“Putin will not talk to Obama under pressure,” American journalist Josh Rogin was told late last week by a close associate of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. If Russia’s President will no longer call or accept calls from the President Obama, this strikes me as the most important casualty so far from U.S.-provoked “regime change” in Ukraine. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin apparently had conversations on Ukraine almost every week in March; their last talk took place on April 14.
U.S. “pressure” – including token economic and travel sanctions against some Russian companies and friends of Putin – is likely to continue. But it is not likely to become more extensive if key European countries “man up” and tell Washington what was obvious from the start; namely, that Russia holds very high cards in this area and that the Europeans will not damage their own flagging economies by approving stronger economic sanctions that would inflict real “punishment” on Russia.
As for Russia’s leaders, the U.S. emphasis on economic sanctions bespeaks a punitive, belligerent attitude not conducive to real cooperation of the kind that is desperately needed on a crisis like Ukraine and that has proved so useful in averting escalations in other international hotspots, such as Syria and Iran.
It was rapport and trust between Presidents Obama and Putin, together with the adroit diplomatic efforts of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that produced the agreement announced on Sept. 9, 2013, under which Syria agreed to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction. Two days later, the New York Times published an op-ed by Vladimir Putin pegged to the tumultuous events of the previous two weeks regarding Syria.
Putin began by saying that Syria was what “prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.” Putin argued against a U.S. attack on Syria, a position which was still being advocated passionately by Secretary of State John Kerry and many neocons.