Tiller­son up­braids Rus­sia over Ukraine

U.S. wants bet­ter ties but can’t abide Crimea in­va­sion, he stresses

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation & World - Carol Morello, The Wash­ing­ton Post

VIENNA — The gulf be­tween the United States and Rus­sia showed no signs of nar­row­ing Thurs­day as top diplo­mats from the two coun­tries faced off over a pro­posed U.N. peace­keep­ing force in Ukraine.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son vowed that there would be no eas­ing of sanc­tions on Rus­sia or warm­ing of re­la­tions un­til Moscow stopped sup­port­ing sep­a­ratists in east­ern Ukraine and aban­doned its “ap­par­ent an­nex­a­tion” of Crimea in 2014.

“We can have dif­fer­ences in other ar­eas, but when one coun­try in­vades another, that is a dif­fer­ence that is hard to look past or to rec­on­cile,” Tiller­son said at the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe, or OSCE, a group cre­ated dur­ing the Cold War to en­cour­age di­a­logue be­tween East and West.

“And we’ve made this clear to Rus­sia from the very be­gin­ning, that we must ad­dress Ukraine,” he said. “It stands as the sin­gle most dif­fi­cult ob­sta­cle to us renor­mal­iz­ing a re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia, which we badly would like to do.”

The 57-mem­ber OSCE is one of the few re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions in which both the United States and Rus­sia are mem­bers. U.S. of­fi­cials had hoped it would pro­vide a venue to dis­cuss mod­i­fi­ca­tions to a Rus­sian pro­posal for a U.N. peace­keep­ing force in east­ern Ukraine. Since 2014, more than 10,000 peo­ple have died in the war be­tween Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment and Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists.

The United States and its al­lies want peace­keep­ers to have a broad mis­sion to pro­tect about 600 OSCE mon­i­tors cur­rently on the ground and in­ves­ti­gate cease-fire vi­o­la­tions through­out east­ern Ukraine. They worry that a more limited mis­sion of just pro­tect­ing the mon­i­tors, as Rus­sia has pro­posed, would ef­fec­tively lock in ter­ri­to­rial gains by the Rus­sian-speak­ing sep­a­ratists, who want to break away from Ukraine.

In his speech to the OSCE, Tiller­son said civil­ian deaths and cease-fire vi­o­la­tions had risen dra­mat­i­cally over the past year.

“We should be clear about the source of this vi­o­lence,” Tiller­son said. “Rus­sia is arm­ing, lead­ing, train­ing and fight­ing along­side antigov­ern­ment forces.”

“We will never ac­cept Rus­sia’s oc­cu­pa­tion and at­tempted an­nex­a­tion of Crimea,” Tiller­son also said. “Crimea-re­lated sanc­tions will re­main in place un­til Rus­sia re­turns full con­trol of the penin­sula to Ukraine.”

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov lam­basted the United States and NATO, ac­cus­ing them of un­der­min­ing se­cu­rity in East­ern Europe.

“The build­ing of NATO’S po­ten­tial on the east­ern flank, the course to­ward the un­con­di­tional expansion of the al­liance, the de­ploy­ment of U.S. mis­sile de­fenses in Europe, sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­mines the prin­ci­ples of in­di­vis­i­bil­ity and se­cu­rity,” Lavrov said.

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