The Obama administration on Friday told Russia not to cross a “line” in Ukraine, though officials wouldn’t speculate about what the U.S. will do if Moscow disregards the warning about its politically chaotic neighbor.
“We are watching to see … whether or not Russia is doing anything that might be crossing the line in any way,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday. “We made clear that the U.S. supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the sovereignty of Ukraine. We have made clear to Russia that we believe it would be a grave mistake to intervene in any way. We obviously have and will continue to have direct communication with Russian government officials.”
The “line” comment is reminiscent of President Obama’s admonition last year to Syrian President Bashar Assad, telling the leader not to cross a “red line” and use chemical weapons against his people. Mr. Assad ended up crossing that line and the U.S. did not intervene militarily, though it did secure an agreement — with Moscow’s help — under which Syria would give up its chemical weapons stockpile.
Now, the U.S. has issued a similar warning to Russia, which has been taking increasingly aggressive steps with respect to Ukraine.
Russian military forces have held exercises on the Ukrainian border, and Russian jets have patrolled the skies in the same areas.
On Thursday, armed gunmen stormed a compound in Ukraine’s Crimean region — which includes a large ethnic Russian population — and hoisted a Russian flag. On Friday, Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of trying to seize two airports in Crimea.
The armed men reportedly wore uniforms with no insignia.
Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who continues to insist he is the rightful president of his nation, now is holed up in Russia and made a public address on Friday. He said he is still the legitimate elected leader of his country and will continue to fight for the future of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, some U.S. lawmakers and analysts believe Russia’s ultimate aim is to annex parts of Ukraine, a move the Obama administration deeply opposes.