John Helmer: How Angela Merkel Has Been Abandoned By John Kerry, Victoria Nuland, And Vladimir Putin

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By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, would do almost anything to get and keep power. That, in the opinion of powerful German bankers, includes making herself look ready for war with Russia in order to make her political rival, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the coalition Foreign Minister and opposition leader in Berlin, look too weak to be electable when the German poll must be called by 2017. So, sources close to the Chancellery say, Merkel insulted President Vladimir Putin and all Russians to their faces last week. This week Victoria Nuland, the junior State Department official who told the chancellor to get fucked a year ago, was in Moscow, replacing Merkel with a settlement of the Ukraine conflict the Kremlin prefers.

“We are ready for this,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last Thursday after meeting Secretary of State John Kerry. Referring to Nuland, Lavrov added: “we were not those who had suspended relations. Those, who had done it, should reconsider their stance….But, as usual, the devil is in the details.” Lavrov meant not one, but two devils, who have sabotaged every move towards a settlement of the Ukraine conflict since the start of 2014 – Nuland and Merkel.

Merkel’s Kaput! moment came on May 10, when she went to Moscow to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Deutsche Welle, the state German press agency, called it Merkel’s “compromise after she stayed away from a Russian military parade the day before.”



At the following press conference with Putin, Merkel said: “We have sought more and more cooperation in recent years. The criminal and illegal annexation of Crimea and the military hostilities in eastern Ukraine has led to a serious setback for this cooperation.” German sources say the word Merkel said, “verbrecherische” has rarely been used by her before; it carries the connotation in colloquial German of gangsterism — and of Nazism. “Merkel doesn’t seem to care what she says any longer,” a high-level German source says. “She exhibits more and more emotion these days, more irritation, and less care for what she says, and where. Putin understood exactly what she meant, and on the occasion she said it. He acted with unusual generosity not to react.”

The Kremlin transcript omitted Merkel’s remarks altogether. The Moscow newspapers ignored Merkel’s word and emphasized the positive Putin ones. “Our country fought not against Germany,” Putin replied to Merkel, “but against Nazi Germany. We never fought Germany, which itself became the Nazi regime’s first victim. We always had many friends and supporters there.

US state radio followed with an attempt to endorse Merkel’s “verbrecherische”, and castigate the Kremlin for ignoring it. “An official interpreter at a Kremlin press conference has omitted a top Western leader’s stinging criticism of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on May 12.

Reporter Carl Schreck claimed he “is unclear whether the interpreter made a conscious call to soft-pedal Merkel’s rebuke, or simply missed the word…One person who certainly would have understood the German word for ‘criminal’ used by Merkel – ‘verbrecherisch’ — is Putin himself. The Russian leader, who was stationed in Dresden with the Soviet KGB in the 1980s, is a fluent German speaker and in the past has spoken with Merkel in her native language. Whether he heard the word might depend on what ear Putin was listening with. He sported an earpiece on his left ear, presumably to listen to the Russian-language interpreter. His right ear — the one closest to Merkel — was free of electronic accoutrements.”

Schreck – the word in German means fright or scare — was a reporter for the Moscow Times for several years before moving to Prague for the US government. On his own website he doesn’t explain his German background, or whether his Washington state upbringing included the German language. Compared to Putin, Schreck is a soft touch for the oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. For him Schreck’s most sensitive question has been: “What do you look for in a woman?”

Verbrecherische isn’t the first instance of Merkel’s loose lips sinking her own ship. Last November she picked more aggressive German for impromptu remarks than were set down in the chancellery’s script. But that was in Australia, and Putin had already left the country. Merkel isn’t the only politician to say things in Australia which don’t count in the rest of the world.

The irony of Merkel’s May 10 attack on Putin is that Kremlin sources believe Putin has been the last of the officials on the Security Council to give Merkel the benefit of their strategic doubt. Yevgeny Primakov, Putin’s most experienced strategic advisor, has been telling him privately for months there is no prospect of salvaging the German-Russian entente while Merkel is chancellor, and no hope for the German opposition to break her grip in the short run.

October 29, 2014: Putin calls on Primakov at his home to celebrate the latter’s 85th birthday.


