U.S. Reply to Russian Federation Comparison of Crimean Crisis to Kosovo

As delivered to the Permanent Council by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer,

Vienna, March 13, 2014

Sorry Mr. Chair, I was hoping to allow you to conclude, but I really do think this is important, just so that we’re clear on the facts of this latest assertion.

President Obama addressed this yesterday in the press conference following the Oval Office meeting with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, and he said, “I know that we’ve heard form the Russian Federation the that these kinds of decisions are often made in other places, and they’ve even analogized it to Scotland or other situations of that sort. And in each of those cases they’ve cited, decisions were made by a national government through a long, lengthy deliberative process. It’s not something that happens in a few days, and not something that happens with an outside army essentially taking over the region.”

Kosovo emerged as an independent state after many years of international negotiations through the UN to resolve the crisis. In Crimea, Russia and illegitimate local authorities have rejected multilateral diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation and, instead, continue military actions and fostering separatism.

Kosovo welcomed engagement from international bodies. By contrast, Russian forces and citizen militia groups have threatened and prevented high-level visitors and observer missions from international organizations like the OSCE from monitoring the situation in Crimea.

Kosovo’s independence had its roots in the violent, non-consensual breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and the State-sponsored ethnic cleansing that Kosovo endured at the hands of the Milosevic regime. As the world knows, despite Russian assertions, there is no evidence of infringements of minority rights occurring in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine, let alone a situation with any similarities to the humanitarian catastrophe that occurred in Kosovo.

I think it’s fine for Russia to make arguments about self-determination, etcetera. But I think we all need to remember that this situation is not similar to other situations; the analogies do not hold up to the facts. That doesn’t mean the Russian Federation is not entitled to launch legalistic arguments. It just means that we should all remember the facts. This is a referendum that is taking place, essentially, at the barrel of a gun. It won’t be legitimate in Crimea, and it wouldn’t be legitimate anywhere.