I've spent the day following the diplomatic negotiations in Paris involving the various parties dealing with the Ukrainian crisis. Much of this is reminiscent of the efforts to get peace talks on the Vietnam war started. They argued for ever about who was going to sit where since that had implications about recognition of legitimacy of status. The Guardian has come up with a summary of the day's events.
The first western attempts to get Moscow to back down over its seizure of Crimea failed on Wednesday evening, putting pressure on the EU to resort to punitive action against the Kremlin at an emergency summit on Thursday.It is pretty clear that the US has assumed the role of speaking on behalf of the west. What is not clear is just how much support and consent they have from the rest of the west in assuming that mantle.
Negotiations in Paris between John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, broke up without agreement on Wednesday. The Americans and the Europeans hoped to persuade Moscow to open a dialogue with the new government in Kiev and also to withdraw its forces in Crimea to their bases and allow in international monitors.
But while Lavrov accused the Americans of tabling unacceptable ultimatums, Kerry said there were “a number of ideas ” up for discussion. Both men are expected to resume negotiations in Rome on Thursday after consulting their respective presidents, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.
The transatlantic gulf opening up over how to respond to Putin appeared to be widening. One senior official from a G7 country told the Guardian of growing unease over the US push for economic sanctions against Russia. “This isn’t time for economic sanctions,” the official said. “There is no clock ticking and the we should be careful not to antagonise the other side.”This begins to raise some very interesting questions about how much the world has changed since the era of Cold War I. Kerry seems to think that he has been cast for the production of the remake. The US is taking the role of the advocate for the interim government in Kiev. Even if the Russians eventually agree to sit down and talk to them, there are questions about their ability to actually deliver on specific agreements. Everybody remembers just how quickly the agreement negotiated with Yanukovych broke down.
The senior official said Berlin, rather than Washington, should assume the lead in talks with Russia. “I don’t think the US should necessarily be taking the lead on behalf of G7 countries.”
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has spoken to Putin six times in the past week and the Germans are keen to engage rather than isolate the Russians.
There is also a call for Russia to have all of its military return to barracks in Crimea. Even if they eventually agreed to this, it would be difficult to determine compliance given the number of people who seem to have assumed somewhat irregular military activities there. This drama is not likely to come to a sudden end.