Obama Seen Gaining on Putin as U.S. Prods EU on Sanctions
By Terry Atlas and Jonathan Allen Jul 20, 2014 11:00 PM CT
President Barack Obama’s response to the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine reflects the consensus of U.S. officials that time, evidence, and world opinion are increasingly on his side as he takes on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Secretary of State John Kerry cited the tragedy yesterday in an effort to prod Europeans into expanding sanctions against Russia, even at some peril to their own economies, in an effort to break Putin’s support for pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists. “We are trying to encourage our European friends to realize this is a wake-up call,” Kerry said on “Fox News Sunday,” invoking a phrase used last week by Obama.
U.S. officials, some speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss administration strategy, said the shooting down of the civilian jetliner —- blamed by the U.S. on pro-Russian separatists armed by Russia —- should ignite anti-Putin sentiment and push reluctant EU countries to catch up to the more stringent sanctions the U.S. had imposed last week. Dutch and other European citizens were among the 298 passengers and crew that perished.
This gives Obama confidence that the U.S. and EU can prevail over Putin in the short-run -- overcoming European reluctance to expand sanctions -- just as the Obama administration believes it will prevail in the long-run over a Russia that has a battered economy and a leader who is overplaying a weak hand, the officials said.