February 21, 2019

After Nikki Haley, Will Anyone Stand Up to Russia?

“Nikki Haley’s forceful criticism Monday of Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian vessels off the coast of Crimea puts the U.S. envoy to the United Nations in a familiar position: She is the Trump administration’s most strident and often solitary critic of Moscow’s actions. Her expected departure from the position at the end of the year raises questions about which senior U.S. official will take a similarly strong stand against Russia’s actions.

“This is no way for a law-abiding, civilized nation to act,” Haley said at an emergency UN Security Council meeting called to discuss Sunday’s incident near the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov, which both countries share under a 2003 treaty. “Impeding Ukraine’s lawful transit through the Kerch Strait is a violation under international law. It is an arrogant act that the international community must condemn and will never accept.”

Russia’s actions are perhaps the most dramatic escalation of tensions between Moscow and Kiev since the invasion of Crimea in 2014. Haley, the most senior U.S. envoy to publicly comment on the seizure of the vessels, has been a fierce critic of Moscow’s support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime, as well as its backing of separatist rebels in Ukraine. Her departure, which was announced last month, will likely leave a void at the UN at a time when Russia’s foreign policy has become more muscular and is often at odds with Western interests. Haley, the former South Carolina governor, had few obvious foreign-policy bona fides when President Donald Trump named her to the senior position at the start of his presidency, but she quickly won praise from the American foreign-policy establishment with her criticism of Russia and her support for U.S. allies and alliances.”

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