Published On: Thu, Mar 13th, 2014

White House Still On Ukraine Diplomatic Track

There were the solid handshakes, the commitments of support, the smiling photo opportunities.At the White House Barack Obama sat next to new Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and promised: “We are firm in saying that we will stand with Ukraine in ensuring its sovereignty and the integrity of its people”.

White House Still On Ukraine

But if the premier was hoping for stronger US sanctions on Russia he leaves Washington disappointed, at least for now.

White House officials tell Sky News they are still hopeful about the diplomatic track and so more severe action is not imminent.

US Secretary of State John Kerry surprised observers announcing a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in London later in the week.

Mr Kerry’s spokeswoman had earlier ruled out any such meetings without signs of concrete steps from Russia in the right direction over Crimea.

Officials now say there are enough encouraging signs from the Russians to make them believe progress is still possible on the diplomatic front.

Almost two weeks ago President Obama warned there would be costs to Russia’s action in Ukraine. Thus far sanctions have been limited to visa bans imposed on a number of Russians.

A list of Russians whose financial assets will be frozen is being drawn up. But that sanction is being held in reserve if Russia does not begin to back down.

Otherwise, America has only cancelled a number of bilateral meetings with Russia and threatened to throw Russia out of the G8 group.

So an enormous amount potentially hangs on the outcome of the Lavrov-Kerry meeting.

If it fails to produce a breakthrough and if the outcome of the Crimean referendum is accepted by the Russians, the Americans will have fewer excuses not to act.