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U.S. intelligence community sources say they have been keeping a close eye on the Russian government’s attempt to retain its power over the former Soviet states, including Ukraine.

“Russian efforts to influence the country’s politics are nothing new,” said one U.S. official, who spoke with The Washington Times this week on the condition of anonymity.

But regional specialists say the EU and the U.S. have done little to counter Moscow’s manipulation of Ukraine.

Nicholas Gvosdev, a professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College, said Western leaders, including President Obama, have appeared for months to be quietly willing to cede Ukraine to Russia.

“The U.S. and the European Union are not fighting very hard to win Ukraine over,” Mr. Gvosdev said in an interview. “Basically, they’ve both made a calculation — and it may be a shortsighted one — that if Ukraine goes back into a closer relationship with Russia, the fundamental security of Western Europe is not threatened.”

“Now, the EU and the U.S. are not going to come out and say that, but it’s pretty much their perspective,” he said, “while the Russians believe it to be a vital interest to consolidate a sphere of influence in the region while they can.”

Ms. Nuland and other senior Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, have remained vague about whether they go beyond rhetoric to efforts to persuade the Yanukovych government to change its mind.

Another about-face?

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who also visited with the Ukrainian president in Kiev this week, made headlines upon returning Thursday to Brussels, declaring that Mr. Yanukovych had changed his mind again and now intends to sign the agreement. “Look, Yanukovych made it clear to me that he intends to sign the association agreement,” Mrs. Ashton said.

But when asked Wednesday in Washington specifically what tools were being used to lure Ukraine back toward the West, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she was simply “not going to get into all the specifics of any conversation.”

Ms. Psaki said only that “all policy options, including sanctions, are on the table in our view.”

Her comments reflect the Obama administration’s overarching resistance to framing the situation as a kind of Cold War battle between the West and Russia, in order to preserve the tattered “reset” of bilateral relations touted by Hillary Rodham Clinton while she was secretary of state.

Lee Feinstein, who served as U.S. ambassador to Poland from 2009 until last year, said Ukraine’s nuanced internal political struggles should not be framed in simple Cold War terms.

“I think this is the continuing and very long process of the unraveling and the consequences of the unraveling, and the working out of the unraveling of the former Soviet Union,” said Mr. Feinstein, now a senior transAtlantic fellow of the German Marshall Fund.

“There’s no question Russian bullying and threats as well as inducements are a factor. But so too is there a question of leadership in Ukraine,” he said, citing questionable leadership by Mr. Yanukovych.

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