Foreign ministers of almost all the major Western countries have condemned the adoption of antidemocratic laws by the Verkhovna Rada on January 16 and called for repealing them. Caitlin Hayden, US National Security Council spokesperson, has also made a statement to this effect. “From its first days, the Maidan movement has been defined by a spirit of non-violence and we support today’s call by opposition political leaders to reestablish that principle. The US will continue to consider additional steps – including sanctions – in response to the use of violence. The Day has requested Steven Pifer, a senior research associate at the Brookings Institution and former US ambassador to Ukraine, to comment on the latest developments in Ukraine and say how the US can contribute to a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“The laws passed by the Rada on January 16 and the questionable procedure that was used to do so have only deepened concerns in Washington that, under President Yanukovych, democracy in Ukraine has gone badly off track. As noted in the statement by the White House, the US government believes that primary responsibility for the crisis rests with Mr. Yanukovych and his government. Pressure is growing for sanctions on Ukraine. Unless Mr. Yanukovych takes decisive steps to defuse the crisis – repealing the anti-democratic laws that were passed on January 16 would be a good start – I think sanctions are coming.
“I very much hope that the crisis can be resolved peacefully, but much depends on whether Mr. Yanukovych will negotiate in good faith and reverse anti-democratic measures, such as the laws jammed through the Rada on January 16. Is Mr. Yanukovych capable of doing that?
“The crisis has to be resolved first and foremost by Ukrainians. The United States and, more importantly, the European Union can help at the margins by making clear to Mr. Yanukovych that there will be consequences for him and his inner circle if the government resorts to force and if he does not work in good faith to find a peaceful settlement.”