On April 28 three European foreign ministers—Serbia’s Ivica Dačić, Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Switzerland’s Didier Burkhalter—met in their capacities as members of the OSCE’s Ministerial Troika to discuss the latest developments in eastern Ukraine. According to the OSCE, the foreign ministers “reiterated that [the Ukraine] crisis can be resolved only through peaceful means and that the political process in that regard should be advanced without delay” and “called on all sides to fully and unconditionally respect the cease-fire.”
Meanwhile, on April 26, Financial Times reported that Kiev is coming under increased pressure from Western European capitals to do its part to implement the Minsk cease-fire agreement. According to FT, German diplomats expressed frustration that Kiev is “dragging its feet” in implementing the agreement. For his part, French President Françl;ois Holland has warned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that “the only line of conduct is the full implementation of the Minsk accord.”
Yet it seems these calls for a peaceful solution to the crisis are not only falling on deaf ears, but are also purposefully being undermined, in Washington.
To wit: the same day the aforementioned troika met in Belgrade, the 28th, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on “United States Security Policy in Europe,” though perhaps, given the tenor of the hearing, it should have been held under the rubric “The Russians are Coming!”
Armed Services Committee Chairman, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), got right to the point, running down a list of Russia’s sins—real and imagined. He derided the Obama administration’s “so-called reset” policy and warned of Mr. Putin’s “neo-imperial objectives.” McCain accused Russia of violating the Minsk II cease-fire agreement and hectored NATO allies to follow the example of Poland and Estonia and increase its defense expenditures. Unbelievably, McCain closed his remarks by telling the gallery, which included a visiting delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians, that “none of us wants to return to the Cold War.”
Depressingly, there seemed to be little daylight between McCain and the committee’s ranking member, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI). Both he and McCain have called on President Obama to “provide defense lethal assistance” to Ukraine. Only Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed any skepticism towards the idea of sending lethal aid to Ukraine. The situation that pertains in the Washington of 2015, is in stark contrast to the previous Cold War. Today, it would seem, Democrats and Republicans are engaged in a contest of who can ‘out-hawk’ the other on Russia.
McCain and Reed set the tone of Tuesday’s hearing by striking a martial note at the outset, and the witnesses, representing the Council of Foreign Relations, the Fletcher School of Diplomacy and the Atlantic Council, were all too happy to pick up where the Senators left off.