THE CRISIS IN UKRAINE: AN UPDATE ON THE DIPLOMACY
"Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum in 10 days' time in a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian region that drew a sharp riposte from U.S. President Barack Obama.
Obama ordered sanctions on those responsible for Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine, including bans on travel to the United States and freezing of their U.S. assets.
He echoed European Union leaders and the pro-Western government in Ukraine in declaring that the proposed referendum would violate international law.
The sudden acceleration of moves to bring Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority and has effectively been seized by Russian forces, formally under Moscow's rule came as EU leaders held an emergency summit groping for ways to pressure Russia to back down and accept mediation.
The EU condemned Russian actions in Crimea as illegal, voiced support for Ukraine's territorial integrity but took only minor steps suspending talks with Moscow on visas and a new investment pact while warning of tougher steps if there is no negotiated solution within a short period.
In a signal to Moscow, Obama announced plans to punish Russians and Ukrainians involved in what he called "threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine". A U.S. official said Russian President Vladimir Putin was not on the list of those to be sanctioned.
"The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law," Obama told reporters at the White House. "Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine."
After talks in Rome, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was personally delivering proposals to Putin to end the crisis in Ukraine.
"We have agreed to stay in close touch in order to see if there is a way forward to try to get to a negotiating table to get the parties necessary to be able to stabilize this," Kerry said.
Kerry said the executive order on sanctions signed by Obama on Thursday provided a legal framework for imposing sanctions but also left open the door for dialogue over Ukraine....
The Crimean parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday "to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation".
The decision, which diplomats said could not have been made without Putin's approval, raised the stakes in the most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War.
The vice premier of Crimea, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, said a referendum on the status would take place on March 16. All state property would be "nationalized", the Russian ruble adopted and Ukrainian troops treated as occupiers and forced to surrender or leave, he said....
On the ground, a mission of 35 unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was stopped from entering Crimea by unidentified men in military fatigues when they travelled from the port of Odessa, Poland's defense minister said."
Alissa de Carbonnel & Luke Baker, "Crimea votes to join Russia, Obama orders sanctions." Reuters
. 6 March 2014 in www.reuters.com
"President Vladimir Putin’s March 4 press conference could create the impression that he has backed down, and that this backing down is the result of the Western pressure. In reality the Russian president has decided to use his imitation technique and experience in creating cognitive dissonance in the minds of the audience. He said that he is not going to use the troops in Ukraine, unless it is needed. He said that he is not annexing Crimea, despite the fact that Russian troops are staying there. He said that the Ukrainian authorities are illegitimate but he will deal with them if they accept the Russian terms. Thus, the Kremlin has been pretty open—the game continues. Only its forms could change now. The West should have no illusions about it. Putin himself has none of the cognitive dissonance that he tries to create in others.
Today Putin suggests to the West: “Let’s play as if nothing happened.” He believes that the West will be ready to forget the unpleasant Ukrainian interruption and the big guys will continue their dinner together. Putin is right to hope because this is exactly what happened after the Russo-Georgian war. If the Western leaders agree to get collective amnesia about Ukraine, they may get a new surprise pretty soon".
Lilia Shevstova, "Ukraine: Law of Unintended Consequences Illustrated, Part II". Carnegie Moscow Center: Eurasian Outlook
The diplomacy of the crisis in Ukraine since the beginning of the week are singularly depressing. At least to this observer of the diplomatic scenery. With Russian President Putin's press conference on Tuesday being the perhaps most important event of the week. As Lilia Shevstova has aptly noted the true upshot of Putin's mots was that the 'facts on he ground', which he has created will not be changed and that if need be, new facts on the ground will be created depending upon circumstances. Or should one say, how Putin sees circumstances. So, if the opportunity presents itself or conversely if he wishes to disrupt, overthrow, or otherwise destabilized the new, anti-Russian regime in Kyiv, he will be quite willing to send Russian forces into Eastern Ukraine. As per Crimea, he is endeavoring to create a fictional narrative that what has occurred in Crimea was an indigenous uprising by the population in response to the policies of new 'fascist' regime in Kyiv. Et cetera
. The lack of reality as per this narrative, does not prevent it from being trumpeted hic et nunc
by Putin, et. al. The so far unresolved question (as of to-day) is if the Western powers will summon up the will to exercise effective pressure on Moskva
. Obviously, Germanic fantasies aside, it is quite impossible to imagine that Russia, will voluntarily remove its forces from Crimea in exchange for some face savings gestures 1. And, while perhaps if Moskva
were to eventually climb-down, some sort of diplomatic crumbs might indeed be offered it, that time has not yet come. Au fond
, Putin aims to treat Crimea in the same fashion that he treats the Ossetia and Abkhazia. Pur et simple
. The aim of Western diplomacy should be to show precisely that he cannot and will not be able to do this. And for that to occur, it will be necessary to take hard steps via diplomatic and economic sanctions against Moskva. As well to increase the Western military presence in Poland and the Baltic States. Having matushka Russia edged out of Crimea will not occur either to-day or to-morrow. However, if the Western powers summon up the will to apply the requisite pressures, it can be done. What in fact is needed is a new version of the late, great American diplomat George Frost Kennan's
"It is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of an long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansionist tendencies. It is important to note, however that such a policy has nothing to do with outward histrionics; with threats or blustering of superfluous gestures of outward 'toughness'....it is the sine qua non of successful dealing with Russia that the foreign government in question should remain at all times cool and collected and that its demands on Russian policy should be put forward in such a manner as to leave the way open for a compliance not too detrimental to Russian prestige 2."
