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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.

US and Russia fail to reach Ukraine deal on day of frantic diplomacy John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov to resume talks on Thursday as pressure grows on EU to pass punitive measures against Moscow  

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.

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.

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.
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.”

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.

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.

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Options are Limited (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    k9disc, Involuntary Exile

    Germany gets 70% of its natural gas and oil from Russia.

    Fracking would enable Europe to rely less on Russia for its energy needs.

    Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

    by PatriciaVa on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:25:24 PM PST

  •  Cold War the remake ? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, Involuntary Exile

    It's different this time. ☛ Politico: Why Russia no longer fears the west

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:47:27 PM PST

  •  the US has to bluster and threaten (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Involuntary Exile, AoT

    a certain amount before they get down to seriously talking. They have a reputation to maintain, after all. They can't be seen giving in to the Russians.

    Putin may be content to just wait it out until elections are held. He knows that time is on his side. Eventually, the EU/US will realize they don't hold the upper hand, and sit down to the negotiating table.

    To continue the NATO discussion I initiated in your other diary, there's some developments on that front:

    NATO has announced a full review of its co-operation with Russia to try to pressure Moscow into backing down on Ukraine, and said it would "intensify" its engagement with Ukraine.

    The organisation's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also announced on Wednesday that the military alliance was suspending a joint mission with Russia involving the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons…

    ...the US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, told senators that he was preparing to bolster military co-operation with Poland and Baltic states to show "support" for its allies after Russia's intervention.

    "The Defence Department is pursuing measures to support our allies," Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee,

    He added that the measures included expanded aviation training in Poland and increasing the US role in NATO's air policing mission over Baltic countries.

    It's pretty rich that they're punishing Russia suspending the mission to rid the world of the Syrian CW that Obama was so worked up about. Surely halting the mission only benefits Assad (and thus, indirectly, Putin). "I don't like what you did, so I'm going take your gun and shoot myself in the foot to teach you a lesson. So there!"

    More potentially dangerous is the decision to respond to the Russian troop movements with NATO military drills, which edges us slightly closer to a war footing. Putin has made no moves to threaten NATO countries, but the US is acting as if they believe he will. Probably nothing will come of these actions, but it certainly doesn't help to ratchet up tensions this way.

    Oh well, at least they're still talking. Jaw-jaw is better than war-war, said Churchill. And they're certainly jawing.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 03:19:20 PM PST

  •  Hm. (0+ / 0-)

    I have my doubts that the actions of the US and Germany in particular aren't at least somewhat orchestrated here. These levels of diplomacy don't happen without a lot of background discussion between a lot of players.

    •  I don't think that Merkel (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Involuntary Exile

      is prepared to spit in anybody's eye, but she is very accomplished at digging her heels in. At the very least she is no going to play the role of a West German chancellor kissing the feet of the US. She is in a very different position.  

      •  Oh, agreed (0+ / 0-)

        But I don't think this is so much about who kisses which feet, at least between the US and Germany. I think Merkel has every reason to be cautious, given the economic consequences for Germany in particular -- and not just the specific German economy, but that of the EU as a whole.

        Simultaneously, Merkel, as a former East German, is no newcomer to Kremlin maneuverings, the narrative/subtexts they push. I'm sure she's plenty dubious, but her role here seems to involve more subtlety.

        Everybody expects the US to be out front in the more immediate and public sense.  

        •  I think that my question is whether (0+ / 0-)

          the Obama administration realizes that they are the front man and not necessarily calling the shots.

          •  No way to answer that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Richard Lyon

            The slant of reporting makes a huge difference in how their actions are read. I've found that to be true all over the place. So even reading the tea leaves -- intentions in diplomacy are never exactly clear -- also depends on reading the angle the placements of leaves are reported from.

            This is a situation in which getting much solid information, with its fuller context, is proving very difficult. The propaganda flies all directions, and people's preset beliefs seem to be guiding all of their assumptions and analyses in most places.

            Damned if I know. The most I know about Ukrainian politics is what I've gathered from a couple of Ukrainian friends, which is not necessarily much (though has helped form at least the beginnings of a BS meter, not that I trust it yet or feel that it's perfectly calibrated.)

  •  I have my own slant on Putin - take it or leave it (4+ / 0-)

    Putin (by bad and good means) managed to put Russia in some sort of order after the collapse of the USSR and the disaster of the Yeltsin years.

    He did so first of all by cutting down to size the home-grown predator-capitalists (aka the oligarchs).

    He now looks at what's happening in the Ukraine as the beginning of an assault on Russia by transnational predator-capitalism which has Nato as its right arm and IMF as its left arm. He's doing what he can to block this. Whether the tactics he has chosen will succeed or not remains to be seen.

    But, at the same time, the EU is mightily miffed by the Ukrainian interim goverment being the one chosen by Neocon Vicky "F the EU" Neuland. Accordingly it's opposed to the sanctions that the US wishes to impose and, in the long-run, might come closer to Russia. But what will happen once again remains to be seen.

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 03:33:04 PM PST

  •  This whole charade pisses me off. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilK, Lepanto

    The US and EU engineered and orchestrated yet another coup and then the US has the nerve to tell Russia to keep their f#€king nose out of Ukraine and their f#*king hands off Crimea. Honest to God, that takes some balls.

    And what does Ukraine get out of this? The same corrupt oligarchs and c.2009 kleptocrats with an added dose of IMF debt, privatization, and Western banksters to help them run their economy. How long will it be before protesters are back in the square? The EU better be ready to hand out those deeply longed for passports tout de suite if they don't want to see our/their handiwork unravel.

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