Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory and its support of separatist fighters confronting government forces in eastern Ukraine threaten to revive the Cold War and destroy a world order based on rule of law, world leaders said Wednesday.
Speaking on the opening day of the general debate of the United Nations General Assembly, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the conflict in Ukraine “has now shaken relations between Russia and the United States,” so “we are concerned that the old Cold War will return.”
“This benefits no one,” Yudhoyono said. The major powers have the responsibility to work together to solve major problems, but “it is not enough just to call for peaceful co-existence. That is so 20th century.”
In March, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which has a large ethnic Russian population. Ukraine and the United States have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of backing pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine with troops and weapons – a charge Putin denies. A fragile cease-fire is in place, and Ukraine has granted greater autonomy for the restive eastern region to preserve the peace.
President Obama also spoke of the Ukrainian conflict, though he devoted more time to the threat of Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Syria, targets of U.S. bombing raids in both countries.
When Russia annexed Ukrainian territory and “poured arms into eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands,” Obama said, it advanced “a vision of the world in which might makes right.”
NATO allies will “impose costs on Russia for aggression and counter falsehoods with the truth,” Obama said. “We call upon others to join us on the right side of history.”
Russia’s actions in Ukraine have violated the U.N. founding charter of 1945, which set rules to prevent another world war, and the Paris Charter of 1990, which ended the Cold War, said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, president of Estonia, one of three small former Soviet republics that are NATO’s newest members.
Those charters prohibited member states from violating each other’s territorial integrity and rights to determine their own security and economic paths. Russia is doing all those things in the name of protecting ethnic Russians abroad, Ilves said. Such arguments are reminiscent of Nazi Germany in 1938, “where the existence of co-ethnics abroad has been used as justification to annex territory,” he said.
Russia’s aggression turned on Estonia Sept. 5, when an Estonian border guard was taken by Russian agents to Moscow where he has been imprisoned. Russia claims the agent was detained on Russian territory.