Monday 9/26 - Amb William Courtney - Russian specialist - What's Putin up to?

Monday 9/26
Amb William Courtney
Russian specialist
What's Putin up to?

                                                                                                                                                                                      The shocking release of materials hacked from the Democratic Party National Committee, Federal Security people say, was almost certainly the work of the Russian government. And the Russians’ blatant continuation of systematic doping of its Olympic athletes, also seems to position them as aggressively hostile to the US and the rest of the world.


This complete rejectionism is also reflected in what US and British leaders say was an unprovoked attack by Russian fighter planes on a defenseless aid convoy in Syria, an attack that shattered a US-Russia brokered cease-fire.

And if that weren’t threat enough, the Russians have announced they are sending their only aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Russians have denied the charge that they attacked the aid convoy, in language that again, seems conspicuously undiplomatic.

When Secretary of State John Kerry made an emotional plea to revive the cease-fire agreement, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman was dismissive: “It’s about nothing,” she said. “That was a show.”

So, are Russians just Hell-bent on sticking it to President Barack Obama and the United States…or does their Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s flack have a point? Isn’t almost everything about diplomacy a show?

And, in that context, does that make the acceptance by Putin’s Russian diplomats of a mutual pull back of forces to strengthen a shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine also a show. And, in that case, a show of, What?

The new agreement in Minsk, Belarus — in which both sides promise to step back their guns and troops from the front lines, and Russians again promise to let OSCE observers monitor the truce — is just the latest sign the Russians may be looking for an exit from their Ukrainian misadventure.

Another one was the murder of a recently removed top Russian operative inside secessionist Donbas. His shooting in a Moscow suburb looked like a very professional hit.

Evgeniy Zhilin was the kind of guy who torched Ukraine cease-fires in the past. He won’t mess with this one.

So, could there be real diplomatic dealing going on? Could Russia – at the price of being allowed to keep Crimea – be proposing to stop trying to destabilize Ukraine and follow through on the original Minsk Agreement to help rebuild war-torn eastern Ukraine?

What would Russia want in exchange? For America to end its war against Russia’s ally, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria?



William Harrison Courtney (born July 18, 1944) is an American diplomat who served as representative for the U.S. mostly in Eastern Europe.William Courtney is an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND Corporation and executive director of the RAND Business Leaders Forum, as well as president of the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association. In 2014 he retired from Computer Sciences Corporation as senior principal for federal policy strategy; from 2000 to 2003 he was senior vice president for national security programs at DynCorp (bought by CSC in 2003).



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