In public, on January 15, Primakov said: “External changes that would favor Russia should not be expected anytime soon. It is doubtful that the sanctions will be cancelled in the near future. Betting on some politicians and European businessmen who speak against the sanctions is not realistic.” Primakov omitted the adjective German out of politeness. He and the Russian intelligence services regard Merkel as Washington’s patsy.

Two days after Merkel’s trip to Moscow, on May 12, Kerry met with Putin and Lavrov in Sochi. The Kremlin communique was minimal, acknowledging that “special focus” had been given to the Ukraine conflict. “The Russian side gave its assessments of the reasons behind the Ukrainian crisis, stating the key points of Russia’s position. It was stressed during the meeting that Russia strives to implement the Minsk Agreements in full and will do its utmost to support this process.”



By “reasons behind”, Putin and Lavrov meant Nuland and the Washington war party. Ahead of the Sochi meeting, the State Department spokesman had tried to play up Kerry, and downplay Nuland. “You can’t deal with diplomatic issues if you don’t do diplomacy,” the spokesman declared on May 11. On May 13, the spokesman was asked if “United States is ready to put pressure on Ukraine to fully implement Minsk II agreements”, and ducked the question.

On the next day, by the time Nuland was in Kiev meeting Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and President Petro Poroshenko, the spokesman claimed the “United States’ full and unbreakable support for Ukraine’s government, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.”

Whatever devil can be read in these details, US Government statements indicate something new — there are now only two pairs of shoulders, Merkel’s having been shouldered aside. If there’s to be a settlement of the Ukraine conflict, it will be trilateral, according to the US, one between the US, Russia, and Ukraine. From the Russian point of view, it’s plain this means a deal between Russia and the US, with Nuland to keep the Ukrainian government in line.

Nuland has insisted that she was right beside Kerry in his meetings in Sochi. The press photographs have excluded her. The Kremlin, Lavrov and Kerry have spoken as if Nuland wasn’t there.

In Sochi Kerry also went to the trouble of showing Merkel how to behave in front of a memorial to the Russian dead in the war against Germany.



According to Kerry,“the war memorial here in Sochi [is] where more than 4,000 of the millions of courageous then-Soviets who died in World War II are buried. And it’s a very beautiful memorial and I was very moved by the young children who were there taking part in the ceremony. And I think Sergey and I both came away from this ceremony with a very powerful reminder of the sacrifices that we shared to bring about a safer world, and of what our nations can accomplish when our peoples are working together towards the same goal.”

Kerry also gave the regime in Kiev a warning of what not to interpret from anything Nuland may be saying. “If… President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time,” Kerry said in Sochi, “we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.”

Now that Nuland has been excluded from the decision-making of the big boys, her job was to go to Kiev to tell the smaller boys what the new US line is. Yatseniuk’s version of their talks – minus the customary photo opportunity – was that “the key topics of the talks were questions of overcoming Russian aggression and the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the implementation of economic reforms and the fight against corruption, as well as the assistance from the United States in these processes. Yatsenyuk and Nuland discussed the status of implementation of the program of cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, as well as the preparation for a free trade zone between Ukraine and the European Union from January 1, 2016.”

Poroshenko stuck to pledging allegiance: “coordination of our actions with the U.S. is vitally important,” is the only quote the presidential website posted from the meeting. Photo opportunities were also curtailed.



Nuland’s version, according to the US Embassy transcript, was to emphasize just how “eager [we are] to deepen our involvement in helping the parties achieve full implementation—everything from complete ceasefire and pullback on the line of control, to the political pieces, to the border pieces.” By “political pieces” Nuland meant the constitutional changes for eastern Ukraine Putin insists on and Kerry mentioned, while Nuland bit her tongue.

Nuland has also ignored Yatseniuk’s requests for more money because Washington will neither declare it’s in favour of a Ukrainian default on its US-held sovereign bonds at the end of this month, nor provide any money to stop it.

Victor-PinchukInstead, the US Treasury rolled out its former Secretary, Lawrence Summers, to announce that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “has done as much as can reasonably be asked”. Summers, on the receiving end of Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk’s treasury (right), is this week omitting to call for fresh European Union money or contributions from the Ukrainian oligarchs.

