Wednesday, March 5, 2014

U.S. and Russia set for talks on Ukraine tension

U.S. and Russia set for talks on Ukraine tension - Google Search

U.S. and Russia set for talks on Ukraine tension

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PARIS/KIEV (Reuters) - The United States and Russia will hold talks on easing East-West tension over Ukraine on Wednesday as the West steps up efforts to persuade Moscow to pull its forces back to base in Crimea and avert the risk of a war.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet face-to-face for the first time since the crisis escalated, after a conference in Paris attended by all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
NATO and Russia will hold parallel talks in Brussels amid concerns that a standoff between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea could still spark violence, or that Moscow could also intervene in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday could decide on sanctions against Russia if there is no "de-escalation" by then.
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russia's actions in Crimea, a strategic Black Sea peninsula that is part of Ukraine but used to be Russian territory, and said he would use force only as a last resort.
This eased market fears of a war over the former Soviet republic after sharp falls on Monday. The ruble was steady on Wednesday and Ukraine's hryvnia rose slightly against the U.S. dollar.
Russian forces remain in control of the region, however, and Putin gave no sign of pulling servicemen, based in Crimea as part of the Black Sea Fleet, back to base. Investors in Russian stocks were still worried about Ukraine, with the MICEX index down 1 percent on Wednesday in contrast to other stock markets.
Russian forces remain in control of the region and Putin gave no sign of pulling servicemen, based in Crimea as part of the Black Sea Fleet, back to base.
"What he wants above all is a new empire, like the USSR but called Russia," former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told France's Europe 1 radio.
In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged that Russia had legitimate interests in Ukraine but said that did not give Putin the right to intervene militarily.
"President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations," Obama said. "But I don't think that's fooling anybody."
A senior administration official said Obama spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday and discussed a potential resolution to the crisis. The Russian-speaking German leader has good relations with the German-speaking Putin, and Berlin is Russia's biggest economic partner.
The official said Obama, in his phone call with Putin last Saturday, had discussed what officials called an "off-ramp" to the crisis in which Russia would pull its forces in Crimea back to their bases and allow international monitors to ensure that the rights of ethnic Russians are protected.
The U.S. president will stay away from a G8 summit scheduled for Sochi, Russia, in June unless there is a Russian reversal in the Ukraine crisis, the official added.
At his first news conference since the crisis began, Putin said on Tuesday that Russia reserved the right to use all options to protect compatriots who were living in "terror" in Ukraine but that force was not needed for now.
His comments, coupled with the end of Russian war games near Ukraine's borders, lifted Russian bonds and stock markets around the world after a panic sell-off on Monday.
In comments ridiculed by U.S. officials, Putin denied the Russian armed forces were directly engaged in the bloodless seizure of Crimea, saying the uniformed troops without national insignia were "local self-defense forces".
French President Francois Hollande became the latest Western leader to raise the possibility of sanctions if Putin does not step back and accept mediation. He set out a tougher public line than Merkel, who has avoided talk of sanctions so far.
"The role of France alongside Europe ... is to exert all necessary pressure, including a possible imposition of sanctions, to push for dialogue and seek a political solution to this crisis." Hollande told an annual dinner of France's Jewish community leaders late on Tuesday.
Putin earlier said Western sanctions under consideration against Russia would be counter-productive. A senior U.S. official said Washington was ready to impose them in days rather than weeks.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said after speaking to Obama at the weekend that the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations were considering meeting in the near future, a move that would pointedly exclude Russia. The G7 became the G8 in 1998 when Russia was formally included.
Kerry, on his first visit to Kiev since the overthrow of Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, accused Moscow of seeking a pretext to invade more of the country.
He said the United States was not seeking a confrontation and would prefer to see the situation managed through international institutions such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
He was expected to meet Lavrov, Hollande and British Foreign Secretary William Hague on the sidelines of a Paris conference on Lebanon, before holding private talks with the Russian minister later in the day in the French capital.
Ukraine's acting foreign minister, Andriy Deshchitsia, is also in Paris for talks with French officials and Kerry. It was not clear if he too would meet Lavrov.
The February 22 ousting of Yanukovich after months of street protests in Kiev and Russia's seizure of control in Crimea have prompted the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.
Western governments have been alarmed at the possibility that Russia may also move into eastern and southern Ukraine, home to many Russian speakers, which Putin did not rule out.
Lavrov told European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that an EU-brokered agreement signed by political leaders
in Kiev on February 21 should be the basis for stabilizing the situation in Ukraine, his ministry said on Wednesday.
He said the agreement foresaw constitutional reform which would take into account the wishes of all regions in Ukraine. Russia says the deal was broken by the removal of Yanukovich.
No major incidents were reported in Crimea overnight.
But in a sign of the fragility of the situation, a Russian soldier on Tuesday fired three volleys of shots over the heads of unarmed Ukrainian servicemen who marched bearing the Ukrainian flag towards their aircraft at a military airfield surrounded by Russian troops at Belbek, near Sevastopol.
After a standoff in which the two commanders shouted at each other and Russian soldiers leveled rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers at the Ukrainians, the incident was defused and the Ukrainians eventually dispersed. No one was hurt.
The Ukrainian border guard service said Russian navy ships had blocked both ends of the Kerch Strait between Crimea and Russia, but Ukraine's infrastructure ministry said the 4.5-km (2.7-mile) wide waterway was still open for civilian shipping.
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Kiev and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Paul Taylor and Anna Willard)
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NATO, Russia to Meet on Ukraine Crisis

