Masked by the media frenzy and focus on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasing his military incursion into Crimea, while Ukraine struggles to defend its sovereign nation. Faced by the Russian threat, Ukraine’s security chief announced it would hold joint military exercises with the United States and Britain.
As reported by the Associated Press, “Ukraine’s government said Wednesday it has begun drawing up plans to pull its troops from Crimea, where Russia is steadily taking formal control as its armed forces seize military installations across the disputed peninsula.” The most recent action involves masked Russian-speaking troops who seized control over Ukraine’s naval headquarters in the city of Sevastopol.
The several hundred militiamen who captured the base in Sevastopol met no resistance. The Russian-speaking troops, who arrived on the base after the storming, wore helmets, flak jackets and uniforms with no identifying insignia — a clear Geneva Convention violation. By afternoon, they were in full control of the naval headquarters.
Ukraine’s defense minister and deputy prime minister had planned to travel to Crimea on Wednesday in bid to avert an escalation in hostilities. But Sergei Aksyonov, the prime minister in Crimea, warned after the announcement of their departure that they would be turned back. And so it seems Crimea is indeed no longer a part of Ukraine — it is Russian — while the world stands by and watches. And as this video by The UK Guardian shows, for Pro-Russian separatists, Crimea is only the beginning.
Russian news agencies on Wednesday cited Constitutional Court chairman Valery Zorkin as saying the treaty signed by Putin has been ruled valid, thus formally clearing another hurdle for Moscow to annex Crimea.
In a warning to Moscow, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden declared the United States will respond to any aggression against its NATO allies, which include neighbors to Russia. “Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior,” Biden said, after meeting in Vilnius with the presidents of Lithuania and Latvia. Ukraine’s secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said today that his country will hold maneuvers with the countries that signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, but he didn’t give any specifics.
The 1994 Budapest Memorandum was signed by the U.S., Britain and Russia to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity when it surrendered its share of Soviet nuclear arsenals to Russia — how’s that working so far? Seems the only country holding maneuvers is indeed Russia — and not guaranteeing Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.
As well, it seems Russia is now massing forces for “military maneuvers” near the Estonian border — any ethnic Russians there? The proverbial clock is ticking and twelve F-16s are not going to send a message. I think I know a great mission for the A-10 Warthogs. Oops, I forgot, Defense Secretary Hagel wants to retire that fleet — supposedly it’s outdated and its original mission is no longer valid. Think again, Mr. Hagel.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com. The featured image is of a Ukrainian 9K22 Tunguska SAM during the Independence Day parade in Kiev, Ukraine in 2008. The photo was taken by Michael and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.