Russia Begins Air Defense Drills Near Ukraine, Even After President Obama Called Putin For A Long, Cozy Chat
On Thursday, President Barack Obama spent an hour on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging the longtime Russia leader to participate in talks with Ukraine to solve the crisis in Crimea. Of course, being Putin, Putin still doesn't believe he's done anything wrong: He still insists Russia is well within its rights in stepping up a military response on peninsula, Putin told Obama during their phone call, and that Russia hasn't broken international law to do so. (Most Western leaders would disagree with him on that, among other things.) Shortly afterwards, the Pentagon confirmed that Russia has began massive air defense drills near the Ukrainian border.
The personal call follows the American decision to place sanctions on Russia, after lawmakers in Crimea voted Thursday to leave Ukraine and become a part of the Federation. In his chat with Putin, Obama emphasized that Russia is overstepping its boundaries and violating "Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," according to the White House.
The idea seems pretty obvious to everyone but Putin, who believes that the current Ukrainian government is making "entirely illegitimate decisions" when it comes to Crimea.
As for Crimea, it remains a hotbed for tension and violence, with pro-Russian parties taking over the region. The area, off southern Ukraine, is home to many residents who culturally identify with Russia and make up a strong ethnic majority. And the standoff is only escalating as its population side with Moscow and Russia's parliament gives its support, saying Friday that it will support a vote separating Crimea from Ukraine — despite the threat of more sanctions.
France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, followed in Obama's footsteps and warned that if the initial penalties against Russia did not succeed, more sanctions could follow targeting Russian businesses and those close to Putin.
Everyone's getting involved, but almost nothing stops the relentless Russian President. Putin told Obama on Thursday,"Russia cannot ignore calls for help on this matter," according to a statement from the Kremlim. Still, the two leaders' fundamental disagreement on the issue shouldn't affect "the paramount importance" of Russian-US relations, they agreed. What they did finally agree on is continuing communication between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The U.S. has deployed fighter jets to patrol over the Baltic states, but one relationship that hasn't felt the heat from the impending Russia/Ukraine tipping point is the space program. NASA has said U.S. ties with Russia remain strong aboard the International Space Station, which is probably for the best, seeing as the astronauts are stuck with each other for the long haul.