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Biden vows more sanctions as Russia claims Crimea

By Vladimir Isachenkov

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:02 a.m. HST, Mar 18, 2014

WARSAW, Poland >>  Denouncing Russia's actions in Crimea as "nothing more than a land grab," Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that the U.S. and Europe will impose further sanctions as Moscow moved to annex part of Ukraine.

With limited options, the United States was seeking ways to show it won't stand idly by as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty for the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea to join Russia. So far, Putin has been undeterred by sanctions and visa bans levied by the U.S. and the European Union, and there's no U.S. appetite for military intervention.

"Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land grab, including what he said today," Biden said in Poland, which shares a border with both Russia and Ukraine. "But the world has seen through Russia's actions and has rejected the flawed logic behind those actions."

Biden arrived early Tuesday in a region on edge over Russia's nascent aggression in Crimea. Amid eerie echoes of the Cold War, U.S. allies including Poland have raised concerns that they could be next should the global community be unable to persuade Putin to back down.

Former Soviet states are among the most alarmed by the prospect that Moscow could be resuming its traditional imperial ambitions. But Ukraine is at greater risk militarily because it lacks membership in NATO and the promise of collective defensive measures that NATO membership provides.

In a clear warning to Moscow not to test other nations along its border, Biden said the U.S. commitment to defending its NATO allies is "ironclad." He promised more sanctions would be coming, along with new NATO training and exercises that will take place in Poland.

The vice president said the U.S. was considering rotating American forces to the Baltic region as a step toward ensuring the collective defense of NATO allies. Those forces could conduct ground and naval exercises, plus engage in training missions.

Meanwhile, major Western powers sought fresh ways to show that Russia would incur real costs unless it changes course.

The White House announced that President Barack Obama was inviting the leaders of the G-7 group of nations to a meeting in Europe next week to discuss further action. The group normally meets under the banner of the G-8, including Russia, but has suspended preparations for upcoming G-8 talks.

And in London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the U.K. was suspending military cooperation with Russia in light of the crisis.

"It's a simple fact that Russia's political and economic isolation will only increase if it continues down this dark path," Biden said, adding that virtually the entire world rejects the referendum in Crimea on Sunday that cleared the way for Russia to absorb it.

For his part, Putin seemed to shrug off the tough talk from the West, describing Russia's move to add Crimea to its map as correcting past injustices. In an emotional, live speech from the Kremlin, he said that "in people's hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia."

Russia's move in clear defiance of its neighbors and the U.S. ups the pressure on Biden to convince its NATO allies that the U.S. won't succumb to Russia's aggressive moves.

In sessions Tuesday in the Polish capital and later in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, Biden was to discuss the crisis with the leaders of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia -- three Baltic nations that are deeply concerned about what Russia's military intervention in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula might portend for the region.

All four countries share borders with Russia, while Poland also borders Ukraine. Poland broke away from Moscow's domination in 1989 and was a vocal advocate for Ukraine forging closer ties with the E.U. -- a dispute at the heart of Ukraine's political crisis.

"This trial, this challenge that we are facing will not be for a month or a year," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said after meeting with Biden. "We are facing a strategic perspective for many years to come."

Biden said the goal is for NATO to emerge from this crisis stronger and more unified than ever. While in Europe, Biden planned to discuss what additional steps the U.S. can take to shore up security for Poland and the Baltics, such as increased training, said a senior administration official, who wasn't authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

At Warsaw's request, the U.S. last week sent some 300 air troops and a dozen F-16 fighters to Poland for joint training in a show of military support for a key ally.

Also on the agenda: long-term energy security in Europe, a key factor that has confounded the West's attempts to display a united front in punishing Russia. Much of Europe is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, and European countries have major economic interests in Russia that could be in jeopardy if Moscow retaliates with sanctions of its own.

Republican lawmakers and a handful of European countries, including Poland, have urged the White House to accelerate approval of U.S. natural gas exports, but the White House has insisted that would take too long and says Russia is too dependent on gas revenues to cut off Europe.

One option that apparently isn't on the table: rethinking the U.S. posture on missile defense in the region. Poland is still displeased about Obama's 2009 decision to cancel the final phase of a defense system sorely Poland wanted as a hedge against Russian missiles. Biden said the smaller, phased-in system Obama chose instead is on schedule for completion.


