"[W]hile some of Mr. Obama’s advisers want him to impose sanctions against whole sectors of the Russian economy, the president has decided against it for now, cognizant of the resistance of European nations that have far more at stake economically," Monday's New York Times reported in a front-page story. -- According to Peter Baker and C.J. Chivers, after a "blistering" speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, the plan to announce stiffer sanctions "fell apart while Washington waited for Europe." -- Really? -- Did Kerry really make a "blistering" public speech without knowing what his European allies would do the next day? -- If John Kerry has that much confidence in his oratorical gifts, he needs better advisers. -- The Wall Street Journal politely called this switch "reaching consensus." -- "Until Friday, the U.S. and European governments were at odds over how much pain to inflict on the Russian economy, with European officials worried that their economies are more intertwined with Russia's and thus more susceptible to a whiplash effect. -- That divide prevented the adoption of new punitive measures for several days as officials in Kiev complained that Moscow's armed forces closed in on Ukraine's borders and armed, pro-Russian separatists had free rein inside Ukraine. -- Late Friday, the U.S. and key European governments appeared to reach a consensus for action." -- The U.S. is taking Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin's approach. -- It is Ledru-Rollin who is supposed to have said: "I must follow them, for I am their leader." ...
A WHITE HOUSE SPLIT OVER RUSSIA
By Peter Baker and C.J. Chivers
New York Times
April 27, 2014
WASHINGTON -- As President Obama and his national security team struggle to increase pressure on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine, they have become entangled in a tense debate over how much emphasis to put on unity with European allies more reluctant to take stronger economic actions against Moscow.
So far, Mr. Obama has opted to stick close to the Europeans to maintain an undivided front, even at the expense of more punishing sanctions and quicker responses to Kremlin provocations. But some inside and outside the administration argue that the United States should act unilaterally if necessary, on the assumption that the Europeans will ultimately follow.
The issue came to a head in recent days as American and European leaders tried to coordinate a new round of sanctions after the collapse of a Geneva agreement to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a blistering public attack on Moscow on Thursday night for not living up to the agreement, but the plan to follow that up with sanctions on Friday fell apart while Washington waited for Europe, postponing action until Monday at the earliest.
The deliberations in the West came as pro-Russian forces in Ukraine on Sunday continued to defy international demands to stand down. An antigovernment militia paraded eight detained members of a European military observer mission before cameras, while protesters seized a regional government television station and declared they would use it to air Russian newscasts.
The display of the captive European observers underscored the challenge for Washington and Brussels in defusing the conflict. The observers, who were seized at a checkpoint on Friday, were led into an auditorium in the eastern city of Slovyansk by masked gunmen. The self-appointed mayor refused to discuss conditions under which they might be released beyond mentioning a prisoner exchange, although one of the observers was later freed for health reasons.
The sanctions to be announced as early as Monday would single out more people close to President Vladimir V. Putin as well as certain companies. Among them are likely to be Igor Sechin, president of the state-owned Rosneft oil company, and Aleksei Miller, head of the state-owned energy giant Gazprom, American officials said.
The measures will also block certain high-technology exports to the Russian defense industry, officials added, without elaborating. But while some of Mr. Obama’s advisers want him to impose sanctions against whole sectors of the Russian economy, the president has decided against it for now, cognizant of the resistance of European nations that have far more at stake economically, officials said.
During internal deliberations, Jacob J. Lew, the secretary of the Treasury, and other officials have argued for caution, maintaining that, while action is needed, more expansive measures without European support might hurt American business interests without having the desired impact on Russia, according to people informed about the discussion.
Mr. Obama has been particularly intent on not getting too far in front of Europe to avoid giving Mr. Putin a chance to drive a wedge in the international coalition that has condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea and destabilizing actions in eastern Ukraine.
“The notion that for us to go forward with sectoral sanctions on our own without the Europeans would be the most effective deterrent to Mr. Putin, I think, is factually wrong,” Mr. Obama told reporters in Asia, where he is traveling. “We’re going to be in a stronger position to deter Mr. Putin when he sees that the world is unified.” He added: “For example, say we’re not going to allow certain arms sales to Russia -- just to take an example -- but every European defense contractor backfills what we do, then it’s not very effective.”
Some officials, however, privately argue that the administration has made coordinating with Europe too high a priority and that effectively deferring to the 28-member European Union is a recipe for inaction. The United States, these officials contend, should move ahead with more decisive action on the theory that Europe wants leadership from Washington and historically joins in eventually.
“While imposing sanctions together with the E.U. would be nice, the U.S. simply has to lead and not waste more time trying to present a united approach,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House, an advocacy group, and a former Bush administration official, reflecting views expressed inside the government. “It’s easier for us to do so than it is for the Europeans, and they will follow, as long as we lead.”
A task force of Russia specialists that includes Mr. Kramer sent the White House a list of possible sanctions targets, including Russian officials and business leaders as well as nine of its most significant companies.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, made a similar proposal. “Hitting four of the largest banks there would send shock waves into the economy; hitting Gazprom would certainly send shock waves into the economy,” he said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS.
Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, was booked late Friday onto Sunday talk shows to defend the president’s approach. Mr. Blinken said existing sanctions were having an impact on the Russian economy. “All of this is creating a dynamic in which what Putin has promised to his people, which is growth and prosperity, cannot be delivered,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The administration also signaled that even if Russia backed down in eastern Ukraine, the United States would not lift sanctions as long as it controlled Crimea. “Sanctions imposed because of its actions in Crimea will remain so long as those actions continue,” Tom Malinowski, the assistant secretary of state for human rights, wrote on the department’s blog.
The fate of the European military observers remained uncertain. The observers, who come from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, were brought before reporters, and the group’s leader, Col. Axel Schneider of Germany, was allowed to answer questions, although clearly under duress.
