As they did in Crimea, gun-wielding pro-Moscow militants are taking over government buildings in eastern Ukraine, posing something of a dilemma for the interim government in Kiev. Without a forceful response, it could risk a repeat of Russia's near-bloodless takeover of Crimea, starting with eastern cities like Donetsk and Slavyansk, or it could fight back and risk giving Russia a pretext to send troops in ostensibly to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. With the militant activity expanding, President Oleksandr Turchynov chose the former course.
"The Council of National Security and Defense has decided to carry out a large-scale anti-terrorist operation with the use of armed forces of Ukraine," Turchynov said Sunday afternoon. "We won't allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern region of Ukraine." He softened the news a little bit, promising amnesty to protesters to leave peacefully without firing shots and offering greater local governance to eastern provinces.
Russia responded by calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday night, where Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin argued that the world's powers should stop Ukraine from using force. The U.S. incited the anti-Moscow demonstrations in Kiev that led to the ouster of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, Churkin alleged, "so now the U.S. is going to encourage this criminal use of force?.... In just a few hours' time things might take an irreversible turn for the worse."
The U.S., Europe, and Ukraine countered with evidence that the well-armed militants leading the takeover of Ukrainian government buildings are Russian commandos. But forget about that for a minute.
The idea that Russia would argue that a government doesn't have the right to quell uprisings within its own borders would be darkly comical if the situation weren't so serious. Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that no other countries interfere as he brutally crushed Islamic separatist movements in Checnhya and Dagestan — though, to be fair, the U.S. at least wasn't overly sympathetic toward Russia's Islamist militants in the post-9/11 Chechen crackdowns. And it was right after meeting with Putin at the Sochi Olympics that Yanukovych started his ill-fated crackdown on the Ukrainian protesters camped out in Kiev's Maidan square.
If any other country were dealing with an armed separatist movement within its borders, Russia would applaud its strong hand and warn other countries to back off. I wouldn't be surprised if Turchynov chose his words — "anti-terrorist operation" — primarily for Russia's benefit. Peter Weber
President-elect Donald Trump may offer to lift existing sanctions on Russia in exchange for a deal to reduce nuclear arms, The Times of London reports. In an interview with the paper released Monday, Trump said he thinks nuclear weapons "should be way down and reduced substantially," and wants to "see if we can make some good deals with Russia."
This marks a change in tone from December, when Trump tweeted that "the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability." The United States has more than 1,300 nuclear warheads, and Russia has nearly 1,800 such deployed warheads, Reuters reports.
The Obama administration in recent weeks expanded sanctions and expelled 35 diplomats who were suspected spies, in retaliation for Russia's alleged hacking of Democrats in the 2016 presidential election. Trump said he hopes to have a better relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin than President Obama has had.
In the same interview, Trump slammed NATO as "obsolete" and said Britain's controversial exit from the European Union will wind up "being a great thing." Jessica Hullinger
China reiterated on Sunday that the existing American policy regarding Taiwan is non-negotiable, despite President-elect Donald Trump's continued suggestions to the contrary. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Friday, Trump said "everything is under negotiation including 'One China,'" the U.S. policy which recognizes Taiwan as part of China, not an independent nation. Trump has previously suggested that the decades-old policy could be used to pressure China into making better trade deals with the U.S.
On Sunday, Ministry spokesman Lu Kang insisted that the "one China" policy is "non-negotiable," and on Monday, China's state-run media echoed that message, with force. In an editorial, The Global Times said Trump "speaks like a rookie," while a China Daily editorial warned that soon, "Beijing will have no choice but to take off the gloves."
Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming chief of staff, said on ABC's This Week, "there are no plans to change the one-China policy," but said the policy could be on the table "if China doesn't also come to the table and work with us on trade, work with us on the South China Sea and what's happening there." Back in December, Trump angered Beijing when he accepted a congratulatory call from the Taiwanese president. In response, he said he doesn't want China "dictating" to him. "Why should some other nation be able to say I can't take a call?" he asked. Jessica Hullinger
President-elect Donald Trump says his plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act is nearly complete. In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump did not reveal the specifics of his replacement package, but promised, "lower numbers, much lower deductibles," and said "we're going to have insurance for everybody." He also said he plans to crack down on pharmaceutical companies, forcing them to negotiate on drug prices in Medicare and Medicaid.
