In a full run of the Sunday morning news show gauntlet, Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to push the Obama administration’s developing line on Russia after last week’s MH17 crash: Everything is on the table. Except troops.
On Fox News Sunday, Kerry said that the investigation into the crash has been “seriously compromised” by “drunken separatist soldiers” who have been removing bodies and evidence from the scene “unceremoniously.”
Pro-Russian separatist militiamen have taken custody of about 200 of the 298 bodies found at the wreckage site of Fight 17, according to Ukrainian officials. Kerry condemned the behavior and again pointed the finger at Putin.
“What’s happening is really grotesque, and It’s contrary to everything Russia and Putin said they would do,” Kerry told NBC’s David Gregory. “The separatists are in control.”
“This is a fundamental moment of truth for Russia, for Mr. Putin,” Kerry told Fox host Chris Wallace.
Kerry came just short of placing direct responsibility for the downed passenger plane on Putin and Russia. “Culpability is a traditional term,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley, “and people can make their own judgments about what happened here.” Kerry told Fox News that U.S. intelligence has made no final conclusions, but they “know to a certainty” that a “major convoy,” which included tanks and artillery, crossed from Russia into the hands of separatists within the last month.
“At the moment of the shootdown, we detected a launch from that area” controlled by separatists, Kerry said on CNN. He told Fox News that “we have voices we have overheard of separatists in Russian bragging about the shootdown and then subsequently taking down on social media.”
Kerry suggested on CBS that “there’s an enormous amount of evidence … that points to the involvement of Russia” in giving pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine the kinds of weapons that shot down the Malaysian Airlines flight and the training to use them.
The case could get stronger before long. “The investigation is going to draw conclusions that are quote, ‘definitive,’ ” Kerry said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “What we have is a lot of evidence that points in the direction that raises very, very serious questions.”
So with evidence piling up, what does the U.S. intend to do? “The president is prepared to take additional steps, and we are discussing with the Ukrainians right now what they need, what else we can do, and I don’t think anything except American troops going there, other things are on the table,” Kerry told Fox News. “I don’t think anybody in America is talking about putting troops in there, nobody is talking about military,” he said on CNN. Kerry suggested on multiple shows that the Obama administration still has possible additional sanctions at its disposal.
“We’re in conversation now with our European counterparts,” Kerry told CBS’s Bob Schieffer. “We hope this is a wake-up call for some countries in Europe that have been reluctant to move.”
Kerry’s not the only one making the rounds Sunday and hitting hard against Russia. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein told CNN that she believes the U.S.-Russia relationship is now at cold war levels.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
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