Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Obama: Silent on Ukraine

by Elliott Abrams
December 9, 2013


Last week, National Security Adviser Susan Rice gave a long speech about administration human rights policy.

Here is one passage:

We often can cooperate with Russia on nonproliferation, arms control, counterterrorism and other vital interests.  But, as we meet these mutual challenges, we don’t remain silent about the Russian government’s systematic efforts to curtail the actions of Russian civil society, to stigmatize the LGBT community, to coerce neighbors like Ukraine who seek closer integration with Europe, or to stifle human rights in the North Caucasus.

Well, maybe not silent about Ukraine–but close enough to it.

There have been massive demonstrations Ukraine this weekend –despite very bad weather and police repression– and ever since President Yanukovich rejected an agreement that would have tied Ukraine more closely to Western Europe and the EU. He chose instead closer ties to Moscow and met this weekend with Putin. The whole story is well told at CFR’s main site today.

Where is President Obama? Rice last week repeatedly assured us of the administration’s commitment to human rights (“advancing democracy and respect for human rights is central to our foreign policy.  It’s what our history and our values demand, but it’s also profoundly in our interests”) but neither she nor the President nor the Secretary of State has said much about the extraordinary events in Kiev. It’s time for them –personally, not through nameless spokesmen– to offer at least moral support to the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians out in the streets, and to denounce the suppression of dissent by the Yanukovich government. It is not in the interest of the United States for Ukraine to fall back into the Russian orbit–nor for our top officials to remain indifferent and near silent in the face of the largest manifestation of a demand for freedom to occur in years in Europe.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    At the risk of being frank , the simple fact is that Obama’s afraid of Putin … and worse … Putin knows it .

  • Posted by stephen Albert

    Last week Canada,s Foreign Minister John Baird marched with demonstrates in Kiev.

    Like the French in Mali and the Central Africa Republic, my country is acting as if human rights and international law actually mean something., One would have hope the that the President of the U.S. would have done the same.

  • Posted by Andrei

    As a strong supporter of President Obama in general, very disappointed on his inaction, given that US has a variety of tools that could be used. It seems like a desire for Russian cooperation on Iran and Syria trumps the desire to support Ukrainian people in their fight against their corrupt and oppressive government and ruling elite.

  • Posted by Irena Lasota

    Elliott Abrams was Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs during the martial law cracdown in Poland in December 1981. He was one of most important politicians conducting the policy of defending Solidarnosc and the opposition in Poland. He was instrumental in defeating communism in Poland. How different would be the US policy toward Ukraine if he had a say today

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