Posts Tagged ‘Crimea’

Russian maps already include Crimea

May 1, 2014

The Russian language site of the Ministry of Defense has not wasted much time in including Crimea as part of the Southern Defence Region. The English language website does not – yet – include the change.

Gen. Sergei Shoigu - Minister of Defense

Gen. Sergei Shoigu – Minister of Defense

It seems to be just a matter of time before parts of Eastern Ukraine also are included. I see that many US and European sources are seeing this “annexation”  of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine as Russian aggression. The Russians have certainly been opportunistic but I believe it has been aggressive EU expansionism and fairly incompetent EU Foreign Policy formulation and implementation which has initiated the violent reaction from the local Russian-speaking population. As the WSJ put it:

The seeds of EU policy disarray were sown in the divisions among the EU’s 28 member states—as well as the disinclination of most European countries to view Ukraine as a test of geopolitical importance. There was a yawning difference between the efforts of Vladimir Putin’s Russia to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence and what Europe was prepared to do to tempt what many regard as a country of major strategic significance into the Western fold. …….. Much criticism of Europe’s policy disarray has been directed to the EU institutions in Brussels, the bloc’s foreign-policy head Catherine Ashton and its enlargement chief, Stefan Füle. But it is difficult for Brussels to get out ahead of its biggest member states on foreign-policy issues—and many governments were cautious.

The fact that the EU turned a blind eye to the the growth of the neo-Nazi, right-wing fanatics only fuelled the fears of the ethnic Russians. The de facto EU support – with US acquiesence – for openly corrupt “opposition” politicians in Ukraine did not much help either. It should not have required much deep analysis to conclude that Russia would not stand idly by when the ethnic Russians felt threatened. But the multiple and fractured views of the 28 EU states does not allow much rational analysis.

Russian Ministry of Defence Maps - Russian version already includes Crimea

Russian Ministry of Defence Maps – Russian version already includes Crimea (image SvD)

Image comparison: Svenska Dagbladet.

Crimea is a fait accompli – as White House is so relieved that Putin deigned to call

March 29, 2014

The news this morning is that Vladimir Putin called Barack Obama to discuss Ukraine. But the tone from the White House is that this was a great diplomatic victory for Obama since it was Putin who initiated the call. So far it has always been Obama calling Putin to draw red lines in the air.

(Reuters)Russian President Vladimir Putin called U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a U.S. diplomatic proposal for Ukraine, the White House said, adding that Obama told him that Russia must pull back its troops and not move deeper into Ukraine. It was believed to have been the first direct conversation between Obama and Putin since the United States and its European allies began imposing sanctions on Putin’s inner circle and threatened to penalize key sectors of Russia’s economy. …… The White House noted specifically that it was Putin who called Obama, who is ending a four-country trip in Saudi Arabia and had just returned to his Riyadh hotel after talks with King Abdullah.

And so another crisis is solved – until the next one. But the Kremlin account is somewhat different to the White House account

NYT: “President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path in close consultation with the government of Ukraine and in support of the Ukrainian people with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis,” the White House said in a statement. “President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

In its statement posted on its official website, the Kremlin said Mr. Putin “drew Barack Obama’s attention to continued rampage of extremists who are committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents, government authorities and law enforcement agencies in various regions and in Kiev with impunity. …. In light of this,” it added, “the president of Russia suggested examining possible steps the global community can take to help stabilize the situation.”

The Crimea is a done deal. The US and the EU have to maintain some face while accepting that reality. What is also apparent is that the Russian view of  right wing extremists and neo-nazis is shared by the current “government” of the Ukraine. The EU and its “expansive but naive imperialism” bears a heavy responsibility for the rise of the Right Sector and its violent ways. And now the Ukraine is running a pogrom to disable if not wipe out the Right Sector. (Not so dissimilar to the current campaigns against Golden Dawn in Greece and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt).

BBC: A Ukrainian ultra-nationalist leader has been shot dead in what officials describe as a special forces operation. Oleksandr Muzychko, better known as Sashko Bily, died in a shoot-out with police in a cafe in Rivne in western Ukraine, the interior ministry said. He was a leader of Right Sector, a far-right group which was prominent in the recent anti-government protests.

