No Puppet
Still Waiting for Trump’s Russia Reset

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin on Tuesday, and according to the readout, the new administration intends to toe the line on Ukraine and uphold sanctions against Russia. RFE/RL:

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the meeting that Tillerson told Klimkin the U.S. sanctions against Russia would remain in place until “aggression is ceased,” until the Minsk peace deal to end fighting between Kyiv’s forces and Russia-backed separatists is implemented, and until Moscow returns to Kyiv control of Crimea and separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner largely confirmed the ministry’s characterization of the two diplomats’ discussions of sanctions.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has officially rebuked the Russians for their recent missile launch in violation of the INF treaty:

Russia has deployed a land-based cruise missile that violates the “spirit and intent” of an arms control treaty and poses a threat to NATO, Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva said on Wednesday. […]

“The system itself presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe and we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility,” Selva said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Under normal circumstances, neither item would be particularly newsworthy; reaffirming commitments and calling out rivals for treaty violations are rudimentary elements of statecraft. But in a charged media landscape fixated on Trump’s Russia ties, it is worth noting once again that the administration has so far done nothing to tilt foreign policy in Russia’s favor. If Tillerson sticks to the commitment expressed to Klimkin, then sanctions are here to stay, and if advisors like General Selva hold sway in Trump’s security team, we can expect a conventionally hawkish policy toward Russia. This is hardly good news for Moscow, but it does cast further doubt on the dubious Manchurian candidate thesis.

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