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NATO and Russia have agreed to meet Wednesday for talks on the crisis in Ukraine.  That meeting, in Brussels, will be the first public contact between the Western defense alliance and Russia's envoys since its forces moved into Ukraine's Crimean peninsula late last week.

NATO announced the extraordinary session Tuesday, saying it was requested by Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The alliance offered no further details.

Members of NATO met earlier Tuesday at the request of Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine. Afterward, the alliance said the Russian military presence in Ukraine presents "serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area." 

Meanwhile in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to meet Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Obama calls for direct Moscow-Kyiv talks
U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday called on Russia to open talks with the Ukraine’s interim government, and to allow international monitors to determine whether ethnic Russians in Ukraine are under threat, as alleged by Moscow.

Obama spoke in Washington, following a news conference in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader defended his country's military intervention in the Crimean peninsula last week, saying he reserves the right to protect Russians in Ukraine. But he also insisted that gunmen blocking Ukrainian military units in the region are "local self-defense forces," not Russian soldiers.

President Obama countered that Moscow has no legal right to intervene militarily, while acknowledging that Putin "seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations."

Late Tuesday, in a sign interpreted cautiously by analysts, NATO said Russia has agreed to attend an emergency NATO-Russia council meeting in Brussels Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

Kerry condemns Russian 'aggression'
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States would prefer to de-escalate tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

During a visit to Kyiv Tuesday, Kerry met Ukraine's interim leaders and announced a $1 billion economic package and technical assistance for the new government.

He also condemned the presence of Russian troops in Crimea as an "act of aggression."

Meeting with reporters while in Kyiv, Kerry said diplomacy and respect for sovereignty, not unilateral force, can best resolve the dispute over Ukraine.

“We are not seeking confrontation," he said. "There is a better way for Russia to pursue its legitimate interests in Ukraine.”

Kerry said if Russia does not choose to de-escalate the situation through diplomatic means, the U.S. and its partners will have no choice but to isolate Russia politically and economically.

European Union foreign ministers have issued a Thursday deadline for Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back his troops or face punitive measures.

The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that Moscow would retaliate against any sanctions.

'Moving' visit

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with a Ukrainian protester at the barricades in Kyiv, Ukraine, March, 4, 2014.
​During his one-day visit, Kerry met enthusiastic crowds at Independence Square, where some protesters chanted "thank you" to America's top diplomat, who also placed flowers at a memorial to fallen protesters.

Kerry said he was moved by his visit to Independence Square, noting the bullet holes, barricades and barbed wire he saw there.

He praised "brave Ukranians who stood against tyranny" asking for the right to define their own future.

“It is universal, it is unmistakable, this call for freedom,” Kerry said. “In this transformation, we will stand with the people of Ukraine.”

Russia considers 'all options'
Earlier Tuesday, Putin said he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort.

In this frame grab provided by the Russian Television via the APTN, President Vladimir Putin, during a live feed, answers journalists' questions on the current situation around Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
In his first public comments since  the crisis began, Putin said there had been an unconstitutional coup in  Ukraine and that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych was still the legitimate leader.

"As for bringing in forces. For now there is no such need  but such a possibility exists,'' Putin said, looking relaxed as he sat before a small group of reporters at his residence near Moscow. "It would naturally be the last resort, absolutely the last."'

