Last week, John Kerry said that Russia needed to pull back in Ukraine in a matter of “hours, literally.”
But more than 100 hours later, Russia has done no such thing.
The secretary of State delivered the order to de-escalate within hours, paired with a warning of future U.S. action, on Thursday in Paris, after a meeting with France’s foreign minister. “We are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they are moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and begin to become part of a legitimate political process,” he said.
In eastern Ukraine, the country’s military has been locked in a bloody battle with pro-Russian separatists, believed to be armed and funded by the Kremlin, for several months. The fighting continued well into the weekend, many hours after Kerry’s statement.
Unrest raged even as a 10-day cease-fire called by Kiev between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels expired Monday night. When the period of peace began on June 20, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he expected pro-Russian militants to release Ukrainian hostages, shut down their recruitment centers, and give up border checkpoints. None of that has happened. And during the cease-fire, 27 Ukrainian troops have been killed and 69 wounded, according to the country’s foreign ministry.
After meeting with his security chiefs Monday night, Poroshenko announced that Ukraine “will attack, we will free our land.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin had expressed support for the cease-fire, as well as for peace talks between the Ukrainian government and the rebels in the east. He even asked the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, on Wednesday to revoke his executive power to use troops in Ukraine.
The formal request makes it appear to other world leaders that Putin is indeed working to de-escalate the situation. But the move is mostly for show, and mirrors the Russian president’s other politics in the region this year. Putin, in short, doesn’t need to ask for his government’s approval for Russian intervention. In March, when unmarked troops swarmed Crimea, Moscow denied any involvement, despite considerable evidence held up by many world powers, including the U.S. A month after Russia annexed the peninsula, Putin admitted the soldiers were indeed Russian.
Here too, the U.S. is sure that Moscow is fueling the fire in eastern Ukraine, providing heavy weaponry to rebel groups there. Russian involvement, they say, is to blame in the downing of a Ukrainian plane that killed all 49 people on board earlier this month, one of the deadliest episodes in the crisis so far. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Europe, said Monday that the weapons used by pro-Russian separatists to shoot down the military plane were likely supplied by Moscow.
So, just about everyone agrees that Putin has not done enough to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, nor is he moving at a pace they’d like. But Poroshenko seems to have more realistic expectations of Russia than Kerry did last week. “I am optimistic and I’m thinking that within a few weeks, maybe months, we can have a deal to establish peace,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
Reaching a potential peace deal may now be even more complicated, thanks to a different kind of deal bound to irk Putin. On Friday, Poroshenko inked a trade agreement with the European Union — the same deal one former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign in favor of closer ties to Moscow, sparking the entire crisis. Poroshenko said that the new agreement serves as a signal of Ukraine’s desire to become a member of the E.U. But a Ukraine that embraces the West is the last thing that Putin wants.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged the trade deal, but warned that Russia would take action if its own market is “negatively affected” by it. For the future of Ukraine, it may be those words, not political posturing by Putin about pulling back in Ukraine, that carry the most weight.
What We're Following See More »
The Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by casino magnate and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, became the first major city newspaper to endorse Donald Trump over the weekend.“Mr. Trump represents neither the danger his critics claim nor the magic elixir many of his supporters crave,” the editorial read, acknowledging concerns about Trump’s temperament. “But neither candidate will ever be called to the dais to accept an award for moral probity and character,” the paper said. “And we are already distressingly familiar with the Clinton way, which involves turning public service into an orgy of influence peddling and entitlement designed to line their own pockets — precisely what a disgruntled electorate now rises up to protest.”
Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 12 percentage points among likely voters, 50 to 38 percent, in a new ABC News tracking poll, "her highest support and his lowest to date in ABC News and ABC News/Washington Post polls. Gary Johnson has 5 percent support, Jill Stein 2 percent. Clinton led by only four points in the last ABC/Post poll on Oct. 13.
President Obama "will make a late splash into races for state senate and assembly over the next week, endorsing roughly 150 candidates across 20 states. He’ll also back a candidate for the North Carolina Supreme Court. The endorsements — which will come along with a variety of robocalls, social media posts, mailers, photos of Obama with the candidates taken as he’s been traveling to campaign in recent weeks, and even a few radio ads — are Obama’s biggest investment in state races ever by far."
If you need a marker for how confident Hillary Clinton is at this point of the race, here's one: CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports "she's been talking to Republican senators, old allies and new, saying that she is willing to work with them and govern."
"According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the first national post-debate survey, 43 percent of registered voters said the Democratic candidate won, compared with 26 percent who opted for the Republican Party’s standard bearer. Her 6-point lead over Trump among likely voters is unchanged from our previous survey: Clinton still leads Trump 42 percent to 36 percent in the race for the White House, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson taking 9 percent of the vote."