Tempers Flare in Baltic Sea As Trump Hosts Ukraine’s President
President Donald J. Trump met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday, adding fuel to already tense relations with Russia and displaying a commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
On a day when two presidents met at the White House, U.S. and Russian warplanes engaged in a dangerous showdown over the Baltic Sea. On Tuesday, the Russian defense ministry said a U.S. reconnaissance RC-135 plane had swerved dangerously in the proximity of a Russian Su-27 fighter jet over the Baltic Sea. It said the Su-27 had also intercepted another RC-135 plane in the area.
In response, Pentagon blamed Russia for carrying out an unsafe intercept of a U.S. spy plane “in international airspace” over the Baltic Sea and for Russian pilot flying “too fast, having poor control” over his fighter jet. Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the U.S. aircraft “did nothing to provoke this behavior.”
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have intensified since a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian aircraft in Syria. Tuesday’s meeting at the White House only escalated the dispute.
Mr. Trump said he supports a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine but did not bring up Russia’s name. Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 after protesters in Kiev toppled Viktor Yanukovych, pro-Kremlin president, and played a major role in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine.
U.S. Treasury Department’s eleventh-hour decision to impose sanctions on two Russian officials and 36 other individuals and entities over their role in the Ukrainian conflict further strained ties.
The Treasury Department statement said U.S. sanctions related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula.
Mr. Trump said “a lot of progress has been made” between the U.S. and Ukraine after the meeting which was officially called a “drop-by” visit apart from Ukrainian leader’s separate session with Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Poroshenko said the U.S. is one of the most reliable supporters and strategic partners for Ukraine.
The White House said in a statement that “the discussion centered on support” for the peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and President Poroshenko’s reform agenda including anti-corruption efforts.
Russia’s quick response to new sanctions came from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a joint news briefing in Moscow with his French counterpart. Mr. Lavrov characterized new sanctions as “regrettable” and branded the U.S. decision as “Russophobia.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a Russian news agency that U.S. sanctions would not alter Moscow’s course.
To pour oil on troubled waters, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on both sides to de-escalate the situation. “Because these kinds of incidents can be very dangerous in a conflict situation in which there are so many actors and in which the situation is so complex on the ground,” Mr. Guterres said.
Mr. Trump is expected to hold his first meeting as president with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month at G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
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