Last week during a press conference, Trump said he wanted to see ObamaCare repealed and replaced at the same time. President Obama's signature health care reform law has brought health insurance to more than 20 million Americans, but Trump says it is "a complete and total disaster," and its repeal has remained a top priority for the incoming administration. When, exactly, the details of Trump's new replacement plan will be unveiled wasn't clear. Trump said he is waiting for Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to be confirmed as secretary of health and human services. A confirmation hearing for Price has not yet been scheduled. As for gaining support from Democrats for his replacement plan, Trump said it won't be a problem. "I won't tell you how, but we will get approval," he said. Jessica Hullinger
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday said rumors of changes to presidential press conferences have been blown out of proportion. Esquire first reported Saturday that the "media's sense of dislocation may soon become literal" as "a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump administration."
Speaking on ABC's This Week, Priebus said that is not the case. "The press room that people see on TV is very, very tiny," he said, and only "49 people fit in that press room. The one thing that we discussed was whether or not we want to move the initial press conferences in the [Executive Office Building] — which, by the way, is the White House, so no one's moving out of the White House, that is the White House — where you can fit four times the amount of people in the press conference, allow more press, more coverage from all over the country to have those conferences." (The Executive Office Building is actually next door to the White House, directly across the street from the West Wing.)
That's all the Trump team is considering, Priebus concluded, so "some of this, I think, is getting what out of whack, and I think people should be encouraged that there are so many people in the press that want to participate." Watch his remarks in context below. Bonnie Kristian
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 15, 2017
On Sunday, diplomats from 70 nations — not including representatives of Israel, Palestine, or the incoming Donald Trump administration — met in Paris "to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The goal was to demonstrate to Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the breadth of international backing of a Palestinian state, but Netanyahu dismissed the Paris meeting as "futile" and "rigged" against Israel. "This conference is among the last twitches of the world of yesterday," he said. "Tomorrow will look different and that tomorrow is very close."
Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined the talks, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas initially planned to attend before his schedule changed. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the conference echoed Abbas' Saturday critique of Trump's promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue," he argued. "You have to try to create the conditions for peace."
The Israelis and Palestinians have not engaged in peace negotiations with each other since 2014. "It is not a question of dictating to the parties," French President Francois Hollande maintained on Sunday. "Only direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace. No one will do it in their place." Bonnie Kristian
Saturday Night Live veteran Tina Fey showed up in hologram form to help Felicity Jones, best known for her role as Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, get through her first SNL monologue.
Dressed in the white, flowing robes of a Star Wars princess, Fey encouraged Jones not to be nervous about her hosting gig. "All you need to do is go out there and do your best," she said. "Don't worry about what the reviews say." "Does this show get reviewed?" asks a worried Jones. "Yes! Way too much," Fey replies. "Also, no matter how it goes, the president of the United States will say that it's 'sad and overrated.'" Watch the full monologue below. Bonnie Kristian
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that he finds Lewis' rejection of Trump's legitimacy as president "disappointing" despite admiring the congressman's personal history. "Donald Trump won this election fair and square," Pence said. "The American people know that, and while I have great respect for John Lewis and his contributions, particularly with the civil rights movement, I was deeply disappointed to see someone of his stature question Donald Trump's election as president and say he's not attending the inauguration."
Meanwhile, Lewis joined Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, where Todd asked whether he would consider inviting Trump to Selma, Alabama, the site of Lewis' historic civil rights march with Martin Luther King, for a conversation of reconciliation. "I would not invite him to come," Lewis said, but, if the president-elect did go to Selma, "maybe he would learn something, maybe he would get religion." Bonnie Kristian