President Obama met with British Prime Minister David Cameron today in Brussels, where the two leaders issued an ultimatum to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader would have just one month to meet their demands or face deeper “structural” sanctions against Russia.
The three demands issued by Obama and Cameron include:
1) recognize Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader in Kiev,
2) stop arms from crossing the border; and,
3) cease support for pro-Russian separatist groups concentrated in eastern Ukraine.
The tough talk in Brussels took place in advance of a G7 meeting originally scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia, and include the Russian president. However after the unrest in Ukraine, which the US and EU blame on Russia, the G7 leaders moved the venue to Belgium and uninvited Putin.
Sounding more like he was addressing a disobedient daughter than a counterpart head of a major world power, President Obama shook his rhetorical finger at the Russian president:
The next month will be vital in judging if President Putin has taken these steps.
What makes the tough talk mystifying is that Russia has already said it welcomes the election of Poroshenko and would send its previously-withdrawn ambassador in Kiev to the inauguration.
As to the other two demands, that Russia stop arms from crossing the border and stop supporting the separatist groups in eastern Ukraine, President Putin has, understandably, requested proof of Washington and London’s allegations.
In an interview in the French media yesterday, President Putin reminded the world the quite dubious track record of wild US and UK claims about the actions and intentions of foreign leaders:
Proof? Why don’t they show it? The entire world remembers the US Secretary of State demonstrating the evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, waving around some test tube with washing powder in the UN Security Council. Eventually, the US troops invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was hanged and later it turned out there had never been any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. You know, it’s one thing to say things and another to actually have evidence. I will tell you again: no Russian troops…
As investigative reporter Robert Parry pointed out in a recent article, each time the US has claimed to provide proof of its allegations of Russian government involvement in eastern Ukraine it has fallen flat on its face:
…the U.S. government is accusing Russia of somehow being behind the unrest in eastern Ukraine, Yanukovych’s political base, even though the unparalleled U.S. intelligence agencies and American journalists on the ground have been unable to detect any proof of this alleged direction from Moscow.
Still, the assumption led the New York Times to get suckered into a State Department propaganda ploy when the Times ran a lead story based on photographs supposedly showing covert Russian military teams that were “clearly” in Russia but then popped up in eastern Ukraine.
Two days later, however, the Times was forced to retract its scoop when it turned out that a key photo purportedly taken in Russia had actually been snapped in Ukraine, destroying the story’s premise. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Ukraine Photo Scoop.”]
Putin reminded the world of the US double standards in demanding that Russia not even station Russian troops on Russian soil near Ukraine while the US has troops across the globe:
There are basically no Russian troops abroad while US troops are everywhere. There are US military bases everywhere around the world and they are always involved in the fates of other countries, even though they are thousands of kilometers away from US borders. So it is ironic that our US partners accuse us of breaching some of these rules.
While the US without proof accuses Russia of escalation, it is the US which has placed its military on Polish soil for the first time, it is the US that has stationed its fighter jets on Polish soil, it is the US that announced a billion dollars would be spent on military exercises on Russia’s front doorstep, it is the US that announced it would increase its military presence near Russian territory in the Black Sea.
With this in mind, Obama and Cameron’s demands seem laughable, designed perhaps to see just how far they can provoke Russia into some sort of response. There is a precedent for such US/UK action: this is exactly what they did in supporting the February coup in Kiev against the elected government in the first place.