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Russia's Putin floats Ukraine 'peace plan,' Obama and Britain's Cameron say 'Russia holds a gun to Ukraine'

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote up a seven-point plan to end the fighting in Ukraine. The first point, written on a sheet of notebook paper: "End active offensive operations." The plan, written by hand as Putin was flying to Mongolia, "seemed to raise more questions than it answered," says Neil MacFarquhar at The New York Times:

First, there was no mechanism for implementation. Second, just hours earlier, his own spokesman had repeated the Russian position, widely criticized as implausible, that Moscow could not negotiate a cease-fire because it was not a direct party to the conflict. [The New York Times]

Many analysts and government officials, including Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, say Putin's real goal is to influence the NATO meeting starting Thursday in Wales, in which the 28 member nations are expected to endorse a rapid-response force for Eastern Europe. On Wednesday night, two of the NATO leaders, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, published a joint op-ed in The Times of London, criticizing Russia's intervention.

"As Russia holds a gun to Ukraine," Obama and Cameron begin, "NATO must strengthen its alliance." The two leaders list as one of the challenges facing the alliance that "Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal, self-declared annexation of Crimea and its troops on Ukrainian soil threatening a sovereign nation." We'll learn by Friday how much this increasingly tough language is backed up by concrete actions.