Screen shot from The New York Times

Speaking in Estonia two days before huddling with NATO officials in Wales to discuss the simmering conflict with Russia over Ukraine, Barack Obama characterized the crisis as a “moment of testing” for NATO. Thank you, President Obvious.

Obama also claimed, during Wednesday’s speech at a Tallinn concert hall, that Russia’s recent movements in Ukraine — about which there is still considerable disagreement between Moscow and Washington — represented “a brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine” that runs contrary to the international decree “that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun, that nations have the right to determine their own future.” (Except Iraq and Afghanistan.)

As The New York Times reported, Obama’s Eastern Bloc PR blitz was made a bit awkward by a conspicuously timed announcement from Russian President Vladimir Putin:

Rejecting Mr. Putin’s frequent denials of intervention in Ukraine and his assertion that the Russian presence there is part of a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission, Mr. Obama said it was clear Moscow was responsible for the escalation of tensions there.

“It was not the government in Kiev that destabilized eastern Ukraine; it’s been the pro-Russian separatists who are encouraged by Russia, financed by Russia, trained by Russia, supplied by Russia and armed by Russia,” he said. “These are the facts. They are provable. They are not subject to dispute.”

Mr. Obama spoke before news emerged that Mr. Putin had proposed a seven-point plan to end the conflict in Ukraine that could take effect on Friday — precisely when Mr. Obama and his counterparts from NATO would be meeting in Wales to devise a response to Russia’s behavior. Mr. Putin’s announcement appeared deliberately timed to blunt that effort.

However, by the time Obama was done with his Estonian engagement, that hopeful note of reconciliation had already played out, as the Kremlin had decided that “it could not negotiate a cease-fire because it was not a party to the conflict,” the Times added. Could be that the Kremlin was engaging in a bit of multinational chain-pulling with that rather pointed conclusion.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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