For those who believe that a 'containment policy', is an artifact of the Cold War, it is perhaps worthy of note, that the Russian-based political analyst and commentator Dmitri Trenin
among others, has recently stated that we are now indeed in the midst of a mini-Cold War for the time being. With only the downfall of the Putin regime perhaps changing that scenario. Therefore, under these circumstances what we need is precisely a new version of Kennan's containment doctrine 3.
1. Philipp Wittrock & Gregor, "Crimean Crisis: All Eyes on Merkel." Spiegel online International
. 4 March 2014 in www.spiegel.de
2. 'X', "Sources of Soviet Conduct". Foreign Affairs
. (July 1987) [first published in the same periodical in July 1947],
3. See: Dmitri Trenin, "Welcome to the New Cold War II. Foreign Policy
. 4 March 2014, in www.foreignpolicy.com
. See also: Olga Oliker, "Does Putin Want a New Cold War?" The Rand Corporation
. 4 March 2014, in www.rand.org
RUSSIA, CRIMEA AND THE WEST: THE DIPLOMACY OF APPEASEMENT?
"Military experts say the way Russia moved against its neighbour shows all the signs of an operation prepared meticulously over a number of weeks, with the participation of the FSB, the successor of the Soviet Union’s KGB security service, where Mr Putin and many of the most influential members of his administration started their careers.
“You don’t whip up a military manoeuvre with 150,000 troops just like that. You don’t ship 2,000 air assault troops with all their equipment in a jiffy,” says Johan Lybeck, an economist who served as a military intelligence officer specialising in Russia in the Swedish armed forces during the cold war. “Note also that the Russian Black Sea Fleet has received support from the Baltic Fleet and after all it takes a few days to steam from there to here. This was all planned to take place just after the end of the Olympics in Sochi.”
When unidentified armed men seized the building of the regional parliament in Crimea last week, there was little understanding what was happening.
Only on Saturday morning did Moscow make things official. The government said it had assured Sergey Aksyonov, the Russia-friendly new regional prime minister appointed by the gunman-guarded parliament, of its support. Russia said he had asked for help following an attempt by gunmen sent from Kiev to seize the region’s interior ministry, an incident which local police and residents said never happened. Mr Putin swiftly proceeded to ask – and receive – parliamentary authorisation for deploying troops in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, groups of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine organised protests against the central government.
Sources familiar with the Russian security services and military believe that FSB agents have been working in Ukrainian cities for at least several weeks to prepare for what played out over this last weekend.
“They probably played a role in setting up some of those pro-Russian militias in Crimea, and they certainly had a big hand in organising the pro-Russian demonstrations and anti-Maidan rallies,” says a foreign diplomat in Moscow who handles his country’s liaison with the Russian security services".
Kathrin Hille, "Russia watchers say military manoeuvre was long in the making". The Financial Times
. 2 March 2014, in www.ft.com
"What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
The barbarians are due here today.
Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.
Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.
Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are coming today and things like that dazzle
Constantine Cavafy, "Waiting for the Barbarians." Collected Poems
. Translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherra. (1992).
The invasion and occupation of the Crimean peninsula by Russian forces, on purely spurious and bogus grounds akin (in their bogusness if nothing else) to Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939, is without a doubt the greatest crisis, in geopolitical terms in Europe in the twentieth-first century (the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, does not count inasmuch as: a
) it was a war between a giant power and a pigmy; b
) it was fought outside of Europe, strictly speaking). A crisis, which shows up, once again that not only the European Union has the diplomacy of a eunuch, but even the Americans, who should know better have barely shown themselves much better, empty rhetoric aside. Something which the able, but long-winded American Secretary of State, Senator Kerry seems to be past-master of. The facts of what occurred, post-facto
as related in the Financial Times
, speaks for themselves. Much if not all of events that we have witnessed in the past week, were all orchestrated by Moskva.
Putin, baulked in his bid to have the entire Ukraine fall into his lap as a vassal state, endeavored to grab as much as the rest of the country as possible. First Crimea, then perhaps parts of the mostly Russian-speaking East as some future point in time. Having of course carte blanche
with Saturday's decision by the Russian upper house of parliament to give Putin the power to employ troops in the entirety of the country. At that point in time of course, if Russian forces did indeed try to invade the rest of the country, it could very well be that Ukrainian forces will resist causing the commencement of a full-scale, bloody and perfectly needless military conflict.
