The Washington Post reports: Top diplomats on Thursday laid out a series of steps to tamp down violence and political unrest in Ukraine, even as Western officials publicly doubted Russia’s resolve to use its influence to help defuse the crisis in the former Soviet republic.
The potential diplomatic breakthrough, which the Russian foreign minister referred to as “a compromise, of sorts,” came after nearly seven hours of negotiations with Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the Ukrainian foreign minister and the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
Under the agreement, all parties, including separatists and their Russian backers, would stop violent and provocative acts, and all illegal groups would be disarmed. A joint statement made no mention of the presence of what the United States has said are 40,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders. But Kerry said it made clear that Russia is “absolutely prepared to begin to respond with respect to troops,” provided the terms of the agreement are observed.
In Washington, President Obama said Russia’s stated commitments were only the beginning of a process.
“My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days, but I don’t think, given past performance, that we can count on that,” Obama said during a White House press conference. “We have to be prepared to potentially respond to what continue to be, you know, efforts of interference by the Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine.”
Obama threatened further economic sanctions and stressed American economic and diplomatic support for the Western-oriented government in Kiev. He ruled out a U.S. military response to help Ukraine fend off Russian incursions. [Continue reading…]