But tension remained high on the ground. Reuters reported that Russian forces fired warning shots in a confrontation with Ukrainian servicemen at an air base, and Russian navy ships were reported to have blockaded the strait separating the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula from Russia.

Also Tuesday, Russia said it had successfully test-fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) which was launched about 450 km east of the Ukrainian border. A U.S. official said the United States had received notification from Russia ahead of the test and that the initial notification pre-dated the crisis in Crimea.

WATCH: RFE/RL video of Pro-Russian Troops in Simferopol, Crimea 

Meantime, Ukraine said on Tuesday that observers from a pan-European security body would travel at its invitation to the Crimea region, where Russian forces have taken control, in an attempt to defuse a military standoff, Reuters reported.

It was not immediately clear whether Russia would allow monitors to enter the region, where it controls the airspace and access points. Diplomatic sources told Reuters Russia's agreement was not legally necessary.

Elsewhere, Putin ordered tens of thousands of troops taking part in military exercises in western Russia, near the Ukrainian border, to return to base. The exercises were scheduled to end, so it is unclear whether the move was intended to help ease tensions.

Telecommunications 'attack,' protecting nuclear power
The head of Ukraine's security service said the country's telecommunications system has come under attack. Valentyn Nalivaichenko said equipment installed in Russian-controlled Crimea was used to interfere with the mobile phones of members of parliament, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Some Internet and telephone services were interrupted after Russian forces seized control of airfields and key installations in Ukraine's Crimea region Friday, but now lawmakers were being targeted, Nalivaichenko told a news briefing.

"I confirm that an...attack is under way on mobile phones of  members of Ukrainian parliament for the second day in row,'' he said.

Reuters reported that Ukraine is also reinforcing security at its 15 nuclear power plants because of "a grave threat to the security" of the country posed by the Russian military, it told the U.N. atomic watchdog on Tuesday.

Crimea is a Black Sea peninsula placed under Ukrainian control in 1954 by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. It remained part of Ukraine when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Crimea has a tiny border with Russia on its far eastern point, and the Crimean port of Sevastapol is home to Russia's Black Sea fleet. Most of the people living in Crimea are ethnic Russians, but the region also is home to ethnic Muslim Tatars, who generally show disdain for Russia.

Ukraine's troubles began in November, when President Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties and economic aid from Russia. The move triggered weeks of pro-Western anti-government demonstrations in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine, and forced the pro-Russian Yanukovych to flee the capital in late February.

WATCH: Related video report by Luis Ramirez: 

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Ukraine: Why didn’t the U.S. know sooner? - Josh Gerstein and Burgess Everett

