The Louder They Come, the Harder ...
A surprise deal has been reached at the Four Party talks in Geneva, which the president touted as his diplomatic option. Nothing had been expected to come of the talks and the standoff had been predicted to continue. The Daily Telegraph reports that a decisive movement occurred instead. "Vladimir Putin has secured key concessions from Ukraine and its Western supporters as the Kremlin was offered a central role in determining the future of its neighbour and former client state."
In return the West gets to send observers who can watch as Russian agents relinquish their hold on public buildings. The price: Russian say-so over the future of Ukraine.
Well, not really such a surprising deal.
If the agreement holds, a monitoring mission of the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe would oversee the handover of occupied government buildings by protesters in return for an amnesty for anyone not facing capital crimes.
Ukraine’s interim government in turn agreed to accept future talks on far-reaching constitutional reform that would grant the Russian-speaking east the extensive autonomy demanded by the Kremlin. ...
There was little detail however on how the parties could meet the challenge of persuading the pro-Russian protest movement to withdraw from public buildings as well as convince the anti-Russian militia groups in western Ukraine to accept Russia demands for all armed groups to disband.
The administration is selling the agreement as an Obama victory. The LA Times says Russia has avoided sanctions for now, as if Putin had just dodged the wrath of Obama. But the Times admits Russia gets to keep troops inside Ukraine.
The eight-paragraph statement offers few details on what changes are expected to come out of the national dialogue, only that it be "inclusive, transparent and accountable."
It omits any mention of the 40,000 troops Russia has massed along Ukraine's eastern border. U.S. and European officials have criticized the Kremlin deployment as an attempt to intimidate Ukraine.
As the diplomats met in the Swiss city, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated what he called his nation's right to send troops into Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians.
"We know quite well that we must do our best to protect their rights and help them independently decide their fate, and we will struggle for that," Putin said during his annual call-in show at a Moscow studio.
In the four-hour live broadcast, he reminded the world that Russia's parliament had authorized him to use armed force in Ukraine, although he said he hoped such a move wouldn't be necessary.
Maybe they'll eat the MREs that the administration provided to the Ukrainians as military aid.
Obama was trying to manage expectations, probably to inoculate the public against harder and heavier tidings to follow. The Washington Post quoted the president as having misgivings about the deal, even as his emissaries embraced it.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama conveyed skepticism Thursday about Russian promises to de-escalate a volatile situation in Ukraine, and said the United State and its allies are ready to impose fresh sanctions if Moscow doesn’t make good on its commitments. ...
Obama did not say what additional sanctions might be in the offing if commitments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva do not materialize. U.S. officials have prepared penalties on wealthy Russians in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, as well on the entities they run.
The president and Vice President Joe Biden discussed the developments in a round of calls Thursday to foreign leaders. Obama called British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose support for additional sanctions would be crucial given her country’s close economic ties with Russia. The White House said in statements that the leaders agreed that they were prepared to enact further penalties on Russia if it does not de-escalate the situation “in short order.”
This doesn't sound very victorious. But the president's style is to bluff his way to victory. Recently he claimed that the Obamacare debate was over even though he's ordered the census bureau to revise its metrics so nothing can be measured. He's even reserved the right to make changes to the program, claiming the Republicans have no right to input until they change their attitude.
Too bad that doesn't work with Putin.
But he's always winning -- or so you would think if you listened to his hagiographers. The low information voters think he's the baddest and smartest puncher on the planet, who doesn't even have to fight, just point out that it is pointless to fight him, to emerge triumphant. Why, only two days ago he said that it was not in Russia's interest to carve up the Ukraine, a process for which he has just provided the carving-knife. Perhaps the only conclusion to draw is that anyone who hands Obama the slicer is subconsciously a turkey.
Obama's won again. But a few more victories like that -- and what would you need a defeat for? A big hand for Mr. Unbeatable. And remember, there's worse to come.
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