Is US President Obama always sleeping? In a scenario right out of the Benghazi playbook, once again Mr. Obama’s security team has met in a crisis without him. The White House says that his schedule was clear but the only officials attending were Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and CIA Director John Brennan.
Vice President Joe Biden eventually joined the meeting via video conference but Mr. Obama was AWOL. Mr. Biden has complained lately that the administration only gives him “shit jobs” and we’re sincerely hoping that he doesn’t classify this situation as one of those.
The US president eventually surfaced and was briefed by National Security Advisor Susan Rice prior to his telephone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During the conversation Mr. Putin told the American president that he considered the interim government in Kyiv to be provocative, criminal, and a danger to Russian citizens living in Ukraine.
Speaking in some of his strongest terms yet, Mr. Obama insisted that the Russian actions constitute a “clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and which is inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act.”
Mr. Putin argued that in case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas. Mr. Obama informed Mr. Putin that the USA would immediately step out of the preparations phase for the upcoming G8 Summit in Sochi.
Later in the evening President Putin took calls from President of France Francois Hollande and then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Putin told Secretary-General Ki-moon that any cases of violence against the Russian-speaking population of the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea would lead Russia to take whatever measures are necessary to protect Russian citizens.
One theme through the telephone calls was Mr. Putin’s repeated references to Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. As to whether that is a deliberate signal that he intends to eventually take full possession of those regions is unclear as of yet.