In response to a request from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin has withdrawn a battalion of several hundred troops from the Ukrainian border. He can put them back whenever he wants, and tens of thousands of Russian troops remain within striking distance of Ukraine. But at least as a symbolic gesture, the withdrawal is positive.
Last week, foreign ministers from the 28 member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suspended “civilian and military cooperation” with Russia. The United States, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund also find themselves in a dispute over Ukraine’s estimated $1.7 billion in unpaid natural gas bills to Russia.
Russia provided Ukraine with gas at bargain rates before Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Russia now demands the market rate. So Western aid to Ukraine may go to Russia to help pay the gas bill.
Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart continue to stay in close touch to ensure that matters between America and Russia do not deteriorate further over Ukraine. It may not seem like much, but it’s something.