Putin's Reset Button: Pressing Ukraine

It's really amazing how soon the Obama administration's chickens are coming home to roost. They made a big deal out of finding a "reset" button for U.S.-Russia relations. They wanted to reject what they saw as George W. Bush's truculence over the Russian invasion of Georgia last summer. So they went out of their way to send a message to Russia that they wanted a new beginning in their relations with Moscow.

Well, they've gotten it. London's prestigious Financial Times reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has sent a tough "ultimatum" to Ukraine's leadership.

Medvedev sent his blunt warning in the unusual form of an "open letter." He wants the world to know what he's telling President Yushchenko.

And what he's telling him is chilling. Medvedev charged that Yushchenko was "ignoring the opinion of your country's citizens" in seeking membership in NATO. Medvedev roughly accused Yushchenko of meddling in the Russia-Georgia territorial dispute by helping to supply invaded Georgia.

Medvedev told Yushchenko he was risking Europe's supply of natural gas. How can this be? Russia has most of Europe's natural gas and they can turn off the spigot whenever Medvedev or his boss, Vladimir Putin, decide to turn up the pressure on the West.

The 2004 elections in Ukraine were widely hailed in the West as an "orange revolution" because that was the color of Viktor Yushchenko's victorious political party. That party was dedicated to preserving Ukraine's always perilous independence from Moscow.

Ukraine has for centuries been under Russia's thumb. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the Ukrainians took advantage of an historic opportunity to make a break for freedom. Persuaded by the U.S., Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons. It seemed a good idea at the time, to reduce the number of countries with nukes might make non-proliferation treaty enforcement easier, it was believed.

That was when Boris Yeltsin's star was on the rise in the Russian Republic. It seemed reasonable to think that Russia might be headed for a new future as a free and democratic state.

That was before former KGB agent Vladimir Putin eased the aging, alcoholic Yeltsin into an early retirement on the eve of the new Millennium. Putin doesn't drink. Putin is a martial arts enthusiast. With his brutal crackdown on Chechnya (a restive part of the Russian Republic) and last summer's invasion of Georgia, Putin is showing the world just how adept he is at "the martial arts."
Even liberals understand what's happening now. Lilia Shevstova is a senior analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center. She told FT that the Medvedev letter is "a message to any new leader [in Ukraine] that we will deal with you only when you accept our demands."

To underscore his seriousness, Medvedev is holding back on appointing a new Russian ambassador to Kiev, Ukraine's capital, until the Ukrainians come around to his line of thinking.

Is this Joe Biden's crisis, the early test of Barack Obama's leadership? You'll recall that Biden told a group of Seattle Democratic donors that Barack Obama would be tested in the first six months of his presidency and that it would not be immediately apparent that we would be on the right side.

Russia is clearly turning up the pressure on Ukraine. The freedom of 45 million people in Eastern Europe is very much at risk. If Ukraine is clawed back into Moscow's orbit, can Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia hold out? What about the tiny, freedom-loving Baltic States?

When we see Barack Obama embracing Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro, handing out Medals of Freedom to the anti-American UN apparatchik, Mary Robinson, and his administration of amateurs falling all over themselves to appease Russia, is it any wonder Vladimir Putin is pressing his own reset button? It's Ukraine--and Putin is pressing it hard.

Ken Blackwell is a former US Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.
It's really amazing how soon the Obama administration's chickens are coming home to roost. They made a big deal out of finding a "reset" button for U.S.-Russia relations. They wanted to reject what they saw as George W. Bush's truculence over the Russian invasion of Georgia last summer. So they went out of their way to send a message to Russia that they wanted a new beginning in their relations with Moscow.

Well, they've gotten it. London's prestigious Financial Times reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has sent a tough "ultimatum" to Ukraine's leadership.

Medvedev sent his blunt warning in the unusual form of an "open letter." He wants the world to know what he's telling President Yushchenko.

And what he's telling him is chilling. Medvedev charged that Yushchenko was "ignoring the opinion of your country's citizens" in seeking membership in NATO. Medvedev roughly accused Yushchenko of meddling in the Russia-Georgia territorial dispute by helping to supply invaded Georgia.

Medvedev told Yushchenko he was risking Europe's supply of natural gas. How can this be? Russia has most of Europe's natural gas and they can turn off the spigot whenever Medvedev or his boss, Vladimir Putin, decide to turn up the pressure on the West.

The 2004 elections in Ukraine were widely hailed in the West as an "orange revolution" because that was the color of Viktor Yushchenko's victorious political party. That party was dedicated to preserving Ukraine's always perilous independence from Moscow.

Ukraine has for centuries been under Russia's thumb. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the Ukrainians took advantage of an historic opportunity to make a break for freedom. Persuaded by the U.S., Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons. It seemed a good idea at the time, to reduce the number of countries with nukes might make non-proliferation treaty enforcement easier, it was believed.

That was when Boris Yeltsin's star was on the rise in the Russian Republic. It seemed reasonable to think that Russia might be headed for a new future as a free and democratic state.

That was before former KGB agent Vladimir Putin eased the aging, alcoholic Yeltsin into an early retirement on the eve of the new Millennium. Putin doesn't drink. Putin is a martial arts enthusiast. With his brutal crackdown on Chechnya (a restive part of the Russian Republic) and last summer's invasion of Georgia, Putin is showing the world just how adept he is at "the martial arts."
Even liberals understand what's happening now. Lilia Shevstova is a senior analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center. She told FT that the Medvedev letter is "a message to any new leader [in Ukraine] that we will deal with you only when you accept our demands."

To underscore his seriousness, Medvedev is holding back on appointing a new Russian ambassador to Kiev, Ukraine's capital, until the Ukrainians come around to his line of thinking.

Is this Joe Biden's crisis, the early test of Barack Obama's leadership? You'll recall that Biden told a group of Seattle Democratic donors that Barack Obama would be tested in the first six months of his presidency and that it would not be immediately apparent that we would be on the right side.

Russia is clearly turning up the pressure on Ukraine. The freedom of 45 million people in Eastern Europe is very much at risk. If Ukraine is clawed back into Moscow's orbit, can Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia hold out? What about the tiny, freedom-loving Baltic States?

When we see Barack Obama embracing Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro, handing out Medals of Freedom to the anti-American UN apparatchik, Mary Robinson, and his administration of amateurs falling all over themselves to appease Russia, is it any wonder Vladimir Putin is pressing his own reset button? It's Ukraine--and Putin is pressing it hard.

Ken Blackwell is a former US Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.