President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared Monday that Russian aggression in Ukraine has only strengthened the unity of the U.S. and Europe, as they weighed the prospects of reviving an elusive peace plan to end the conflict. The diplomatic plan could fall through, and while European leaders disagree strongly with the idea of arming Ukraine’s military, Obama is keeping the option open.
U.S. and Europe unite diplomatically, yet split on arming UkrainePresident Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared Monday that Russian aggression in Ukraine has only strengthened the unity of the U.S. and Europe, as they weighed the prospects of reviving an elusive peace plan to end the conflict. The diplomatic plan could fall through, and while European leaders disagree strongly with the idea of arming Ukraine's military, Obama is keeping the option open.
The U.S. said if it does provide weapons to Ukraine, they would be defensive, enabling the government in Kiev to stop pro-Russian separatists from taking more territory.
In another push for peace after meetings in Moscow, Germany and France will try to revive a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia during talks planned in Minsk this week.
The U.S. and Europe have largely been in agreement on their response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, raising the prospect that a public split over lethal aid is a tactic to push Russian Vladimir Putin to agree to a peace plan.
“The economic sanctions are much stronger if the Americans and Europeans continue to hold together on that and so it is a legitimate question about providing weapons” the former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, William B. Taylor said, “there is a lot of discussion, I am sure, between the Americans and the Europeans about this”.
The U.S. and Europe have largely focused their punitive measures against Russia on several rounds of economic sanctions. The penalties, along with plummeting oil prices, have caused significant damage to Russia’s economy.
European Union leaders decided Monday to temporarily hold off on ordering more sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian separatists while awaiting the outcome of the peace talks.
U.S. President Obama said that while he has yet to make a decision on lethal aid, his team is considering additional moves that can be made to help Ukraine “bolster its defenses in the face of Russian aggression.”
Merkel and other European leaders are against arming Ukraine, in part, out of fear of sparking a proxy war with Russia.
During a joint White House news conference with Obama, Merkel reaffirmed that she sees no necessary military solution to subdue the fighting in eastern Ukraine. She added, however, that no matter what Obama decides, “the alliance between the United states and Europe will continue to stand, will continue to be solid.”
Merkel and French President Francois Hollande met with Putin and Ukrainian leaders recently and announced the planned summit meeting in Minsk. The United States was not at the negotiating table last week, nor will it participate in the planned talks.
Merkel, who has perhaps the most productive relationship with Putin of any Western leader, said reaching a diplomatic agreement was crucial to keeping the peace in Europe.
More than 5,300 people have been killed since fighting in eastern Ukraine began, according to a U.N. tally. The bloodshed has markedly increased recently, sparking both the new diplomatic maneuvering and Obama’s re-evaluation of sending Ukraine defensive military aid.
The U.S. has so far limited its military assistance to non-lethal equipment, including gas masks and radar technology to detect incoming fire.
As far as moves from Russia go, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has expressed opposition to any peacekeeper force, apparently reflecting concern that sending Russian peacekeeping troops into eastern Ukraine could result in a de facto occupation.
However, a key to a real settlement is some mechanism for monitoring the Ukraine-Russia border to ensure that Russia is not sending troops or equipment to the separatists. Ukrainian officials would have the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe conduct such monitoring.
Story compiled with information from CCTV America and AP reports.
Ansgar Graw of Die Welt & Welt am Sonntag discusses Merkel’s visit
CCTV America interviewed Ansgar Graw, a senior political correspondent of Die Welt & Welt am Sonntag about the latest in Ukraine.