Saturday, March 29, 2014

De-escalation in Ukraine & serious differences with Saudia

'With President Obama’s March 26th speech in Brussels, President Putin’s telephone conversation with Obama in which ideas for a diplomatic resolution of the crisis were discussed and renewed Russian assurances that no further territorial encroachments are intended, the trend toward de-escalation of tensions which we noted last week are now firmly in place. Contrary to some media reports that a Russian military build up along Ukraine’s Eastern border is seen as a precursor to an invasion, our contacts in the Intelligence Community do not support this view. Intelligence is not fully definitive but the consensus view is to take the Russian assurances of restraint at more or less face value, with, at worst case, the troop formations used as bargaining chips in further negotiations. From conversations with senior officials, they believe that so long as this reality holds, the crisis is now at a manageable phase. especially as other issues involving Moscow are at play. A pause for breath over Crimea will allow the Administration to turn to other matters, the most immediate of which the April 5th presidential election in Afghanistan. US officials tell us that they are deeply worried about Taliban disruption attacks in central Kabul. An Intelligence Community official commented to us: “Our concern is that the anti-government forces, not just the Taliban, have united against the elections. This is a very bad sign for the future.” Although American public opinion has long since wandered away from Afghanistan, the Administration continues to see vital US interests involved in maintaining stability there. This requires an effective Afghan security establishment. Moscow's support will be needed as the forces use Russian-made equipment. Another priority is the repair of relations with Saudi Arabia. Despite Obama’s polite reception by the King, our assessment is that there are so many issues – Syria, Iran, and Egypt -- where Washington and Riyadh are headed in opposite directions that Obama’s visit will serve as a patch rather than a cure for the uneasiness between the two countries..."

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