Summers says he is also opposed to an offer of new American taxpayer money. Instead, his US Treasury plan is that “Ukraine’s creditors — led by the investment firm Franklin Templeton, but also with the support of a number of major US fund managers, who are sufficiently embarrassed by their selfish and unconstructive position that they avoid public identification — are playing hardball and refusing any write-offs. Understandably, if there are a substantial group of such free riders, other debt holders including the Russians will not accept writedowns… The IMF and national authorities should call out the recalcitrant creditors on their irresponsible behaviour.”

In Kiev Nuland put Merkel in her place, relegating her and the French to a single mention in last place in the process to decide the outcome of the Ukraine settlement. The US, she said in Kiev, is “in lockstep with our European allies and partners”. Lockstep means chain-gang — Germany must follow where the US leads. The Merkel Kaput! has been followed by the Merkel kibosh!

Dictionary note: Kaput started in French, when it meant losing in cards, and passed into English via the German kaputt during World War 1. Kibosh, disposed of in English, is derived from the Irish caidhp bháis, meaning death cap — the hood put on someone before execution, or the black cap worn by English judges when pronouncing the death sentence.

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  1. vidimi

    This week Victoria Nuland, the junior State Department official

    junior? doesn’t she report directly to kerry? functionally, she must be one of the most senior people at state.

      1. vidimi

        fair enough. that’s surprising given the latitude she is given, what with meeting with heads of state and directing ambassadors.

  2. diptherio

    Kibosh, disposed of in English, is derived from the Irish caidhp bháis, meaning death cap — the hood put on someone before execution, or the black cap worn by English judges when

    When what, man?!? For gawdsake, don’t leave me hanging!

    1. susan the other

      and I’m betting that the Germans are not exactly paymasters; but rather some free-riders on the long haul…

  3. ErnstThalmann

    And why this sudden reversal of perspective by Washington? Disfigured by earlier American propaganda, is Putin to emerge from these latest developments as Uncle Vladimir? Frankly, after extracting from the United States all it can with the Minsk deal, Putin ought to tell Kerry to stick it in his ear. Clearly, Kerry perceives some weakness in the further pursuit of the warmongering. Paul Craig Roberts feels its the isolation Kerry senses as a result of the impressive support Russia received from China, India and others at their annual Victory Day parade. And after the recent initiative shown by Merkel and her French opposite number with Putin, isn’t it a bit doubtful to cast her as a die hard anti-Russian. If it weren’t for the stirrings of independence evinced by Merkel and Hollande, Kerry might be raving about “Russian aggression”. The article misses all of the important whys.

    1. jgordon

      On the regime’s new regard for Putin: We have always been at war with Eastasia!


      I’ve begun to revise my opinion of Kerry. He portrayed the bumbling incompetent extremely well when the neocons were in ascendancy within the Obama regime and thus failed to get us into multiple wars that we would otherwise now be engaged in (more than we already are that is). Now that the regime has perhaps decided that nuclear annihilation would not be such a good outcome after all, Kerry is able to show his full potential as a peacemaker and diplomat. I was wrong about you Kerry. Good job. Now let’s hope he can keep all those witless fools who bought ambassadorships from the regime from igniting WWIII.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The Pentagon and a good deal of Washington’s biggest fear is American pilots being dragged through foreign streets. The veneer of invincibility let’s the elites start wars, but the Syrians could have retaliated against naval assets and planes. I suspect a great number in the Pentagon were worried, and lovers don’t get cushy defense or media jobs. It’s bad pr.

        Except Ollie North, but he obviously made a deal.

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        This all seems pretty revisionist if you ask me, Team Obomba completely overplayed their hand and went full retard demonizing Putin (funny how we never heard anything more about that plane Putin “shot down”). Then Merkel and Hollande created the Minsk framework with zero input from the World’s Apex Bully. After egg was fully applied to face, the bleeding obvious was acknowledged, namely that it was the US, not Russia, that was being isolated, Kerry crawled back to Sochi to try and get back in the game. Maybe they finally realized that Ukraine is a hot potato, basket case, money pit, and Russia really isn’t that great a choice for the Next Great Enemy. It’ll be fun to watch how they try to pivot from “Putin is Unquestionably the Worst Guy in the World” to “Aww He’s Not That Bad Really”. What a clown show, in the end it just reinforces how incredibly unreliable America is, you line up with the US at your peril.
        History is a litany of strange bedfellows joining up to oppose tyrannical military empires, this seems no different.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Hi OTPBDHAL

          Merkel and Hollande created the Minsk framework with zero input from the World’s Apex Bully
          Don’t drink the Cool-Aid.


