Monday, March 3, 2014

The US & EU allies recognize that their options in Ukraine are 'extremely limited'

'US attitudes to the Ukraine crisis are vacillating wildly. Having feared initially at the beginning of the week that the Ukraine crisis might take on almost global dimensions, US officials started to believe that it could be contained within manageable proportions. Now, alarm is beginning to rise again – as President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have made clear. The immediate source of concern is the military maneuvers on Ukraine’s borders and the status of armed units inside Crimea.  Although Obama has received assurances from President Putin of respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the consensus among Intelligence Community analysts is that the units inside Crimea are controlled from Moscow and could potentially be used as precursors to a full Russian takeover of Crimea.  Putin’s request to the Russian parliament to allow the deployment of forces inside Crimea have set alarm bells ringing. The White House does not for the moment share the more alarmist views of Russia’s intentions and is disinclined to take action that would propel the US toward “owning” the Ukraine problem. However, any out-and-out move by Russia to invade Ukraine would quickly change that calculus, albeit with the recognition that US and wider Western options are extremely limited.  Kerry is in frequent telephone contact with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to keep information flowing and the crisis from escalating. Ukraine is far from the only item on the US foreign policy agenda. Syria is no closer to a settlement and, as the February 27th  NATO ISAF meeting showed, the exit strategy from Afghanistan is in disarray. With Kerry due to address the AIPAC conference and Israeli Prime Minister scheduled to meet Obama on March 4th, Iran will be a major topic next week. Administration officials will make the case that progress is being made in the P5+1 talks and that they will not agree to any deal that leaves Tehran with a nuclear “breakout” capability. While there will be plenty of skepticism that a deal of this sort is achievable, the White House is confident that it will be able to manage the debate in Washington. Meanwhile, the political upheavals in Venezuela and Thailand are causing concern. The Administration has little attachment to the Maduro government, but has no interest in seeing instability in that country. It is working in partnership with Colombia to mediate.'

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