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Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s history as a tough-as-nails leader bent on restoring Russia’s sphere of influence, the U.S. intelligence community failed to read the signs when it came to Ukraine.
That has members of Congress asking why there was no clear warning that Russia would respond militarily to the abrupt departure of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych by sending troops into Crimea — and what intelligence agencies plan to do about the oversight.
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“We have to better deploy our resources… because we have large resources and it should not be possible for Russia to walk in and take over the Crimea and it’s a done deal by the time we know about it,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told POLITICO as she left a closed-door briefing for committee members on Ukraine and other issues. Feinstein indicated that the intelligence community has already moved to re-focus on the region.
“We’re going to look at the priorities and talk with the administration and talk with various people in the intelligence community,” she added. “I think some changes have already been made.”
The top Republican on the panel, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, agreed something was missed.
“Well, I’m not sure what the issue is. I mean obviously that’s why you get briefings to try to deep dive into it to see whether it’s a lack of intelligence gathering or whether there were some signs that analysts just didn’t see. But it’s pretty clear that there was no indication that this was coming like it did,” Chambliss said Tuesday.
“I’m not pointing the finger at anything because I don’t know what the answer is,” he said. “I don’t know who dropped the ball.”
A range of lawmakers and intelligence community experts are puzzled about why U.S. intelligence agencies seem to have misjudged Putin’s intentions and whether the lack of warning fits a pattern of other significant intelligence shortcomings in recent years.
The answers could affect how the huge but shrinking intelligence budget is allocated in the future, possibly focusing more attention and resources on traditional adversaries like Russia and China and a somewhat less on the overarching focus of the past decade: terrorism.
Earlier warning of Putin’s move might have given the U.S. and other allies more time to try to dissuade him and prompted more effort in doing so. But it’s unclear whether the Russian leader would have bowed to such pressure.
Other senators leaving the same briefing Tuesday afternoon described the present state of intelligence on the issue as muddled and sketchy.
“There just seemed to be a lack of current intelligence, but I can’t go into details,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). She called questions about a lack of warning “very valid,” but declined to elaborate.
Over the weekend, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — who’s been highly critical of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy — portrayed the U.S. as being blindsided by Putin’s actions. “I think it’s very clear that this whole operation took this administration and the intelligence community by surprise, but it shouldn’t have,” McCain told the Daily Beast.
“From everything I’ve seen, this was not anticipated,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview Monday. “I think there will have to be a whole evaluation of what our links into Russia are and [into] determining their policy.”
King said it was evident that U.S. policymakers such as Obama viewed Putin’s move as unlikely — until it happened.
“As far as the administration, I think they had to be taken off guard,” he said. They were making these very tough pronouncements that there will be consequences and he won’t do it. I don’t think they would have done that if they were thinking that Putin would do this.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Tuesday that he also plans a review of Ukraine-related intelligence, but he stopped short of calling it an intelligence failure. “It was the analytic product, the certain conclusion in one particular case that nothing was going to happen in 24 hours—that was just wrong,” Rogers told the Daily Beast. “There was another thing out there from another agency that was different.”
A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Obama was satisfied with the intelligence he received on Russian intentions in Ukraine. But spokesmen for the U.S. intelligence community defended its work.
”Prior to and throughout the situation in Ukraine, the intelligence community has provided timely and valuable information that has helped policy makers understand the situation on the ground and make informed decisions. That continues to be the case today,” said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Any suggestion that there were intelligence shortcomings related to the situation in Ukraine are uninformed and misleading.”
The Central Intelligence Agency says it’s always noted the possibility of aggressive military action.
“Since the beginning of the political unrest in Ukraine, the CIA has regularly updated policymakers to ensure they have an accurate and timely picture of the unfolding crisis,” agency spokesman Todd Ebitz said in an email. “These updates have included warnings of possible scenarios for a Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Any suggestion otherwise is flat wrong.”
While officials appear to disagree about the insights offered by U.S. intelligence, it’s beyond dispute that a lot of public commentary pundits offered as the Ukraine crisis unfolded was less than clairvoyant.
“Why Russia Won’t Interfere” blared the headline on a Feb. 24 op-ed by Carnegie Moscow Center’s Dmitri Trenin in the New York Times’s international edition .
“Moscow does not need to govern more people; it needs to raise the health, education and work standards in its own people’s lives,” Trenin wrote. “Despite what some Ukrainians suspect, Moscow is unlikely to try bringing about the breakup of Ukraine in order to annex its southern and eastern parts. That would mean civil war next door, and Russia abhors the idea. Moscow’s best option at this point is to stand back and wait, while quietly favoring decentralization in Ukraine.”
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Mr. Putin might actually believe his own Ukraine propaganda

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Putin says he reserves right to protect Russians in Ukraine

