Early national polling is supporting the prevailing view in Washington that Democrats are in trouble in the 2014 midterm elections. While Democrats are more popular than the GOP among the general public, the party faces a number of challenges in November.
First, there's an enthusiasm gap. Typically, but not always, Republicans vote at higher rates than Democrats in congressional elections. And at this early stage, that seems likely to happen again, perhaps at an even greater rate than usual. One telling indicator came in December, when the Pew Research Center found that Republicans are much more optimistic about their party's electoral prospects than Democrats are. Fully 55% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters expect the GOP to do better in 2014 than the party has in recent elections, while only 43% of Democrats expressed such confidence.
President Barack Obama Getty Images
Recent national surveys of registered voters by the Pew Research Center, the Washington Post/ABC News and the New York Times/CBS News show congressional voting intentions about even. But if these polls were narrowed to likely voters, they might find a strong GOP lead. It could be a replay of 2010, when Pew's final congressional poll of registered voters showed a one-point Democratic lead, but among likely voters Republicans held a six-point advantage, which was about their margin of victory when they retook the House.
Another challenge for Democrats is winning independents, who typically decide election outcomes. Democrats trail Republicans among independents by 38% to 44%, according to Pew's February survey. Democrats also lost the independent vote in the 2012 presidential election, 45% to 50%, according to national exit polls. In other words, President Obama owed his re-election victory to his base. This is an important indication of how lagging Democratic engagement could sway 2014.
A third challenge is the white vote. While winning whites is not as essential as it once was, they will still make up close to 80% of this year's midterm electorate. Democrats have consistently lost the white vote in recent decades, even in the 2006 congressional landslide. The early polls in 2014 don't show a changing tide. The Pew Research Center's February poll showed the GOP with a 53% to 38% advantage in congressional voting intentions among white registered voters.
Then there are the millennials. While support for Democratic candidates among African-Americans and Latinos remains high, young people are less enthusiastic. The Pew center's in-depth surveys of those ages 18-34 indicate that this generation, a voting bloc so important to Mr. Obama's two victories, is growing more disillusioned with the president. Millennial self-identification as Democrats has edged down to 50% from a high of 58% in 2009. Pew also found Mr. Obama's job approval among millennials has fallen to 49% in early 2014, down from 70% in the honeymoon months of 2009, his highest rating among any generation.
Opinion of the president is probably the greatest problem for Democrats this year. At 44%, Mr. Obama's overall approval rating about matches President Bush's rating in early 2006 when Republicans lost Congress. And it is not too different from Mr. Obama's own approval in 2010—45%—when the GOP regained the House.
Mr. Obama's image as a leader is at a low point, thanks to discontent with the Affordable Care Act and a pessimistic view of economic conditions. In Pew's December surveys, roughly 58% of Americans viewed him as compassionate and 68% thought him a good communicator. But doubts have grown about his effectiveness. In 2013, the percentage describing the president as "able to get things done" fell to 43% in December from 57% in January.
It would be tempting to say it's all over before it begins, but Democrats have some hope. First, the Democratic Party remains better liked than the GOP. In Pew's December survey, 59% rated the GOP unfavorably, while just 35% held a favorable opinion of the party. The Democratic Party's ratings were not great either, but markedly better—47% favorable versus 48% unfavorable.
Democrats have maintained a wide image advantage over Republicans since 2011 when the GOP first threatened to shut down the government over the debt ceiling. The public seems to see Republicans as more likely to take extreme positions and less willing to compromise. Moreover, unfavorable opinions of the tea party have nearly doubled to 49% in 2013 from 25% in 2010, according to Pew's polling.
Republicans also do not hold an advantage over Democrats on the two issues that have hurt Mr. Obama most. According to January 2014 surveys, the public has more confidence in Democrats' handling of health care by an eight-point margin (45%-37%). Neither party has a decided advantage on handling the economy, with 42% favoring Republicans and 38% more confident in Democrats. While it may be a long shot, it's at least possible that the economy and the perception of the Affordable Care Act could improve over the next seven months.
Nevertheless, the midterms pose a formidable challenge for Democrats. But November is a long time from now, especially in an era of deep political mistrust in which neither party can take public opinion for granted.
Mr. Kohut is founding director of the Pew Research Center.
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4)Valerie Jarrett’s Influence on Obama
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Dr. Paul Kengor, a professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century. His latest book is 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.
