News / Europe

West and Russia in Diplomatic Bind Over Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) addresses a news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Brussels on April 2, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) addresses a news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Brussels on April 2, 2014.
Catherine Maddux
The crisis in Ukraine has the United States, Europe and Russia in a diplomatic bind, analysts say, with little immediate prospect for a lasting solution.
 
Presidential elections in Ukraine are set to take place on May 25. But there is a growing fear amongst top U.S. and EU officials that instability and violence they say is backed by Russia will derail the vote.
 
With near daily clashes in east Ukraine, top U.S. and European diplomats on Tuesday warned that if Russian interference halts the election, there would be consequences.
 
“If Russian elements continue to sabotage these elections, then we stand ready to implement more sanctions,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said following talks with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “We will not sit idly by while Russian elements fan the flames of instability.”
 
But analysts say that so far, Western action – a combination of tough talk and targeted economic sanctions – has not calmed Ukraine and or led to fruitful dialogue with Russia.

 
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a joint news conference with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow, May 7, 2014..Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a joint news conference with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow, May 7, 2014..
x
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a joint news conference with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow, May 7, 2014..
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a joint news conference with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow, May 7, 2014..
Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to have shifted his confrontational tone on Wednesday, vowing to remove Russian troops from the Ukraine border and calling on pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to delay a referendum on to break away from Ukraine on May 11.

But White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded by saying there was no evidence a withdrawal had taken place. NATO also says it has not seen any a pullback of Russian troops.  And separatist groups the Russian president’s call, pledging to go ahead with the referendums.
 
Still, some analysts say the Putin overture could pave the way for fruitful talks.
 
“Putin has likely been concerned by the escalating violence in the east,” said Thomas Graham, Senior Director at Kissinger Associates, Inc. and a former top advisor during the Bush administration. “Given how he has positioned himself - defense of Russian and Russian speakers - he is under pressure to send in troops.”
 
"But if he does it will not be another Crimea,” he added. “There will be bloodshed.”
 
Putin has calculated the time has come to give diplomacy a chance, says Graham, knowing that he can easily return to a harsher position should negotiations go nowhere.
 
The European problem
 
Between the United States and Europe, Europe stands to invite more pain – both financially and politically -- in trying to stop Putin’s moves to restore Russia’s place on the world stage, analysts say.
 
Consider this: about a quarter of the EU’s gas supplies come from Russia.
 
According to the New York Times, EU trade with Russia amounted to almost $370 billion in 2012, compared with U.S.-Russia trade of $26 billion. 
 
For the United States, the issue is largely ideological – annexing Crimea has redrawn the map of Europe, setting a very dangerous precedent in violation of international law, analysts say.
 
And they say there is reason to believe that the Obama administration – while presenting a united front publically – wants Europe to take the lead in punishing Putin.
 
“I think there are definitely tensions,” said Kathleen McNamara, director of the Mortara Center for International Studies at Georgetown University.
 
“I think that Americans find it very hard to understand the nature of the European project, to understand the outlook that the Europeans have on foreign policy, which is very different from the much more activist, much more geopolitical view that we have in the United States,” McNamara said.
 
Which is why the West is somewhat hamstrung by its current policy in this crisis – one which has pushed the European Union way out of its comfort zone, according to McNamara.
 
“I think that it’s incredible cognitive dissonance because the EU was really founded on a rejection of this geo-political, territorial incursion. You know carving up the world…and they’ve been very, very successful amongst these great powers who had been fighting each other for centuries,” she said.
 
But Putin didn’t “read the memo” about the 21st century being a century of international law, McNamara said, putting Europe in a very uncomfortable position.
 
The EU was structured to promote stability and prosperity through institutions such as NATO and the United Nations and its member states, she said.
 
“It’s a situation for which the tools that they’ve developed and the perspectives that they’ve developed on how to how to create stability and how to create political order are really outside this particular situation,” she said.
 
Limits of sanctions
 
While the U.S. and Europe have slowly ratcheted up sanctions since March, they aim to punish wealthy people close to Putin in the hopes that the flight of investment and capital will force the Russian leader’s hand, analysts say.
 
“I don’t think the sanctions will work, certainly not the ones that have been levied at this point. And even ramping them up, going after individuals is not going to have a major impact,” Graham said.
 
Russia, he said, is prepared to accept a lot of pain, because Putin is not being driven by economics.  In the case of Ukraine, national security and reclaiming Russia’s “greatness” is trumping economic concerns – at least, Graham said, in the short term.
 
“Could we make it more painful?” he asked. “Yes. We could go after various sectors – financial, energy and manufacturing in some way."
 
“But the point is if we did that, Russia could do some harm to us,” Graham said. “The problem that we’ve had with the sanctions is that both Washington and Brussels are trying to do this in a way that requires no sacrifice on the part of their populations.”
 
Obama administration officials have said they believe sanctions will have an impact in forcing a diplomatic solution.
 
Timothy Frye, a political science professor at Columbia University in New York, said that despite research showing that sanctions alone do little to force behavioral changes, the mere threat of additional sanctions can have an impact.
 
“That threat creates uncertainty around economic activity,” Frye said. “And the markets themselves can be effective even if U.S. and European policy is being seen as ineffective.”
 
Frye added there are signs that business leaders are re-evaluating their plans regarding future investment in Russia if only because the West might slap stronger economic bans on Moscow’s energy and financial sectors.
 
Diplomacy
 
Ultimately, U.S. and EU leaders have said repeatedly that diplomacy – a negotiated political settlement -- is the real answer to the Ukraine crisis. Even Putin gave a nod to talks when he seemed to shift gears this week.  
 
"What is needed in direct, full-fledged and equal dialogue between the Kyiv authorities and the representatives of people in southeast Ukraine," said Putin.
 
But if the way out is a political solution, channels of communication must be opened -and not between the most visible and senior representatives of the West, Russia and Ukraine, Graham said.
 
“The contacts are being conducted at a very high level, which isn’t conducive to deal-making,” she said, “because conversations at that level tend to be the stating of talking points and positions and don’t create the atmosphere of give and take you need.”
 
As for Europe, it appears it will continue to work Ukraine the way it has since the creation of the European Union, McNamara said.
 
“I think that we’re going to continue to see the EU trying to work international institutions, trying to work the sanctions, trying to work the carrots of economic aid,” she said. “But this is such a volatile and difficult situation that everyone is incredibly, and probably correctly, hesitant to jump in with two feet.”

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Garry R Moore from: Ottawa
May 15, 2014 2:07 PM
G7 sanctions todate are merely a pin-prick on Putin's butt ! G7 industries continue to lobby their respective governments not to impose harsh sanctions on Russia so as to protect billions $ of trade G7 nations are playing the optics of doing something to help the Ukraine but in reality the G7 is allowing the Russian bear to brutally maul the Ukraine as it wishes Since Germany and France are major players regarding sanctions the weblinks below make worthwhile reading


by: bsjones from: New York
May 12, 2014 12:33 AM
Very interesting piece. Is Putin playing a game of chicken?


by: meanbill from: USA
May 08, 2014 8:41 PM
The US, EU, and NATO set precedence in bypassing the UN Security Council (and using phony excuses), that the NATO Charter gave them permission to attack Yugoslavia, (without the approval of the UN Security Council), to force Yugoslavia to give up their sovereign land for KOSOVO...
AND they opened "Pandora's Box" and Russia has used the same phony NATO rules, to form the independent states of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Crimea, and just maybe east Ukraine? --- BLAME those (NATO rules) for all the other independent states now beginning to form, all over the world?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid