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

Ukraine President Appeals for More US Support

Speaking before Congress ahead of meeting with President Obama, Petro Poroshenko urges lawmakers to back Ukraine in its quest for freedom and democracy More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to the Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20 billion In India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high profile visit 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid