World View: Kerry Threatens Sanctions Against Russia

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-sponsoredreferendum on whether Crimea should secede from Ukraine and join theRussian Federation. With thousands of Russian troops in Crimea blockading all Ukrainian troops and arresting or beating anyone whodemonstrates against the referendum, it’s pretty much a foregoneconclusion that the measure will pass. Russia’s Duma is preparinga constitutional change that will allow Crimea to join the RussianFederation.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops in Russia along the borderwith eastern Ukraine, there is widespread fear that Russia will invadethe rest of Ukraine. Since Ukraine supplies almost all of the freshwater, electricity, gas, and food that Crimea consumes, Russia’spresident Vladimir Putin may well justify an invasion as beingnecessary to guarantee that these supplies reach Crimea.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign MinisterSergei Lavrov, who apparently have become BFFs, met for six hours onFriday, ending in disagreement. Lavrov said:

As to practical measures foreign countries couldtake, 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 ofUkraine. We assume that the rights of Russians, the rights ofHungarians, the rights of Bulgarians and Ukrainians shoulddefinitely be ensured and should be protected.

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

I’ll be bold enough to assure you that sanctions are acounter-productive instrument and if such a decision is taken inWestern capitals, it means it will be their decision. One thingfor sure is that this will not help mutual interests, businessinterests, the interests of our partnership ingeneral.

At the same press conference after the meeting, Kerry warned of “veryserious” consequences if Russia uses the referendum as a “back-doorannexation” of Crimea, including almost immediate economic sanctionsagainst Russia such as travel restrictions and asset seizures ofprivate Russian businessmen and officials close to Russian PresidentVladimir Putin. Kerry said:

After much discussion, the foreign minister made itclear that President Putin is not prepared to make any decisionregarding 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 reportthat proposal back to President Putin as he did all of theproposals that we put on the table this afternoon. PresidentPutin will be well aware of all the options.

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

We hope President Putin will recognize that none of what we’resaying is meant as a threat; it’s not meant in a personalway.

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 circumspectas 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 asa whole with Russia. No, this would also cause massive damage toRussia, 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 willface EU visa restrictions and their EU-based bank accounts will befrozen.

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

In response, Russia has threatened to “seize property, assets andaccounts of companies in the United States and the countries thatadopt the sanctions against us,” according to a Russian official.Russia could also cancel big contracts with European companies. Forexample, Moscow could drop its proposed purchase of French navalhelicopter carriers.

Some reports suggest that Russia is transferring its Treasury bondholdings out of the Fed in order to protect them from an assetfreeze. 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 againstall-you-can-eat buffets in Saudi Arabia. “Whoever enters the buffetand eats for 10 or 50 riyals without deciding the quantity they willeat is violating Sharia (Islamic) law,” he said. Twitter users mockedthe fatwa mercilessly: “What is going on in this world?! i amspeechless really! Fatwa prohibits ‘All You Can Eat’ offers” andstuff. And we’re supposed to respect it?” International Business Times

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