While the Obama administration insists that supporting Ukrainian Presidential elections are vital to national interests, some members of the US political elite are questioning the costs of getting involved.
During a two hour House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland shared her assessment of the US role in Ukraine's crisis and the upcoming presidential election.
But instantaneously she came under fire from Dana Rohrabacher, a republican congressman from California.
“We did have legitimate election before, and the legitimate president was removed after we had major street violence. There were pictures of people running around that we were told were neo-Nazis,” Rohrabacher challenged Nuland.
Nuland faced a hard time coming up with answers.
“First of all the vast majority of those who were participating on Maidan were peaceful protesters. There were mothers and grandmothers and veterans,” Nuland said, but before being able to continue, Rohrabacher reminded the diplomat of vast presence of violent Ukrainian radicals.
“I saw those pictures and I also saw a lot of people throwing fire bombs at groups of policemen. There were people shooting into the ranks of police. So, yes, there were mothers with flowers, but there were also very dangerous street fighters engaged in those demonstrations. The question is: were there neo-Nazi groups involved?”
Nuland could not provide a definitive answer, saying that “there were many colors of Ukraine involved including very ugly colors.”
For the record, Nuland submitted and read out a statement where she said that US policy towards Ukraine is based on four pillars.
First of all Washington is offering “financial, technical and non-lethal security assistance” for the May 25 election.
“In addition to $92 million in FY2013 State/USAID funds and $86 million in FY2014 funds, we are providing an additional $50 million in technical assistance and the $1 billion dollar loan guarantee under the authority passed by Congress on April 1st.”
The US electoral assistance includes “$11 million for non-partisan election activities, including efforts to support voter education and civic participation” as well as participation as observers in the upcoming poll.
“In addition to the 100 OSCE observers we are sending, the United States is supporting 255 long-term observers and over 3300 short-term observers,” Nuland said.
Financial aid also involves “$18 million in non-lethal security assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces and State Border Guard Service to enable them to fulfill their core missions.”
Secondly the US, Nuland outlined, is working with its international partners “to leave the door open for diplomatic de-escalation should Russia change course,” claiming that Kiev implemented the terms of the Geneva deal, while “Russia fulfilled none of its commitments.”
Third, Washington is steadily increasing economic sanctions Russia’s which Nuland claims is bearing fruit.
“The Russian economy ... is already buckling under the pressure of these internationally imposed sanctions. Its credit ratings are hovering just above junk status,” said Nuland.
Not everyone agreed, with Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, saying many are not convinced that sanctions do indeed produce any effect.
“I don't think it's worked,” he said. “In all fairness, I don't think it's stopped Russia from doing anything.”
Meanwhile, Nuland stated that the last step US is taking in regards to Ukraine is reassuring its NATO allies of US commitment as well as “providing support to other frontline states like Moldova and Georgia.”
“We have worked with our NATO Allies to provide visible reassurance—on land, sea and in the air—that Article 5 of the NATO Treaty means what it says.”
In the meantime, the only tangible proposals on resolving the Ukrainian crisis reached by President Putin and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter during negotiations in Moscow on Wednesday, were ignored by the government in Kiev.
Rejecting the OSCE roadmap, Kiev has put forward its own vague plan of organising “national unity roundtables” with “representatives of all political forces from all regions and civil society.” At the same time Kiev pledged regardless of other developments to continue its “anti-terrorist operation” against southeastern Ukraine, which the Russian foreign ministry says bluntly contradicts the agreement reached in Geneva.