In Meeting With Obama, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Embraces the West

As the standoff in Crimea continues, the two leaders meet at the White House.

President Obama and Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros and Marina Koren
See more stories about...
Matt Vasilogambros Marina Koren
March 12, 2014, 12:16 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama said Wed­nes­day that there would be “costs to Rus­sia’s vi­ol­a­tion of in­ter­na­tion­al law and en­croach­ments on Ukraine,” con­tinu­ing his strong lan­guage as the volat­ile situ­ation un­folds.

In an Oval Of­fice meet­ing with Ukrain­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Ar­sen­iy Yat­seny­uk, Obama praised “the cour­age of the Ukrain­i­an people” and their right to “de­term­ine their own des­tiny,” but also de­livered a stern warn­ing to Rus­sia.

“We have been very clear that we con­sider the Rus­si­an in­cur­sion in­to Crimea “¦ to be a vi­ol­a­tion of in­ter­na­tion­al law,” Obama said. “We will stand with Ukraine and the Ukrain­i­an people to in­sist that ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity is main­tained.”

The new Ukrain­i­an lead­er re­mained de­fi­ant and said his coun­try would “nev­er sur­render” to Rus­si­an ac­tion.

“Ukraine is and will be part of the West­ern world,” Yat­seny­uk told re­port­ers after the meet­ing, an idea that Putin fears.

The prime min­is­ter said that if Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin suc­ceeds in Crimea, he might turn to in­vad­ing oth­er parts of  the coun­try. To that point, Yat­seny­uk said Ukraine is “ab­so­lutely ready and open to talks with the Rus­si­an Fed­er­a­tion” to find a peace­ful path for­ward.

The meet­ing was held to dis­cuss strategies for a peace­ful res­ol­u­tion to Rus­sia’s mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in Crimea, a sov­er­eign ter­rit­ory of Ukraine. The talks come just days be­fore a ref­er­en­dum by the Crimean Par­lia­ment to de­term­ine wheth­er the re­gion should se­cede and be­come part of Rus­sia.

The near-bank­rupt Ukraine is cur­rently ra­cing to se­cure funds to re­pay bil­lions in for­eign debt. The U.S. re­cently pledged $1 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees to Ukraine. Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­istry said Monday that U.S. fin­an­cial as­sist­ance to Ukraine would be il­leg­al. Mon­et­ary aid, Rus­si­an of­fi­cials ar­gue, would vi­ol­ate a U.S. law that bars fin­an­cial as­sist­ance for re­gimes that use force to take power (Mo­scow con­siders Ukrain­i­an Pres­id­ent Vikt­or Ya­nukovych’s ouster to be a coup).

U.S. in­ter­ven­tion in Ukraine goes bey­ond po­ten­tial eco­nom­ic aid. The U.S., along with Bri­tain and Rus­sia, is party to a 1994 agree­ment that guar­an­tees cer­tain se­cur­ity as­sur­ances to Ukraine. After the So­viet Uni­on col­lapsed, Ukraine sur­rendered its en­tire nuc­le­ar-weapons stock­pile — the third largest in the world at the time — in ex­change for re­spect of its in­de­pend­ence and ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity. Ukraine’s act­ing pres­id­ent, Oleksandr Turchynov, said Wed­nes­day that “if this agree­ment is vi­ol­ated, it may lead to nuc­le­ar pro­lif­er­a­tion around the world.” If nuc­le­ar weapons enter the equa­tion, the U.S. may be forced to re­con­sider its ex­act role in the con­flict.

Yat­seny­uk is mak­ing the most out of his vis­it to the U.S. He will also meet Wed­nes­day with Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry, House Speak­er John Boehner, and sev­er­al sen­at­ors. He will ad­dress the United Na­tions Se­cur­ity Coun­cil on Thursday in New York.

White House spokes­man Jay Car­ney said the meet­ing sends the mes­sage to Mo­scow that Wash­ing­ton fully sup­ports the new gov­ern­ment of Ukraine. Putin will likely hear the mes­sage loud and clear, but it won’t change the course of ac­tion for his ad­min­is­tra­tion. By seek­ing as­sist­ance from the U.S. and oth­er West­ern powers, the new lead­er­ship in Kiev is try­ing to drag Ukraine out of Rus­sia’s sphere of in­flu­ence. However, with Rus­si­an troops firmly planted on Crimean soil, it may be too early for Putin to be wor­ried.

Amer­ic­an politi­cians are also go­ing to Ukraine to mon­it­or the situ­ation. John Mc­Cain and sev­en oth­er sen­at­ors are head­ing to the coun­try to meet with the new gov­ern­ment and act­iv­ist groups on Thursday.

Mean­while, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry is head­ing to Lon­don to meet with Rus­si­an For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lav­rov to dis­cuss Ukraine, a pos­sible sign that there is dip­lo­mat­ic pro­gress.

What We're Following See More »
“CLINTON MUST BECOME THE NEXT PRESIDENT”
Bernie Sanders Seeks to Unite the Party
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Instead of his usual stump speech, Bernie Sanders tonight threw his support behind Hillary Clinton, providing a clear contrast between Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump on the many issues he used to discuss in his campaign stump speeches. Sanders spoke glowingly about the presumptive Democratic nominee, lauding her work as first lady and as a strong advocate for women and the poor. “We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor,” he said. “Hillary Clinton will make a great president, and I am proud to stand with her tonight."

“MUST NEVER BE PRESIDENT”
Elizabeth Warren Goes After Donald Trump
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a stark contrast from Michelle Obama's uplifting speech, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke about the rigged system plaguing Americans before launching into a full-throated rebuke of GOP nominee Donald Trump. Trump is "a man who has never sacrificed anything for anyone," she claimed, before saying he "must never be president of the United States." She called him divisive and selfish, and said the American people won't accept his "hate-filled America." In addition to Trump, Warren went after the Republican Party as a whole. "To Republicans in Congress who said no, this November the American people are coming for you," she said.

FLOTUS OFFERS STRONG ENDORSEMENT OF CLINTON
Michelle Obama: “I Trust” Hillary Clinton
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"In this election, and every election, it's about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives," Michelle Obama said. "There is only one person who I trust with that responsibility … and that is our friend Hillary Clinton." In a personal and emotional speech, Michelle Obama spoke about the effect that angry oppositional rhetoric had on her children and how she chose to raise them. "When they go low, we go high," Obama said she told her children about dealing with bullies. Obama stayed mostly positive, but still offered a firm rebuke of Donald Trump, despite never once uttering his name. "The issues a president faces cannot be boiled down to 140 characters," she said.

SANDERS BACKER CONFRONTS STUBBORN SANDERS SUPPORTERS
Sarah Silverman to Bernie or Bust: “You’re Being Ridiculous”
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Many Bernie Sanders delegates have spent much of the first day of the Democratic National Convention resisting unity, booing at mentions of Hillary Clinton and often chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" Well, one of the most outspoken Bernie Sanders supporters just told them to take a seat. "To the Bernie-or-bust people: You're being ridiculous," said comedian Sarah Silverman in a brief appearance at the Convention, minutes after saying that she would proudly support Hillary Clinton for president.

‘INEXCUSABLE REMARKS’
DNC Formally Apologizes to Bernie Sanders
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Democratic National Committee issued a formal apology to Bernie Sanders today, after leaked emails showed staffers trying to sabotage his presidential bid. "On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email," DNC officials said in the statement. "These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not—and will not—tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates."

Source:
×