          Maybe they finally realized . . .
          They know the evil they do. That’s why its evil.


          It’ll be fun to watch how they try to pivot . .
          What makes you think they will pivot? Because Putin’s ‘price’ for a hastily arranged, high-level discussion was a PR ‘win’?


          clown show
          I understand your sentiment but these are maneuvers in a deadly serious ‘game’.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Hi JR
            I know it’s a “deadly serious game”, that’s why I wish our side would show up with at least the first clue as to where the chess pieces are, how many we have, how they move and why.
            Shrill, terrifying harridans like Hilary and Susan Rice trashing nations left and right is so…unbecoming. Clueless ingenues like Obomba waving his executive “stick” around the china shop and smashing everything in sight…America’s brand credibility, civil liberties, economic policy, trade policy…it’s depressing.
            I’m really trying to avoid the conclusion that as Pepe Escobar says we’re simply the “Empire of Chaos” and just want to sow uncertainty and risk around the globe.
            Maybe that is the *real* strategy though…just start WWIII and then everyone will crawl back to the USD sphere like they did at Bretton Woods.
            Generals fighting the last war, as always it seems.

    2. raf

      the simple truth is that while eastern europe sees itself as the victim of russian persecution and domination in the past, the rest of the world outside the west does not. instead it sees US and western belligerence and continuing patronisation. its quite interesting how quickily the US and europe moved to impose sanctions on russia over ukraine for example, compared to the meandering – over years to do the same against aparthied south africa. in the latter case the west, as usual led by the US argued that sanctions on south africa would hurt the poor most – who they were meant to help. in that context, it suggests they don’t care how their sanctions on russia impacts its poor!

    3. Rabbit Hole

      This is a very questionable article at best.

      It is a combination of face saving because the Minsk agreement did not include the US, blaming and throwing Merkel under the bus. and a head fake because I do not believe US policy has changed.

      Time will tell and probably soon.

      This is political theater, and layers of deception on all sides in my opinion.

      In the end Russia, the Neocons, and Merkel could care less about the distraction of the pawn Ukraine.

      This guy gets it.

      We the People Stand Alone.

      “I relate these points because the future I am about to suggest here might sound outlandish and insane to some, because it is so contrary to the “official” accounting of our current world. It is important to remember that the mainstream, the majority, is almost always wrong and that the truth is very rarely accepted broadly until calamity has already fallen.”

  4. Jesper

    Actions speak louder than words. I like this bit:
    ” “United States’ full and unbreakable support for Ukraine’s government, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.””
    The words are that the US stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine but the reality is that (luckily?) the US is an ocean away. & who are ‘we’? Could it be the ‘we’ as in the old joke:

    Greece who is already in the EU seems unable to get EU money so an outside observer might come to the conclusion that Ukraine who is not in the EU is even less likely to get EU money. So, who’s left as potential support for the Ukraine oligarchs? The US….
    Maybe that is an explanation as to why some leaders are sidelined? Or will the conflict continue if the US withdraws its support for Poroshenko?
    But dropping support for Poroshenko might be a loss of face so my guess is that to save face of the US the support will continue and the frozen conflict will continue. Who loses the most in that scenario? The people of Ukraine.

    1. sufferin'succotash

      “Could it be the ‘we’ as in the old joke…”
      The Tonto Option seems pretty convincing and I don’t think the answer is too far to seek. It’s about Russian backing in the nuclear talks with Iran, which presumably have to resume pretty soon in order to meet the June 30 deadline. Improving relations with Iran clears the way for a joint effort against ISIS. If this results in de facto Iranian control over Shia Iraq, so be it. Iran can’t do a worse job of screwing things up than we did and Iraq will be off the front pages in time for 2016. What’s not to like?

    2. hunkerdown

      The fallacy of composition — the arrogant “we” — is the very foundation of rule, isn’t it? Give every pronoun in official speech the Tonto analysis, and you will be Enlightened.

  5. James Levy

    I’ll face rebuke I’m sure, but two things seem obvious to me: 1) the quality of those in positions of political power globally is abysmal, well below average historical standards; 2) Merkel, Hollande, Cameron, Abe, and Obama are the worst agglomeration of “great power” leaders since I can’t say when. Perhaps this is accidental, but I fear it is structural. Since everything in the domestic political processes in these nations is predicated on the needs of economic elites to keep what they have and expand their wealth and influence, issues of war and peace are irrelevant to the selection of national leaders. Everything is subordinated to finding a safe pair of hands that will protect and expand the wealth and influence of the Power Elite. So issues like climate change, international relations, military confrontations, resource depletion, and overpopulation are being handled (or not handled) by men and women who hold office for reasons that have nothing to do with having any competency for dealing with these critical issues. The mismatch between the problems we face and the abilities of those in positions of power who might address them seems as staggering as at any time since the late Roman Empire. That may sound like an exaggeration, but if climate change and overpopulation are the problems I think they are, then it is not.

    1. bruno marr

      …well, climate change and overpopulation are real. The “leaders” you mentioned simply don’t have the capacity or courage to address real issues.

      1. James Levy

        But if I can see that, then why isn’t the system finding, or even trying to find, men and women who can deal with those issues? We’ve only got one planet, and the elite are still a long way away from being to fly off to Moonbase Alpha or Alpha Centauri or anyplace else if the shit hits the fan here. It’s not as if the elite in this and those other societies are powerless to effect who gets chosen to run these countries. Perhaps the people with the money and the power are just that stupid. I just don’t know.

        1. tgs

          It seems our elites are stuck in a kind of prisoner’s dilemma – if anyone defects – and acts rationally on issues like climate change – then their competitors win.

          Couldn’t agree more about the quality of leadership in the ‘west’ (where ‘west’ includes Japan, Australia etc.,) –

        2. hunkerdown

          They don’t want Moon Base Alpha — that’s just the sci-fi consumer’s version of 72 virgins. They just want first dibs on the arable land and the good climate here. As for adaptation, that’s what the rest of us are apparently here for.

          If you can’t find heroes, maybe they know you’re sending them up Hamburger Hill and you don’t?

        3. steelhead23

          Let’s name this malady – entitlement to power syndrome. The global economic elite aren’t a cabal, meeting in Davos to design the new world order, they are a set of independent actors, seeking self-aggrandizement in the present, without a care for others and certainly unfazed by the fate of those yet to be born and able to consume their goods. Seen through that frame “stupid policies” that endanger everyone, including themselves, are simply a result of the frame. Remember that old Smith Barney add?, “We make money the old-fashioned way – we earn it.” I believe the elite truly believe they are smarter than the rest of us, and believe they’re own hype and are followers of Leo Strauss – the vulcans – even if their wealth was inherited or derived from market power or other constructs of “the system.” It is this hubris that leads them to make stupid decisions and accept without self-reflection, unfortunate outcomes. In short, they are extremely dangerous.

        4. Alan

          “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

          Upton Sinclair

          And that’s the leaders we have.

        5. Vatch

          Many religious leaders (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, others) deny that overpopulation is a problem. I know that many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians also deny that global warming is a problem — I don’t know about leaders of other religions. Such religious leaders wield a lot of power, and don’t care whether the world’s biosphere is harmed or destroyed, since they have the afterlife to look forward to.

    2. hemeantwell

      Everything is subordinated to finding a safe pair of hands that will protect and expand the wealth and influence of the Power Elite

      Perhaps what is different is that the Power Elite has changed, at least in the sense that, given globalization, their interests are more loosely tied to any particular nation than in the past and their interests have become more financially-oriented. Both make for a less well-defined interest horizon.

    3. paulmeli

      “the quality of those in positions of political power globally is abysmal, well below average historical standards…”

      “Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?” – Axel Oxenstierna 1583 – 1654

      1. hunkerdown

        It’s said that history is written by the victors. I’m not sure that’s exactly correct; I think history is continually and forever curated and dressed (and sometimes pointedly forgotten, see Texas Board of Education) by the victors, for the victors. Thus, present-day figures tend to seem lightweight compared to those in the past, if only because the controversy hasn’t been retroactively “decided” yet.

