G8 Fractures Over Ukraine as Russia Fully Absorbs Crimea
Reports of war games and troop build-up along Russian border
Tensions over Ukraine continued on Monday as leaders of western powers announced the ouster of Russia from the G8. Though Russia shrugged off the move, news reports of military movements by both NATO and Russian forces foretell further discord as the crisis related to the controversial government in Kiev and the annexation of Crimea continues to unravel.
Russia's hold over Crimea was seemingly finalized Monday after the government in Kiev ordered the withdrawal of all Ukrainian troops from the region. And Russian troops, meanwhile, successfully capturing the Feodosia naval base, completing their hold over all bases on the peninsula.
In an attempt to punish Russia for these actions, world leaders Monday announced the ouster of Russia from the G8 consortium. Leaders of the G7 countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and the UK—meeting at a nuclear security summit in The Hague revealed that an upcoming G8 summit in Sochi, Russia will be cancelled and that the group will be meeting in Brussels instead.
In a joint statement, dubbed the "The Hague Declaration," G7 leaders condemned Russia's actions over Ukraine and threatened to "intensify actions" against the country:
This clear violation of international law is a serious challenge to the rule of law around the world and should be a concern for all nations. In response to Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to demonstrate our determination to respond to these illegal actions, individually and collectively we have imposed a variety of sanctions against Russia and those individuals and entities responsible. We remain ready to intensify actions including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation.
Meanwhile, reflecting the political flexing of world leaders over the crisis in Ukraine, media reports of troop build-ups and "war games" on both sides of the Russian border have enhanced the drama on the ground.
News outlets sounded the alarm after Tony Blinken, White House deputy national security adviser, speculated to CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday that Russian troop build up along Ukraine's eastern border may signify preparations to mobilize.
"It's deeply concerning to see the Russian troop buildup along the border," Blinken said. "It creates the potential for incidents, for instability. It's likely that what they are trying to do is intimidate the Ukrainians. It's possible that they are preparing to move in."
Ukraine's interim leadership echoed these claims, as well. "The aim of Putin is not Crimea but all of Ukraine," National Security and Defence Council chief Andriy Parubiy told a mass rally in Kiev on Sunday. "His troops massed at the border are ready to attack at any moment."
Responding to the these accusations of an amassing force, the Russian defense ministery issued a statement that their troop presence "is in compliance with all international agreements limiting the number of troops in the border areas with Ukraine."
Mirroring the Russian build-up, news of U.S. "war games" in Poland and reports of NATO troop build up in Baltic and other eastern European states have contributed to the growing alarm in the region.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron told ITV News on Monday that, although he would not answer calls for the deployment of British troops, the UK is working with their NATO allies to bolster defense along neighboring Baltic states, which generally include Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
"I think what is important is that we send a very clear message to our NATO partners and allies that we believe in NATO and we believe in their security," Cameron said. "That's why, for instance, we're helping some of the Baltic states with their defense and their needs. That's what we should be doing and that's what we're very much committed to doing."