Tensions between the White House and the Kremlin over the ongoing standoff in Ukraine have increased steadily until this week, and have culminated with a complete disconnect between the two world powers.
The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin reports that Russian president Vladimir Putin, having seemingly ignored the international agreement reached in Geneva last week, has halted the "half hearted" negotiations with President Obama over the status of Eastern Ukraine, and will no longer talk to the White House directly. This new development comes on the heels of threats from the U.S. and the European Union for new sanctions as punishment for the continued escalating violence in Ukraine.
The lack of communication puts a huge damper on any hope diplomacy will end the ongoing situation in Ukraine. The calls were seen as perhaps the only chancethe two superpowers could solve this crisis intelligently. The two leaders last spoke on April 14 at Putin's request. Before that, conversations occurred on March 28, March 16 and March 6. How helpful the calls were is debatable considering they were openly described as "tense," by senior officials, partly because Putin denies any notion that Russia has instigated the conflict in Ukraine.
This is a new low for Putin and Obama's terrible relationship, which, over the last year, has done nothing but get worse. But, perhaps worryingly, they are not the only top diplomats from either country on non-speaking terms. Per the Daily Beast:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is also getting the cold shoulder from his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu. Pentagon officials have reached out to Russia on Mr. Hagel’s behalf within the past 24 hours but have not gotten any response, according to Pentagon Spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a final warning for Russia on Thursday, promising more punishments if conditions in the Ukraine do not improve. "The Geneva agreement is not open to interpretation," Kerry said . "It is not vague, it is not subjective, it is not optional."
"The window to change course is closing," Kerry added later. "If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake."
Earlier Friday, Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russia of wanting "to start world war three." No matter what the situation on the ground, the rhetoric has certainly not cooled.