US Vice President Joe Biden called Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday, and called on Moscow to pull back forces in Crimea, the White House said. Officials noted that the call took place after Medevedev spoke over the weekend to Ukraine's new prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, but did not give further details. "The vice president urged Russia to pull back its forces, support the immediate deployment of international monitors to Ukraine, and begin a meaningful political dialogue with the Ukrainian government," a White House statement said. Biden held repeated conversations with ousted Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych throughout Ukraine's political crisis and has continued his role as a US conduit to Ukraine's interim government.
Defense hawk Senator John McCain stressed Monday that deployment of US military force to Ukraine remained unthinkable, but said President Barack Obama nevertheless has failed to stand up to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. McCain has spent days criticizing Putin's aggression in Ukraine, Europe's worst standoff since the Cold War, with the veteran American lawmaker arguing that Russia's president seeks to use unrest in the key former Soviet republic as a pretext to reassert Russian dominance there. "It's a blatant act on the part of Vladimir Putin and one that must be unacceptable to the world community. It cannot stand," McCain told the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The United States said Monday it would not send a presidential delegation to the Winter paralympics in Sochi as part of measures drawn up to protest Russia's incursion into Ukraine. The White House said, however, that US athletes would still take part in the Games, which start Friday in the Black Sea resort used for the recent Winter Olympics. "In addition to other measures we are taking in response to the situation in Ukraine, the United States will no longer send a presidential delegation to the upcoming Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi," said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
By Jon Herskovitz and Marice Richter AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The longest shadow in Tuesday's primary election in Texas is being cast by a politician not even in the running, freshman U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican. Cruz, just two years into his first major elected office, has arguably become the most loved politician among Republicans in Texas, an incubator for national conservative policies where the party dominates the statehouse and has not lost a statewide race since 1994. Cruz has turned an already right-leaning Texas Republican Party even further to the right, analysts said. "Cruz scared the daylights out of center and center-right conservatives to the extent that they do not feel comfortable enough to run on their true positions and feel compelled to cater to the most conservative elements of the Texas Republican primary electorate," said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.
By Jeffrey Heller and Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Even as he grapples with the Ukraine crisis, President Barack Obama will take time on Monday for potentially testy talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeking to nudge him forward in Middle East peace efforts and ease his suspicions about diplomacy with Iran. With time running out for a framework Israeli-Palestinian deal to salvage a troubled U.S.-brokered peace process, Obama and Netanyahu sparred in public comments in the run-up to a meeting that comes at a critical juncture for the president's second-term foreign policy agenda. Netanyahu arrived in Washington to a veiled warning from Obama that it would be harder to protect Israel against efforts to isolate it internationally if peace efforts failed.
President Barack Obama will take his campaign to increase the minimum wage on the road in the coming week in an effort to build pressure on Republicans who oppose the raise. Obama will appear on Wednesday in New Bristol, Connecticut alongside four New England governors to make the case, the White House said. The president wants to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25, where it has been since 2009. The president will make the pitch a day after presenting his federal government budget proposal for fiscal year 2015.
By Colleen Jenkins WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - The rare court-martial of a U.S. Army general charged with sex crimes will delve into explicit details of his adulterous affair with a female captain in two war zones, and alleged inappropriate email exchanges with several other subordinates. The accusations led to Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair's removal from command in Afghanistan in 2012 and his trial, set to begin on Tuesday at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will shed light on how the military handles such complaints. Proponents of military justice reform say the case underscores broader problems with the U.S. armed forces' approach to sexual assault prosecutions and shows the need for an overhaul as such crime reports increase. Sinclair's attorneys argue that defense officials facing intense political pressure to curb sexual violence in the military have targeted an officer who has served five combat tours with sex charges that hang on weak evidence and an unreliable primary witness.
President Barack Obama will Monday try to cajole Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a US framework for final peace talks with the Palestinians, but the Israeli leader is vowing to resist all "pressures." Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will also discuss Iranian nuclear diplomacy, but likely struggle to reconcile differing views after Israel blasted an interim pact with Tehran reached last year as a bad deal. Unusually, Netanyahu will not be the center of attention in Washington, where his visits to the White House have sometimes featured public disagreements with Obama and testy photo ops.
The OSCE should "immediately" send an observer mission to Ukraine, the US envoy said as the pan-European body met in Vienna on Monday. "We call today for OSCE observers to be sent immediately to Ukraine," ambassador Daniel Baer said in a speech, released on Monday, to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. He said that the OSCE "should make the decision today to move forward with plans and preparation for a monitoring mission immediately". His comments were made at a OSCE Preparatory Committee Meeting on Ukraine on Sunday afternoon in Vienna, followed Monday morning by a gathering of the OSCE Special Permanent Council.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to keep a pair of delicate diplomatic efforts afloat, President Barack Obama will personally appeal for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move forward on peace talks with the Palestinians, while also trying to manage Israel's deep suspicion of his pursuit of a nuclear accord with Iran.
Chinese Internet users on Monday accused the US of double standards after Washington condemned a deadly knife attack in southwest China but refrained from calling it a terrorist incident. The US embassy in China said on social media that it condemned the "terrible and senseless act of violence in Kunming" and expressed condolences to those affected in what it said was a "tragedy". China has blamed separatists from the restive region of Xinjiang for what it described as an act of terror, with state media dubbing the incident "China's 9/11". But thousands of Chinese Internet users slammed the US for refusing to follow China in defining the attack as terrorism, comparing the knifings to last year's bombing of the Boston Marathon as well as 9/11.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The budget gurus in Congress have failed for years to find a grand bargain to reduce the government's long-term debt, so this year they decided to go small. Just 1 percentage point would be shaved from the annual cost-of-living increase in military pensions for veterans under age 62.