What is to be done to be done to avoid this potentially catastrophic event? Simple: the time for appeasement, the time of soft words and the wagging of fingers in the direction of Moskva
has to come to an end. The time has arrived for a policy of deeds and not mere words. To clearly and openly show Grazhdanin
Putin that while he may indeed have grabbed Crimea he will find holding it, a difficult and expensive proposition. The Western powers should: i
) move troops (not American troops obviously) to positions in the Baltic states, to and to the eastern borders of Poland; ii
) a sizeable military assistance package, with a large scale military assistance advisory team to match, should be dispatched to Kyiv immediately; iii
) Ukraine should be given all the special intelligence on Russian troop movements and signals intelligence that it might need; iv
) Russia should be suspended from the G-8 summits; v
) a wide sway of Russian officialdom, and pro-regime businessman and individuals should be banned from traveling to Western Countries; vi
) assets of as many Russian companies and individuals should be seized and frozen. With the concomitant trade sanctions enforced; vii
) Ukraine should be given a very large aid package (thirty to forty billion dollars) and admitted to a special status programme with the European Union; viii) Georgia should be admitted to NATO, as should Moldova. Finally, the Americans & NATO should now proceed to install in both Slovakia and Poland parts of its missile shield programme.
In short, Matushka Russia
should be made to, pay very heavily for its Crimean folly.
Will the Western powers, especially the Europeans have the will to follow through on the above type of policy? I for one am not in the least hopeful as my many recent remarks on the subject have seem to show. As the American analyst Tim Judah
, has written just yesterday:
"Putin’s inner circle no longer fear the European establishment. They once imagined them all in MI6. Now they know better. They have seen firsthand how obsequious Western aristocrats and corporate tycoons suddenly turn when their billions come into play. They now view them as hypocrites—the same European elites who help them hide their fortunes.
Once Russia’s powerful listened when European embassies issued statements denouncing the baroque corruption of Russian state companies. But no more. Because they know full well it is European bankers, businessmen and lawyers who do the dirty work for them placing the proceeds of corruption in hideouts from the Dutch Antilles to the British Virgin Islands.
We are not talking big money. But very big money. None other than Putin’s Central Bank has estimated that two thirds of the $56 billion exiting Russia in 2012 might be traceable to illegal activities. Crimes like kickbacks, drug money or tax fraud. This is the money that posh English bankers are rolling out the red carpet for in London.
Behind European corruption, Russia sees American weakness. 1 ".
One may hope, but one should not be very optimistic on this score. With I am afraid very dangerous consequences for European stability to follow on the folly and greed of the Western powers.
1. Ben Judah, "Why Russia No Longer Fears the West." Politico
. 2 March 2014, in www.politico.com
; See also: Nick Robinson, "Ukraine: UK rules out Russia trade curbs?" The BBC
. 3 March 2014, in www.bbc.com
HAGEL'S DEFENCE STATEMENT: A CASE OF 'ANOTHER MINDLESS WASTE OF TIME'?
"It is never easy to slim the Pentagon behemoth. In times of emergency, such as after the 9/11 attacks, US defence spending tends to balloon rapidly. In times of relative calm, previous gains are rarely clawed back. Chuck Hagel, the Pentagon chief, this week broke with the trend, outlining a vision for a leaner US defence posture. It is a vision to be applauded.
The defence secretary’s budget unveiled a reduction in US forces to just 440,000 – its lowest since before Pearl Harbor. From now on, the US would be equipped to fight just one conventional war rather than two simultaneously. Yet it would extend its technological edge and remain more powerful than the combined capability of the next few powers in the world rankings. Mr Hagel’s vision makes sense as far as it goes. However, sketching it out was the easy part. Now he must persuade Congress to put it into effect.
The case for a smaller US army is strong. After the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American public has little appetite for prolonged foreign occupations. Results on the ground offer little evidence that they have been worth the expense in lives and money. This week President Barack Obama told Hamid Karzai that the US would consider withdrawing altogether from Afghanistan by the end of this year unless Kabul agreed to a treaty putting the US presence on a legal footing. Such an agreement looks remote. After the deaths of 2,313 US personnel and more than $1tn in expenditure, this is a terrible return on investment.
The US army was never equipped to build civil societies in faraway lands. But it will continue to win wars. A slimmer army only reflects the exponential growth in military technology. In 2001, it cost $2,300 to equip a US marine. That has since risen tenfold. The age of the underequipped “grunt” is over. The US army can achieve more with fewer people.".
