The news this morning is that Vladimir Putin called Barack Obama to discuss Ukraine. But the tone from the White House is that this was a great diplomatic victory for Obama since it was Putin who initiated the call. So far it has always been Obama calling Putin to draw red lines in the air.
(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin called U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a U.S. diplomatic proposal for Ukraine, the White House said, adding that Obama told him that Russia must pull back its troops and not move deeper into Ukraine. It was believed to have been the first direct conversation between Obama and Putin since the United States and its European allies began imposing sanctions on Putin’s inner circle and threatened to penalize key sectors of Russia’s economy. …… The White House noted specifically that it was Putin who called Obama, who is ending a four-country trip in Saudi Arabia and had just returned to his Riyadh hotel after talks with King Abdullah.
And so another crisis is solved – until the next one. But the Kremlin account is somewhat different to the White House account
NYT: “President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path in close consultation with the government of Ukraine and in support of the Ukrainian people with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis,” the White House said in a statement. “President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
In its statement posted on its official website, the Kremlin said Mr. Putin “drew Barack Obama’s attention to continued rampage of extremists who are committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents, government authorities and law enforcement agencies in various regions and in Kiev with impunity. …. In light of this,” it added, “the president of Russia suggested examining possible steps the global community can take to help stabilize the situation.”
The Crimea is a done deal. The US and the EU have to maintain some face while accepting that reality. What is also apparent is that the Russian view of right wing extremists and neo-nazis is shared by the current “government” of the Ukraine. The EU and its “expansive but naive imperialism” bears a heavy responsibility for the rise of the Right Sector and its violent ways. And now the Ukraine is running a pogrom to disable if not wipe out the Right Sector. (Not so dissimilar to the current campaigns against Golden Dawn in Greece and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt).
BBC: A Ukrainian ultra-nationalist leader has been shot dead in what officials describe as a special forces operation. Oleksandr Muzychko, better known as Sashko Bily, died in a shoot-out with police in a cafe in Rivne in western Ukraine, the interior ministry said. He was a leader of Right Sector, a far-right group which was prominent in the recent anti-government protests.
BBC: Ukraine’s interim President Olexander Turchynov has condemned the ultra-nationalist Right Sector, saying the group is bent on “destabilisation”. Right Sector activists blocked the parliament (Rada) building in Kiev on Thursday night and smashed windows. They blamed the interior minister for the killing of a Right Sector leader. …..
….. At a parliament session on Friday, Mr Turchynov, called the Right Sector rally outside parliament “an attempt to destabilise the situation in Ukraine, in the very heart of Ukraine – Kiev. That is precisely the task that the Russian Federation’s political leadership is giving to its special services”. Right Sector activists are furious over the death of Oleksandr Muzychko, better known as Sashko Bily, one of their leaders. The interior ministry said he died on Monday night in a shoot-out with police in a cafe in Rivne in western Ukraine.
Transnistria (image blatantworld.com)
Putin does not seem to have discussed – or needed to discuss – the Crimea. That is now a fait accompli. Instead he has taken up the case of Moldova and Transnistria. In Moldova too, it is the EU’s expansionism which has led to some of the internal rifts. I note also that the Ukraine and Moldova have been wooed enthusiastically by the EU and had made more progress than Turkey has in its long running saga of seeking EU membership. (Turkey will never be allowed to become a member – in my opinion – because it is a Muslim country).
NYT: While not mentioning Crimea, the Kremlin drew attention to Ukraine’s blockade of Transnistria, a breakaway, pro-Russian region of Moldova, another former Soviet republic to the south. Frozen for years in an international limbo, neither accepting Moldova’s rule nor formally part of Russia, Transnistria has relied on land access through Ukraine for crucial imports.
The Kremlin said a new blockade would “significantly complicate the living conditions for the region’s residents, impeding their movement and normal trade and economic activities,” and it urged negotiations to address the situation.
Russia has more than 1,000 troops in Transnistria, the remnants of a peacekeeping force deployed since 1992, and it has relied on overland access through Ukraine to supply them. The next talks on the conflict are scheduled for Vienna on April 10 and 11.
Some officials in the region have asked to follow Crimea and become part of Russia. Moldova has been working toward the same sweeping political and free trade agreements with the European Union that prompted Russian opposition in Ukraine.
The Crimean crisis is over. The Moldovan (Transnistria) crisis is next.
And President Obama can bask in the glory of “having forced” Vladimir Putin to call him.