President Barack Obama fired a few verbs across the front armor of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tanks, in a rushed statement just after 5 p.m. on Friday.
The statement was made as Russian forces — including attack helicopters — appeared in peripheral parts of the Ukraine that are largely populated by ethnic Russians.
There’s no evidence that Obama wants to get involved in what may become a war between the Ukraine and Russia.
He did not threaten any significant retaliation if Russian force attack nor did he offer military aid to the Ukraine. He announced that Vice President Joe Biden — but not himself — has just talked to the Ukraine’s president.
“We have been very clear about one fundamental principle — the Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future,” Obama said.
“We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian federation inside the Ukraine. … Any violation Ukrainian sovereignty and territory would be deeply destabilizing,” he said.
A Russian intervention “would invite the condemnation of nations around the world… the United States will stand with the international community in affirming there will be costs.”
He did not specify the threatened costs, or draw a red line.
The Russian military’s appearance follows the collapse of a Putin-backed government in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine. The government collapsed after weeks of demonstrations by a temporary coalition of left-wing groups and Ukrainian nationalists. The Ukraine’s parliament picked a government, which Obama has recognized as the legal government of the Ukraine.
The Ukraine stretches from central Russia down to Romania. The areas is rich in agriculture, but decades of Soviet rule since 1921 have left the country poor and politically divided.
In the last two decades, Russia has invaded an independent state and battled insurgencies in several semi-autonomous regions south of Moscow. The interventions included a major attack on independent Georgia’s army, plus a massive Stalingrad-style bombardment of Chechnya’s capital city when it was occupied by jihadis.
In 2010, Obama was mute when pro-democracy protesters in Iran were shot, arrested and suppressed by Iran’s Muslim government.