Biden flies to Europe to reassure allies
With few good options, the United States was scrambling for ways to show it won’t stand idly by as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty for the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea to join Russia. So far, Putin has been undeterred by sanctions and visa bans levied by the U.S. and the European Union, and there’s no U.S. appetite for military intervention.
“Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land grab, including what he said today,” Biden said in Poland, which shares a border with both Russia and Ukraine. “But the world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic behind those actions.”
Biden arrived early Tuesday in a region on edge over Russia’s nascent aggression in Crimea. Amid eerie echoes of the Cold War, U.S. allies including Poland have raised concerns that they could be next should the global community be unable to persuade Putin to back down.
The first round of sanctions having failed, Biden promised more would be coming, as he declared that Russia’s actions constituted a blatant violation of international law.
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the U.K. was suspending military cooperation with Russia in light of the crisis over Ukraine. He said the U.K. is suspending military export licenses to Russia, has canceled naval exercises and suspended a proposed Royal Navy ship visit to Russia.
The White House, meanwhile, announced it was inviting the leaders of the G-7 group of nations to a meeting in Europe next week to discuss further action.
Biden said virtually the entire world rejects the referendum in Crimea on Sunday that cleared the way for Russia to absorb it.
“It’s a simple fact that Russia’s political and economic isolation will only increase if it continues down this dark path,” Biden said.
For his part, Putin seemed to shrug off the tough talk from the West, describing Russia’s move to add Crimea to its map as correcting past injustices. In an emotional, live speech from the Kremlin, he said that “in people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia.”
Russia’s move in clear defiance of its neighbors and the U.S. ups the pressure on Biden to convince its NATO allies that the U.S. won’t roll over. After meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Biden headed to the Poland’s presidential palace to consult with President Bronislaw Komorowski.
In sessions Tuesday in the Polish capital and later in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, Biden was to discuss the crisis with the leaders of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia [--] three Baltic nations that are deeply concerned about what Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula might portend for the region.
All four countries share borders with Russia; Poland also borders Ukraine.
Biden’s visit to the region is part of a broader U.S. campaign to send a clear signal to Putin following Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, which the U.S. has dismissed as illegal. In coordination with Europe, the Obama administration has frozen the U.S. assets of nearly a dozen Russian and Ukrainian officials. But Putin appears to have reacted with a shrug, and Obama’s critics contend the U.S. steps thus far amount to a slap on the wrist.
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