Ukraine Live Day 356: Merkel Arrives in US for Talks Before ‘Normandy’ Meeting

February 8, 2015

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For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Morning Briefing From NSDC

Here are the tweets from today’s briefing of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council as delivered by military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.
The amount of violence indicates that the temporary ceasefire may now have run its course.
The Schmel is a hand-held rocket launcher typically used against soft targets, like infantry.
James Miller
Merkel Arrives in Washington for Talks with Obama Before ‘Normandy’ Format Peace Conference Wednesday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Washington today to hold talks with President Barack Obama tomorrow morning prior to the “Normandy Format” meeting on Wednesday.

Translation: Merkel wants to explain her Ukraine Plan to Obama.

Says WELT Politik, “Yes, Obama gave Merkel de facto leadership of the negotiation with the Russian autocrat.”

Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine are to to re-convene Wednesday, February 11 to try to salvage the peace process, BBC and other world media reported.

The Munich Security Conference where the same principles met over the weekend
did not yield any progress, although Ukrainian President Petro
Poroshenko made an urgent plea for defensive weapons to deter Russia’s
war on his country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected plans to arm Ukraine, saying this would escalate the war.  General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander said the West should not rule out the military option, euronews reported.

US Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) vigorously pressed at the Munich conference for the arming of Ukraine, yet the official US position remained in favor of not providing lethal weapons to Ukraine.

The New York Times ran a headline “Western Nations Split on Arming Kiev Forces,
noting Merkel and French President Francois Holland rejected arming
Ukraine, and former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said a
combination of military assistance and diplomacy would be needed. The UK
is not involved in the peace talks, a fact that has led to some
ridicule of Prime Minister David Cameron. (An article in the Lancashire Evening Post that originally contained a headline about the “irrelevance” of Cameron viewable in Google web cache has now been changed to a headline about the UK’s ‘active role.”)

Conservative US senators also challenged the Obama Administration’s inaction on
arming Ukraine despite seeming inclusion of the concept in the Ukraine
Freedom Support Act
, which “Authorizes the President to provide Ukraine
with defense articles, services,
and training in order to counter offensive weapons and reestablish its
sovereignty and territorial integrity.” As the New York Times reported:

Senator John McCain,
the Arizona Republican who has argued forcefully for weapons deliveries
to Ukraine, summed up his reaction to Ms. Merkel’s speech with one
word: “Foolishness.”

McCain said that unless the West beefed up its support to Ukraine, Mr.
Putin could next seize the port of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine with a
view to building a land bridge from Russia proper to Crimea, which the
Kremlin annexed last March. “I can assure you that he will not stop until he has to pay a much higher price,” Mr. McCain said.

After her appearance, Ms. Merkel met with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
and President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine. Mr. McCain, after meeting
Mr. Poroshenko, said, “It’s safe to say that he’s not overly optimistic
about this negotiation.”

But US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was “no split” between Europe and the US on the issue:

“We are united, we are working closely together,” he told the conference
following meetings with his French and German counterparts. “We all
agree that this challenge will not end through military force. We are
united in our diplomacy.”

What remained unclear is how the West would address Russia’s
ongoing use of force in backing militants in Ukraine with trainers, troops,
tanks and other armor.

The New York Times said that Obama was waiting for talks with Merkel:

incoming defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, has said he is inclined
to provide arms to the Ukrainians. And Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the
NATO commander, told the conference on Friday that the delivery of
defensive weapons to Ukraine should not be ruled out if economic
sanctions and diplomatic efforts failed to persuade the Russians to
honor the Minsk agreement.

White House has been much more cautious, and President Obama is waiting
until Ms. Merkel visits Washington on Monday before deciding.

Euronews correspondent James Franey asked Wolfgang Ischinger, the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, whether Putin was merely succeeding in splitting the West:

“Of course.,” he replied and continued: “We have imposed sanctions,
from a Russian point of view this is not only an unfriendly act, this is
a terribly unfriendly act and if I were a Russian adviser I would say
let’s do our best to divide these people so that they can not extend the
sanctions regime into yet another period that is obviously the Russian
interest, it has to be.”

But more sanctions are set to be applied. It’s believed the Russian
Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov will be the latest high profile
target of a new set of sanctions to be endorsed by EU foreign ministers
on Monday.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent in Munich had this analysis:

The pace of diplomatic activity to reach a deal to resolve
the Ukraine crisis has been dramatically accelerating. With German
Chancellor Angela Merkel in the driving seat and French President
Francois Holland as her co-pilot, the push is on for a deal.

However, while few details have been provided, this is not a substantially new peace plan.

When I spoke to UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on
Saturday, he was reluctant to even go so far as labelling it as “Minsk
Plus”. A deal is still an aspiration rather than an approaching reality.

The level of frustration many Western countries feel against
Russia’s policies has been palpable – Mr Hammond for example branded
President Vladimir Putin as “some kind of 20th-Century tyrant”.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick