US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered an ultimatum to Russia today, warning of 'serious repercussions if Russia doesn't reverse course by Monday.'
What he wants, apparently, is for a referendum scheduled in Crimea for this Sunday over whether to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation to be canceled.
Secretary Kerry is meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov in London tomorrow to discuss things further, or to be non-diplomatic about it to tell Lavrov what the U.S. and EU plan to do if the Russians don't comply.
As Kerry put it, “There will be a response of some kind to the referendum itself,” Kerry said. “If there is no sign [from Russia] of any capacity to respond to this issue ... there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday.”
While what Kerry means is remains to be seen, a few things here are a given.There's no doubt that Russia wants the Crimea back, if for no other reason than to continue to control its warm water naval base at Sebastopol. They are also obviously stage managing the referendum, although since over 60% of the Crimea's population is ethnic Russian, it's questionable whether they even need to.
It's also true that back in 1994, Bill Clinton, John Major, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma – the then-leaders of the USA, UK, Russia and Ukraine - signed a treaty, The Budapest Memorandum, that guaranteed Ukraine's borders in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal.
So on the face of it, it certainly does seem like Russia is totally in the wrong - and then, I remembered something that occurred after The Budapest Memorandum that almost certainly changed things in Russia's eyes.
Let's go back a few years...remember Kosovo?
For those of you who have forgotten, this was a mixed Muslim and Serb Orthodox enclave that became part of Serbia when Yugoslavia imploded, and was later the scene of heavy fighting between Serbia and the Saudi,Libyan and Iranian funded and armed Kosovar Liberation Army(KLA). The fighting stopped in 1999, due to heavy intervention on America's part that occurred, just by coincidence, right in the middle of President Clinton's problems with perjury and obstruction of justice. As part of the agreement that ended the fighting, Kosovo's sovereignty was likewise guaranteed in international law, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, passed in June of 1999.
That UNSC resolution stated explicitly that Kosovo would remain part of Serbia under any circumstances while allowing Kosovo a large degree of internal autonomy. It also stated that there would never be any kind of unilateral settlement enforced on the Serbs without their agreement.
Meanwhile, the ethnic cleansing of Christian Serbs in Kosovo by the Muslim KLA continued without the NATO peacekeepers doing much to stop it. And in February of 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in defiance of UNSC Resolution 1244. Both the EU and the U.S. recognized Kosovo within one day.
The Russians and Serbs were absolutely livid at America and the EU not only breaking the agreement that ended the fighting in Kosovo, but the blatant disregard for international law. As the Russians pointed out at the time, this set a horrible precedent, and they called on the UN to enforce UNSC Resolution 1244 and the 1999 treaty they had signed. They were ignored.
This cost America a huge of amount of credibility and political capital with the Russians, and affected their willingness to cooperate with us on issues like Iran. And it turned Serbia, historically an ally of the U.S. into a relatively hostile country.
When Vladimir Putin hears John Kerry talk about the sacredness of international law, Putin undoubtedly remembers what happened with Kosovo when the shoe was on the other foot.
While I don't particularly care for Putin's stage managed referendum in Crimea.I like even less what we did in Kosovo just to pander to the Saudis and GCC countries and distract from the fallout over the games Mr.Bill was up to in the Oval Office. We didn't even bother to hold a referendum in Kosovo...we just allowed the Kosovars and the KSA to ethnically cleanse the Serbs, recognized them as a country and that was that.
Anyone whom thinks that wasn't what Kosovo was about ought to take a good look at who financed most of the Clinton presidential library and examine how ex-President Clinton became a multimillionaire after he left office due to his business connections with the Emir of Dubai.
The whole idea of 'international law' tends to be fairly flexible, depending on what and who is involved and the willingness to enforce it, especially when it comes to the UN. After all, one of the foundations of any law is that it applies equally to everyone. The Israelis, who have consistently been the recipients of that kind of blatant bias could tell you quite a bit about that.
I realize that bringing this up is unpopular just now. But if we're going to talk to the Russians about breaking treaties and international law, it might be better to acknowledge, at least to ourselves that our own hands aren't exactly clean and that instead of ultimatums, some honest horsetrading might yield a better result.
UPDATE: Apparently the ultimatum tactics didn't work so well. Especially not coming from Kerry via the likes of Barack Obama.