Kerry: If Russia Doesn't "De-escalate," We Will “Isolate” Them

Daniel Doherty

3/4/2014 1:20:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

Shortly after arriving in Kiev, Ukraine on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a strongly-worded statement to the world condemning Russian aggression in Crimea.

“The contrast could not be clearer,” he said, “determined Ukrainians demonstrating strength through unity, and a Russian government out of excuses, hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation and provocations.”

Then, after expressing solidarity with Ukraine’s people for their courage under fire, he went on to list a series of excuses the Russian government served up to falsely assert its right to invade a sovereign nation: the interim Ukrainian government is illegitimate; the streets of Kiev are perilously dangerous; and that Kiev is openly attempting to “destabilize Crimea.”

“Not a single piece of credible evidence supports any of these claims,” he said. “None.”

“Diplomacy and respect for sovereignty, not unilateral force, can best solve disputes like this in the 21st century,” he continued.

Meanwhile, he also addressed the following question: if Russia is sincerely worried about the safety of its citizens -- one ostensible reason for why Russia invaded Crimea in the first place -- there are “countless outlets” Russia could have tapped to allay their concerns. Evidently, Kerry said, the Russian government in general -- and President Putin, in particular -- have no interest whatsoever in solving their grievances through diplomatic channels like the United Nations or other human rights organizations.

He also issued this threat:

“If Russia does not choose to de-escalate,” he pledged, “then our partners will have absolutely no choice but to join us to continue to expand upon steps we have taken in recent days in order to isolate Russia politically, diplomatically and economically."

Secretary Kerry explicitly said crippling economic sanctions were not off-the-table.

At the same time, he added, the United States is working on a $1 billion loan package to help Ukraine in the short-term, and to “expand its economy” in the long-term. The United States will also work with Ukraine to set up -- and facilitate -- “free, fair, fast and inclusive elections” as soon as possible, he said.

Importantly, Secretary Kerry once again reminded Moscow that the world has changed; that is, this type of unilateral aggression and belligerence is no longer acceptable, especially given all the atrocities carried out during the last century.

“The fact is, this is the 21st century and we should not see nations step backwards,” he intoned. “We believe there are a set of options [that] could move us down the road to appropriate” peaceful negotiations.

“We invite Russia to that table,” he said.