Ukraine Military Operations in East Draw U.S., Russian Accusations
Ukraine resumed military operations against armed pro-Russian separatists in the country's east, leaving five militants dead and one police officer injured as authorities sought to wrest control of Sloviansk, in northern Donetsk Oblast. Earlier Thursday, Ukrainian forces repelled several dozen rebels who attempted to take control of a military base, according to officials in Kiev (Kyiv Post). The escalation comes as the United States and Russia exchanged accusations of meddling. U.S. president Barack Obama, in Japan, said Russia has not abided by "the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva," and added that new sanctions were "teed up" (AP). Russian president Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine's interim government against its military crackdown, following Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks earlier this week comparing the situation with conditions leading up to Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia (FT).
"In many ways, the hunt for clear, undeniable proof of direct Russian involvement in the eastern Ukrainian rebellion — above all, the presence of its special forces and intelligence officers — has become a political Rorschach test. Those determined to deny any Russian role can airily dismiss all claims. Those eager to prove a link see evidence all around them. But both miss the point. It is safe to assume that Russian operatives are there, but to assume that they are the gunmen is to misunderstand the nature of the Russian campaign and the new kind of war being fought," writes Mark Gaelotti in the Moscow Times.
"Dispatching a few more troops to Poland and the Baltics will be pointless if the alliance does not remake the political case for collective defence. Nato's mission is to avoid wars by serving as a credible deterrent. But the deterrence will be credible only if governments restore its legitimacy in the eyes of voters who have grown deeply cynical about the efficacy of defence spending. Ukraine should have been a wake-up call for Europeans about the returning threat to the security and freedom they have come to take for granted. The opinion polls suggest it has been otherwise," writes Philip Stephens in the Financial Times.
"Ukraine is facing serious threats today—Russian separatism, military invasion from Russia—but an equally serious threat appears to lie within Ukraine's own domestic politics. The path it has taken for over 20 years since the break-up of the USSR has been different from the rest of the former Soviet states. But unless it leaders chart a new course after this latest revolution, being different may not be enough to overcome the threats facing the country," writes Eugene Rumer in Eurasia Outlook.
No Trade Agreement During Obama’s Japan Visit
Japanese economics minister Akira Amari said too many issues remained unresolved in U.S.-Japan trade talks, part of a broader Pacific Rim trade deal, dispelling both countries' hopes that an agreement or progress could be announced during U.S. president Barack Obama's visit, which ends Friday (AP).
Foreign policy crises have repeatedly distracted the White House from carrying out its intended pivot to Asia, argues CFR's Fred Kaplan in Slate.
PA: Palestinian Reconciliation Based on Two-State Solution
The reconciliation agreement reached by Palestinian political factions Hamas and Fatah on Wednesday is based on a two-state solution and recognizes the state of Israel, a Palestinian Authority official told Israel radio (Haaretz). Israel and the United States condemned the move, saying it harmed the faltering peace process.
CFR's Robert Danin says Hamas and Fatah are unlikely to bridge the differences required for the deal's implementation.
Turkey Expresses First-Ever Condolences for Armenian Killings
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered condolences to Armenians on the ninety-ninth anniversary of the World War I-era mass killings, a conciliatory statement that is the first of its kind for Turkey, which denies Armenian charges of genocide (Hurriyet).