Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mindfully meditating on the Ukraine crisis – well, why not?

Kerry says Russia 'hiding hand behind falsehoods."

It’s disorienting to read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The Art of Communicating, while out of the corner of my mind following the back and forth between U.S. and Russian officials over the Ukraine crisis.

On the one hand, Nhat Hanh advises deep listening and sensitivity to the suffering of the other; on the other hand the escalating threats between two world superpowers are reminiscent of cold war rhetoric.

I grew up in that era and such exchanges bring back the chilling threat of a nuclear holocaust. I kind of wish these U.S. and Russian officials would form a mindfulness meditation group like mine and read together The Art of Communicating. It couldn’t hurt.

"We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine," Obama told reporters in Washington.

"The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."

Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be "deeply destabilizing," he said.

Russia said on Tuesday that it would retaliate if the United States imposed sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

"We will have to respond," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. "As always in such situations, provoked by rash and irresponsible actions by Washington, we stress: this is not our choice."

"We have frequently explained to the Americans ... why unilateral sanctions do not fit the standards of civilised relations between states," Lukashevich said.

In the meantime, the Guardian’s Shaun Walker reports from Belbek airbase in Crimea:

It may be that the three rapid warning volleys fired into the air at Belbek air base on Tuesday morning are the closest Russia's military manoeuvres in Crimea ever come to actual clashes.

The Russian troops surrounding Ukrainian bases have given a number of ultimatums for soldiers to give up their weapons or defect, but when they have not been met nothing has happened.

At Belbek, outside Sevastopol, the Russians took control over much of the airfield several days ago, but on Tuesday the Ukrainian troops gave their own ultimatum, demanding to be given access to the weapons storage facilities on the base. They marched towards the Russians, unarmed and carrying the Ukrainian flag and a Soviet World War II flag, some of them singing the national anthem.

The Russians fired warning shots and screamed that if they advanced any further the Ukrainians would be shot in the legs. The Ukrainians halted, and gave the Russians until 2pm to let them pass. After another brief standoff at that time, with the Russians again pointing their guns at the Ukrainians, they again turned round.

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