    4. Jack

      Where do you view Putin in terms of competency? I doubt he’s an exceptional mastermind by historical standards, but he’s dancing circles around the band of idiots he’s confronted with. Not that I much like him, or what he’s doing domestically in Russia, but that’s their business.

      1. vidimi

        i see putin as russia’s answer to augustus caesar with lavrov and medvedev the rest of his triumvirate.

        what he has done with russia after the depravity of the yeltsin years is nothing short of remarkable. of course, given the power he wields he is a threat to the population, and the imperial power he has consolidated will be an even bigger problem for the russian people when it falls into lesser hands, but the lives of ordinary russians have improved drastically under him.

  6. Yonatan

    Given Russia has stated that Ukraine will cease to be a transit route for gas to Europe, it is not surprising that the US has discarded it and is now focusing on Macedonia to pull the same regime change stunts in order to block / control the flow through Turk Steam.

    The tactics have changed but the strategy remains.

    1. guest

      The fact that what looked like controlled fires put by or supported by the NATO in the Near East (Yemen, Syria, Iraq) and Northern Africa (Libya) are now raging wildly while those once promising endeavours in South Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan continue their inexorable collapse further reinforces a more sobering approach to Ukraine. There is just way too much developing not necessarily to the advantage of the USA simultaneously — some breathing space is needed.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I’d argue those were never intended to be “controlled burns”, they were intended from the outset to sow chaos, now we just harvest the whirlwind: more money from Grandma’s pockets to the Military-Surveillance-Industrial Complex.

  7. alex morfesis

    merkel orders greece to invade ukraine

    see…it’s a bit laughable to Vladimir Raz-Putin to worry about the Iron Maiden as the germany she is leading has maybe 150 operational tanks. And everyone country around her has just as few more maybe…

    where are most of the NATO tanks of the EU ???

    in Greece and Turkey…1400 in Hellas and 3500 in Turkey…

    she doesn’t even have enough tanks to do a dustin hoffman special….

    das menz of das tree oh tree

  8. Peter Pan

    I suspect the US Dept of State is attempting a “good cop – bad cop” schtick with Russia. John Kerry plays good cop in Sochi and then Victoria Nuland returns to Moscow to play the bad cop. I seriously doubt that anything toward a substantive enforcement of Minsk II accord will come of these meetings. I hope I’m wrong.

    Regarding the write down of Ukrainian debt, I would normally agree that this is the right approach. However, given all the crap surrounding writing down debt (or providing further time & assistance) in Greece in addition to the fiasco surrounding the Argentinian debt situation, it’s hard for me to single out Ukraine as deserving a debt write down or restructuring, especially since much of the money from that debt eventually ended up in the hands of corrupt oligarchs. Furthermore,it’s highly doubtful that Russia will agree to a debt write down (payment due at the end of 2015?) since that debt agreement was structured under UK law.

    1. Nick

      Good-cop, bad-cop sounds reasonable, either way, the Kremlin will try to twist the truth for domestic consumption. Meanwhile, oil resumes its downward spiral, which helps Germany and EU, and further erodes Russian influence. Could be a good spring for Ukraine.

      1. OIFVet

        “It’s springtime for oligarchy and Banderastan”? Sorry, I don’t see it becoming a hit neither by intention nor by accident.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Versailles on the Potomac isn’t reasonable. It’s reactionary. The original plan of color revolutioning Putin out of Russia to be replaced by a Yeltsin failed led to greater integration with China. Now that Poroshenko and friends are such obvious thugs, Obama needs to deal with Russia which will separate Moscow from Beijing because China’s century (so to speak) is dependent on a Russian led confederation counter weight to China’s size and geography. For example, Hanoi can’t deal with Beijing on its own, but with Russian mediators and interests, a partnership can be realized.

        The problem is Russia would have gladly been a non-vassal junior partner within a U.S. led world except as Lavrov has noted DC only sees vassals and enemies.

