Crimea Tensions Surge as Putin Tests the West

(Bloomberg) --

The confrontation between Russia and the West over the fate of Ukraine has entered a dangerous new phase.

The flashpoint is access to the Kerch Strait, a key waterway for sea traffic to both countries that’s now straddled by a Russian bridge to Crimea, the peninsula annexed by President Vladimir Putin in 2014. Russian warships fired on Ukrainian vessels near the strait yesterday. 

Following months of rising tension, the clash comes days before Putin meets U.S. President Donald Trump at the Group of 20 summit – a session that will test Washington’s resolve to support Ukraine against Russia.

The European Union, which urged restraint, also faces questions over its willingness to react amid fatigue among some member states at the prospect of further sanctions on Russia. 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke by phone with NATO’s secretary-general today and wants his parliament to declare martial law. Some opposition lawmakers accuse him of using the tensions as a way to delay presidential elections in March that he’s likely to lose.

Putin may be gambling that a divided West won’t oppose Russia tightening control over the strait and disrupting Ukraine’s economy ahead of the vote.

The risk, however, is that tensions spiral into open military conflict between Ukraine and Russia. 

Crimea Tensions Surge as Putin Tests the West

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Crimea Tensions Surge as Putin Tests the West

And finally ... As world leaders prepare to descend on the Argentine capital for this week’s G-20 summit, soccer violence is raising doubts about whether Buenos Aires is ready. The South American championship game between archrivals Boca Juniors and River Plate was postponed to an as-yet unspecified date after River supporters threw rocks and bottles that shattered the windows of a bus carrying Boca players. The government, which is touting the G-20 meeting as proof the country is back on the map after 12 years of populist rule, is taking no chances: it’s deploying 22,000 guards and shutting down the area around the event.

Crimea Tensions Surge as Putin Tests the West

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