FP: Dr. Paul Kengor, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today about Valerie Jarrett, her background, her relationship with Barack Obama, and her influence in the Obama White House.
Let’s begin first with who Valerie Jarrett is — and her relationship with Barack Obama.
Kengor: Thanks Jamie.
Valerie Jarrett is President Obama’s single most important and influential adviser. No one else in the White or the entire administration is as close to Obama. She has been described as everything from his “right-hand woman” to like a sister and even a mother to Obama. To cite some mainstream/leftist sources: The New York Times says she’s Obama’s “closest friend in the White House,” his “envoy,” his “emissary,” and his “all-purpose ambassador.” The Times calls her the “ultimate Obama insider.” Dana Milbank says her connection to Obama is “deep and personal” and that she’s “the real center of Obama’s inner circle.”
Obama himself calls her one of his “oldest friends” and says “I trust her completely.”
As for Jarrett, she says that she and Obama have a “shared view of where the United States fits in the world.” She says they “have kind of a mind meld.” She’s says that “chances are, what he wants to do is what I’d want to do.”
FP: Ok, so that begs the next question: What is it exactly that they want to do?
Kengor: That’s a very good question. I think the best I can say, which is admittedly at times vague from a policy standpoint, is that both favor some form of leftist “fundamental transformation.”
In domestic policy, we can expect them to desire and pursue the kinds of policies that Obama was able to implement in 2009-10 when he had a leftist Pelosi-Reid Congress. The current Republican majority in Congress gets a lot of heat from conservatives, but at least it has slowed the radical push to the left that occurred under Obama, Pelosi, and Reid during those first two years of the Obama presidency. Those first two years were an Obama-Jarrett policy fest. That what an Obama-Jarrett agenda looks like.
In terms of foreign policy, here again it’s difficult to track down precise ideological statements and actions from Jarrett, though she has said unequivocally that her worldview fully reflects Barack Obama’s. It may even be worse than Obama’s, if the reports of her intervention on Osama Bin Laden are correct.
My sense is that both Obama and Valerie Jarrett prefer a weaker America on the world stage. The pandering to Putin in the first term was probably a reflection of Obama-Jarrett thinking, and thus so is the humiliation at the hands of Putin in the second term.
I’m also suspicious of Valerie Jarrett’s possibly having provided negative input into Obama’s statements on Iran, including his terrible Carter-like reaction to the initial uprising in the Iranian “street” in June 2009. Did Obama’s behavior in that period, which was initially so weak that even Democrats were aghast, reflect Valerie Jarrett’s input? I can’t say, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
FP: How much influence does she actually have on policy?
Kengor: Her influence is highly significant. She has her hands in every major decision, if not every small one. She’s constantly monitoring things, inserting her input and protecting her Barack. I could give a bunch of examples, but here are two.
Valerie Jarrett pushed for the HHS mandate requiring all religious believers and groups, including institutional churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, to fund abortion drugs and contraception. According to the New York Times andPolitico, she did so even as the likes of Joe Biden and Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley urged the White House to carefully consider the backlash from the Catholic Church. Biden and Daley lost out to Valerie Jarrett and Kathleen Sebelius. No surprise. Obama usually sides with Jarrett.
Especially interesting to readers here, it was reported some time ago that Jarrett repeatedly urged Obama not to take out Osama Bin Laden, prompting Obama to cancel the mission as many as three times. That has been reported by a number of sources, most notably in a book by Richard Miniter. About a year before Miniter’s book, I had written a lengthy feature article for American Spectator on Valerie Jarrett. One piece of information that was out there, but I couldn’t confirm, was this Obama-Osama report.
FP: Jarrett is clearly a leftist, but you have stated that some of the mainstream media sources have tried to suggest otherwise.
Kengor: Yes. When I first researched her, trying to pin down her politics was very difficult. The liberal media’s job is to first and foremost protect Barack Obama. They are reporters second and partisan Democrats first. And so, reporters portrayed Valerie Jarrett in soaring, gushing, hagiographic tones, exalting her as Solomon-like in her almost-unearthly wisdom. Her reasoning skills and mind were the world’s finest ever assembled in a woman (other than, perhaps, in the person of Hillary Clinton). When she and Obama sit together in the Oval Office, it’s like having all the accumulated knowledge in human history right there at once. Naturally, too, of course, the same media portrayed her as a centrist, a moderate. Here’s one of my favorite examples, from a February 2011 Chicago Tribune profile: “She is a consensus builder who reinforces Obama’s tendency toward centrism.”
