The U.S. and Russia Are Now Actually Agreeing on Something in Ukraine

Diplomats from nearly all sides have laid out a few requirements. But will Russia follow through?

Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
April 17, 2014, 9:31 a.m.

A day after the United States said it was pre­par­ing more sanc­tions against Rus­sia, dip­lo­mats from both coun­tries sat down for a chat. And they ac­tu­ally agreed on something.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives from the U.S., Rus­sia, Ukraine, and the European Uni­on have reached an agree­ment about on­go­ing ten­sions after sev­en hours of ne­go­ti­ations in Geneva. The meet­ings co­in­cided with a fal­ter­ing “an­ti­ter­ror­ist cam­paign” by Kiev against pro-Rus­si­an sep­ar­at­ists, who have stormed Ukrain­i­an gov­ern­ment build­ings this month. The Ukrain­i­an mil­it­ary is no match for Rus­si­an forces, and Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin said his Par­lia­ment has al­lowed him to use mil­it­ary force to de­fend pro-Rus­si­an pro­test­ers in Ukraine.

Here’s what Thursday’s agree­ment en­tails:

  • All sides must re­frain from vi­ol­ence, in­tim­id­a­tion, and pro­voca­tion.
  • Il­leg­ally armed groups in Ukraine have to give up their weapons.
  • The gov­ern­ment build­ings just in­side the Ukrain­i­an bor­der re­cently seized by pro-Rus­si­an sep­ar­at­ists must be re­turned to Ukrain­i­an con­trol.
  • Pro­test­ers who com­ply with the above de­mands will be gran­ted am­nesty, ex­cept for those who are found to have com­mit­ted cap­it­al crimes.

Mon­it­ors from the Or­gan­iz­a­tion of Se­cur­ity and Co­oper­a­tion in Europe will now be dis­patched to Ukraine to en­force the re­quire­ments of the agree­ment.

“All of this, we are con­vinced, rep­res­ents a good day’s work,” Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence after the meet­ings. “It has pro­duced com­mit­ments and it has pro­duced words on pa­per.”

However, he con­tin­ued, “words on pa­per will only mean what the ac­tions that are taken as a res­ult of those words pro­duce. So it is ab­so­lutely clear now that these words are im­me­di­ately trans­lated in­to ac­tion.”

In oth­er words: Your move, Mo­scow.

The agree­ment cre­ates a lull in anxi­ety for European coun­tries, whose of­fi­cials wor­ried about im­pos­ing eco­nom­ic sanc­tions and for­cing Mo­scow to re­tali­ate, cut­ting them off from en­ergy sup­plies. It also eases the pres­sure on the White House to act quickly with ad­di­tion­al sanc­tions. But the situ­ation re­mains tenu­ous. Kerry’s re­marks sug­gest he’s more than a little skep­tic­al about how Rus­sia will fol­low through on pulling back from Ukraine. And why shouldn’t he be? Putin’s ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with me­dia this morn­ing was a near du­plic­ate of state­ments he made a month ago — right be­fore he an­nexed Crimea.

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