The diplomatic dance around the word 'invasion'

NATO is calling Russia's invasion a "violation of Ukraine's sovereignty." President Obama and the State Department are calling it an "incursion." Most other nations are using these or other terms to describe what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is plainly calling an "invasion" by Russia.

By refusing to refer to the invasion as an "invasion," both NATO and the US can ignore the implications such terminology presents; they will have to do something about it.


The Ukraine conflict has evoked many memories of the Cold War, including a footloose attitude to the truth. But even as Russia's denials of involvement stretch credibility to breaking point, for some they remain a convenient fiction.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is chief among them; denying a Russian role will keep his domestic audience in ignorance of a war they don't want - especially useful if the battle goes badly.

But there are also some European powers, including Germany and France, who despite being on the opposite side of the crisis share Putin's desire not to paint it as an out-and-out war between Russia and Ukraine.

For them, stating unequivocally that Russia has attacked Ukraine would force them to impose more costly sanctions, and could block the path to a truce with Russia they hope will resolve the crisis.

Some say the evidence of Russian involvement has built to a point where it now strains credibility to assert that Russia's military is not helping the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

That is especially so after the past 72 hours when, according to Kiev, Russia has pushed in troops and hardware to avoid a collapse of its pro-Moscow separatist allies.

"The mask is coming off," said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "In these acts, these recent acts, we see Russia's actions for what they are: a deliberate effort to support, and now fight alongside, illegal separatists in another sovereign country."

NATO has released satellite imagery it said showed Russian combat forces inside Ukrainian territory. A group of captured servicemen from Russia were recorded on video describing how they were ordered into Ukraine, though officials in Moscow said they crossed the border by mistake.

A Reuters reporter saw armored vehicles and uniformed men, all with identifying markings removed or covered up, massing on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine. They were a short drive from the Ukrainian village where residents reported seeing identical troops manning checkpoints.

In the northwest Russian city of Pskov, reporters were chased away from a cemetery where, according to accounts on social media, two Russian paratroopers killed in Ukraine were secretly buried.

More sanctions are in the offing, but any additional restrictions will probably be minor, given that NATO countries have done just about all they can do without damaging their own economies in the process.

Military action is out of the question, but Russia's invasion may pave the way for Ukraine to join NATO and the EU. But even if this happens, it may be years before it comes to pass.

Ukraine is at the mercy of Vladimir Putin. And no amount of diplomatic dancing by others will allow them to escape the reality that thousands of Russian troops have invaded their soil.



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