Yes, of course!
I had to really dig to find examples of her early policy influence. Since then, I’ve found more. She’s precisely what we’d expect of someone who is an Obama kindred soul: a leftist.
FP: Speaking of being a leftist, what are her roots?
Kengor: She was born in Shiraz, Iran in November 1956, the time of the Suez crisis. She was born Valerie Bowman to American parents—Dr. James E. Bowman and Barbara Taylor Bowman. Her father was a pathologist and geneticist at a children’s hospital in Shiraz as part of a U.S. aid program to assist developing countries. The family eventually returned to America, specifically Chicago, in 1963. Her mother was a child psychologist who helped establish the Erikson Institute, which (Hillary Clinton-like) specialized in “child advocacy.” The Erikson Institute got funding from the Woods Charitable Fund. If that sounds familiar to readers here, it’s because Barack Obama and Bill Ayers eventually served together as board members at Woods.
Now her Chicago roots are more disturbing — and indicative of her ideology. They also connect her to Obama and his ideological roots.
Valerie’s maternal grandparents were Robert Rochon Taylor and Dorothy Taylor. Robert was the first African-American head of the Chicago Housing Authority. Dorothy, a native of Berkeley, was active in early Planned Parenthood. That’s ironic, given Margaret Sanger’s “Negro Project,” her 1926 speech to a KKK rally in Silverlake, New Jersey, and her championing of racial-eugenics. Then again, Sanger’s penchant for “race improvement” has never halted liberals’ veneration of her.
FP: There is a fascinating connection that you’ve detailed between Jarrett’s grandfather and Frank Marshall Davis, Obama’s mentor, who you’ve written a book about.
Kengor: That’s correct.
The book is titled, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor. Frank Marshall Davis was an African-American born in Kansas in 1905 who eventually moved to Chicago and joined Communist Party USA. Notably, he joined the party after the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, a time when many American communists, particularly Jewish-American communists, left the party. They left because Stalin’s signing of the pact facilitated and enabled Hitler’s invasion of Poland and start of World War II. Frank Marshall Davis, however, was undeterred. He joined after the pact.
Worse, Davis, in Chicago, worked for one of the most egregious communist fronts in the history of this country: the American Peace Mobilization. Congress called the American Peace Mobilization “one of the most notorious and blatantly communist fronts ever organized in this country” and “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States.” The group’s objective was to stop the United States from entering the war against Hitler—again, because Hitler and Stalin were allies. American communists were allows loyal Soviet patriots. They literally swore allegiance to the USSR and its line.
In my book Dupes, I publish the original Soviet Comintern document acknowledging that the American Peace Mobilization was founded on the Comintern’s initiative in Chicago in September 1940. There, the Comintern and Communist Party USA attempted to organize a coalition of leftists and “progressives” who would keep America out of the war and out of any support for Britain or anyone opposing Hitler and Stalin—who, again, were allies.
Okay, how does this involve Valerie Jarrett? Jarrett’s grandfather, Robert Taylor, was involved with the American Peace Mobilization, as was Frank Marshall Davis.
Taylor also served with Davis on another communist front, the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee, whose members masqueraded as civil-rights crusading “progressives.” The two served on the board together.
And there’s more. Valerie Jarrett has additional family roots in these things. Both Taylor (Jarrett’s grandfather) and Frank Marshall Davis—who would one day meet and become a mentor to a young Barack Obama in Hawaii in the 1970s—would have often encountered another politically active Chicagoan, Vernon Jarrett. In fact, Vernon Jarrett and Frank Marshall Davis worked together on the very small publicity team (a handful of people) of the communist-controlled Packinghouse Workers Union.
Who was Vernon Jarrett? He would one day become Valerie Jarrett’s father-in-law.
So, to sum up, Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, worked with the literal relatives of Valerie Jarrett—her grandfather and future father-in-law—in Chicago’s Communist Party circles in the 1940s.
FP: Amazing. And it was in Chicago, of course, that Valerie Jarrett and Obama eventually met?
Kengor: They first met in Chicago in the early 1990s. During her stint as deputy chief of staff to Mayor Daley (the second Mayor Daley), Jarrett met a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson, who worked for the firm Sidley Austin. They hit it off. Michelle told Jarrett she should meet another young lawyer named Barack Obama, her fiancĂ©. They agreed, and the rest is history.
