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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora