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Ex-NATO Commander Calls on Trump to 'Stand Up' to Putin Over Kerch Strait Rift

© Sputnik / Valery Melnikov / Go to the photo bankRussian President Vladimir Putin (File Photo).
Russian President Vladimir Putin (File Photo). - Sputnik International
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Russia and Ukraine are in the middle of a diplomatic impasse after three Ukrainian warships illegally sailed into Russia’s territorial waters and ignored legal demands to leave the area, which Moscow denounced as a provocation and violation of international law.

In light of the Russia-Ukraine standoff in the Kerch Strait, James Stavridis, a retired US Navy Admiral and former military commander of NATO, penned an article for Time to call on President Donald Trump to ‘strongly affirm’ US support for Kiev ‘in every dimension, including providing them with capable defensive armament’.

‘Most of all, the President ought to make the point that it is in no one’s interest to stumble backward into a full-blown Cold War, let alone have an actual war inside Ukraine. Perhaps by appealing to Putin’s pragmatic side, we can defuse this crisis before it spirals into something we cannot control’, he wrote.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany May 15, 2017 - Sputnik International
France, Germany Reportedly Against New Sanctions on Russia Over Kerch Strait Row
According to the admiral, the recent crisis between the two neighbours can be traced back to 2014, when 97 percent of Crimea’s population voted to reunite with Russia, something which hasn’t been recognised by the international community and is still largely viewed as an ‘illegal annexation’.

Stavridis claims that Russia needed to ensure communications between the mainland and the peninsula, which implies establishing control of the Kerch Strait located between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

The former NATO commander noted that President Trump planned to hold a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the side-lines of this week’s G20 summit:

‘For the Trump Administration, though, this will be another testing point in its notably odd relationship with Russia…’ he wrote, at the same citing ‘a strong stand’ that Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis and National Security Adviser John Bolton had taken against what he called ‘Russian bad behaviour’.

Stavridis further wrote that while the US has ‘correctly’ pushed for sanctions following Crimea’s reunification with Russia, President Trump has much to catch up on, and the upcoming meeting with Putin lays grounds to reassess his stance.

READ MORE: Estonia Summons Russian Envoy Over Moscow-Kiev Standoff in Kerch Strait

The retired admiral went on to accuse Russia of violating international law in its relations with Ukraine, claiming that sanctions will remain in effect until Moscow ‘modifies its stance’:

‘The President must show zero daylight between the US and our NATO and European allies on this issue, or Putin will exploit the seams to continue toward achieving his ultimate strategic goal of unraveling the trans-Atlantic alliance’, Stavridis penned.

Earlier in the day, President Trump said that he might call off his envisaged meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina in wake of the naval incident in the Kerch Strait.

Russian President Vladimir Putin after the flower-laying ceremony at the Monument to Soldiers of the Russian Expeditionary Force Who Fought in France in WWI. - Sputnik International
Putin: Standoff Over Kerch Provocation, Aimed to Impose Martial Law in Ukraine
On Sunday, three Ukrainian Navy vessels – two gunboats and a tug – violated the Russian maritime border, moving from the Black Sea towards the Kerch Strait.

The ships ignored Russia’s demands to leave the area and proceeded to make ‘dangerous manoeuvres’, thus prompting the Russian side to open fire and eventually seize the ships.

Moscow has described the incident as a provocation in violation of Articles 19 and 21 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and pledged to suppress any attempts to challenge its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

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