By the way, David Remnick, a top Obama biographer, reported that Valerie said of that meeting: “Barack felt extraordinarily familiar.” How so? She said that she and Barack “shared a view of where the United States fit in the world.” As David Remnick translates, this was a more “objective” view of an America that was not “the center of all wisdom and experience.” This was not an exceptional America. Of course it wasn’t.
FP: One final question on the Chicago roots. This gets even crazier. Tell us how David Axelrod’s roots tie into this.
Kengor: David Axelrod is the political consultant who made Barack Obama president. He coined the very terms “hope and change.” He is a native New Yorker who ended up attending college and then working in Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s and on. Like Obama, and like Valerie Jarrett, he found his political calling in Chicago.
In Chicago, Axelrod was mentored by the Canter family, namely David Canter. The Canter family has not only deep communist roots in Chicago but also in Stalin’s Soviet Union. David and his family had lived in Moscow just before coming to Chicago. His father, Harry Canter, had literally worked for Stalin’s government as an official translator of Lenin’s writings. He was a hardcore American Bolshevik. Before going to Moscow, Harry had been secretary of the Boston Communist Party and ran for governor of Massachusetts on the Communist Party ticket.
When this duty to Stalin was finished, the Canter family moved on to Chicago, which was (second only to New York) a hotbed for communism. The American Communist Party was founded in Chicago in September 1919, six months after the Comintern was founded in Moscow.
The Canters got involved in all sorts of Chicago-based communist activities and fronts: big May Day parades, the Packinghouse Workers Union, the communist Abraham Lincoln School, and in the pages of the Chicago Star, the communist newspaper founded and edited by Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. In fact, Harry Canter was one of the small group of board members that bought the Chicago Star from Davis in September 1948 as Davis bolted to Hawaii to do communist work there (and eventually meet Obama). Canter’s group of purchasers was called the Progressive Publishing Company.
Eventually, Harry’s son David Canter, who himself was involved in all kinds of wild far-left activities, met and mentored David Axelrod.
FP: So, all of these folks knew each other in Chicago?
Kengor: Obama and David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett all have common political ancestors who knew and worked with each other in communist activities and fronts in Chicago in the 1940s. The ancestors are, respectively, Frank Marshall Davis, the Canters, and Vernon Jarrett and Robert Taylor. We are today being governed by ghosts from Chicago’s Communist Party haunts of the 1940s. It’s scary.
By the way, then and still today, they call themselves “progressives.”
FP: This information is remarkable. Tell our readers where you have documented all of this.
Kengor: I’m meticulous in tying all these things together. In my books, The Communist and Dupes, especially the former, I provide copies of original materials and documentation. Nothing that I said is exaggerated. Besides, who could make this up?
The American public voted for “change.” This is a change alright.
FP: Ok so crystallize us what the “change” is exactly that Obama and Jarrett have ushered in and are ushering in. And summarize for us: Who is Valerie Jarrett and what is the meaning and significance of her close friendship with, and enormous influence, on the president?
Kengor: I think the “change” is this thrusting of America to the left, this “fundamental transformation.”
Here’s a crucial added insight into Valerie Jarrett’s thinking: There’s a video clip of her on You Tube, from early in the first Obama term, where she’s gushing about Van Jones. She lights up, aglow, as she mentions him—and as the lefties in the crowd howl in approval. She speaks of being “so delighted” with Jones’ “creative ideas” and talks of how her and Obama’s White House hopes to “capture” those ideas. She has a giant smile. That 30 seconds or so of uncensored, unfiltered Valerie Jarrett speaks volumes. At long last, there’s the real Valerie Jarrett, without the doting protection of the mainstream media that coddles her and Barack Obama.
So, in short, the meaning and significance of Valerie Jarrett’s close friendship and enormous influence on the president is an America that increasingly moves left domestically and, I suspect, becomes weaker in the world internationally.
FP: Professor Kengor, thanks for your time.
Kengor: Anytime, Jamie. I thank you, FrontPage, and David Horowitz for your time and courage.
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5)   Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine

During the Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me. Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone's head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate.
During the talks, U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear that Washington has no intention of expanding NATO into either Ukraine or Georgia. The Russians have stated that they have no intention of any further military operations in Ukraine. Conversations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have been extensive and ongoing. For different reasons, neither side wants the crisis to continue, and each has a different read on the situation.