Editorial, "A US army that is leaner but stronger." The Financial Times
. 26 February 2014, in www.ft.com
"At the simplest level of budgetary planning, the Secretary’s budget statements ignore the fact that the Congressional Budget Office projects that the Department’s failure to manage the real-world crises in personnel, modernization, and readiness costs will have as negative an overall budget impact over time as Sequestration will. Ignoring the Department’s long history of undercosting its budget, its cost overruns, and the resulting cuts in forces, modernization, and readiness means one more year of failing to cope with reality. Presenting an unaffordable plan is as bad as failing to budget enough money.
The far more serious problem, however, is that Secretary Hagel fails to provide any meaningful picture of where the U.S. is going and of the defense posture it is trying to create. He focuses on current spending levels and not on any aspect of programming. He talks about cuts in personnel, equipment, and force strength in case-specific terms, but does not address readiness and does not address any plan or provide any serious details as to what the United States is seeking in in terms of changes in its alliances and partnerships, and its specific goals in force levels, deployments, modernization, personnel, and readiness....
Worse, we are going to leave these issues to be addressed in the future by another mindless waste of time like the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). All the past QDRs have been set so far in the future to be practical or relevant. Each successive QDR has proved to be one more colostomy bag after another of half-digested concepts and vague strategic priorities filled with noise and futility and signifying nothing. They have failed to set any meaningful goals for implementing the strategies they discuss, and have failed to provide any realistic plans and details about how we will shape alliances and partnerships, force levels, deployments, modernization, personnel, and readiness.
Like all of his recent predecessors, Secretary Hagel has failed dismally to show the U.S. has any real plans for the future and to provide any meaningful sense of direction and real justification for defense spending. The best that can be said of his speech on the FY2015 defense budget is that U.S. strategy and forces will go hollow in a kinder and gentler manner than simply enforcing sequestration".
Anthony Cordesman, "Going Hollow: The Hagel Preview of the FY2015 Defense Budget." The Center for Strategic and International Study.
25 February 2014 in www.csis.com
The gist of Anthony Cordesman's criticism of American Defense Secretary Hagel's proposed defense 'strategy' is of course by definition pertinent and on the mark. No one can be more cogent and adept at finding fault with a defense policy statement than Dr. Cordesman. Without however gainsaying Dr. Cordesman immense knowledge, erudition and experience, there is an element in his critique of Secretary Hagel which sounds (at least to me) rather naïve and (dare one say it?) idealistic. Meaning: given the organization and history of the American Defense department, as well as the (should one say?) peculiar manner in which in America, public monies are voted on and approved by the national legislature (a form of semi-bribery and or subsidy for the voters back home), it is difficult to imagine something better bearing fruit in this particular exercise. If one merely thinks back into the history of the American defense department, one immediately re-imagines a long series of intra-service clashes and rivalries, with in some cases the nominal head of the department, a mere cipher if not a complete eunuch: the Admirals Revolt of the late 1940's, Ridgeway's & Taylor's dissent in the 1950's, the endemic dislike (if at time muted) of much of the military hierarchy for then Defense Secretary Macnamara's reforms in the 1960's. Et cetera
. In times of austerity, the modus operandi
is akin to sauve que peut
. In years of plenty it is 'spend what you may, spend on anything'. In short, due to the unique weaknesses and liabilities of the American governmental system, it is almost impossible to expect or anticipate a rational decision-making apparatus in place to decide on policy, particular as it relates to procurement and spending on the forces in the USA. This was true under Secretary Forrestal in the late 1940's and it is true to-day under Secretary Hagel. Given the emphasis (one is almost tempted to characterize it as 'obsession') with austerity, particularly in the armed forces, Secretary Hagel has probably done the best that can be expected. Faute de mieux
. With it being understood, that Secretary Hagel was not, repeat not appointed with the idea that he would be able to plot a new strategic grand-strategy for America's armed forces. That unfortunately, is something which is beyond the purview of any American Secretary of Defense. Those few Secretaries who endeavored to try, did not fare very well: Macnamara, and Rumsfeld come immediately to mind. In this instance there is indeed something to be said for mediocrity
. In that respect Secretary Hagel, a safe pair of hands if there ever was one, is exactly what the doctor ordered.
RUSSIA AND THE OUSTER OF YANUKOVICH: THE DIALECTICS OF DEFEAT
"Russian leaders expressed their distrust and dislike of Ukraine’s new government on Monday, saying it came to power through “armed mutiny,” just hours after the authorities here announced a nationwide manhunt for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych on charges of “mass murder of peaceful civilians.”
Russia questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine’s interim leadership, charging that it used a peace deal brokered by Europe to make a power grab and to suppress dissent in Russian-speaking regions through “terrorist methods.”
The tone was much harsher than any previous Russian response to the events of the past few days. “If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be a government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Monday".
William Booth and Will Englund, "Russia cries ‘mutiny’ over change in Ukraine". The Washington Post
. 24 February 2014, in www.washingtonpost.com.
"Rather, the main reason for Russian sensitivity is geopolitics. One of the causes of anti-American feeling is the deep and bitter frustration borne of the conviction that Russia has been marginalised. Its former allies in eastern Europe and the Baltic states are not only gone but quite unfriendly toward Moscow.