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In his first public comments about the crisis since President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed Feb. 22, Putin described Ukraine as lawless and suggested that Ukrainians appeared unable to run their own country. He said masked militants were “roaming the streets of Kiev” — even though the Ukrainian capital has remained calm in recent days.
“This is a humanitarian mission,” he said.
After days of heightening tension, Putin’s remarks appeared to suggest that Russia could refrain from escalation — if Ukraine gets its house in order. Hours later, Russia proclaimed the successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in Asia, a move unrelated to the crisis but a demonstration to Ukraine and the West of Russia’s military prowess.
President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry rejected Putin’s assertions about the situation in Ukraine, with Kerry charging during a visit to Kiev that “Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further.”
They said it was not true that Russia needs to send in troops to safeguard Russians or Russian speakers in Ukraine from violent reprisals.
Dismissing Moscow’s purported concerns, Obama said Russia was “seeking through force to exert influence on a neighboring country.”
Putin, however, accused the United States of engineering Ukraine’s troubles, suggesting that it was using Ukrainians as guinea pigs in some kind of misguided experiment.
“They sit there across the pond as if in a lab running all kinds of experiments on the rats,” he told a small group of reporters in a nationally televised meeting at his country house outside Moscow. “Why would they do it? No one can explain it.”
Despite Ukrainian and Western reports, Putin said that Russia has not sent additional troops to Crimea to augment those already based there and that Russian troops had only been put on alert to defend their bases.
In Kiev, his remarks were greeted with less ferocity than might have been expected. The new government is under enormous pressure from the Russian intervention and from unrest in eastern cities, coupled with a financial crisis. It is treading carefully. As Crimea slipped further into Russian control Tuesday, Ukrainian military units there stood their ground but were careful not to provoke a conflict.
In Ukraine’s parliament, there was talk of finding a way to give Crimea more autonomy if it agrees to remain a part of Ukraine. The region has scheduled a March 30 referendum on independence or accession to Russia, though Crimea’s new leader, Sergei Aksyonov, said Tuesday that he wants to hold the vote sooner. Kerry, echoing the views of many in Kiev, said Russia had installed Aksyonov in a hurried and rigged selection process last week.
Oleh Tiahnybok, the head of the nationalist All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” party, said, “The Kremlin is attempting to use blackmail to solve its strategic plans. Ukraine should not succumb to it.”
And Russia’s intervention, he declared, is a failure: “Ukrainians are not running with outstretched arms toward the occupiers.”
A bloodless confrontation
It has been, all around, an unusual confrontation. After a week of deadly fighting in the streets of Kiev led to Yanu­kovych’s overthrow, the Russian takeover of Crimea has been swift yet bloodless. The atmosphere in Kiev is hardly that of a capital dealing with an intervention by a powerful neighbor.
Aksyonov said Tuesday that most of the Ukrainian military forces in Crimea have sworn allegiance to his new regional government. Officials in Kiev said that is not true.
Young men in Ukrainian self-defense groups said Tuesday that they are ready to take on the Russians but do not need to join the national army to do so.
In a stately hall that normally houses an association for architects, a militia had stashed construction hard hats and bicycle helmets atop a stairway, ready to be grabbed if things turn violent. The marble floors were lined with mattresses and sleeping bags.
“I’m ready to fight the Russians,” said Vitaliy Vovk, 24, an event planner and the militia commander. “But I’m hoping there will be no war, that it’s just Putin flexing his muscles.”
Putin’s defense
Putin said the whole operation is a friendly one, designed to help out a fraternal nation. But he described Ukraine as deeply troubled, telling his interviewers that corruption and social stratification there are even worse than in Russia.
“Out there, they are beyond anything we can imagine,” he said. “This revolutionary situation has been brewing for a long time.”
So it’s understandable why the protesters on the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, wanted an uprising, he said. But they went about it the wrong way, he said, and now Ukraine has swapped one “set of thieves” — Yanukovych’s — for another, a reference to the present government.
Putin said that if he decides to send in the Russian military, he would have legal grounds to do so. Russia has displayed a letter from the ousted president asking for military help in suppressing the revolt. The current government is illegitimate, Russia contends, because Yanukovych was not properly removed from power in a formal impeachment.
“What is our biggest concern?” Putin asked. “We see the rampage of reactionary forces, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces going on in certain parts of Ukraine, including Kiev.”
“We understand what worries the citizens of Ukraine, both Russian and Ukrainian, and the Russian-­speaking population in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine,” he said. “It is this uncontrolled crime that worries them. Therefore, if we see such uncontrolled crime spreading to the eastern regions of the country, and if the people ask us for help, while we already have the official request from the legitimate president, we retain the right to use all available means to protect those people. We believe this would be absolutely legitimate.”
Yet, the Russian government and the interim Ukrainian government have been in contact. “I’d say that they are quite sluggish, but the first steps have been taken,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said. Consultations have been held on the ministerial level.
“Ukraine is ready to build a new style of relations with the Russian Federation,” Yatsenyuk said, based on Russia’s respect for Ukraine’s right to determine its own policies.
Englund reported from Kiev. Carol Morello in Kiev and William Booth in Simferopol, Crimea, contributed to this report.
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Europe divided over Russia as NATO meets on Ukraine crisis

