- By Shane Harris
Shane Harris is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering intelligence and cyber security. He is the author of The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, which chronicles the creation of a vast national security apparatus and the rise of surveillance in America. The Watchers won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Economist named it one of the best books of 2010. Shane is the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He has four times been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, which honor the best journalists in America under the age of 35. Prior to joining Foreign Policy, he was the senior writer for The Washingtonian and a staff correspondent at National Journal.
This post has been updated.
President Obama spoke by phone Friday afternoon with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, the White House said in a statement. The conversation comes as tensions mount in the region and U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Russia may be preparing to invade eastern Ukraine.
But the two leaders appeared to have resolved none of their differences, despite what the White House said was a warning from Obama that Putin needed to "avoid further provocations" like a Russian troop buildup near its border with eastern Ukraine. U.S. intelligence officials estimate that as many as 40,000 troops may have amassed there, and spy satellites have tracked shipments of food and medical supplies reinforcing those troops. That has led intelligence officials to warn that a Russian invasion could be imminent.
The two leaders discussed a U.S. diplomatic proposal that Secretary of State John Kerry presented to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier this week in the Hague, the White House said. A senior administration official said those diplomatic talks involved finding an "off-ramp" from the crisis that would include a pull back of Russian forces, international monitors, and direct talks between Moscow and Kiev that would be backed by the international community.
During the call with Putin, Obama suggested that the Russians submit a “concrete response in writing,” and both leaders agreed that Kerry and Lavrov “would meet to discuss next steps.” A State Department spokesman, however, said that the meeting has not been scheduled yet. The White House offered no further details on when the two officials might meet.
"It’s hard to say how much of this is posturing by the Russians," said Jeffrey Mankoff, a fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Mankoff said that it appeared Russia initiated the phone call, which he called "significant."
"I think there’s no grand plan on Moscow’s part," Mankoff said. Putin appeared to be "improvising" his way through the crisis, and the Russians "have been trying to figure out how to extricate themselves from this situation" without igniting a larger war. Mankoff said it was too soon to tell whether Obama and Putin’s call would help lessen tensions.
The White House gave no word on Putin’s response. The Itar-Tass news agency reported Friday that the Russian president "drew attention to the continuing rampage by extremists in Ukraine," who were intimidating civilians, including in the capital city of Kiev. Putin used allegations that the Ukrainian government was threatening ethnic Russians in Crimea as a pretext for invasion last month.
A U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said it was impossible to predict when Putin might order forces into eastern Ukraine. But more worrying to analysts tracking the unfolding situation is that military forces might move against a NATO member country like Poland, triggering what the official described as a "domino effect" that could ignite a broader conflagration.
In an interview with Foreign Policy last week, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, "Our concern is that Russia won’t stop [in Crimea]. There is a clear risk that Russia will go beyond Crimea and the next goal will be the eastern provinces of Ukraine."
Yochi Dreazen is a Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security. His book about military suicide was published by Random House's Crown division in 2014.
Prior to joining Foreign Policy, Dreazen was a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the senior national security correspondent for National Journal. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal and spent 11 years at the newspaper, most recently as its military correspondent. He was born in Chicago, and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he edited the award-winning daily campus newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with degrees in History and English. He was hired by the Wall Street Journal immediately after graduation. Dreazen arrived in Iraq in April 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division, and spent the next two years living in Baghdad as the Wall Street Journal's main Iraq correspondent.
Dreazen has made more than 12 lengthy trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent a total of nearly four years on the ground in the two countries, mostly doing front-line combat embeds. He has reported from more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Dreazen received the Military Reporters & Editors association’s top award for domestic military reporting in a large publication for a series of articles about military suicide and the psychological traumas impacting veterans of the two long wars. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Tablet and the New Republic and he appears regularly on TV and radio programs such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show and PBS' Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Dreazen gives frequent lectures about journalism, the wars and current events to both civilian and military audiences.
Dreazen lives in Washington with his wife, Annie Rosenzweig Dreazen, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie.| The Cable |
Shane Harris is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering intelligence and cyber security. He is the author of The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, which chronicles the creation of a vast national security apparatus and the rise of surveillance in America. The Watchers won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Economist named it one of the best books of 2010. Shane is the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He has four times been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, which honor the best journalists in America under the age of 35. Prior to joining Foreign Policy, he was the senior writer for The Washingtonian and a staff correspondent at National Journal.| Report |