In Asia, an incomprehensible and unpredictable China is calling the shots. In the Middle East, most former partners and footholds have disappeared. For years, official propaganda has been doing its best to convince the population that the west, that eternal enemy of Russia, has not renounced its sinister designs. Worse, it looks as though at least some of Russia’s top leaders or their advisers share this conviction.
The cold war zero-sum game mentality is by no means dead. Russia’s leaders regard the west, particularly the US, with much suspicion. They do not believe that Washington is bent on war, but they assume that, given an opportunity, the Americans will never miss a chance to do something nasty to Russia.
Ukraine is far more important to Russia than Georgia, where six years ago the Kremlin was ready to go war rather than lose face. In Ukraine, just like in Syria, the bottom line is to avoid being seen to back down under American pressure. Even a partitioned Ukraine is better than a pro-western one. The propaganda line is that the whole circus has been organised by Nato with the aim of snatching a great and important country from Moscow’s grip. The domestic audience is told that the west’s real purpose is moving Nato’s military bases closer to Russia’s heartland.
This is why it is easy to understand that official Moscow is terribly disappointed with the way things have turned out in Ukraine, primarily because it is afraid that Viktor Yanukovich’s ouster will be regarded in the world as Russia’s defeat. Some feel President Vladimir Putin has been humiliated since he had allegedly tried to buy Mr Yanukovich and failed.
The game is far from over. Russia’s best hope appears to be Ukrainian extreme nationalists, just as in Syria al-Qaeda, the Shias’ mortal enemy, serves President Bashar al-Assad to frighten away both moderate Syrians and the west".
Georgy Mirsky, "Russia is right to be upset over events in Ukraine." The Financial Times
. 25 February 2014 in www.ft.com
The idea being banded about that the violent rhetorical reaction of Russian officialdom over the ouster of the Yanukovich regime has some relationship with Russian fears over its geopolitical position is farcical. It has no basis in reality. Even the feverish reality that one glimpses when one listens to Russian officialdom on the topic of recent events in Ukraine. Au fond, the violent reactions being verbalized by Moskva is simply that with the ouster of Yanukovich by a massive example of popular mobilization is the ultimate cauchemar
of the Putin regime. Putinism is based fundamentally upon the de-politization of the mass of the population. The fact that a country which most Russians view in a slightly condescending fashion (at the very least), now can be said to be on the road to political modernization `a la Western & Central Europe, will inevitably raise huge questions in the so far mostly quiescence Russian population. In conjunction with the major, structural slow-down in Russian economic growth (the middle income trap with a vengeance), there is a hugely increased likelihood of a legitimation crisis in Putinism 1. Accordingly, the very last thing that Moskva needs is a toppling of an ally in a hoped-for vassal state. That and not geopolitics is the reason for Moskva's violent response to what has occurred in Kyiv.
1. On the 'middle-income trap', see: George Magnus, "China can yet avoid the middle-income trap." 9 August 2013 in www.georgemagnus.com
. On Russian economic stagnation, see: Kathrin Hille, "Russia: after the party. The Financial Times
. 4 Februarhy 2014, in www.ft.com
THE PEACE DEAL IN KYIV: A COMMENT
"A breakthrough peace deal for Ukraine halted two days of violence that had turned the center of the capital into a war zone and killed 77 people, bringing sweeping political change that met many demands of the pro-European opposition.
Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich agreed to give up powers, hold early elections and form a government of national unity. Parliament voted for changes to the legal code that could see the release of Yanukovich's jailed rival, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
By nightfall, opposition leaders who signed the deal were addressing peaceful crowds from a stage in Independence Square, which for the previous 48 hours had been an inferno of blazing barricades and protesters were shot dead by police snipers.
Although the flames were out, the crowd was still defiant, holding aloft open coffins of slain demonstrators and making speeches denouncing the opposition leaders for shaking hands with Yanukovich.
The Ukraine crisis began with protests in November after Yanukovich turned his back on a far-reaching economic deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia instead.
If it holds, the deal hammered out with the mediation efforts of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, would mark a victory for Europe in a tug-of-war with Moscow for influence in the divided ex-Soviet state of 46 million people.
But it remains to be seen whether violence can be halted and whether a lurch away from Moscow will cost Ukraine a $15 billion Russian financial lifeline it needs to stave off bankruptcy.
"There are no steps that we should not take to restore peace in Ukraine," Yanukovich said in announcing his concessions before the agreement was signed. "I announce that I am initiating early elections."
Within hours, parliament voted to revert to a previous constitution slashing Yanukovich's powers, sacked his interior minister blamed for this week's bloodshed and paved the way for Tymoshenko's release.
EU leaders and the White House praised the deal but Moscow made grudging comments that fell short of endorsing it. The European foreign ministers signed the document as witnesses, but a Russian envoy did not....