Associated Press writers Monika Scislowska in Warsaw and Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.

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NiteMarcher wrote:
He took back what was rightfully Russia's from the very beginning. Much of what has been going on around the world with the United Nations, NATO, CFR, etc., is definitely pointing towards a buildup of a "New World Order." The US took down Iraq based on lies, then headed towards Libya and did the same thing, and then inched their way towards Syria...oh, oh and Russia said hold it up! The long term goal I believe is,...how does the US, NATO and the UN step in and try to take over Russia with China in mind right after that? It's reality...we've watched what the US has done in the MIddle East. Why is the West upset, they did the same thing to Hawaii.
on March 18,2014 | 06:57AM
1local wrote:
Russia and Putin are probably shaking with fear from Biden and Obama - LOL
on March 18,2014 | 02:25PM
Grimbold wrote:
Topo I meant Cuba
on March 18,2014 | 02:45PM
Grimbold wrote:
Right NiteMarcher! Biden is a fool for sanctions. It will only hurt the common people. And Crimea was Russian for 300 years before Chrustchow foolishly donated it to Ukraine, then when Ukraine was a Russian Satellite . Now Ukraine wants to join NATO, which is an affront to Russia,being encircled by NATO. What would USA do if it was being encircled by an enemy pact. Remember Cuga? Kennedy even threatened nuclear war.
on March 18,2014 | 02:44PM
wiliki wrote:
I suspect that the US wants to use Ukraine as a bargaining tool on other troubled areas like Iran, N. Korea, Palestine and Syria. Biden is said to be usually wrong on foreign policy but he makes up for that with his enthusiasm to do the right thing.
on March 18,2014 | 05:04PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Another headline back then, that went something like this: McKinley signs to "annex" Hawai'i to add to the map of America.
on March 18,2014 | 08:02AM
cojef wrote:
A referendum was accomplished by the populace and the results indicated their choice. Putin did not listen to idle threats, especially when our allies are dependent on Russia to provide the West we oil and natural gas. Our failure to develop a comprehensive energy plan from the natural resources available in North America weakened the NATO nations to put enough muscle into the economic sanctions they proposed. Cannot negotiate from a weakened position against a crafty Putin. He has witnessed this administration's mincing of threats.
on March 18,2014 | 08:37AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Do you honestly believe the referendum was accomplished by the populace and the results indicated their choice to join Russia? Ninety-seven percent (97%) of voters supposedly approved joining Russia. When have 97 % of any population agreed on anything, except perhaps in North Korea where 100% of the people voted and they all voted for Kim. Ethnic Russians comprise 58% of Crimea’s population, Ukrainians 24 %, Tatars 12 % and others 6%. It is not likely that many, if any, Ukrainians voted to join Russia. Tatars are mostly Muslims who have had a strong hatred of Russia for centuries. I suppose it is possible to have 97% of voters favor joining Russia if ethnic Russians only were allowed to vote. Otherwise, the election was rigged.
on March 18,2014 | 09:25AM
Nevadan wrote:
You need to learn to think for yourself, instead of believing everything the media tell you.
on March 18,2014 | 12:55PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Nevadan, I am not one to believe everything the media says. I am skeptical about most so-called news reported by the media and I do my own research before commenting. Do some research yourself and you will find that the data in my comment is accurate and that my conclusions make sense.
on March 18,2014 | 04:31PM
wiliki wrote:
Of course, minorities will not vote because they know that their side will lose and by voting they only incur the wrath of their ethnic Russian neighbors. The vote indicates that the overwhelming majority of Crimeans want to be returned to Russia. The Russian President Khruschev was Ukrainian so he gave Crimea to his home state as a present. Little did he know that 50 years later it would create a problem when Ukrainians wouldn't give back Crimea.

There is no violence going on. Just the threat incurred by both sides-- Ukraine outlawing the Russian language (Canada has had a vote on this kind of language issue) and also requesting arms from NATO, and Russia for bringing Russian soldiers which they are entitled by basing agreements to prevent violence. The Crimeans claim that the militia outside of Ukrainian bases in Crimea are Crimean rather than Russian. But how can you tell the difference between an ethnic Russian and a real Russian?

on March 18,2014 | 05:30PM
Grimbold wrote:
97% is correct because the Muslim enemies of Russia boycotted the election.
on March 18,2014 | 02:47PM
wiliki wrote:
Problem is that if you're a tartar and would rather go to Russia than Ukraine because of persecution in WWII, you'd be upset at the boycott because voting in the election would seem like you're a traitor to your own kind. Tartar leaders should have let their people vote their conscience knowing that there is just as much antipathy against Ukrainians as against the Russians.

