The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has been at odds with the White House over the Iran nuclear deal, has declared that Russia policy needs serious reworking in the face of Vladimir Putin’s “authoritarianism.”
“The Russian invasion and occupation of parts of Ukraine is the most recent example in a series of events involving disruptive Russian behavior throughout the world,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote today in the Washington Post.
“In Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin is actively propping up President Bashar al-Assad and perpetuating the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. In Iran, the ink of the Joint Plan of Action signed in Geneva was barely dry when reports surfaced that Tehran and Moscow were negotiating an oil-for-goods swap worth $1.5 billion a month and planned to build a new nuclear plant. In our own hemisphere, a Russian spy ship paid an unannounced visit to Havana Bay, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to expand Russia’s military footprint abroad in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela,” he continued.
“Today, our concern is for Ukraine. Tomorrow, it could be for Georgia again or perhaps Moldova… Putin has miscalculated by starting a game of Russian roulette with the international community, but we refuse to blink, and we will never accept this violation of international law.”
Menendez stressed that “our policies toward Russia require urgent reexamination. Congress has a particular role to play.”
He promoted his Ukraine bill that include sanctions on Russians and loan guarantees and other assistance for Ukraine.
“Russian actions at home and abroad must be viewed in a broader context, not as isolated incidents but as connected events in a troubling pattern of behavior that cannot continue unchecked,” the senator added.
Secretary of State John Kerry was supposed to testify before Menendez’s committee today regarding his department’s budget request, but that appearance was postponed this morning.
The G-7 group of nations issued a joint statement this morning any referendum on a Crimea split from Ukraine “would have no legal effect.”
“Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome,” the statement said.
“Russian annexation of Crimea would be a clear violation of the United Nations Charter; Russia’s commitments under the Helsinki Final Act; its obligations to Ukraine under its 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership; the Russia-Ukraine 1997 basing agreement; and its commitments in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states. Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk visits the White House for a meeting and photo op with President Obama this afternoon. Yatsenyuk meets with Menendez this evening for a working meeting.