Saturday, March 22, 2014

Senior White House officials are now de facto reconciling themselves to Ukraine's “facts on the ground”

'The first “post-Crimea” headlines are beginning to appear in the US press. From conversations with Administration contacts, our assessment is that the first “hot” phase of the crisis is now drawing to a close. Senior White House officials are now de facto reconciling themselves to the “facts on the ground” and no longer believe that it is possible to roll back Russia’s annexation of Crimea.  With public opinion showing a two-to-one majority against an activist US involvement in Ukraine, official focus has moved on to preventing any Russian encroachment of Ukraine “proper.” Despite President Putin’s public assurances that he has no such intentions, there is little confidence in Washington that some action of this kind is not in the works.  To head this off a stream of high-level visits designed to show solidarity with Ukraine and NATO allies is taking place. Were Moscow to expand its military operations, the political demands for a more robust reaction by the Administration would grow exponentially. Assuming that this does not happen, however, our assessment is that the President’s visit to Brussels next week will see the high water mark of tough talk and that, thereafter, attention will slip to the inside pages. The channel between Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov, which has been active throughout the crisis, will continue to mediate the harsh words that will be exchanged in public. If it is true that the first phase of the crisis has been contained, there is growing concern of it potential corrosive impact on other aspects of US foreign policy. While last week’s P5+1 meeting with Iran did not reveal any evidence of Russian non-cooperation, this is clearly an area in which Moscow can retaliate against sanctions...'

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