Tensions remain high between Russia and the West after Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected a U.S. proposal to end the Crimean dispute as Russia continues to fortify its grip on the Crimean Peninsula ahead of an upcoming referendum vote on March 16th for Crimea to join the Russian Federation.
The United States responded by temporarily halting a Russian invitation for Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with Russian President Putin this week in Sochi, Russia.
Russia and the United States have stressed that discussions between the two cold war powers were still ongoing.
Voice of Russia reported that “the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea will allocate up to 2 million US dollars on the March 16th referendum on whether to join Russia.”
On Monday pro-Russian forces fired gunshots and took over more Ukrainian military bases in Crimea while further north in Kiev, Ukraine’s interim president announced the formation of a volunteer national guard in Ukraine and requested assistance from the United States and Britain.
Several activists who oppose Crimea returning to Russia have recently been reported missing.
Two days ago, the website Mashable reported that Russian forces had erected border columns and planted landmines near Chonhar in Crimea which Russian troops occupied on March 9th.
NATO announced reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania and is preparing for military exercises near Bulgaria and Romania in areas close to the Black Sea.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said this morning on Fox & Friends that Europe wants to do more to stand up to Russia’s incursion into Crimea but they are trapped due to their dependence on energy from Russia.
“How can you have a free and fair referendum when your troops on the street? Every day they make more and more aggressive moves” Rubio said.
“It is quite frankly shocking and outrageous how they are getting away with this. And meanwhile, Europe wants to do something about it but they are trapped because they feel like we get so much of our energy from Russia and if we go too far on this it could de-stabilize us” Rubio continued.
Rubio said there are 2 things that have to happen:
1) Exact maximum amount of consequence for what President Putin has done and isolate Russia internationally
2) Establish a system and help America’s European allies to become independent from the Russian grip of energy by not just exporting North American gas but also help them to develop their own native energy capabilities otherwise Russia will continue to hold Europe hostage to its own whims in the future.