Last Sunday’s Crimean referendum created a severe rift between Western powers and Russia, and many nations have weighed in on the issue of Russia’s Crimean annexation. Only Russia officially recognizes Crimea’s secession from Ukraine, and the separation is considered illegal and invalid by most governments, who have stated that they will never recognize the referendum. Russia is, however, not totally without supporters. Most in the West are familiar with America’s and Canada’s strong opposition to the annexation, but what is the position of those other national governments who have spoken out on the issue?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been one of the most outspoken opponents of Putin’s move to incorporate Crimea into Russia. Merkel recently stated that the EU will increase its ‘level 2’ sanctions against Russia when the EU meets next Thursday and is ready to impose ‘level 3’ economic sanctions against Russia if Russia causes any further escalation of tensions.
Merkel on March 20 also said that the G8, of which Russia is the leader, “doesn’t exist anymore.” Merkel warned Moscow that it was risking “massive” political and economic damage if Russia refused to change course. For the first time, last Wednesday the German government intervened in Germany-Russia business dealings to halt delivery of combat simulation gear Russia had bought from German defense contractor Rheinmetal.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also made statements warning that further names would be added to the current EU blacklist, the punishments against which include travel bans and asset freezes.
French President Francois Hollande stated that the EU-Russia summit planned for June would be cancelled, and French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius, in addition to making statements about Russia’s removal from the G8, made statements on television channel France 2 that there would be a reaction, “including with force,” if Russia used further force in eastern Ukraine.
One-time Soviet republic and current ally of Russia, belonging to the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union, Belarus refused to endorse Russia’s moves regarding Crimea. Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that Belarus had a “singular view of Ukraine” which was that Ukraine should be integral and that no one should divide the country.
Uzbekistan, another former Soviet republic, expressed concern over the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Ukraine immediately after Russian troops moved into Crimea. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan called for an “objective assessment” and declaimed Russia’s acts “aimed at destabilizing” Ukraine, respectively.
Farther east, the Japanese government made frank comments asserting the illegality of Crimea’s referendum. Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary of Japan, stated that the Japanese government does not recognize the referendum and that the referendum had no legal force because it was in breach of the constitution of Ukraine. Suga said that Russia’s recognition of the referendum was regrettable and violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In South America, Brazil, who is awaiting a July BRICS summit, was reticent to comment, but this week Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo voiced hope for a course that “respected the democratic values and the will of Ukrainians.”
The Russian response to condemnations of its annexation of Crimea has been to repeat reassurances of the legality of its and Crimea’s actions. Russia has also responded to the trade sanctions begun by Western leaders and Japan by describing the sanctions as “illegitimate” and “not based on international law.”
Russia is not totally without support.
The embattled presidents of Venezuela and Syria, both of which are both fighting uprisings within their citizenry, have shown support for Russia. Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan president, has accused America of double-standards in supporting Ukraine’s current government. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has lauded “Putin’s wise policy” regarding Ukraine as an attempt to “restore security and stability to… Ukraine in the face of the coup attempts against legitimacy and democracy, in favor of terrorist extremists,” and also commended Putins “commitment to the international legitimacy and legal rules that govern relations among countries and peoples.”
Kazakhstan, which is nestled into the belly of Russia geographically, originally made statements about its “deep concern” about the “unpredictable consequences” that could come of Russia’s actions in Crimea, but later issued a government statement stating that “[t]he referendum held in Crimea is seen in Kazakhstan as a free expression of the will of the autonomous republic’s population, while the decision of the Russian Federation under the existing circumstances is regarded with understanding.”
India, a fellow BRICS member and a nation that receives 75 percent of its arms imports from Russia, in a move that has surprised some, has stated that it strongly opposes the sanctions placed on Russia and recognizes Russia’s “legitimate interests involved” with the Crimean question.
The other two BRICS members, Iran and China, have been quiet on the subject. South Africa hasn’t made any public statements about the situation, saying even less than Iran, an ally of Russia in Syria, which offered the ambiguous comments, “Intervention from abroad hasn’t helped to improve the situation.”
China, a country whose opinion many are curious about, has aslo made sparse, vague comments when questioned on the subject. China’s comment about its “long-standing position not to interfere in others’ internal affairs” and its respect for the “independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” has been welcomed by the West because it can be interpreted as almost supporting Ukraine against Russia, but really the comment is totally noncommittal and meaningless. China is, however, expected to oppose sanctions against Russia.
By Day Blakely Donaldson