        1. Nick

          This is laughable, the US (along with EU, IMF, World Bank ect…) are steadily increasing aid to Ukraine. Aid packages take months to put together, but the money is now flowing. Oil prices will continue to tumble, further blunting the Russian threat. As Putin is nearly 63, his time is running out anyway. There is no downside for maintaining Russian sanctions for the next several years.

          1. OIFVet

            Good lord, that’s quite some strategy. You will wait for Putin to kick the bucket while Ukraine gets looted by the “aid” provided to it by the IMF and the Euro economies keep piling up losses as Russia turns to other partners such as Turkey, China and the BRICS, Iran, and South America. But “falling oil prices”! Oil prices are on an upward trend last I checked (five minutes ago) and not even the Saudis can try to maintain them low indefinitely. So you will bleed the Euro lemmings dry… Have you bothered to ask them about your plan? Yeah, I know the Euro elites are on board. I also know that Euro nationalism is rising and will rise further as their economies decline while you wait for Putin to go away. And most of those nationalists are friendly to neither the Euro elites nor to the US. Good plan Nick, best of luck with it. Watch out for the blowback.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Bloomberg has been reporting for well over a month that Russia is getting by just fine. Taken some lumps but not the hits the US desperately hoped it would. There’s even a report in the FT tonight (I linked to it) remarking on the absence of signs of meaningful economic stress in Russia.

          3. vidimi

            the russian stock market has been the best performing stock market ytd and the ruble the best performing currency.

            take that for what it’s worth, but it’s clear the sanctions aren’t working.

    2. Praedor

      They’re all neocon/neoliberal morons (the Western “leaders”). They say “territorial integrity of Ukraine” meaning Crimea as part of Ukraine when that is, in fact, not ever going to happen. Kruschev handed Crimea to the Ukraine without any input whatsoever from the people in Crimea, a long and traditional part of Russia, NOT Ukraine, and now Crimea is back where it started and should have always been. Crimea is never going to be part of Ukraine again. It is Russian with a major Russian (permanent) naval base there (the REAL reason Nuland/Kerry/Obama wanted Crimea to stay with Ukraine so they could eject Russia from their major base in the Black Sea). Putin beat them at the game and took it back. Kruschev giveth, Putin taketh away. Reality. Eastern Ukraine IS going to be heavily Russian and aligned with Russia in the coming Federal reorganization. That cannot be changed. Nuland lost. Kerry lost. Obama lost. Imbeciles.

    3. Gerard Pierce

      I still think that Russia should transfer their Ukrainian bonds to Greece for $1 and some future consideration to be named later. Greece could then use those bonds to pay off the IMF, leaving the EU and US to deal with the debt. Might not accomplish much, but the whole thing could be very entertaining.

  9. VietnamVet

    The ongoing wars from Ukraine to Somalia have either two outcomes; World War III or de-escalation. The current crop of western leaders are servants to the money men. The Middle East wars were one thing. Christians and Muslims have been fighting for a thousand years. But, the takeover of Ukraine is proving to be one war too many. Forcing China and Russia to form an alliance is an existential mistake; threatening bankers across the world. Their reserve petrodollar wealth was gone in an instant. The question remains will the money men continue to be tyrants seizing land and wealth today or seeing the financial collapse coming in Greece and Ukraine, make peace with Russia and Greece and resume trade tomorrow.

  10. Jackrabbit

    Beside resumption of diplomacy, what was really accomplished? I am skeptical that there was any real breakthrough. Did the West snub Russia by not joining the Victory Day celebrations – something which is unlikely to have happened without US coordination – only to resume friendly talks days later at Sochi?

    Unless there was a real change in policy, its difficult to divine anything of value from who is “in” or “out”. That Putin/Russia is not fond of Nuland or Merkel is kinda to be expected given Nuland’s role in the Ukrainian coup and Merkel’s weak follow-thru on the Minsk2 Accords. It’s just rearranging deck chairs until there is a real change in policy.

    Also, Ukraine was not the only issue discussed. And did ANYONE expect that the US would publicly say anything other than “we support peace in Ukraine?” Newsflash: we support peace in the middle east too. And motherhood and apple pie.

    I wrote about Sochi a few days ago.

    H O P

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