Earlier today, Interfax reported that officials in the Ukranian government claimed that they had been given an ultimatum by Russian forces: either surrender by 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) or prepare for an attack from Russian forces. Shortly thereafter, an official of the Russian Black Sea Fleet informed Interfax that the claim by Ukraine was “utter nonsense” and that no plan currently exists to engage in combat with Ukraine.


However, there has been a massive increase in Russian troops surrounding the Crimean peninsula, and the threat of a potential engagement in warfare is not farfetched. In Ukraine’s mission to the United Nations, they have claimed:

Approximately 16,000 Russian troops have been deployed in Crimea by the military ships, helicopters, cargo airplanes from the neighboring territory of the Russian Federation. The Russian troops keep taking their attempts to seize, block and control crucial governmental and military objects of Ukraine in Crimea: the Parliament in Crimea, all civil and military airports, means of communications, radio stations, customs service, military and coast guard bases and headquarters of the Ukraine’s navy in Crimea.


Russia has claimed that it has taken action due to a request by ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich, who allegedly called on Russian President Vladimir Putin for action from the Russian military to restore order and law in Ukraine. This claim was made by the Russian envoy to the United Nations in an emergency meeting on Ukraine. The Russian representative further claimed that Russians in Ukraine are “being persecuted for ideas and language.” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power proceeded to deny Russia’s claims, arguing that Russia is responding to an imaginary threat, and that Russian action in Ukraine is completely illegitimate. The Russian claims and Power’s response can both be found here.


President Barack Obama has stated that Russia is “on the wrong side of history.” Obama stated, “if, in fact, they continue on the current trajectory that they [Russia] are on, we are examining a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic — that will isolate Russia, and will have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and it’s status in the world.”


Since Obama’s statement, reports have come out stating that the United States has suspended trade and investment talks with Russia. According to a spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, “due to recent events in Ukraine, we have suspended upcoming bilateral trade and investment engagement with the government of Russia that were part of a move toward deeper commercial and trade ties.”


On CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,”  Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark discussed the geopolitical importance of Crimea — it is the only access Russia has to warm waters, and this water is unfrozen year round. Additionally, it is where the Russian fleet is. Not only is it is where shipping comes in, but it is also where oil could be shipped out.


Clark discussed three tracks that should be taken by the United States government. The first are sanctions and isolation as discussed by Obama. Secondly, it is important to understand and win the legal argument of Ukraine’s government — is this the legitimate government of Ukraine that is in Kiev? If the government is legitimate, we should be saying so and discussing why at every opportunity, Clark said. Finally, Clark argued, we must look at the facts on the ground; fact checking everything that is being reported is crucial, for the most important commodity as this crisis moves forward is to have accurate information from people who are on the ground, confirming and negating claims that are being made.


It is clear that Clark’s final point is essential to making reasoned and rational decisions. Already, there has been misinformation from Ukranian and Russian officials. U.S. Secretary John Kerry is now headed to Kiev to be closer to sources of information. As the situation continues to unfold, it is essential to have reliable people as close to the conflict as possible, providing accurate accounts of events as they occur.


What do you think? Leave a comment in the comments section below or tweet me @dannystevens91.