US FOREIGN POLICY BRIEFING ON RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EUROPE

17.11.14


US Foreign Policy Briefing (extract):

Russia/Europe

Ukraine 

President Obama edged closer to describing Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine as an invasion, saying on Sunday that the Western campaign to isolate Moscow would continue, though additional sanctions were unnecessary for now. – New York Times

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued several decrees Saturday to shut state institutions and banking services in pro-Russian eastern regions, pressing a move to cut links with the rebel-held territory. – Washington Post

The European Union won’t organize a donors’ conference until Ukraine’s government lays out a clear new economic strategy, the bloc’s new enlargement chief said Friday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required 

Investigators on Sunday began winching large pieces of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet shot down over Ukraine last summer onto trucks to transport them back to the Netherlands, the Dutch Safety Board announced in The Hague. – New York Times 

Despite Kremlin-touted Russian aid convoys into rebel territory, villages a stone’s throw from Russia remain devastated, months after fighting there stopped. Neither Moscow nor Kiev is rushing to their rescue, confronting residents with the possibility of a long, cold winter amid the wreckage. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Fresh volleys of artillery fire were heard across many parts of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, a Ukrainian government statement said, after Kiev warned again of rebel preparations for a fresh offensive. - Reuters

FPI Eurasia Analyst Hannah Thoburn writes: Ukrainians know that a house divided against itself cannot stand and are increasingly prepared to remove the garage to save the house from creeping wood rot…Should circumstances change and Donbas look to reunite with Ukraine, repairing the emotional and psychological rift would be just as difficult as the physical rebuilding of the region. For many Ukrainians, the split—the choice to follow two different political paths—is permanent. Its restoration is increasingly in question. – World Affairs Journal

Russia

Citing a long flight home and the need to catch a few hours of sleep, Russian President Vladimir Putin departed the Group of 20 summit in Australia early Sunday, after fielding a barrage of criticism from Western leaders over Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. – Washington Post

Russia expelled a German diplomat in Moscow in retaliation for Berlin ordering the departure of a suspected Russian spy, a German official said Saturday, as tensions escalated between the two countries over the Ukraine crisis. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Friday that he wants to strengthen ties with China, and avoid using the dollar for bilateral trade. Data from China’s central bank suggest that companies are already starting to shun the U.S. currency. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Kremlin this month unveiled its latest weapon to combat the West’s “information war” on President Vladimir Putin with the launch of Sputnik — a lavishly funded, international media outlet whose advent heralds a silencing of dissent and criticism in Russia. – Washington Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Western sanctions against Russia could backfire in an interview broadcast Saturday. – The Hill

The European Union may impose sanctions on more Russian-backed separatists on Monday in the wake of a vote held in eastern Ukraine on Nov. 2, but they are unlikely to discuss new steps against Russia itself until early December, officials said. - Reuters 

Editorial: Propaganda is closely integrated with the Kremlin’s model of ambiguous warfare, which relies on rapid action, covert troops, the creation of a digital fog of war, and inflaming ethnic and sectarian tensions. Western governments shouldn’t overreact to RT’s presence in the West. But they can take the opportunity to revamp and modernize their own public diplomacy, targeting ethnic-Russian audiences to ensure that accurate reporting stands a chance amid the blizzard of Moscow’s lies. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Fred Hiatt writes: Putin does not share America’s view of what is rational. Breedlove believes the Russian leader is sending forces into Ukraine to mold his enclave into “a more contiguous, more whole and capable pocket of land in order to then hold on to it long-term.” And then? Putin presumably does not want war, but he understands as well as the general that, as Breedlove also said last week, “NATO’s current readiness does not necessarily translate into quick responsiveness.” – Washington Post

David Kramer writes: [H]olding open pursuit of cooperation on nuclear security with Russia is fine as long as we do so with eyes wide open, and understand that it takes two sides to cooperate. As long as Putin’s corrupt, authoritarian regime depends on perpetuating the absurd myth that the West, and the United States in particular, are a threat to Russia, our efforts to cooperate are likely to be futile. – NYT’s Room for Debate

Anna Borshchevskaya  writes: During his trip to China this week, Putin said that Russia and China will increasingly use their own local currencies in settling trade accounts. Yet increased ties with China will bring another set of problems for Russia, as it simply cannot compete with China economically and militarily. The Russian government may brush off inflation concerns as temporary, but Russia's economic future looks bleak. – The Hill

Europe

Poland’s ruling center-right party lost a local election on Sunday to its conservative rival, its first election defeat in seven years and a litmus test of popular sentiment ahead of a parliamentary vote that may lead to a change of the national government next year. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

After focusing diplomatic efforts on Serbia and Kosovo in recent years, the European Union is preparing to shift its gaze elsewhere in the Balkans in an effort to break a political stalemate in Bosnia. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Bulgaria has pulled up its welcome mat in response to an influx of Syrian refugees over the past year. – Washington Times

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Georgia's capital on Saturday to protest a planned agreement between Russia and Georgia's separatist province. – Associated Press

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka writes: Europe must step outside of its post-Cold War shadow and raise its profile on the world stage in order to become more active in promoting development, preventing conflicts and stimulating prosperity. Borrowing from Václav Havel’s principled foreign policy must become our shared responsibility for upholding our values and principles. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Carl Gershman writes: This week, Congress will honor a man who represented the great history of the Czech people, earning them renown throughout the world. May the ceremony celebrating Havel’s life send a message to his successors that they do their nation and its reputation great harm by retreating into small-mindedness at a time when whirlwinds from the outside world are gathering with very dangerous force. – Washington Post

NATO

 

During last week’s NATO Industry Forum, a sharp contrast emerged between a wish for simple allied access to command-and-control (C2) information, and the high-tech capabilities in the pipeline for US forces. – Defense News

 

ALSO...

Russia's President Vladimir Putin got a cool reception at the G-20 meeting in Brisbane. The New York Times' Emma G. Fitzsimmons reports how Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others confronted him about the Russian aggression in Ukraine. More here.

It didn't help that Putin arrived with the Russian navy in tow. The Australian'sBrendan Nicholson: "It was common in the past for a Russian task force far from home to be escorted by a nuclear submarine, which would scout ahead of the flotilla. Naval sources say that is a less common practice now but the increasing Russian posturing around the globe has raised the possibility it is happening again." More here.

Obama moves close to calling Russia's actions in Ukraine an invasion, the New York Times' Mark Landler reports. More here.

FP's Elias Groll reports the Sweden has evidence that a Russian sub was in Swedish waters. More here.



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