John Kerry Told Russia It Had ‘Hours’ to Back Off in Ukraine. That Was Five Days Ago.

Vladimir Putin isn’t listening, and a shaky cease-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels just expired.

National Journal
Marina Koren
July 1, 2014, 1 a.m.

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 »
WILL APPEAR TOGETHER TOMORROW
As Expected, Clinton Goes with Kaine
16 hours ago
THE LATEST
SO MUCH FOR THE RATINGS BUMP
Convention Ratings Same as 2012
22 hours ago
THE LATEST
8,000 DOCUMENTS
Wikileaks Releases Trove of DNC Docs
23 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Wikileaks published more than 8,000 documents purportedly taken from the Democratic National Committee Friday, just days before the start of the party's convention in Philadelphia. The documents included briefings on off-the-record fundraisers and candid photographs."

Source:
YES, WE KAINE?
Clinton Announcing VP Pick Today
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton "is widely expected to announce her choice" of vice president "in an email to supporters while on a campaign swing in Florida on Friday afternoon." The consensus: it'll be Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, although Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are also said to be in the running.

Source:
EARLY BUMP FOR TRUMP?
New Round of Polls Show a Tight Race
1 days ago
THE LATEST
  • A Rasmussen Reports poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton, 43%-42%, the fourth week in a row he's led the poll (one of the few poll in which he's led consistently of late).
  • A Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Clinton leading 40%-36%. In a four-way race, she maintains her four-point lead, 39%-35%, with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein pulling 7% and 3%, respectively.
  • And the LA Times/USC daily tracking poll shows a dead heat, with Trump ahead by about half a percentage point.
×