Saturday, May 10, 2014

No dramatic change!

'The reaction in Washington to Russian President Putin’s surprise announcement that he is softening his opposition to the May 25th elections in Ukraine has been reserved in public but more welcoming in private. As a senior State Department official explained to us: “over the past days, Putin’s acceptance or otherwise of the election has become the touchstone of our attitude to him. Now he has taken a step in our direction.”  Nonetheless, the mood in Washington remains one of intense suspicion. An NSC contact put it this way: “Putin’s KGB past gets in the way. Even when he may be trying to be helpful, we sense a trick.” His visit to Crimea was criticized as “provocative”. In the White House view, the hard test of Putin’s intentions will come in the election. If this takes place successfully without disruption or manipulation from the Russian side, US officials will regard this as evidence that Putin is looking for a way out. Otherwise, a new round of sanctions will be enacted. These will be designed to cause real pain across whole sectors of the Russian economy.  US officials hope that the Europeans will be equally robust, but are aware that the needs to maintain their Russian markets may lead to some weakening. Meanwhile, officials are increasingly concerned that their focus on Ukraine has taken attention away from Syria where the regime has recently made significant gains on the battlefield. On May 15th Secretary of State Kerry will attend the next meeting of the London 11 friends of Syria.  With the Syrian opposition now being granted official diplomatic status in Washington, there is now renewed interest in supplying the rebels with sophisticated weaponry against aircraft and tanks. Concerns that these weapons might fall into the wrong hands remains deeply embedded in the Intelligence community and will curtail options for dramatic change, even though the military urgency is increasing..."

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