I suspect that since Tarters like the Cassocks fought with distinction against the Germans in the Russian army, many Tartar military veterans were not affected by Russian reaction to Tartar armed rebellion against Russia later. Today's Tartar leaders did not fight in WWII so probably are more western oriented and want to join NATO against Russia.

on March 18,2014 | 05:46PM
hanalei395 wrote:
"A referendum was accomplished by the populace ....." ............ No referendum was even presented in Hawai'i's case. It was just "annexed", to become another victim in America's "Manifest Destiny".
on March 18,2014 | 09:39AM
Winston wrote:
Wasn't the statehood vote a referendum?
on March 18,2014 | 11:07AM
Winston wrote:
The Hawaii Admissions Act (Statehood) was presented to the residents of state in a 1959 referendum. In that vote, out of a total population of 600,000 in the islands and 155,000 registered voters, 140,000 votes were cast, the highest turnout ever in Hawaii. The vote showed approval rates of at least 93% by voters on all major islands (see adjacent figure for details). Of the approximately 140,000 votes cast, fewer than 8000 rejected the Admission Act of 1959.

So, if this wasn't a referendum in which an overwhelming majority of Hawaii's voters voted to move closer to full union with the US, then what was it? If this sort of referendum didn't answer the supposed historical wrongs done to Hawaii, then what is it going to take? And how is undoing the result of the statehood referendum, as some of the sovereignty activists would do, going to be any less of an unjust, undemocratic act than those supposedly done during the overthrow?

on March 18,2014 | 11:17AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Non-Hawaiians in Hawai'i out-numbered the Hawaiians, so the non-Hawaiians won. .... But 100% of the populace on Ni'ihau voted "No" to statehood.
on March 18,2014 | 11:33AM
Winston wrote:
Right. But the overall vote was 94% in favor of statehood, 6% against. I can't find info on demographics at the time, but it stands to reason that the majority of all voters supporting the measure included many, many Hawaiians.
on March 18,2014 | 12:16PM
hanalei395 wrote:
No doubt, "many, many Hawaiians" didn't even bother to vote, knowing that they will be out-voted by the majority non-Hawaiians. But the Hawaiians who did vote "Yes", that was before the "Hawaiian Renaissance" of the '60's and '70's, when Hawaiian Pride, historically and culturally, wasn't as big as it is now. But, majority rules, and you win. Or, you, yourself, won.
on March 18,2014 | 12:42PM
wiliki wrote:
Hawaiians like the other ethnic minorities in Hawaii weren't considered real Americans in WWII-- especially under brief white military rule when the Pacific Fleet was based in Hawaii. IIRC the military population was something like 500,000 and outnumbered the local population.

Respect for Hawaiians and immigrants as Americans was won in blood during WWII. It's no wonder that people believed it a test of their loyalty.

I remember the time. My parents were for a commonwealth status because we could always vote later for statehood and there were economic advantages that we did not have as a territory-- and as a territory, where we could always be put under a military governor as during the war.

on March 18,2014 | 06:01PM
Grimbold wrote:
hanalie you should should use the correct name kanaka maoli as we others are all Hawaiians , but of the geograhical type.
on March 18,2014 | 02:49PM
hanalei395 wrote:
"as we others are all Hawaiians" .... Of course not. There are ONLY Hawaiians .. and non-Hawaiians.
on March 18,2014 | 03:19PM
wiliki wrote:
This is true.... The US should be careful about what it says..... especially when they say little to back up with facts.
on March 18,2014 | 01:11PM
wiliki wrote:
Putin has also threatened to freeze US bank accounts in Russia. So the threats are not as idle as you think.

I heard Kissinger talk on the Charley Rose show on negotiating with Russia. It looks like a negotiated settlement could be reached. Russia is primarily concerned about the military threat from NATO. It would not want Ukraine which is so close to Russian cities to be equipped with US missiles which could be used to attack Russian cities. They probably can't trust the Ukrainians once they have the missiles. Like the Israelis, they have the right to defend against Ukrainian military power through NATO.

on March 18,2014 | 05:13PM
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