In telephone conversation US President Trump fails to give strong support to Ukrainian President Poroshenko, as other US officials also signal desire by US to put Ukraine crisis behind it in order to focus on detente with Russia and war and war against Jihadi terrorism and ISIS.
Though the White House has not yet published on its website a readout of US President Trump’s telephone conversation on Saturday with Ukrainian President Poroshenko, it is clear that it did not contain the strong support for Ukraine Poroshenko must have been looking for.
The conversation took place against the backdrop of intense fighting between the Ukrainian military and the eastern Ukrainian militia around the town of Avdeevka in eastern Ukraine.
The White House is reporting that Trump said to Poroshenko the following
We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the borderThis comment contains no criticism of Russia, it does not accuse Russia of initiating the fighting, and it makes no reference to “Russian aggression”. Nor does it make any strong statement of support for Ukraine.
What of the statement made by US ambassador Nikki Haley to the UN Security Council, which is being widely reported as contradicting Donald Trump’s position, and which is supposed to have contained a stern denunciation of Russia?
In my opinion this interpretation is wrong, and to show why I herewith provide Nikki Haley’s full statement, which I shall then analyse
This is a very different statement from the one which might have expected from someone like Samantha Power.
It says that the US wants better relations with Russia. It does not say that Russia or the eastern Ukrainian militia started the latest fighting. It calls for full implementation of the Minsk Accords, which (as everyone knows) Ukraine is not implementing. Lastly it calls for heavy weapons to be removed from “both sides of the contact line”, when everyone knows it was Ukraine’s decision to violate this provision by moving heavy weapons into the buffer zone (which includes Avdeevka) which caused the latest fighting.
As for the criticisms of Russia, not only do these have a ritual quality – with Haley simply repeating what is still official US policy – but she actually says she regrets having to do it. Moreover it is difficult to avoid reading Haley’s comment about her having to do it being “unfortunate because it is a replay of far too many instances over many years in which United States Representatives have needed to do that” as being anything other than a veiled reference to Samantha Power, with the clear implication being that Haley wants to be different from her.
Lest anyone think that I am alone in reading Haley’s statement in this way, I should say that no less a person than Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, who was physically present in the Security Council chamber when Haley read her statement, is of the same view.
Immediately following the UN Security Council meeting on Thursday where Haley read out her statement, Churkin said that he had noted “a tangible change of tone”, and said that he found Haley “friendly enough, with the allowances for the circumstances and the subject.”
[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, February 8th, 2017.]