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski described the agreement as a "good compromise for Ukraine". It "gives peace a chance. Opens the way for reform and to Europe," he tweeted.
It fell to Sikorski to sell the deal to the skeptical opposition. ITN video filmed outside a meeting room during a break in the talks showed him pleading with opposition delegates to accept it: "If you don't support this, you'll have martial law, you'll have the army, you'll all be dead.".'"
Sabine Siebold and Natalia Zinets, "Ukraine peace deal halts violence but crowds still angry". Reuters
. 21 February 2014, in www.reuters.com
"In spite of their confident public statements, EU officials sounded more nervous behind closed doors about whether the Ukrainian leader would follow through. “Obviously there are concerns and uncertainties,” said one European diplomat briefed on internal EU deliberations. “Yanukovich has about as much credibility as – well, it’s not much....”
Also uncertain is whether Moscow will seek to undermine an agreement that could, in theory, allow Ukraine to resume progress towards further integration with the EU, and a bailout from the International Monetary Fund. Those possibilities make the deal a significant setback for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has fought to keep Ukraine in Russia’s orbit.
In a telling gesture, Mr Putin’s representative in the Kiev talks, Vladimir Lukin, left on Friday without signing it as a witness – unlike the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, who witnessed it on behalf of the EU.
Andriy Klyuyev, pro-Russian head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said Mr Lukin “did not have a mandate” from Moscow to sign the document. He added that he expected relations with Russia – which he called “our key strategic partner” – to remain good.
Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman, was not immediately available for comment on the Ukrainian deal and there were signs the Russian government was not satisfied.
“I don’t think this agreement will last, because there are no guarantees that the radicals who started this escalation will stop their violence,” said a Russian foreign policy official".
Neil Buckley, Roman Olearchyk and Kathrin Hille. "Kiev calm but uncertainties temper relief over agreement". The Financial Times.
21 February 2014, in www.ft.com
One does not have to be very cynical to be concerned about the eventual outcome of the crisis in Ukraine. Notwithstanding the fact that the settlement brokered by the European Union has a good deal to speak for it, the fact is that leaving Ukrainian President Yanukovich in power for another nine to ten months seems a dangerous gamble. At this point in time, it appears to me self-evident that Yanukovich is a dangerously unpredictable political character. The events of the past month, show that he is not another Leonid Kuchma: corrupt and power hunger but au fond
, unwilling to push matters to a va banque
level. Hence the peaceful outcome of the crisis in 2004. Yanukovich based simply upon his tactics this week appears to indeed be willing to dangerously push matters to the brink and then some. And while he is has been temporarily defeated, inasmuch as the security forces were unable to handle violently or peacefully the protestors, one can readily assume that he will seek to exploit any fissures and cracks that may emerge in the upcoming months. Or should I say: he would be willing to invent or foster fissures and cracks that may allow him to reintroduce state violence as a means of remaining in power and to either void or negate future Presidential elections. By fair means or foul. Especially, since it is now difficult to imagine where will Yanukovich and his clique will fit in, once he leaves the Presidency. A chance to retire to a comfortable perch, sitting on x
amount of ill-gotten gains, `a la Kuchma no longer appears either possible or plausible. Accordingly, Yanukovich has many reasons indeed to endeavor to make a pig's breakfast
of the agreement if he indeed can. Simiarly, it is quite clear and not very surprising that Moskva is has also reasons to be highly dissatisfied with the agreement. It would be kinderspielen
to imagine that Putin, et. al., will not endeavor to employ every lever at their disposal to over-turn this agreement and try to persuade Yanukovich (not that he would need much by way of persuasion...) to once again engage in a trial of strength with the opposition or should I say that this point Ukrainian civil society. The only reason that I personally have for optimism at this point are as follows: i
) the Ukrainian narod
, its civil society has shown itself to be able to match force against force with Yanukovich's henchmen. It is not difficult to imagine that if Yanukovich were to endeavor to re-introduce state violence, that the same scenario will play itself out again; ii
) The European Union by crafting the settlement is both de facto
and de ju
re committed to it being followed through. If this week's diplomatic focus is not merely a one-off, but the beginnings of something approaching a clear and consistent European Union policy to bring Ukraine into the European Union fold; with trade, economic assistance and investments to follow, then that is all to the good; iii
) finally, the release to-day of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko
is I believe perhaps the key reason that we can expect Yanukovich to finish anno domini
2014 in someplace else than Kyiv. Whatever her many other failings, Tymoshenko is a master political tactician and rabble rouser. With her now hopefully leading the opposition and perhaps indeed Parliament, Yanukovich's days indeed should be numbered. At this point in time, one may only hope that is the case.
THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE CRISIS IN UKRAINE: THE FOREIGN POLICY OF A TODDLER
"EU foreign ministers agreed to impose targeted sanctions against individuals responsible for spiralling violence in Ukraine and enact an embargo on equipment that could be used against protesters.