The Russian Perspective

The Russians are convinced that the uprising in Kiev was fomented by Western intelligence services supporting nongovernmental organizations and that without this, the demonstrations would have died out and the government would have survived. This is not a new narrative on the Russians' part. They also claimed that the Orange Revolution had the same roots. The West denies this. What is important is that the Russians believe this. That means that they believe that Western intelligence has the ability to destabilize Ukraine and potentially other countries in the Russian sphere of influence, or even Russia itself. This makes the Russians wary of U.S. power
The Russians also are not convinced that they have to do anything. Apart from their theory on Western intelligence, they know that the Ukrainians are fractious and that mounting an uprising is very different than governing. The Russians have raised the price of natural gas by 80 percent for Ukraine, and the International Monetary Fund's bailout of Ukrainian sovereign debt carries with it substantial social and economic pain. As this pain sets in this summer, and the romantic recollection of the uprising fades, the Russians expect a backlash against the West and also will use their own influence, overt and covert, to shape the Ukrainian government. Seizing eastern Ukraine would cut against this strategy. The Russians want the pro-Russian regions voting in Ukrainian elections, sending a strong opposition to Kiev. Slicing off all or part of eastern Ukraine would be irrational.
Other options for the Russians are not inviting. There has been talk of action in Moldova from Transdniestria. But while it is possible for Russian forces there to act in Moldova, supplies for the region run through Ukraine. In the event of a conflict, the Russians must assume that the Ukrainians would deny access. The Russians could possibly force their way in, but then a measured action in Moldova would result in an invasion of Ukraine -- and put the Russians back where they started.
Action in the Baltics is possible; the Kremlin could encourage Russian minorities to go into the streets. But the Baltics are in NATO, and the response would be unpredictable. The Russians want to hold their sphere of influence in Ukraine without breaking commercial and political ties with Europe, particularly with Germany. Russian troops moving into the Baltics would challenge Russia's relationship with Europe.
Negotiations to relieve the crisis make sense for the Russians because of the risks involved in potential actions and because they think they can recover their influence in Ukraine after the economic crunch hits and they begin doling out cash to ease the pain.

The U.S. Perspective

The United States sees the Russians as having two levers. Militarily, the Russians are stronger than the Americans in their region. The United States had no practical military options in Crimea, just as they had none in Georgia in 2008. The United States would take months to build up forces in the event of a major conflict in Eurasia. Preparation for Desert Storm took six months, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 took similar preparation. With such a time frame the Russians would have achieved their aims and the only option the Americans would have would be an impossible one: mounting an invasion of Russian-held territory. The Americans do not want the Russians to exercise military options, because it would reveal the U.S. inability to mount a timely response. It would also reveal weaknesses in NATO.
The Americans also do not want to test the Germans since they don't know which way Berlin will move. In a sense, the Germans began the crisis by confronting the Ukrainians' refusal to proceed with an EU process and by supporting one of the leaders of the uprising both before and after the protests. But since then, the Germans have fallen increasingly quiet and the person they supported, Vitali Klitschko, has dropped out of the race for the Ukrainian presidency. The Germans have pulled back.
The Germans do not want a little Cold War to break out. Constant conflict to their east would exacerbate the European Union's instability and could force Germany into more assertive actions that it really does not want to undertake. Berlin is very busy trying to stabilize the European Union and hold together Southern and Central Europe in the face of massive economic dislocation and the emergence of an increasingly visible radical right. It does not need a duel with Russia. The Germans also receive a third of their energy from Russia. This is of mutual benefit, but the Germans are not certain that Russia will see the mutual benefits during a crisis. It is a risk the Germans cannot afford to take. 
If Germany is cautious, however the passions in the region flow, the Central Europeans must be cautious as well. Poland cannot simply disregard Germany, for example. The United States might create bilateral relations in the region, as I suggested would happen in due course, but for the moment, the Americans are not ready to act at all, let alone in a region where two powers -- Russia and Germany -- might oppose American action. 
Washington, like Moscow, has limited options. Even assuming the Russian claim about U.S. influence via nongovernmental organizations is true, they have played that card and it will be difficult to play again as austerity takes hold. Therefore, the latest events are logical. The Russians have turned to the Americans to discuss easing the crisis, asking for the creation of a federation in Ukraine, and there have been suggestions of monitors being deployed as well.

