate that the talks went nowhere: Kerry “didn’t threaten Russia with anything,” and Russia intends to “respect the choice of the Crimean people,” whose parliament was overrun with Russian militiamen and entirely replaced by pro-Russian representatives. Kerry, on his end, says the talks with Lavrov were “direct, candid, constructive.”