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In the former Eastern bloc, political leaders and the populace are seeing the ghost of the Cold War. A nervous Poland, where Lech Walesa stared down the Soviet Union in the 1980s, called Tuesday’s snap meeting of NATO members by invoking a rarely used lever available to members who believe their security or territorial integrity is under threat.
Like the United States, Poland is seeking a relatively aggressive stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling for diplomacy but also preparations for economic sanctions and other punitive steps.
Other European powers have offered harsh condemnations of Russia’s military moves while keeping one eye on the economic interests they have cultivated with Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Russia is Germany’s fourth-largest trading partner outside the European Union and its largest supplier of energy.
Among the French companies with vast investments in Russia is Renault, which is partly owned by the French government. Through a partnership with Nissan, Renault is set to boost its ownership in Russia’s largest automaker to nearly 75 percent this year.
Among Russian oligarchs, London is affectionately known as “Moscow on the Thames.” Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, a close Putin ally, owns the Chelsea soccer club. In the City — London’s financial district, which drives a substantial portion of the British economy — Russian money is courted as king, with ice-cold vodka and caviar a staple on the menus of elegant restaurants.
Given that Europe has a much greater economic relationship with Russia than does the United States, securing its cooperation will be paramount to any effort by Washington to secure significant sanctions. Yet that relationship will not be lightly jeopardized, observers say, even in the defense of a fellow European nation under threat.
A briefing paper caught on camera as a British official walked into No. 10 Downing St., for instance, indicated that the British government is advocating rigorous diplomacy over sanctions.
“The European position is a mess,” said Kadri Liik, a senior policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations. “I think it’s quite chaotic and hit-and-miss, and there’s no unanimity as to what to do.”
In Brussels, the NATO meeting broke up with a brief statement asserting that “allies stand together in the spirit of strong solidarity” and promising to “support all constructive efforts for a peaceful solution to the current crisis.” Russian and NATO officials were set to meet in Brussels on Wednesday.
On Monday, European foreign ministers had appeared to rally behind a limited plan of action, including ending preparations for a Group of Eight meeting in Sochi, Russia, and potentially suspending talks on easing visa requirements for Russians.
But as European leaders prepared to convene Thursday to solidify a plan, it was clear that divisions over how and whether to impose sanctions remained. Following Tuesday’s NATO meeting, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, whose country led the effort to bring Kiev closer to the E.U., told reporters that “the rest of the Europe is sometimes half a phase behind us.”
It was also clear that major powers in Western Europe were seriously alarmed and might be compelled to take bolder action.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking to Parliament on Tuesday, said the photographed document “should not be taken as a guide” to the government’s response, adding, “Our options remain open.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was pressing for international mediation between Ukraine and Russia. But he added, “If we don’t agree on decisive steps towards an international agreement . . . then I expect the discussion [among European leaders on Thursday] will proceed in a way that measures will indeed be decided upon.”
Virtually no one in official E.U. circles, be they east or west, is calling for NATO boots on Ukrainian soil. But east of Berlin, there is no doubting the larger sense of alarm over a newly belligerent Russia.
Since the end of the Cold War, three nations that were formerly part of the Soviet Union — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — have joined NATO, as have its former Warsaw Pact allies. Particularly among those countries, and far more than during Russia’s incursion into Georgia in 2008, the Crimean intervention is stoking terrifying memories that were always just below the surface.
“For these countries, their worst fears are materializing,” said Igor Sutyagin, a fellow at RUSI, a London-based military think tank. “They have been saying for years that Russia is unpredictable, that anything might happen. And now it has.”
On Tuesday, the Estonian newspaper Ohtuleht published an editorial expressing concerns about the economic links between Russia and Western European economies dependent on its gas supplies. “What government would dare to suggest to its voters to spend the next winter in a cold apartment just because of a peninsula nobody can point out on the map?” the editorial said. But it warned that “every bit of compliancy will only increase the appetite of the aggressor,” adding that “for us Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, this is particularly painful.”
In Prague, where Soviet tanks rolled in after a Western-leaning government came to power in 1968, the Ukrainian crisis has stirred deep-seated fears. The Czech daily Lidove Noviny compared Putin to Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet leader at the time.
“The decisive factor for Putin isn’t whether the Russian minority in Ukraine really is under threat,” the paper said in an editorial. “He wants to demonstrate that Russia calls the shots and that the sovereignty of other nations on its border is no more than a scrap of paper.”
Under debate now are the tools to be used to pressure Russia diplomatically. Andrejs Pildegovics, Latvia’s state secretary for foreign affairs, said his nation is trying to build a consensus for a diplomatic solution while keeping “sanctions on the table.”
“Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it is not under the nuclear umbrella, and there are no obligations to protect it,” he said. “But it is part of Europe, and we can’t forget that.”
Karla Adam in London and Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin contributed tothis report.

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