Ukraine deal prevents further sanctions, for now

Obama’s Doubts

U.S. President Barack Obama said he remained skeptical about yesterday’s agreement producing concrete results.

“I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point,” Obama said at a White House news conference. “We’re not going to know whether, in fact, there’s follow-through on these statements for several days.”

Obama held out the prospect of sanctions against Putin’s government that he said would be crippling, although he added: “We have no desire to see further deterioration of the Russian economy.”

Officials from the Treasury Department and the National Security Council told mutual-fund and hedge-fund managers last week in Washington that they were planning additional sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, according to a person who attended and asked not to be identified because the discussions weren’t public.

“If we’re not able to see progress on the immediate efforts, to be able to implement the principles of this agreement this weekend, then we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva yesterday.

More Sanctions

It’s now “necessary to prove that the Geneva agreements will change politics rather than just remain on paper,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement late yesterday.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and EU President Herman Van Rompuy agreed in a phone conversation that the EU “should continue preparatory work on potential additional sanctions” so “the EU was ready if the agreement was not implemented and the situation on the ground in Ukraine deteriorated,” according to an e-mailed statement from Cameron’s office.

The Russian campaign in eastern Ukraine has been almost entirely covert, a mixture of infiltrating special operations forces, arming protesters, spreading propaganda and bribing local officials for support, said two U.S. officials who requested anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations.

Well-Planned Operation

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the commander of NATO forces, wrote in a blog post yesterday that “what is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well-planned and organized and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia.”

“The pro-Russian ‘activists’ in eastern Ukraine exhibit tell-tale military training and equipment and work together in a way that is consistent with troops who are part of a long- standing unit, not spontaneously stood up from a local militia,” he wrote.

The Geneva agreement was announced after talks among Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and their counterparts, Andriy Deshchytsia of Ukraine and Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief.

Deshchytsia told reporters that “the next couple of days will be crucial” and “will be a test for Russia if Russia wants to really show it’s willing to have stability.”

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