Ukraine’s complex transition
Edited By Klaus Bachmann and Igor Lyubashenko
From Maidan to Moscow: Washington’s response to the crisis in Ukraine
Toluca, Mexico, is an unusual setting for the President of the United States to make some revealing comments about Ukraine. But that was precisely the place Barack Obama chose on 19 February 2014 to deliver his first personal remarks in public on the crisis in that European country.2
The president had travelled to Mexico for a North American Leaders Summit, but as Kyiv found itself in the grip of the worst violence in years, Mr Obama had no alternative but to bring the deepening crisis to the forefront. Without being asked and shortly after his arrival to Toluca, the President condemned the violence in “the strongest terms”, said the US would hold the Ukrainian government responsible and warned that there would be consequences if people stepped “over the line”.3
Later that same day, his administration demonstrated its concern by announcing a visa ban on 20 unnamed senior Ukrainian officials who it considered to be responsible for the chaos.4 That decision would be an early sign of the sanctions that were to become the White House’s preferred tool for responding to the crisis.
The president also discussed Russia’s role in its neighbouring country. He acknowledged that Moscow and Washington had different views, and rejected the popular notion of his being on a “Cold War chessboard”.5 His comments were ← 321 | 322 → described at the time as “an unusually personal attack on the Russian President”,6 Vladimir Putin, but they would soon become...
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