Going public with what he calls “recordings” of Russian officials involved in fomenting unrest in Eastern Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry needs some urgent diplomacy lessons, especially in the wake of the Edward Snowden affair. Admitting he has intel intercepts proving Russia’s backing for Russian separatists is no revelation at all, putting no pressure on Moscow to cease-and-desist in their efforts to split Ukraine into East and West regions. Whatever’s happening it Eastern Ukraine can’t only be blamed on Moscow but the tone deafness of Western officials to realize that the U.S. and European Union-backed Feb. 22 anti-Russian coup that toppled 64-year-old Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovich backfired. Admitting that the U.S. continues to monitor conversations of Russian officials is nothing new, nor does matter one iota the geopolitics of Eastern Ukraine.
Kerry’s public disclosure about continued U.S. spying doesn’t sit well with either U.S. enemies or its allies. In the context of the Edward Snowden affair, it just breeds more suspicions doing business with the U.S. “Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operations taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from,” said Kerry. Kerry never responded to Russian claims that the CIA and EU intelligence agencies were behind the Feb. 22 coup in Kiev. Offering U.S. proof of Moscow’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine changes nothing on the ground. U.S. officials can’t stop pro-Russian separatists from protesting against Kiev’s anti-Russian government. Sharing sensitive U.S. intelligence gathering harms U.S. national security.
White House officials hope to intercept or stop another Crime-like takeover of Eastern Ukraine. “It’s not accidental that you have some of the same people who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in Eastern Ukraine,” said Kerry, warning the world about another potential takeover. Russian officials led by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have denied that Moscow orchestrates pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Kerry accuses Moscow’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine of violating the April 17 Geneva accord, requiring all parties to stop incitement. Accusing Russian intelligence officials of causing unrest in Eastern Ukraine, Kerry hopes for more consensus on U.S. sanctions, something the EU has resisted because of dependence on Russian natural and petroleum imports. Kerry wants Moscow to back off from interference in Eastern Ukraine.
If the U.S. or EU really wanted to deescalate the Ukraine crisis, they would insist on immediate resignations of 49-year-old acting President Oleksandr Turchinov and 39-year-old Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenuk, both came to power Feb. 22 in an illegal coup that toppled the Yanukovich government. Kremlin officials would be more than willing to accept their resignations and find new leaders that could manage Ukraine before eventually holding new elections. Jumping on the bandwagon to back Ukraine’s post-revolutionary leaders caused the ongoing civil war that pits the Russian-speaking East against the pro-EU West in Kiev. Pointing fingers at Moscow has pushed U.S.-Russian relations to the lowest point since the Cold War. Instead of finding common ground, the U.S. and Russia only trade barbs, something Kerry has been doing since he took over for Hillary Rodham Clinton Feb. 1, 2013.
Telling the world he has the goods on Moscow pushes U.S.-Russian relations to the point of no return. Whatever happens in Eastern Ukraine, it’s no reason to cause U.S.-Russian relations to sink to new lows. U.S. national security requires a close working relationship with Russia to combat global terrorist threats and deal with rogue nations, like Iran and North Korea, destabilizing the civilized world. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue-state-ism. It the worst order of behavior,” said Kerry, hurling more insults at Moscow. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, the U.S. didn’t face a barrage of insults from Russia, protesting an adventurous U.S. foreign policy. Kerry needs to tone down the incendiary rhetoric before it’s too late.
Whether or not the U.S., Russia or any other country collects covert data on each other shouldn’t be shared publicly, especially given sensitivities in the wake of the Edward Snowden spying scandal. Kerry can’t win a tit-for-tat game hurling insults at his Russian counterpart. White House officials have the perfect way to deescalate the crisis, insisting that Ukraine’s post-revolutionary leaders step down. When they ordered the Ukrainian army to fight their Eastern Ukrainian brothers, the Army refused to follow Kiev’s orders. Holding a summit on Ukraine to figure out who’s capable of reuniting the country, including Crimea, would be the best step forward. Trading accusations and hurling more insults only makes the situation worse. Applying more sanctions without an EU consensus also makes no sense. Kerry needs to dial back the rhetoric and find common ground with Moscow.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.