Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland continued her tour of Europe, meeting with government officials and issuing threats to the Russians.
At a May 15 “press roundtable” in Luxembourg after meetings with that country’s prime minister Xavier Bettel and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, Nuland summarized in her effervescent sorority-girl-with-a-gun style, the four things that the U.S., the EU, and NATO need to do: “We have to support Ukraine and its right and the right of the Ukrainian people to choose a more democratic, corruption-free future and protect and support the elections that they’re going to have on May 25th; the second thing is the costs that we’re imposing on Russia for the choices they’ve already made and to deter further aggressive actions — that’s the sanctions piece — but also to keep the door open for diplomacy as you saw Secretary Kerry do … at the conference on April 17th and now in our support for a renewed push for diplomacy through the OSCE. And then the last piece is reassurance for NATO allies and the work we’re doing at NATO to ensure we are, as we like to say, ’28 for 28′. That all of us are on land, sea, and air making absolutely clear that NATO space is inviolable and that we are deploying strongly to show presence on our frontline border, to ensure that everybody knows that Article 5 means what it says.”
Nuland’s reference to “28 for 28” is the number of countries in NATO, and Article 5 refers to the NATO Charter’s Article 5 of collective defense which deems an attack on one member to be an attack on all of them, to be met by all the members together. (In fact, Article 5 has not been invoked, as Ukraine is not in NATO.)
In answer to a question about the difference in European and American views regarding the approach to current dealing with Russia, after denying such a difference exists, Nuland went on to outline future sanctions if there’s e.g. disruption of the May 25 elections, or “more Russian troop movements into Ukraine.” We are, she said, “having to move to what we call scalpel-like sectoral sanctions. So you’d be looking at sanctions, on the U.S. side we’re talking about sanctions in the energy sector, financial sector, defense sector, primarily in the direction of denying new investment into Russia,” as opposed to cutting existing transactions.
Later, answering a question about the danger of a possible Russian oil and gas embargo on Europe, Nuland remarked that while Europe is dependent on the energy, Russia is dependent on the revenue from the energy sales. “So we need to have confidence that if we have to go to sectoral sanctions, we can develop them in a way that has far more impact on the Russian economy than it has on us.”
Nuland was recently labelled by “Sic Semper Tyrannis” blog writer FB Ali as the leader of the State Department’s neocons, who “believe the West won the Cold War and are angry that Russia has dared to challenge their consequent right to reorder Europe. They would like to put Russia in its place (some of them would not even be too averse to starting a shooting war, if that became necessary).”
Nuland’s remarks on Wednesday in question-and-answer format at “GLOBSEC 2014” security conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, corroborated that analysis in spades. She said early on, “I think that we all understand that this is a challenge not simply for Ukraine, not simply for the transatlantic relationship. Some of the choices that Russia has made have challenged the world order, so we have to think about it in those terms.” She elaborated on that in a later answer: “We, and many other people in this room, have been involved for some 22 years since the Soviet Union broke up, in trying to knit Russia into the fabric of Europe, into the fabric of an open democratic system. We’ve had success and some setbacks over this period, but the premise of the case has always been that we should be encouraging Russia to make the kinds of reforms so that it could join us in our institutions, so that it could be a partner. But that required, and that was based, on an understanding that the rules of global governments, the rules that undergird the Helsinki community, were sort of a compact among us. So what has happened is not so much that we’ve changed, but that President Putin has made a choice that those rules no longer apply to Russia, so that requires an adjustment, of course.”
Later, she reiterated her point from the previous day, that “if the May 25th elections don’t go forward, if Russia continues to destabilize Ukraine, that there will be further, deeper, and now sectoral economic sanctions on Russia, and we do believe what we’ve already done is starting to bite.”
At the press gaggle following the GLOBSEC meeting, Nuland continued her threats. In her opening statement, she spoke of the “work that we are doing together to make the choice for Russia real. And by that I mean that there have been costs for the choices Russia has already made in the form of U.S. sanctions, EU sanctions. There will be more costs if Russia does not step back. But at the same time we are leaving the door open for de-escalation, for dialogue, for diplomacy.”
As usual, Nuland placed all onus on the conflict in eastern Ukraine on “the separatists”; we would like to see, she said, “de-escalating, getting separatists out of buildings, getting the focus on demilitarizing the east, because that is equally important and that is causing a lot of terror and friction out in the east, and we feel for the citizens out there.”