Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the West must prevent Ukraine from turning into a European “black hole” dominated by Russia as he prepares to meet U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Warsaw today.
“The main problem of Ukraine right now is that nobody is really in charge,” Tusk said on Tok FM radio. “We need to give Ukraine sufficient help in order to prevent it from becoming a black hole across our eastern border, where Russian intelligence services, organized crime and structures that threaten us will dominate.”
Russia is preparing to sign a treaty to annex Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula after an uprising in Kiev unseated Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych. President Vladimir Putin said today he supported a request from the breakaway region to join Russia. The U.S. and the European Union yesterday imposed sanctions on Russian officials and threatened further measures in response to Putin’s effort to wrest Crimea from Ukraine.
Biden is coming for two days of meetings in Europe with leaders of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- all of which share borders with Russia and are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. Biden will make a statement to the media with Tusk at 1:30 p.m. in Warsaw, followed by meetings with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Estonian President Toomas Ilves.
An aide traveling with Biden, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the trip’s main focus is to reassure allies of U.S. support given their concerns about Russia’s broader plans regarding Crimea and eastern Ukraine. He said the U.S. vice president will discuss ways to boost energy security and diversify away from Russian supplies by using nuclear power, shale and alternate sources.
Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, will meet defense chiefs from central and eastern Europe in Croatia to discuss security issues, the official said.
The U.S. and its allies are seeking to bolster Ukraine, which needs as much as $15 billion to repay billions in foreign debt after investors withdrew funds and central-bank reserves plummeted. The EU has outlined an 11 billion-euro ($15.3 billion) package of loans and grants tied to the country agreeing on measures with the International Monetary Fund. A U.S. offer of $1 billion in loan guarantees has been tied up in Congress in a dispute over increasing the U.S. quota for the IMF.
Tusk, who has advocated a strong response to Putin along with many leaders of former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe, said the sanctions that include asset freezes and visa travel bans on Russian officials, amounted to “strong decisions” and signaled the 28-member EU was “coming up with a new self-definition.”
“They may not be very visible, but in my view they’re a breakthrough,” he said.
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