US Sec of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov have ended five hours of talks in London that got nowhere. Yesterday Russia began massing troops and tanks on the border with northeastern Ukraine. Today they are making noises about the responsibility to protect the safety of ethnic Russians in Ukraine.
The Ukraine crisis has entered a new and more dangerous phase after 11th-hour talks in London between the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, broke up without resolving the standoff.This really seems to paint a picture of Putin being prepared to go for broke. He seems to be intent on making it clear to the west that he won't be intimidated by the threat of economic sanctions. Whether he really wants a shooting war with NATO or not, he is drawing a line in the sand as to a position on Russian security interests. Regardless of intention, this kind of aggressive military movement creates an atmosphere that raises the risk of actual conflict.
The diplomatic failure sets Russia on a collision course with the west, with Moscow ordering further military deployments on Friday and a contentious referendum in Russian-dominated Crimea set to go ahead as planned on Sunday.
The referendum, which will almost certainly result in a vote in favour of breaking away from Ukraine and union with Russia, will trigger the imposition of sanctions by the west on Monday.
It seems quite likely that a showdown will come to pass on Sunday and Monday. The vote in Crimea will happen and then the west will have to decide if it is actually prepared to put its money where its mouth is. That script seems to be pretty clearly laid out. The big question is just what is Putin planning to do with all the tanks on the border.