Recent events in Ukraine have triggered a verbal arms race between Russia on one side and NATO allies — notably the United States, Europe and Canada — on the other.
The Western governments have repeatedly denounced Russia's efforts to annex Crimea as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, in breach of international law.
Meanwhile, Russia has characterized the annexation as a “reunification” in order to reverse a historical injustice, and has accused the West of hypocrisy for backing what Russia deems to be an illegitimate government in Kyiv.
Both sides have relied on highly charged rhetoric to reinforce their positions — somewhat striking given the restrained language typically used in international diplomacy.
The latest throwdown comes from US President Barack Obama, who downplayed Russia’s global influence during a March 25 news conference:
"Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness.... We [the United States] have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them.”
Here are some other recent examples of high ranking officials talking loads of smack about Russia. They range from low-grade mockery to — yep, Nazi comparisons.
Senator John McCain
On being banned from Russia, March 20: “I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen.”
On the need for economic sanctions, March 16: "Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country. It’s kleptocracy, it’s corruption. It’s a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy.”
US State Department
On the difference between fact and fiction, March 5: “As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, 'The formula "two times two equals five" is not without its attractions.'”
Vice President Joe Biden
On Russia living in the past, March 19: “Russia cannot escape that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior. And that there is a price to pay for naked aggression.”
Senator Mary Landrieu
On being banned from Russia, March 20: “Being sanctioned by President Putin is a badge of honor…. And it most certainly will not stop me from advocating for orphans in Russia and around the world.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
On parallels to Nazi Germany, March 5: “The claims by President Putin and other Russians that they had to go into Crimea and maybe further into Eastern Ukraine because they had to protect the Russia minorities ... is reminiscent of claims that were made back in the 1930s when Germany under the Nazis kept talking about how they had to protect German minorities in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere throughout Europe.”
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power
On Russia's justifications for occupying Crimea, March 3: “Listening to the representative of Russia, one might think that Moscow had just become the rapid response arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality.”
Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul
On the legitimacy of annexing Crimea, March 4: “It’s complete nonsense as far as I’m concerned.”
Senator Dan Coats
On being banned from Russia, March 20 (via Twitter): "In the spirit of Hoosier native [David Letterman], here are the top 10 things I won't be able to do since Putin banned me from Russia:
10. I won't be able to complete my granddaughter's Russian doll collection.
9. I won't be able to compare the Bolshoi Opera House with the Palladium in Carmel.
8. I'll never learn the Russian name for our dog Hoosier.
7. I won't be able to ski on the slushy slopes of Sochi.
6. I won't be able to buy Marsha a Russian mink coat for Christmas.
5. I won't be able to counsel Duma members on how to say no to a President.
4. I'll have to cancel my tennis match with Maria Sharapova.
3. I won't be able to compare Russiaville, IN with Russia.
2. I won't be able to see if borscht really does taste just like pork tenderloin.
1. Our summer vacation in Siberia is a no go."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and his cat. (AFP/ Getty Images)
On a Cold War state of mind, March 26: “As unfortunate as it sounds, it's increasingly apparent to me that the Cold War has never left Vladimir Putin's mind; I think he still thinks in those terms.”
Canadian MP Dean Allison
On being banned from Russia, March 24: “I guess I will have to hold off on buying that vacation property in Sochi. Proud to be #SanctionedbyPutin #cdnpoli #Russia”
United Kingdom's Russian Embassy
On Crimea's "puppet" government, March 19 (via Twitter): "Russian armed forces installed pro-Russian puppet administration and rail-roaded through referendum vote illegal. #Crimea #Ukraine"
Ukrainian Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov
On parallels to fascism, March 18: “Russia is playing a dirty game to annex Crimea. World War II began with the annexation by Nazi Germany of other countries' territories. Today, Putin is following the example of 20th century fascists.”
Ukrainian UN Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev
On Russia's justifications for occupying Crimea, March 3: “I’m also a Russian-speaking person and I don’t need your protection.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
On Putin's mental competence, March 3: "Following a telephone call with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to have confided that she was not sure the Russian leader was in touch with reality; 'in another world' is how she reportedly described her interlocutor," reports Foreign Policy.