The Significance of the Negotiations

What is most interesting in this is that with the next act being played out, the Russians and Americans have reached out to each other. The Russians have talked to the Europeans, of course, but as discussions reach the stage of defining the future and options, Lavrov calls Kerry and Kerry answers the phone. 
This tells us something important on how the world works. I have laid out the weakness of both countries, but even in the face of this weakness, the Russians know that they cannot extract themselves from the crisis without American cooperation, and the United States understands that it will need to deal with the Russians and cannot simply impose an outcome as it sometimes did in the region in the 1990s.
Part of this might be habits learned in the Cold War. But it is more than that. If the Russians want to reach a solution to the Ukrainian problem that protects their national interests without forcing them beyond a level of risk they consider acceptable, the only country they can talk to is the United States. There is no single figure in Europe who speaks for the European states on a matter of this importance. The British speak for the British, the French for the French, the Germans for the Germans and the Poles for the Poles. In negotiating with the Europeans, you must first allow the Europeans to negotiate among themselves. After negotiations, individual countries -- or perhaps the European Union -- might, for example, send monitors. But Europe is an abstraction when it comes to power politics. 
The Russians called the Americans because they understood that whatever the weakness of the United States at this moment and in this place, the potential power of the United States is substantially greater than theirs. On a matter of such significance to the Russians, failing to deal with the United States would be dangerous, and dealing with them first would be the best path to solving the problem.
A U.S.-Russian agreement on defusing the crisis likely would bring the Germans and the rest into the deal. Germany wants a solution that does not disrupt relations with Russia and does not strain relations with Central Europe. The Germans need good relations with the Central Europeans in the context of the European Union. The Americans want good relations, but have little dependence on Central Europe at the moment. Thus, the Americans potentially can give more than the Europeans, even if the Europeans could have organized themselves to negotiate. 
Finally, the United States has global interests that the Russians can affect. Iran is the most obvious one. Thus, the Russians can link issues in Ukraine to issues in Iran to extract a better deal with the United States. A negotiation with the United States has a minimal economic component and maximum political and military components. There are places where the United States wants Russian help on these sorts of issues. They can deal. 

Divergent U.S. Concerns

Most important, the United States is not clear on what it wants from the Russians. In part it wants to create a constitutional democracy in Ukraine. The Russians actually do not object to that so long as Ukraine does not join NATO or the European Union, but the Russians are also aware that building a constitutional democracy in Ukraine is a vast and possibly futile undertaking. They know that the government is built on dangerously shifting economic and social sands. There are parts of the U.S. government that are concerned with Russia emerging as a regional hegemon, and there are parts of the U.S. government still obsessed with the Middle East that see the Russians as challengers in the region, while others see them as potential partners. 
As sometimes happens in the United States, there is complex ideological and institutional diversity. The State Department and Defense Department rarely see anything the same way, and different offices of each have competing views, and then there is Congress. That makes the United States in some ways as difficult to deal with as the Europeans. But it also opens opportunities for manipulation in the course of the negotiation.
Still, in cases of the highest national significance, whatever the diversity in views, in the end the president or some other dominant figure can speak authoritatively. In this case it appears to be Kerry who, buffeted by the divergent views on human rights and power politics, can still speak for the only power that can enter into an agreement and create the coalition in Europe and in Kiev to accept the agreement.
Russia suffered a massive reversal after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich fell. It acted not so much to reverse the defeat as to shape perceptions of its power. Moscow's power is real but insufficient to directly reverse events by occupying Kiev. It will need to use Ukraine's economic weakness, political fragmentation and time to try to reassert its position. In order to do this, it needs a negotiated solution that it hopes will be superseded by events. To have that solution, Moscow needs a significant negotiating partner. The United States is the only one available. And for all its complexity and oddities, if it can be persuaded to act, it alone can provide the stable platform that Russia now needs.
The United States is not ready to concede that it has entered a period during which competition with Russia will be a defining element in its foreign policy. Its internal logic is not focused on Russia, nor are internal bureaucratic interests aligned. There is an argument to be made that it is not in the U.S. interest to end the Ukrainian crisis, that allowing Russia to go deeper into the Ukrainian morass will sap its strength and abort the emerging competition before it really starts. But the United States operates by its own process, and it is not yet ready to think in terms of weakening Russia, and given the United States' relative isolation, postponement is not a bad idea.
Therefore, the negotiations show promise. But more important, the Russians have shown us the way the world still works. When something must get done, the number to call is still in the United States.
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