Momentum Gathers For The West's Response To Russia

Lithuania has called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Russia's new incursions into Ukraine. The issue's also likely to dominate an upcoming NATO summit. Since sanctions seem to have failed to change Russia's calculations, the U.S. and its European partners are still trying to find a way to effectively protect Ukraine's sovereignty.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This afternoon the UN Security Council met in an emergency session. That's amid reports of new Russian incursions into Ukraine opening another front in the conflict there. Russia keeps denying that its forces are fighting inside Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO say this covert war is not covert anymore. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on the mounting evidence of Russia's involvement and what the West plans to do about it.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: As NATO released more satellite imagery of Russian tanks and troops inside Ukraine, that country's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, appealed to the world for help.

PRIME MINISTER ARSENIY YATSENYUK: Ukrainian forces are capable to tackle and to cope with the Russian-led guerrillas. But this is quite difficult for us to fight with Russia and its army.

KELEMEN: Yatsenyuk says the U.S. and its partners can start by freezing all Russian assets until Russian President Vladimir Putin withdraws his troops. Damon Wilson of the Atlantic Council has another idea for the U.S. and NATO - share intelligence with Ukrainian forces and beef up the country's defenses. He dismisses those who have argued such moves would only serve to escalate the conflict.

DAMON WILSON: The realities that we're seeing is that it's actually escalatory not to support the Ukrainians with these types of capabilities. Because it'll serve to embolden Putin to think not only can he get away with it, but he can double-down on it.

KELEMEN: Wilson expects the crisis in Ukraine to dominate next week's NATO summit. And he thinks the alliance will move to shore up its members near Russia.

WILSON: The problem is as the alliance has strengthened its solidarity with its own allies, it's just made it all the more clear that those that are on the other side of the line are really vulnerable to Russia or vulnerable to Russia's fear of influence, to their pressure and to these military tactics.

KELEMEN: This is not just Ukraine's war, Wilson says, but a challenge to European security. At the State Department, Spokesperson Jen Psaki says the U.S. is considering a range of options but she said for now is focusing on non-lethal aid to Ukraine. Psaki says there is a diplomatic offering for the Russian president. Though for now, she acknowledges, he hasn't taken it.

JEN PSAKI: What we're seeing - not just over the last couple of days, but certainly weeks and even months - is a pattern of escalating aggression in Ukraine from the Russians and Russian-backed separatist.

KELEMEN: NATO estimates that there are 1,000 Russian troops and their heavy weapons inside Ukraine now. A top UN official, Jeffrey Feltman, says fighting has spread southward.

JEFFREY FELTMAN: We cannot ignore the deeply alarming reports of Russian military involvement in this new wave of escalation. If confirmed, it would constitute a direct contravention of international law and of the UN charter.

KELEMEN: Russia's Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, says there may be some Russian volunteers in Ukraine. But he says that's not the problem.

VITALY CHURKIN: (Through translator) The current escalation in the southeast of the Ukraine is a direct consequence of the reckless policy of Kiev, which is conducting war against its own people.

KELEMEN: But the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, says the mask is coming off.

SAMANTHA POWER: Serious negotiations are needed - urgently needed - but Russia has to stop lying and has to stop fueling this conflict.

KELEMEN: The U.S. says it will continue to work in lockstep with partners in Europe on this. Wilson of the Atlantic Council says Washington is right to coordinate with European partners like Germany to put pressure on Putin to change course. But he argues at this point the U.S. needs to be out in front.

WILSON: If there's a perception in Moscow that we're just outsourcing this crisis to Berlin, Moscow's going to conclude there's much farther they can go and get away with on the ground.

KELEMEN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she and her European colleagues will discuss more sanctions when they meet at an EU summit on Saturday. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.