Friday, 17 January 2014

"Coercive" Russia and "Weak" U.S. Leadership Blamed for Ukraine's Missed E.U. Deal

WASHINGTON, January 16, 2014

A U.S. Senate hearing on the situation in Ukraine noted the failure of the U.S. and European Union to respond to Russian threats levelled against Ukraine as well as the lack of leadership provided by the Obama administration in assisting the country towards signing the Association Agreement with the EU.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated for two hours the reasons why Ukraine did not sign the Association Agreement, but saved its harshest criticism for Russia and the White House.

On Russia's role, committee chairman Sen. Robert Menendez said Moscow's "coercive" conduct had pulled Ukraine "once again in Russia's political and economic orbit."

There were also stern words for the Obama administration for not being more proactive to help Ukraine resist Russian pressure, which resulted in Kiev choosing a $15 billion assistance package from Moscow over the Association Agreement with the EU.

"U.S. policy toward Ukraine was weak when it needed to be decisive and forceful," said Sen. Bob Corker.

"When President Yanukovych saw we did not come out clearly and forcefully when Russia all but boycotted Ukrainian goods and threatened them, he probably reached the same conclusion that many of our friends in tough neighborhoods have made: we are not a partner that they can count on in tough times."

Yanukovych turned to Moscow in December after deciding the EU and the IMF's assistance package of less than $1 billion wouldn't stave off recession. Now, said former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, the U.S has a fresh opportunity to make Kiev a better offer.

"The United States should use its influence in the IMF, the Word Bank, and various G8 and G20 assemblies to discuss what could be done to help Ukraine expand its relationship with the EU while remaining Russia good neighbour," he told the committee.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, encouraged Ukraine to continue to develop normal and strong, sovereign relations with all neighbours.

She noted that the EU and US want to see the stand-off over the European integration issue resolved "politically, democratically and above all, peacefully," condemning the violence of the Maidan protests by both the government and protestors alike.

SOURCE Ukraine Monitor

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