Kerry: Europe Should 'Join the U.S. and President Obama in Taking the Lead' on Russia

July 21, 2014 - 3:21 AM

Ukraine

A pro-Russian fighter at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, July 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry did the round of Sunday talk shows to lay out evidence of Russian complicity in Thursday’s shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine, but when asked what steps the U.S. will take in response, he pointed each time to sanctions that were already put in place before the deadly incident.

He also suggested the onus was now on European countries to take tougher steps against President Vladimir Putin, since Europe does significantly more business with Russia than does the U.S.

"[I]t would help enormously if some countries in Europe that have been a little reluctant to move would now recognize this wake-up call and join the United States and President Obama in taking the lead and also stepping up,” he told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Kerry said that, despite the current tensions, cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is taking place in other important areas.

Citing U.S. and Ukrainian investigations Kerry made a compelling if circumstantial case for Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to be held accountable for using an SA-11 surface-to-air missile system to shoot down the Boeing 777, killing almost 300 passengers and crew. Those same separatists have since reportedly been defiling evidence at the crash site.

“It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists,” Kerry said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We know with confidence – with confidence – that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time.”

"We picked up the imagery of this launch,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing, and it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar. We also know from voice identification that the separatists were bragging about shooting it down afterwards.”

In several of the interviews Kerry called the downing of the aircraft a “moment of truth for Russia.”

When asked how the administration plans to respond, however, he pointed out that President Obama last week – one day before the plane was shot down – had ordered new sanctions against Russia, the toughest yet put in place in response to its intervention in Ukraine.

“President Obama, I remind you again, the day before this event, unilaterally moved even before this to put tougher sanctions in place,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley.

“But so far, these sanctions have not changed Russia’s behavior in the least,” Crowley said.

“That’s why they were ratcheted up,” Kerry replied. “That’s precisely the point.”

“The point is that we’re trying to do this in a thoughtful way with the maximum amount of diplomatic energy and pressure, and it would help enormously if some countries in Europe that have been a little reluctant to move would now recognize this wake-up call and join the United States and President Obama in taking the lead and also stepping up.”

Asked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace why Obama doesn’t impose a greater cost on Putin, Kerry said, “The president imposed a greater cost on Vladimir Putin the day before this shoot-down took place. And what we are doing now is trying to bring our European counterparts along, because we have four percent of Russia’s trade is with the United States. Fifty percent of their engagement is with Europe. So we are trying to encourage our European friends to realize this is a wakeup call, and hopefully they will also join us in these tougher sanctions.”

“President Obama, only the day before this incident took place, unilaterally moved in order to impose tougher sanctions,” Kerry told NBC’s David Gregory. “We’ve taken tough sanctions. We hope this is a profound wake-up call for those countries in Europe that have wanted to kind of go slow and soft-pedal this.”

He made similar points on ABC’s "This Week" and CBS’s "Face the Nation."

‘An extremely complicated world’

When NBC’s Gregory asked whether this episode marked the low point of U.S.-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, Kerry said, “You can get into these grand sort of proclamations about where things are and where they aren’t.”

“The fact is we live in an extremely complicated world right now where everybody is working on ten different things simultaneously.”

He said the U.S. and Russia were cooperating in other areas, citing the Iranian nuclear talks and the effort to get the Syrian regime to surrender its chemical weapons.

“Russia was constructive and helpful and worked at that effort,” he said in reference to the Iran negotiations, which have just been extended for four months beyond Sunday’s deadline for a final agreement.

“Russia has been constructive in helping to remove 100 percent of the declared chemical weapons from Syria,” he continued. “In fact, that was an agreement we made months ago and it never faltered, even during these moments of conflict.”

“So this is more complicated than just throwing names at each other and making declarations. There has to be a continued effort to find a way forward, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Kerry said.

“But we’ve made it clear even as we do that, there’s no naivete in what President Obama has done with respect to these very tough sanctions.”