With erect posture, the colonel referred to himself and his team as “guests” under the “protection” of Vyachislav Ponomaryov, the self-appointed mayor of Slovyansk, and said they had suffered no violence. “We are not prisoners of war,” he said.
Colonel Schneider said the team was held in a basement for a day and then moved on Saturday to better quarters. He flatly rejected any characterization of the group as spies and denied that it carried ammunition and reconnaissance equipment. “The only thing we had was a regular business-type road map, scale one-to-one million,” he said, along with “small-scale cameras.”
While Russia’s representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has called for the team to be freed, Mr. Ponomaryov said he had received no word directly from Moscow. Colonel Schneider made clear they were detainees. “Our presence here in Slovyansk is for sure a political instrument for the decision-makers here in the region, and the possibility to use it for negotiations,” he said.
In Donetsk, pro-Russian protesters clad in balaclavas and armed with bats demanded that a television channel that they had seized broadcast Rossiya-24, a Russian state channel. “There was a harsh conversation,” Oleg Dzholos, the station’s general director, said outside the captured building. “I would say we were given an ultimatum.”
--Peter Baker reported from Washington, and C. J. Chivers from Slovyansk, Ukraine. Noah Sneider contributed reporting from Slovyansk, and Andrew Roth from Donetsk, Ukraine.
U.S., EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS PLAN TO RAMP UP SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA
By Scott Patterson, Colleen McCain Nelson, and Naftali Bendavid
Wall Street Journal
April 27, 2014
U.S. and European governments planning to ramp up sanctions against Russia as early as Monday will target people in Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle and the industries they control, including defense, Obama administration officials said on Sunday.
The U.S. and Europe have imposed sanctions on more than 60 Russian and Ukrainian individuals -- many of them Russian executives and close Putin associates -- along with a bank and a gas company. Europe could sanction at least 15 more individuals; the U.S. hasn't said how many it is likely to target.
But neither the U.S. nor European officials have agreed to impose the broad economic sanctions Washington said could target entire sectors of Russia's economy, a step that would resemble the punitive measures painstakingly assembled over many years against Iran.
Nonetheless, American officials made clear over the weekend that Russia's overall economy and Mr. Putin's domestic political standing are primary targets in the sanctions campaign that followed Russia's move to seize the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
Mr. Putin, through his intervention in Ukraine, is costing the Russian economy billions of dollars and has brought on a deterioration in economic prospects, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said Sunday in a televised interview.
"He had a compact with his people, and the compact is this: I'll deliver economic growth for you if you remain politically compliant," Mr. Blinken said. "Right now, he's not delivering growth."
The U.S. also is emphasizing Mr. Putin's financial assets and ties to Russian billionaires, training a harsh light on Russia's oligarchic financial system.
"There are lots of things that are going on around him, people who are around him, who matter to him, who are going to be affected by these sanctions," he said on CNN.
U.S. officials have said they intend to focus closely on those involved in Russia's state-owned industries in future rounds of sanctions.
Sanctions the Obama administration imposed in response to Moscow's actions in Ukraine have hurt Russian markets, causing a stock-market selloff and weakening the ruble. Mr. Blinken said the additional measures will tighten the screws on Mr. Putin and Russian business interests close to him.
U.S. sanctions so far have done little to damp Mr. Putin's efforts in Ukraine, and White House officials have repeatedly said military options aren't on the table. Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have criticized the Obama administration, saying it has failed to impose sanctions on Russia that would force it to back away from its aggressive stance.
Until Friday, the U.S. and European governments were at odds over how much pain to inflict on the Russian economy, with European officials worried that their economies are more intertwined with Russia's and thus more susceptible to a whiplash effect.
That divide prevented the adoption of new punitive measures for several days as officials in Kiev complained that Moscow's armed forces closed in on Ukraine's borders and armed, pro-Russian separatists had free rein inside Ukraine.
Late Friday, the U.S. and key European governments appeared to reach a consensus for action.
The E.U. plans to impose more sanctions Monday, slapping about 15 additional Russian and pro-Russian leaders with a travel ban and asset freeze. The E.U. also is continuing to plan for broader sanctions on larger sectors of the Russian economy should tensions escalate. The list of 15 people the E.U. is considering includes more leaders in Moscow and pro-Russian figures from eastern Ukraine. Ambassadors from E.U. member states are scheduled to meet on Monday to complete the additional names, and the list will then require approval of the countries' governments. That will be provided through a written procedure, also Monday, so the sanctions can take effect quickly.
The E.U. has imposed travel and asset restrictions on more than 30 individuals, mostly Kremlin figures and Crimean leaders whom European leaders say contributed to the Russian takeover of Crimea. While these sanctions have been coordinated with Washington, European countries, which generally have closer economic and political ties with Russia than the U.S., have been more reluctant than the U.S. to target Mr. Putin's inner circle.
The E.U. is continuing preparations for sanctions against broad sectors of the Russian economy. Officials are considering measures including bans on imports of such Russian goods as diamonds, fertilizer, oil, and gas.
President Barack Obama said on Sunday at news conference in Malaysia that a united international coalition has the best chance of deterring Mr. Putin, pushing back at suggestions that the U.S. should proceed with or without European allies and impose further sanctions.
Mr. Obama said the notion that the U.S. could be effective by acting alone and levying broad sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy was "factually wrong."
He has said Mr. Putin increasingly views the world through a Cold War prism, adding that the conflict over Ukraine must not be framed as a Washington-Moscow standoff. The U.S. will be in a stronger position when Mr. Putin sees that the world is unified in condemning Russia's actions, he said.
"The more we are unified, the more effective it is going to be," Mr. Obama said.