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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Putin's Westward March -- Revisionist powers are rising as Obama and Europe fail to respond. -- Review & Outlook, The Wall Street Journal

Diplomacy is useful when it prevents bad outcomes. The problem with diplomacy as practiced by President Obama is that it too often is a mask to disguise bad outcomes. The latest example is this week's agreement among Ukraine, Russia, the EU and the U.S. that claims to prevent war but largely advances Vladimir Putin's strategic objectives. 

The government in Kiev is supposed to make political concessions to allow more autonomy in its eastern provinces in return for a military "de-escalation." But on the very day of the accord, Mr. Putin publicly reserved the right to invade Ukraine and refused to withdraw his troops massed at the border. On Friday the militants holding police stations and public offices in eastern Ukraine refused to stand down. 

Even President Obama curbed his enthusiasm for the deal negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry, saying at a Thursday press conference that Russia still had to follow through on its commitments. But what did Mr. Putin really commit to? 

The Russian President denies that the militants have anything to do with Russia and says he's helpless to stop them. The accord says nothing about Ukraine's May 25 election, which Russia opposes and wants to subvert. His troops are still ready to invade if he pleases, and Mr. Putin made promises to the republic of Georgia before he invaded that country in 2008. For the first time on Thursday, Mr. Putin referred to Ukraine as part of "New Russia," a revanchist echo of the czarist era.

NATO Supreme Commander Philip Breedlove cut through the diplomatic haze with a public memo on Friday stating that, "What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized" and "is being carried out at the direction of Russia."

The pro-Russian activists show all the earmarks of having had military training, the general wrote. Their weapons and equipment are mainly Russian army issue, which they carry with military discipline. Their use of tear gas and stun grenades in taking buildings showed training inconsistent with a spontaneously generated local militia.
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