Friday, September 19, 2014

Give Diplomacy With Russia a Chance

EDITOR'S CHOICE | 19.09.2014 | 11:37
The crisis over Ukraine has all but frozen official communication between the United States and Russia. The Russian reaction to the political upheaval in Kiev — the absorption of Crimea, and the armed intervention in eastern Ukraine — and the American responses to those actions have brought about a near-complete breakdown in normal and regular dialogue between Washington and Moscow. Relations between the two capitals have descended into attempts by each side to pressure the other, tit-for-tat actions, shrill propaganda statements, and the steady diminution of engagement between the two governments and societies.
Reports from the NATO summit meeting that ended in Newport, Wales, on Friday indicate that the United States and its allies will respond to Russia’s intervention and violence in Ukraine with an escalation of their own — including further sanctions, enhanced military presence in front-line states, and possibly greater support for Ukraine’s armed forces. This amounts to more of the same, with little if any assurance of better outcomes.
What the Western strategy lacks is an equally vigorous diplomatic approach to ending this conflict. Diplomatic efforts should aim to provide Ukraine and its neighbors with a future that can sustain peace and security for all countries in the area; re-establish respect for the core principles of Europe’s political order; and open the way for more productive American-Russian relations.
As three former United States ambassadors who served in Moscow, we believe that the time is right for American leadership in a serious diplomatic effort to achieve these ends. Each of us has seen the high price paid when relations and dialogue between Washington and Moscow break down, as in the effort to prevent Baltic independence at the end of the Soviet era, the Kosovo crisis and the insurgency in Chechnya.
Each time relations broke down, there was a high cost to the cause of peace and security for both the United States and Russia, as well as their allies. Our experience convinces us that creative, disciplined, serious active diplomacy — through both official and unofficial channels — provides the one path out of destructive crises and a reliance on violence and confrontation. So-called Track 2 dialogue between nonstate actors — experts and groups of individuals on both sides — can also play a useful role.
For now, fortunately, a cease-fire agreement announced on Friday by President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia appears to be holding. It is also encouraging that the parties have begun discussion about how to maintain the halt in fighting and address the political issues that will have to be tackled to bring about a lasting settlement.
There is ample reason to treat this opening with caution. But this potential opportunity should not be allowed to slip away. This is a moment when American leadership will be essential. The terms of any durable cease-fire must, of course, provide for adequate numbers of international observers, most appropriately from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to ensure that no side exploits the halt in fighting.
Any lasting agreement must also build on the fragile political process begun over the weekend. That process must involve the search for agreement on fair and equal treatment, and adequate political representation, of all Ukrainians; on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty over its territory; and on international cooperation to rebuild Ukraine’s economy.
Firm and unwavering support by the United States for these principles will be critical to the success of any negotiated outcome. The resumption of regular dialogue between Moscow and Washington will be central to the restoration of relations.
Fortunately, the arrival in Moscow of America’s new ambassador, John F. Tefft, provides an opening to enhance communication and dialogue. A seasoned career diplomat with previous service in Lithuania, Georgia and Ukraine, as well as Russia, Mr. Tefft brings to Moscow a capacity to express American views and positions clearly and to listen to and explain Russian thinking to Washington. His arrival gives both governments an opportunity to rebuild relations and to move away from the present path of confrontation.
Reinvigorating American-Russian diplomacy will be challenging. The negative effects of the Ukraine crisis are part of a broader downturn in relations over the last few years. The escalation of violence in Ukraine, and rising calls among Europeans and Americans for more forceful action and tougher sanctions to confront Russian military activity, have increased the prospect for further escalation and a further downturn in bilateral relations.
Although spokesmen and leaders in Washington have suggested that Russia has an “off ramp” to extricate itself from the present situation and the United States is ready to cooperate in that effort, this uphill path is strewn with rocks and largely uncharted. Additional sanctions, increased military pressure and battlefield escalation will not, by themselves, help define a way forward.
Only the use of diplomacy can help Mr. Poroshenko take advantage of new openings to define his country’s relations with its neighbors, restore Ukrainian sovereignty and effect a permanent end to the bloodshed. Sanctions and further efforts to escalate political and military pressure, and reliance on unilateral action without accompanying diplomacy, would all but assure continued suffering for the people of Ukraine.
It is time for the United States to use its diplomatic assets, including our new ambassador in Moscow, to take active leadership of diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis over Ukraine and set American relations with Russia on a new, more productive course.
Jack F. Matlock Jr. was the United States ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991. Thomas R. Pickering was the United States ambassador to Russia from 1993 to 1996, and James F. Collins from 1997 to 2001.

CIA is training and at once combating ISIL: Former CIA contractor

News | 19.09.2014 | 11:18
The US Central Intelligence Agency is frustrated for being asked to train the ISIL terrorist group and at the very same time to combat it, a former CIA contractor says.
Steven D. Kelley made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV from Anaheim, California, on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the US House approved President Barack Obama’s strategy to train and arm “moderate” militants in Syria to tackle the threat of ISIL. The Pentagon plans to train and arm 5,000 militants in Syria as part of the Obama administration’s long-term strategy to confront ISIL.
“[T]he CIA is being faced with their current task of continuing to arm and train the rebels, which they’ve admitted to doing – the so-called Free Syrian Army , and at the same time being asked to combat the group ISIL, which it is  getting harder and harder for them to mask that it’s essentially the same group,” Kelley said.
“The CIA, of course, are not stupid people. When they are asked to do this task they do it very well. They’ve said they have spent this time training these rebels in Jordan [and] they’re doing a very good job. And now they are being asked to combat these very same rebels and yet they are still being asked to continue with the training in Jordan. It’s almost like they know that if they were to try to attack ISIL, the best things to do is to probably to start with their bases in Jordan,” he added.
The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, control large parts of Syria's northern territory. ISIL sent its fighters into Iraq in June, quickly seizing large swaths of land straddling the border between the two countries.
“One thing that should be noted is that even within the CIA, and this is something that most people don’t take into consideration, there are multiple factions. There’s a faction that is more New World Order, and there is the one that is more pro-constitution.  So there’s always going to be that distinction,” he stated.
“But, I think, it’s a matter of logic. You’ve got people that are having a very hard time spinning the same kind of nonsense that the White House seems to be convincing them to produce every day and the CIA is not quite the same at lying quite so well as the White House is,” Kelley noted.
“They [the CIA] are very openly still supporting the very same group that they are trying to combat, and this is why they’re showing such exasperation for being asked to combat the group and at the very same time feeding it with the other hand,” he concluded.
Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the United States and its regional allies - especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey - are supporting the militants operating inside the country.
According to the United Nations, more than 190,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over three years.