A rift between Europe and the US over the Ukraine crisis appears to be growing after senior American figures reportedly compared the peace initiative by Angela Merkel and François Hollande to appeasement of Hitler in the run-up to the Second World War.
In a meeting attended by General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s military commander, and Victoria Nuland, the US’s most senior European diplomat, Angela Merkel was described as “defeatist” for her opposition to arming Ukrainian forces, according to details leaked to Bild newspaper.
Mrs Merkel and Mr Hollande’s peace initiative was dismissed as “Moscow bullshit” at the meeting of American delegates to the Munich Security Conference, held behind closed doors at the conference hotel.
Senator John McCain reportedly compared the initiative to the Munich Agreement in 1938 between Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister at the time, and Adolf Hitler, which allowed Nazi Germany to annexe the Sudetenland.
“History shows us that dictators will always take more if you let them,” Senator McCain allegedly said.
“They will not be dissuaded from their brutal behaviour when you fly to meet them to Moscow – just as leaders once flew to this city.”
The reported remarks came as a new peace summit to be held in Minsk on Wednesday was announced, following a phone call between Mrs Merkel, Mr Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president.
The four leaders plan to meet face-to-face at the summit in the Belarusian capital, together with representatives of the pro-Russian separatists rebels, to continue talks on Mrs Merkel and Mr Hollande’s peace initiative.
But Putin said the summit would go ahead only if leaders reach agreement on a “number of points”.
“We will be aiming for Wednesday, if by that time we manage to agree on a number of points which we’ve been intensely discussing lately,” the Russian president said in televised remarks.
Delegates at the American meeting in Munich discussed how to press ahead with arming Ukrainian forces despite the new push for peace, according to the report in Bild.
“We would not be able to deliver enough weapons for Ukraine to defeat Russia. That’s not our goal,” Gen Breedlove reportedly said.
“But we must try to raise the price on the battlefield for Putin to slow this whole problem down so sanctions and other measures have time to work,” the military commander added.
John Kerry, the secretary of state, denied there was a rift in his speech to the security conference on Sunday morning.
“Let me assure everybody there is no division, there is no split – I hear people trying to create one,” Mr Kerry said.
"We are united, we are working closely together, we all agree that this challenge will not end through military force.”
But Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German foreign minister, appeared to address the issue in his speech.
“I cannot consider it as easy as those who suspect cowardice or forgetfulness of history behind our scepticism,” he said.
“Those who are so sure also have to address the question: would the alternatives that are currently being discussed ... really achieve our common goal of preventing thousands more deaths and getting out of the spiral of escalation?
“Are not we already close to the point of no return?”
Source: The Telegraph