The EU did not immediately produce a list of individuals to be targeted but diplomats are set to do so in days.
After weeks of hesitation, the bloc’s 28 member states on Thursday decided to act in response to escalating bloodshed in the Ukrainian capital, where at least 50 people have been killed in the past three days.
A move towards tougher sanctions indicated the EU’s growing frustration with President Viktor Yanukovich’s inability to put an end to deadly clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police.
“In light of the deteriorating situation, the EU has decided as a matter of urgency to introduce targeted sanctions including asset freeze and [a] visa ban against those responsible for human rights violations, violence and use of excessive force,” according to a statement on the conclusion of the minister’s meeting.
“Member states agreed to suspend export licences on equipment which might be used for internal repression,” the document continued.
Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign minister, said: “I think that those responsible for the violence in Kiev should know that the EU will punish them for doing this.”
In private, though, some western diplomats have expressed doubts about whether sanctions will have much impact in Ukraine - particularly in the near term. Many of the EU’s member states had been reluctant in recent weeks to apply such measures for fear that it might alienate elements of the government with whom they were hoping to negotiate a solution to the crisis.
British officials say they have lobbied for the number of people affected by the sanctions to be limited only to those directly implicated in the violence. With several wealthy Ukrainian oligarchs connected to the regime living in London, British ministers are keen not to antagonise anyone who might bring a court case against the UK government.."
Andrew Byrne & James Fontanella-Khan, "EU imposes targeted sanctions on Ukraine." The Financial Times
. 20 February 2014, in www.ft.com
"‘I am deeply concerned by the scenes we are witnessing in Ukraine. The violence on all sides is completely unacceptable and President Yanukovych has a particular responsibility to pull back government forces and de-escalate the situation.
‘Violence is not the way to resolve the political differences across the country. The President needs to engage with the opposition and work with all sides in Ukraine to agree political reforms that reflect the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people. There must be a clear commitment to the rule of law, respect for fundamental human rights and civil freedoms.
‘This is a critical moment for the future of Ukraine. Working with our international partners, we will do all we can to help return Ukraine to the path to stability, democracy and prosperity and tomorrow the Foreign Secretary will join other European foreign ministers in Brussels to discuss the European response.
‘President Yanukovych should be under no doubt that the world is watching his actions and that those responsible for violence will be held accountable.’"
British Prime Minister David Cameron quoted in Isabel Hardman, "David Cameron warns Ukraine’s president: the world is watching."
. 19 February 2014, in www.spectator.co.uk
Perhaps there are few things more depressing in the current crisis in Ukraine, albeit extremely predictable is the Eunuch-like
behavior of the European Union
. To-day's action by the European Union while a forward step, has aspects of the type of steps undertake by a toddler. With whatever saliency gained by said steps were lost and or undermined by precisely the sort of cynical quid pro quo
extracted by the British Government. The fact is that insofar as the West (the EU and the United States) has any diplomatically easy leverage to employ in this affair, that leverage can be said to consist of the assets and investments that Ukraine's oligarchs, both inside and outside the Yanukovich circle have in the West. To tip-toe around the concept of imposing not only monetary sanctions, visa restrictions and the freezing of said assets on elements in the regime, is to put it very mildly beyond hypocrisy. Au fond
, the crisis in Ukraine will of course be decided by the Ukrainian people in the streets of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. The West can only be a facilitator of a positive resolution to the ongoing events. It cannot for good reasons engage in the sort of sotto voce
threats of the military and geo-political variety that Moskva
has been engaging in 1. But, if the European Union had the makings of being a normal foreign policy actor, it would have endeavored for quite awhile now to assist the opposition as much as possible and indicate to all elements of the regime that violence would not be tolerated and that if the regime engaged in violence (as it has indeed done) that all such elements would feel the negative side-effects of the regime's behavior. Via revoking of visas for both individuals and families and the freezing as many assets as could possibly be identified. Of course as we have seen nothing of the sort has indeed occurred. Instead we have the baby steps of a toddler
1. Kathrin Hille & Roman Olearchyk, "Russia rattles sabre over fate of Crimea." The Financial Times
. 20 February 2014, in www.ft.com
. See also: Timothy Snyder, "Fascism, Russia and Ukraine." The New York Review of Books
. 20 March 2014, in www.nybooks.com
THE VIOLENCE IN KYIV: A COMMENT
"Tens of thousands of protesters were digging in for further clashes with Ukrainian security forces in central Kiev, as fears grew of a wider government crackdown against pro-EU demonstrations using the armed forces.
As darkness fell in the Ukrainian capital, the country’s defence ministry announced that the military could be deployed in “antiterrorist” operations and President Victor Yanukovich replaced the head of the army.
The warning came 24 hours after the most bloody day in Ukraine since pro-EU demonstrators began their occupation of the city’s centre more than three months ago, with 25 people killed.
