Will Ukraine Crisis Threaten Iran Nuke Talks?

The administration hopes not.

People waving Russian flags after the Sevastopol regional council supported the vote for Crimea to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
March 14, 2014, 12:54 p.m.

With dip­lo­mats ex­pec­ted to meet next week to dis­cuss Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram, ten­sions over Crimea are rais­ing ques­tions about the path for­ward.

“I think we all hope that the in­cred­ibly dif­fi­cult situ­ation in Ukraine will not cre­ate is­sues for this ne­go­ti­ation,” a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said Fri­day.

Dip­lo­mats from the United States, the United King­dom, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia, China, and Ir­an are ex­pec­ted to meet in Vi­enna. Cath­er­ine Ashton, the European Uni­on’s for­eign policy chief, wll also be in­volved in the talks, which will fo­cus on reach­ing a fi­nal agree­ment.

“We hope that whatever hap­pens in the days ahead, whatever ac­tions that we in the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity take de­pend­ing on the de­cisions and choices that Rus­sia makes, that any ac­tions Rus­sia sub­sequently takes will not put these ne­go­ti­ations at risk,” the of­fi­cial said.

Ne­go­ti­at­ors from the sev­en coun­tries reached an in­ter­im agree­ment in Novem­ber. Un­der that agree­ment, coun­tries have un­til late Ju­ly to reach a long-term deal, which the of­fi­cial com­pared to com­plet­ing a Ru­bik’s cube be­cause of the sep­ar­ate, yet in­ter­con­nec­ted, is­sues.

Wheth­er or not that ef­fort will be com­plic­ated by the cur­rent low point between U.S. and Rus­sia re­mains to be seen.

Ten­sions between the two coun­tries have been on the rise since Rus­si­an troops went in­to Crimea, which sits along the Ukrain­i­an-Rus­si­an bor­der. Those ten­sions could peak on Sunday when Crimea is sched­uled to have a vote on if it should se­cede from Ukraine.

Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin has backed such a move, while U.S. and west­ern of­fi­cials have un­an­im­ously dis­missed it and warned that it won’t be in­ter­na­tion­ally re­cog­nized.

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry and Rus­si­an Min­is­ter Sergey Lav­rov met in Lon­don on Fri­day in the dip­lo­mat­ic equi­val­ent of a Hail Mary pass aimed at try­ing to dees­cal­ate the situ­ation.

Kerry — while call­ing the talks “can­did,” “con­struct­ive,” and “frank” — said that Lav­rov was clear “that Pres­id­ent Putin is not pre­pared to make any de­cision re­gard­ing Ukraine un­til after the ref­er­en­dum.”

But Kerry noted that if the ref­er­en­dum takes place “there will be some sanc­tions. There’ll be some re­sponse, put it that way.”

His com­ments fol­low those to mem­bers of Con­gress earli­er this week, in which he warned that the Ukraine crisis could “get ugly fast if the wrong choices are made.”

“Rus­sia has chal­lenges of its own, and I’m not sure they need to have the kind of eco­nom­ic con­straints that may be fol­low­ing, de­pend­ing on the de­cisions they make,” he said while testi­fy­ing be­fore a House Ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee Wed­nes­day.

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