Rocky Rapprochement
Haley Blasts Russia at the UN

When a new surge of fighting broke out in Ukraine’s restive east early this week, all eyes turned to Washington to gauge the response of an administration that has seemed eager to mend ties with Putin. The answer, however, came not from Washington but New York, where U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley sent a clear message condemning Russia’s aggression in her first public statement at the Security Council. Reuters

“I consider it unfortunate on the occasion of my first appearance here I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia,” Haley said, making her first public remarks inside the Security Council since being sworn in as the United States’ representative to the United Nations last month.

“It shouldn’t happen, or be that way. We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.”  […]

“Eastern Ukraine of course is not the only part of the country suffering because of Russia’s aggressive actions. The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea,” Haley said.

“Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

So much for kowtowing to Russia. Haley’s comments showed a degree of continuity with existing U.S. policy that may be surprising to some: continued recognition of Crimea as Ukrainian territory, continued support for sanctions against Russia, and commitment to the fragile Minsk peace agreements. Her tough stance is likely to come as a welcome clarification for Ukraine after days of uncertain signals, including a muted State Department release that declined to specifically blame Russia for the violence and a tepid statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who merely said that Trump was being “kept aware of developments” in Ukraine.

Haley’s statement is also a timely reminder that the U.S.-Russian rapprochement so feverishly anticipated by the press is far from a sure thing. Trump may be eager to explore improved relations with Putin, but the latest news suggest he will not be Putin’s lackey, nor will the U.S. immediately discard its longstanding policies on Russia and Ukraine. Trump’s relationship with Russia could be much rockier than is commonly (and simplistically) assumed.
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