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Mainstream, VOL LII No 12, March 15, 2014

Obama piles Pressure on Russia

Saturday 15 March 2014, by M K Bhadrakumar

The US President, Barack Obama, reached out to China on March 10 to discuss the Ukraine situation. Notably, his phone conversation with President Xi Jinping is Obama’s first such exchange with a world leader outside the Euro-Atlantic zone. This is only the latest indication that Washington is stepping up pressure on Moscow.

Obama can derive great satisfaction from his conversation with Xi. According to the Xinhua report, Xi stressed China’s “objective and fair stance” on Ukraine and sought that all parties “remain calm and exercise restraint in order to avoid the escalation of the crisis... [and] tackle their differences through communication and coordination”.

Interestingly, Xi said China has taken an “open attitude” toward any proposals to ease the tension and promised to keep in touch with Obama. Their conversation took place a week ahead of the referendum in Crimea.

The US is anticipating the likelihood of Moscow acceding in some form Crimea’s wish to join Russia. Xi’s remarks just stop short of conveying disapproval of any form of annexation of Crimea by Russia.

Obama had invited the Ukraine President, Arsenyi Yatsenyuk, to visit Washington on March 12. The White House readout said the visit is intended as a show of “strong support” for the leadership in Kiev. Clearly, the US has ignored Russia’s plea that the leadership in Kiev lacks legitimacy.

Following the series of phone calls Obama made to six European capitals on March 9, the US claims to have evolved a “strong unified stance” with its allies and a consensus that “all decisions about the future of Ukraine must include the government in Kiev”.

Chevron has signed a $ 10 billion gas deal with the new Ukraine Government, which is a defiant US move to free Kiev from energy dependence on Russia.

Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.