The United States is aware of Russian military movements along the eastern border of Ukraine and supports easing tensions in the region where cease-fire violations have escalated in recent weeks. (April 7)
[HELICOPTER BLADES CHOPPING]
MATTHEW ROJANSKY: This is conflict management. This is not grand strategy. I think that’s the way we have to look at the conflict in Ukraine. Because at the end of the day, the major powers are not looking to turn this into World War III, and yet the local actors are constantly looking to provoke and escalate the fighting.
So this is a war that’s been going on now for the better part of a decade. It’s never been fully quiet. There was a ceasefire since last July that held better than ceasefires have held before. But over the last few months, we’ve seen a lot more fighting. The fact that we have also seen in the last several weeks movements of large numbers of Russian troops in Crimea, in Eastern Ukraine, which borders on the Russian-backed separatists areas in Donbass, and then north of Ukraine, or northeast of Ukraine.
But it’s a real concern to Ukraine, and so you have calls by President Zelenskiy in Kiev and his top officials on Western partners and on NATO to step up and essentially tell the Russians this can’t happen. No escalation. And in fact, he did have a phone call from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States to his opposite numbers in both Ukraine and Russia to say we see what’s happening, and we don’t want to see a shooting war break out.
I think a lot of US policy remains consistent in the sense that the United States of course, supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, its territorial integrity, its democracy, its fight against corruption. That hasn’t changed from Obama to Trump, now to Biden. But there are three big differences today. I think one is tone and messaging. Obviously, President Biden confirming, when asked is Vladimir Putin a killer, is very different than Donald Trump kind of pushing back and saying, well, you know, we’re killers too there are lots of killers, et cetera. And seeking to have a kind of friendship with Vladimir Putin. I think second is this idea of pushback, and the capacity to push back.
NED price: Can’t forget Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine and we’re absolutely concerned.
MATTHEW ROJANSKY: It was really quite unique under the Trump administration that Congress grabbed the reins, especially on Russian policy, and started to impose sanctions. And essentially tied the administration’s hands and forced the administration to announce sanctions, to do this constant reporting on what’s Russia up to, et cetera. And I think the Bush administration, A, enjoys more confidence from Congress that it will take a tougher line on Russia, and B, also I think is going to therefore get more freedom, more leeway from Congress not breathing down their necks as much.