Earlier thousands of protesters wearing military helmets and bullet proof vests has clashed sporadically with riot police as tens of thousands more sprawled out along Khreshchatyk, the city’s main street and a popular hang-out during peace times....
We are digging up ammunition from the streets we walked on so many times before to use as ammunition against this criminal regime
Demonstrators who had a day earlier retained control of Independence Square in the city centre in the face of a fierce onslaught from riot police were reinforced by newly arriving protesters from western Ukraine.
Earlier Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) announced it had launched a criminal case against unnamed politicians for plotting a coup to overthrow the government and “seize state power” as police restricted vehicle access to downtown Kiev.
But Ihor Smeshko, who steered Ukraine away from violent confrontation during the 2004 Orange Revolution while in charge of the SBU, warned according to local news reports that “anti-terrorist” operations against protesting citizens was a “direct path towards civil war”.
Ukrainian television also showed anti-government protesters in western Ukraine – where support for EU integration is highest – seizing control of government buildings and forcing governors appointed by Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukraine president, to sign papers confirming their resignation....
After late negotiations on Wednesday evening, Mr Yanukovich’s office and opposition politicians backing the protest movement announced that both sides had agreed to end the bloody street violence, in turn setting the stage for compromise talks. But with stun grenades still heard exploding on Kiev’s main square and protesters expressing lack of trust in Mr Yanukovich’s intentions, the situation remained tense".
Roman Olearchyk, "Ukraine protesters dig in fearing bigger crackdown." The Financial Times
. 19 February 2014, in www.ft.com
The state initiated violence in Kyiv these past few days raises, but does not answer the fraught question of whether President Yanukovich will and can successfully employ massive violence to restore 'order'
in Kyiv and once there in the rest of the country. Based upon both past form and historical experience the events of the past few days seems at worse to be a draw between the forces of Yanukovich and his opponents (au fond
the great mass of Ukrainians). If one were to employ military metaphors for what occurred, Yanukovich had his forces engage in something akin to a 'raid in force'. Hoping that with a short, sharp and surprise attack, that his forces would regain the center of the city and oust the protestors. Once done he could either re-engage in negotiations from a position of strength or conversely forgo negotiations and engage in wholesale repression in the rest of the country, gubernia
. Well as the report in to-day Financial Times
seems to indicate that expectation does not appear to have been bourn out. Hence, the offer to (which the opposition has agreed to) of a truce and a temporary halt to the fighting. However, per se
the truce does not mean that Yanukovich is ready to seriously negotiate a settlement to the crisis. Indeed, with the deaths of over twenty innocent people on his hands, something unheard of in post-Soviet Ukraine, Yanukovich's room for maneuver has become infinitely more truncated. After the recent state violence it is impossible to imagine that in any peace settlement to the crisis will allow him to remain in power for more than a very short interval. And once out of power, Yanukovich would have no other future than exile in either Mosvka, Central Asia or Minsk. Accordingly, I for one do not believe that Yanukovich has given up the hope that he can settle the crisis in his favor by the employment of massive violence. The reason that Yanukovich has not cared to so deploy massive violence is that: a
) the security forces are too small in number and too inexperienced to decisively defeat the protestors and clear the center of the city of their presence; b
) the army which could very easily in the abstract do what the security forces are unable to do, is by its very nature a dangerous weapon to use in this situation. While there has been a purge of elements of the upper echelon of the army, it is doubtful that if ordered to engage in massive violence Yanukovich's nominees can be absolutely certain that the army would indeed obey orders and do as it was told. Indeed, history has too many examples of instances were an army in such cases would mutiny and revolt rather than engage in actions which it did not believe in. The events in February-March 1917 in St. Petersburg are of course the best example that history provides 1. Accordingly, it appears to me that Yanukovich has not ordered the army into action because he fears that it might not only refuse to obey orders but would on the contrary join the protestors and bring down the regime tout de suite
. He will only do so, if and only if, there exists no other means of settling the crisis in his favor. Judging from to-day's events the peak of the crisis has not yet arrived. Yanukovich still wishes to hood-wink the opposition by engage in a bogus truce so as to allow the security forces to better prepare themselves for a much more
ferocious attack on the center of Kyiv. Expect a few days of meaningless discussions with both the opposition and the (embarrassing toothless) European Union and Americans. Once preparations are in train for another, more certain heavier attack, it will commence like clock-work. Whether it succeeds or not, is solely in the hands of the courageous Ukrainian people and in particular Ukrainian youth who are willing to risk their lives for ideals that we in the decadent West believe in without either feeling or depth. Bog
willing they will succeed. As a heroic (if deluded and historically erroneous) writer once aptly put it:
The masses are the crucial factor. They are the rock on which the ultimate victory of the revolution will be built.2
1. The very best account is by the White émigré Russian scholar, George Katkov, Russia 1917: the February Revolution
2. Rosa Luxembourg, "Order Prevails in Berlin", (1919).