As the situation in Ukraine grows increasingly volatile and Russia's expansion into the west goes unchecked, the Obama administration has failed to project strength, confidence and leadership, according to the Washington Post’s editorial board.
The Post in its criticism of the White House references Secretary of State John Kerry who said Thursday that the U.S. expects Russia to abide by a recent agreement to “de-escalate tensions and restore security” in Ukraine.
“We fully expect the Russians … to demonstrate their seriousness by insisting that the pro-Russian separatists who they’ve been supporting lay down their arms [and] leave the buildings” in Ukraine, Kerry said. “I made clear to Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov today that if we are not able to see progress … this weekend, then we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia."
But Russia has done no such thing. In fact, as the Post editorial board notes, Russia has only escalated tensions in Ukraine.
Russia’s “operatives and those they control have not withdrawn from the government buildings they occupy,” the Post editorial board said. “In Slovyansk, the crossroads where Russian military operatives appear to be headquartered, a shooting incident early Sunday morning has been seized on by Moscow’s crude propaganda apparatus, which is claiming — based on what looks like fabricated evidence — that a Kiev-based right-wing group was involved.”
Further, on Monday, Lavrov again threatened a full-blown invasion of Ukraine, explaining that Russia is “increasingly called upon to save southeastern Ukraine from chaos.”
In short, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to ignore the Obama administration’s so-called “red lines,” disregarding in a very public way all warnings from the United States. And according to the Washington Post, there’s a reason Putin does this: “President Obama also doesn’t observe them.”
True, the editorial board notes, Vice President Joe Biden will announce more aid for Ukraine. But even that probably won’t be enough to deter Putin.
“[S]teps such as providing nonlethal equipment to the dysfunctional Ukrainian army will not stop a Russian invasion or induce Mr. Putin to comply with last week’s Geneva agreement,” the Post said. “Perhaps nothing will; but the only strategy with a chance of working is to follow through on the administration’s own rhetoric.”
Kerry responded originally to news that Kremlin operatives had taken over buildings in Donetsk by announcing that broad and tough economic sanctions against Russia were “on the table.”
“Those steps would give pause to the Russian elite, if not Mr. Putin. Fear of them probably induced Mr. Lavrov to sign on to the de-escalation plan, as a way of preventing the West from acting. Yet now White House aides are waving off the ‘sectoral’ sanctions Mr. Kerry spoke of and are delaying even more modest steps against individuals,” the Post said.
“For weeks Mr. Obama has held back on forceful measures against Mr. Putin’s aggression in Ukraine on the theory that a measured approach matched with diplomacy would yield results,” the Post added. “The policy has failed. Now Mr. Obama must act — or doom Ukraine to dismemberment.”
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