President Obama Speaks on Ukraine, Says Virtually Nothing

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 28 2014 5:59 PM

President Obama Speaks on Ukraine, Says Virtually Nothing

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on February 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama spoke about the crisis in Ukraine. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Friday afternoon, President Obama delievered a brief message on the continuing crisis in Crimea, which may be experiencing a Russian takeover. From the AP:

"Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply [de]stabilizing," Obama said in a hastily arranged statement delivered from the White House. Such action by Russia would not serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, Russia or Europe, Obama said, and would represent a "profound interference" in matters he said must be decided by the Ukrainian people.
"Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, that would invite the condemnation of nations around the world," Obama said. "The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."
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Despite Obama's hard line, America's options in Crimea are limited. As my colleague Josh Keating noted, the United States is very unlikely to intervene, even though Russia's actions probably violate a U.S.-Russian agreement to respect Ukraine's sovereignty within its current borders. With no actual weapons at his disposal, then, Obama has continued to deploy verbal warnings—a fairly minor tool in the face of an international crisis. 

For more information on the crisis, see Josh Keating's Ukraine/Crimea Explainer.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.