Kerry looks for 'compromise' in Ukraine talks
US Secretary of State John Kerry interrupted his trip home from the Middle East and diverted to Paris for talks with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
What exactly does Kerry hope to accomplish? The Crimea is Russian - that's not going to change. Unless the administration is willing to concede Putin's fait accompli, there's nothing more to say.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that U.S. officials have been divided over whether Putin's call was indicative of a genuine desire to ease tensions between East and West or a pretext for further military action in Eastern Europe.
White House officials described the call as "frank and direct" and said Obama had urged Putin to offer a written response to a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine crisis that the U.S. has presented. Obama also urged Moscow to scale back its troop build-up on the border with Ukraine, which has prompted concerns in Kiev and Washington about a possible Russian invasion in eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin, on the other hand, said Putin had drawn Obama's attention to a "rampage of extremists" in Ukraine and suggested "possible steps by the international community to help stabilize the situation" in Ukraine.
Kerry has repeatedly met with Lavrov over the past month in attempts to halt Russia's annexation of Crimea. However, those talks have proven fruitless, and U.S. officials tell the Journal that Putin is likely to demand that the U.S. accept Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula earlier this month as the minimum necessary for any cooperation between the two nations.
In previous meetings, Mr. Kerry has outlined to Mr. Lavrov a common approach to resolving the Ukraine crisis, U.S. officials told the Journal. This included joint initiatives to stabilize Kiev's economy, promote the decentralization of the country's political system and demobilize pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian paramilitaries that have blossomed across the country in recent months. However, those proposed initiatives have been contingent on the unlikely event of Russia pulling back from Crimea.
Mr. Lavrov on Saturday said in an interview with Russian state television the Kremlin has no intention to send more troops into other areas of Ukraine, despite the deployment of tens of thousands of Russian troops on its eastern border.
By promoting "the decentralization of the country's political system," Kerry is giving the Russians an open invitation to send troops anywhere there's a significant Russian population that asks for them. This is not the time to be weakening the federal bonds that hold Ukraine together. Why is it necessary to give Putin exactly what he wants?
In return, I suppose Putin will withdraw some of his troops from the border and Kerry will come home all but carrying an umbrella and waving a piece of paper in the air. We are negotiating the destruction of Ukraine as an independent state, placing its fate in the hands of Vladimir Putin.
Glad we've got a "smart" foreign policy now.