(CNSNews.com) – During Monday’s White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney would not say how long the administration will give Russia to comply with last Thursday’s Geneva agreement on “de- escalating” the Ukraine crisis, but he used the expression “in the coming days” eight times.
Over at the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki also repeated the “in the coming days” formula, saying that if the Russians “don’t take steps in the coming days, there’ll be consequences.”
And a senior administration official accompanying Vice President Biden on his trip to Ukraine, while declining to “put a precise timeframe on it,” told reporters on background, “what we said on Friday was that we would be looking at this in the coming days to determine whether there was progress or whether there wasn’t – and that still stands.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped to negotiate Thursday’s agreement in Geneva, said afterwards the U.S. expected action “over the course of this weekend and the earliest part of next week.”
The action that is being awaited is an end to the occupation by pro-Russian separatists of government facilities in eastern Ukraine, and the surrendering of their weapons.
Not only have such steps not begun, but on the day Biden arrived in Kiev militant separatists seized more properties in at least three eastern Ukrainian cities.
During the White House briefing, a reporter asked Carney, “Can you just be any more specific about this ‘coming days’ timeline? Officials have been using that since Thursday when this agreement was signed and we’re now at Monday. How much longer do you let this play out without seeing some kind of concrete sign that it’s holding and that progress is being made?”
“I don’t have an end date for you,” Carney replied. “We are in a situation where we have potential new sanctions that we could impose, as we mentioned last week, and we are closely monitoring events in eastern Ukraine and monitoring compliance with the agreement signed in Geneva, and we will be evaluating compliance in coming days.”
Later he repeated the warning.
“In the coming days, if Russia doesn’t abide by the commitments it’s made and we don’t see steps taken to reduce the instability in the region, steps taken to use the influence that Russia has on the militants to get them to disarm and to turn back over the buildings that they’ve seized, then we’re prepared to impose further costs.”
“What is the cutoff line here?” a reporter asked.
“Again, I don’t have a specific deadline for you except to say that the agreement was signed in Geneva; we are closely monitoring events in eastern Ukraine. The situation in coming days, you can expect that we will move forward with the imposition of further costs on Russia if Russia does not take action to comply with its commitments in Geneva.”
Asked whether it would be reasonable to interpret “in the coming days” as meaning by Friday, Carney said, “I’m not going to put a timeline on it.”
“I will simply say that we will assess Russia’s actions in keeping with the commitments it made in Geneva and then evaluate those actions, and in coming days make a decision about whether or not further costs will be imposed because of Russian actions that destabilize Ukraine.”
Still later, Carney said Russia had committed itself in the Geneva deal to use its influence to get the militants to disarm and relinquish the occupied buildings.
“So we are evaluating the application – or implementation of the commitments made in Geneva, and we’ll take steps in coming days as dictated by compliance with those agreements.”
“If progress is not made in coming days, we will impose further costs,” he repeated.
“The response by the United States and our partners will depend upon the degree of escalation by those violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. So if there is no progress made on the commitments reached in Geneva in coming days, we will impose further costs.”
The “further costs” the administration has been referring to could include sanctions directed against specific sectors of the Russian economy – first authorized under an executive order signed by President Obama on March 20.