During a joint White House press conference on Thursday, President Donald Trump said the U.S. would need to watch carefully what the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was doing in Ukraine.
“We’re watching very carefully what the OSCE is doing,” he said. “In regard to Ukraine, certainly we will be watching very carefully.”
Mr. Trump has given the OSCE high marks in the past, and many within the organization would welcome the opportunity to push back against Russia. For the last year and a half, the United States has encouraged the organization to intervene in a variety of ways, including with the responsibility of recognizing Donetsk and Luhansk — Ukrainian territory controlled by Russia — as independent states. The Washington Post first reported the news of the OSCE’s plans on Thursday.
A 2014 agreement between Russia and Ukraine aimed to make international observers, including the OSCE, capable of advancing political, economic and other reforms in eastern Ukraine. The agreement, however, does not restrict the OSCE from taking action in the region. Although many Ukrainians consider the agreement to be a sellout, the OSCE did succeed in securing international recognition for two eastern Ukraine-governed countries, Minsk and Kharkiv.
A spokesman for the United States Embassy in Kiev would not comment on Friday on the matter but, “According to Ukrainian authorities,” there has been a “military buildup on Ukraine’s border with Russia since 2017.”
He also described Russian support for the “rejectionist regimes in eastern Ukraine.”
The escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following the first known use of chemical weapons since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014. Last month, an incident in Donetsk left a Russian journalist dead — apparently from an attack with what many suspect to be a nerve agent. The situation in Ukraine is complicated by the deep ambivalence of the United States toward the country. The United States provides Ukraine with some weapons, but, under President Obama, Washington largely encouraged the country to take unilateral military action. The United States has also argued for the international organizations to do more.
Some have warned that a shift in strategy by the United States could set back American efforts in Ukraine. The country’s current ambassador to the United States, John Kirby, wrote in The New York Times on Thursday that U.S. support for the OSCE could quickly be “overwhelmingly exercised only in order to stop the encroachment of Putin’s Russia and his resurgence of Cold War exercises on Ukrainian soil.”
But others see renewed Russian aggression in Ukraine as a potential opportunity to restart discussions on eliminating nuclear weapons — and possibly provoking a Russian invasion of Ukraine as a pretext.