Daily Israel Report

Kerry: Ukraine Conflict Not America Versus Russia

Despite separatist threat of ethnic-Russian Ukrainians and Western leanings of interim govt., Kerry denies it's West versus East.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 2/26/2014, 9:05 AM

John Kerry
John Kerry
Reuters

Ukraine is on the brink of a possible civil war between those wishing to ally with the European Union (EU) and those wishing to remain a Russian proxy, but according to US Secretary of State John Kerry, the conflict is "not West versus East."

Massive protests broke out in Ukraine in November when President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the EU to stay close to Russia. This Sunday, Yanukovych fled the country, which is now left to put together the pieces of a divided and near bankrupt state in forming an interim government.

Kerry met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Washington on Tuesday to discuss Ukraine, and remarked "both of us are committed to doing our part to support the efforts of the people of Ukraine who have spoken out on their own with passion for their ability to have a democratic future," reports BBC.

"This is not a zero-sum game, this is not West versus East. It is not Russia or the United States, this is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choices about the future and we want to work with Russia and other countries, with everybody available, to make sure this is peaceful from this day forward," added Kerry.

Despite Kerry's appraisal, the divide in Ukraine certainly appears to be along the lines of Russia or the EU and US.

Large ethnic-Russian sections in the south and east of the country have protested against the ouster of Yanukovych. On Tuesday, people in Sevastopol on the Crimean Sea replaced a local government building's Ukrainian flag with a Russian flag.

The divide has raised fears of separatism, which interim President Olexander Turchynov called a "serious threat" while speaking before the parliament on Tuesday. The formation of a unity government has been pushed off until Thursday to give time to consider the separatism threat.

Kerry's remarks come after Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on Sunday slammed US President Barack Obama's administration for "naivete." Speaking about Ukraine, McCain noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his desire to "restore the Russian empire." McCain accused the US administration of ignoring the Russians' efforts to expand its influence.

Russia has warned other countries not to look for "unilateral advantages" in Ukraine, even as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has claimed Russia would continue a "policy of non-intervention." Russia in the past has made economic threats against Ukraine to prevent the country from turning to the EU.

As for Russian-backed Yanukovych, whose location remains unknown, the interim government on Tuesday voted to try him at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for being behind the murder of over 100 protesters by riot police.