The April 17 US-European Union-Russia-Ukraine “joint diplomatic statement” on Ukraine reads pretty reasonably. It condemns “extremism” of all kinds, calls for disarming illegal groups and their vacating all illegally seized buildings; grants amnesty to protesters, announces a process for constitutional revision, and brings into Ukraine monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The statement also sets the stage for a national dialogue in Ukraine about the country’s political complexion.
All well in good, but just words. Consider what has happened since and judge for yourself whether the joint agreement stands a ghost of a chance of being implemented:
- On the US and EU side, a beefing up of air and sea patrols in the Baltics; company-size troop deployments to Poland and Estonia; additional military (“non-lethal”) aid to Ukraine’s army; US and European consideration of regular troop rotations and training in Eastern Europe; Obama’s comment immediately after the joint statement that he was skeptical about its implementation; a New York Times report (April 20) that Obama has essentially written off the possibility of a good relationship with Russia and is focusing his attention elsewhere, while factions within his administration debate how fast and deep the next round of sanctions on Russia should be.
- On the Russian side, no redeployment of troops and equipment away from Ukraine’s eastern borders; no sign of retreat by pro-Russian militia (and probably Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms) from seized buildings in some ten eastern Ukraine cities; Putin’s claim that he now has authorization to intervene in “new Russia,” a wide swath of territory that encompasses eastern and southern Ukraine.
It seems that both sides have merely used the Geneva meeting to take a breather before resuming the new Cold War. Forgotten is Obama’s promised “reset” of relations with Russia, replaced by comments to the effect that Russia is now a second-rate power. Putin is not the sort of person to forget such slights. Thus, despite ongoing US-Russia cooperation in several areas–space, nuclear weapons, and Syria’s chemical weapons, for example–the deep chill in relations spells lots of trouble ahead.