Here’s some of what makes the Ukraine negotiations between US Vice President Joe Biden and the leaders of Ukraine and Germany different from previous visits to the region:
1. John Kerry is a smart dude.
Not only did Biden get to meet with the so-called “Brothers Hennynis,” aka, the new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a secret location, he got to squeeze in some of the top experts in the fields of nuclear safety and security and human rights (they don’t play games) to lay the groundwork for the actual talks that are scheduled to start Thursday.
2. Biden got dressed up for this.
Polka dot shirt, slacks and suspenders.
3. If you think the US is in for a tough time this week, spare a thought for Merkel, who showed up in more of a casual chic that you’d expect to find in a student bar with her denim jacket, chocolate milk, black tight jeans and knee high socks.
4. There’s a new team in town.
Whereas with previous visits to Kiev or Berlin, Biden found himself flanked by top Pentagon brass including retired Gen. Peter Pace and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, this time he’ll be working alone. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling with Biden, but Obama’s staff is out of the picture: they were sent to New York on Monday to play Trump-a-palooza at the United Nations Security Council.
5. People are really watching the trip.
(If you didn’t know it before, there’s now a whole slew of new TV channels covering the Ukraine issue. They’re called YouTube and they are totally unpolished, but at least they’re going to be on a loop all week, like how Putin’s schedule gets carved out on the schedule weeks in advance.)
6. The Ukrainians trust John Kerry.
That’s pretty big, especially if you remember what happened to John McCain when he famously fell out with Yanukovych, Yanukovich’s guy, back in 2010.
7. If any of this fails to work and US officials aren’t on the ground by Saturday morning in Geneva, it will be the work of Vladimir Putin.