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General News    H3'ed 5/4/14

Needed: Obama-Putin Summit on Ukraine

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President Vladimir Putin of Russia welcomes President Barack Obama to the G20 Summit at Konstantinovsky Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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May 4, 2014

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Urgent Action on Ukraine

The buck stops with you, Mr. President. If you want to stop a bloody civil war between east and west Ukraine and avert Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine, you may be able to do so before the violence hurtles completely out of control. You need to take the initiative and do it now.

We recommend that you publicly disavow any wish to incorporate Ukraine into NATO and that you make it clear to Moscow that you are prepared to meet personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin without delay to discuss ways to defuse the crisis and recognize the legitimate interests of the various parties.

You are surely aware by now that some of your key advisers do not share the goal of heading off even more serious violence. Or, if they do, it is hard to understand why they are giving you such a one-sided picture of the genesis of, and the culpability for, what has become an almost inexorable slide toward still wider hostilities and untold human misery among Ukrainians.

We believe you need to over-rule those, like Secretary of State John Kerry, whose words and actions Kremlin leaders regard as aimed at giving Russia a bloody nose in its own backyard and -- not incidentally -- destroying the working relationship enjoyed earlier by you and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

You were able to do something similar late last summer when, at the last minute, you canceled plans to attack Syria. Back then, Secretary Kerry and other advisers came within a hair's breadth of misleading you into a major war based on what they knew were highly dubious claims of Syrian government responsibility for chemical attacks near Damascus on August 21.

Actions by those same advisers on Ukraine, reflexively supported by the "mainstream media" that accept their guidance as gospel truth, threaten to bring full-scale civil war to Ukraine, Russian military intervention, and a long-term poisoning of relations with Russia.

This would be to no-one's advantage, except for those who (as in the Syrian case last summer) see incentive in closing down the kind of bilateral U.S.-Russian cooperation that has been so helpful on thorny problems like Syria and Iran -- including frittering away the trust between you and President Vladimir Putin that played a significant role in defusing the Syrian crisis.

Russian Troops Into Ukraine?

We see little reason to believe that President Putin wants to send Russian troops into Ukraine. It now appears likely, however, that he will feel forced to do so -- especially after atrocities like the killing of more than 30 people from an anti-Ukrainian government dissident encampment in Odessa. The victims were among those seeking refuge in a building from violent pro-Ukrainian "soccer fans," when firebombs were thrown into the building.

According to the Washington Post's lead story on Saturday: "Police said 31 people were killed when they choked on smoke or jumped out of windows. Asked who had thrown the Molotov cocktails, pro-Ukrainian activist Diana Berg said, 'Our people -- but now they are helping them to escape the building.'"

Mr. President, if you do not move swiftly, it may be impossible to resuscitate the Geneva agreement of April 17, which the Kremlin has already declared a dead letter. And Moscow's repeated warnings that Russia will intervene in the Ukraine in order to protect ethnic Russians is a threat that must be taken seriously.

Other Implications

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