Vice President Joe Biden visited Ukraine on Monday in the hopes of negotiating some sort of agreement that would serve to ease tensions in the troubled region. Rather than tiptoe around the issue, however, the VP didn't mince words. "We've heard a lot from Russian officials in the past few days. But now it's time for Russia to stop talking and start acting," he said, adding, "We will not allow this to become an open ended process. Time is short in which to make progress."
This meeting comes shortly on the heels of continued violence in Slovyansk, a town close to the Eastern border of Ukraine that's been overtaken by pro-Russian militants. Violence in Ukraine has deteriorated rapidly over the last few weeks, as pro-Russian militants have began attacking and seizing various positions throughout the eastern half of the country. On Sunday, militants captured four journalists. Self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, proudly proclaimed, “We have captured some spies, infiltrators. Right now, we’re working them over: they are being held in captivity.” Three of the journalists were eventually released, but one - an activist named Irma Krat is still being detained by separatists.
Throughout the conflict, Russia has maintained that it has no direct contact with or authority over the pro-Russian forces currently laying siege to Ukraine. In their defense, no one can actually prove that's not the case, though there are some fairly strong rumblings that Russia has more irons in the Ukraine fire than they let on. Even if they don't have control of the militants, they're still unabashedly mustering troops on the eastern border of Ukraine, claiming the forces are there because of training exercises.
In his visit with Russian officials, Biden was straightforward. "No nation should threaten its neighbours by amassing troops along the border. We call on Russia to pull these forces," the VP proclaimed after a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk. It would seem the White House is reaching a point where direct action is the only recourse.
In Washington on Tuesday, Republican Senator John McCain echoed the call for a resolution to the crisis. His recommendation, however, called for a stronger show of support on the part of the United States. Calling the administration's actions up to this point "passive," McCain recommended supplying Ukrainian forces with a defensive arsenal.
“Vladimir Putin understands peace through strength and nothing else. And so far we’ve made a lot of threats and done almost nothing,” Mr. McCain said. “There is no significant penalty anywhere on the horizon.”
It would seem that McCain might have an unfortunate point. Clearly no one wants to see war erupt in Ukraine, but further economic sanctions have done little to deter Russian advances into the area. Even though the US has threatened more sanctions, Russia seems unworried as they claim they are more than prepared to deal with them. Further, the EU has been hesitant to be too aggressive with the country that controls one-fifth of the world's natural gas reserves.