Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced new sanctions against Russia, including cutting all military relations with them. Russia has nine soldiers in Canada who have been asked to leave no later than friday morning last week. Those soldiers were on Canadian soil to learn French and English, teach Russian to Canadian soldiers at the National Defence Headquarter (NDHQ), and on training exchanges. Canada has also announced that they will not recognize the Crimean referendum due in 10 days.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was an “aggression, a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and International Laws.”
For a second day, 47 military observers from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OCSE), including two Canadians, were denied entry into Crimea. The observers were stopped by armed guards at the Chungar checkpoint.
With America’s almost non-existent foreign policy, Putin has a grasp over Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population in Crimea with minimal interference. Russia Upper House Speaker, Valentina Matviyenko, also openly stated that the Crimean Parliament is legitimate.
Strong words were sent from the Western leaders but were unheard, or not even considered, by the Russian government. By denying the OCSE observers, Russia is clearly demonstrating they will neither negotiate nor pull their troops out from the Crimean Peninsula. (Ukrainian officials estimate there are nearly 30,000 Russian soldiers on the Crimean Peninsula.)
Ukrainian Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the media that his country will not recognize the referendum, due on March 16, calling it “illegitimate.” The Crimean Parliament held a vote thursday for the region, “to become part of the Russian Federation as its constituent territory.” The vote clearly demonstrated that the Crimean MPs are in favour of joining Russia, voicing 78 yes, while 8 abstained from voting.
While the Western leaders keep talking about the possible “actions” they could take against Russia, Ukraine is rapidly falling apart. The United Nations Security Council cannot agree on anything; NATO has condemned the “occupation,” but their hands are tied as Ukraine is not a member, making it impossible to call for Article 5. Ukrainians themselves are prisoners of their own country. Many Russian-speakers from Crimea would not seriously consider re-joining Russia just because of their common language. There is a generational split between those Russian-speaking citizens and Russia’s initiative to reclaim the region.
The European Union (EU), alongside the United States, have joined the interim Ukrainian government in condemning Crimea’s parliament decision to set up this referendum. The problem is EU’s soft approach, as they would prefer mediation over other measures because of their dependency on Russia’s oil and gas industry.
What I believe is that Crimea will most likely remain within Ukraine, as the international community strongly advises, but Russian influence in the Peninsula will not dissipate. Time will tell…