BBC: Ukraine’s interim President Olexander Turchynov has condemned the ultra-nationalist Right Sector, saying the group is bent on “destabilisation”. Right Sector activists blocked the parliament (Rada) building in Kiev on Thursday night and smashed windows. They blamed the interior minister for the killing of a Right Sector leader. …..

….. At a parliament session on Friday, Mr Turchynov, called the Right Sector rally outside parliament “an attempt to destabilise the situation in Ukraine, in the very heart of Ukraine – Kiev. That is precisely the task that the Russian Federation’s political leadership is giving to its special services”. Right Sector activists are furious over the death of Oleksandr Muzychko, better known as Sashko Bily, one of their leaders. The interior ministry said he died on Monday night in a shoot-out with police in a cafe in Rivne in western Ukraine.

Transnistria (image blatantworld.com)

Transnistria (image blatantworld.com)

Putin does not seem to have discussed – or needed to discuss – the Crimea. That is now a fait accompli. Instead he has taken up the case of Moldova and Transnistria. In Moldova too, it is the EU’s expansionism which has led to some of the internal rifts. I note also that the Ukraine and Moldova have been wooed enthusiastically by the EU and had made more progress than Turkey has in its long running saga of seeking EU membership. (Turkey will never be allowed to become a member – in my opinion  – because it is a Muslim country).

NYT: While not mentioning Crimea, the Kremlin drew attention to Ukraine’s blockade of Transnistria, a breakaway, pro-Russian region of Moldova, another former Soviet republic to the south. Frozen for years in an international limbo, neither accepting Moldova’s rule nor formally part of Russia, Transnistria has relied on land access through Ukraine for crucial imports.

The Kremlin said a new blockade would “significantly complicate the living conditions for the region’s residents, impeding their movement and normal trade and economic activities,” and it urged negotiations to address the situation.

Russia has more than 1,000 troops in Transnistria, the remnants of a peacekeeping force deployed since 1992, and it has relied on overland access through Ukraine to supply them. The next talks on the conflict are scheduled for Vienna on April 10 and 11.

Some officials in the region have asked to follow Crimea and become part of Russia. Moldova has been working toward the same sweeping political and free trade agreements with the European Union that prompted Russian opposition in Ukraine.

The Crimean crisis is over. The Moldovan (Transnistria) crisis is next.

And President Obama can bask in the glory of “having forced” Vladimir Putin to call him.

Crimea: Hypocrisy when the US and the West attack a democratic referendum

March 17, 2014

Personally I do not believe in referenda as a sustainable democratic method. If all decisions were taken to referenda we would essentially have an anarchy. But the use of referenda – occasionally but often not with great circumspection – has become a common practice in so-called democratic countries whenever an administration finds itself at odds with the great unwashed electorate and at risk of losing an election.

The Crimea has no great tradition or history as a part of Ukraine. It was merely attached to Ukraine in 1954 for administrative and prestige purposes during Khrushchev’s time. I find the developments in the Crimea are now showing up the double standards that always apply in international “diplomacy” in a very clear and sharp light. It is always a case of “do as I say” and never of “do as I do”.

There is little doubt that the Crimean referendum yesterday reflects the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants of that autonomous territory. The Tartars and the Ukrainians living in the Crimea largely boycotted the vote. But it was a direct vote on a simple question. It is being criticised for being illegal and unconstitutional by Obama and the EU and the “West”. But it cannot be criticised for being undemocratic. The claim that it was unconstitutional is a little weird since the current administration in Kiev can hardly be called constitutional. At best one could say that neither the acting government in Kiev (which is not an elected government any more) nor the referendum are in line with the currently suspended Ukrainian constitution.

EU Ministers are rushing to condemn the referendum – but they are careful to quote issues of legality and constitutional impropriety. They are careful not to call the referendum undemocratic. Hague and Cameron particularly show up as being triple-tongued and double-faced. The Crimea – under the Ukrainian constitution – had more autonomy than Scotland has in the UK. How then is a referendum in Scotland on independence acceptable but a referendum in the Crimea is not?  Hague claims that the referendum makes a “mockery of democracy” but that is an intellectually bankrupt statement. He might as well call for all of the UK to vote in Scotland’s referendum for that referendum not also to be a mockery of Democracy. David Cameron is struggling to balance between offering a referendum on EU membership and yet making it a vote which has no possibility of the UK leaving the EU. Democracy will not apply if the vote is “No” to membership. The electorate wants a referendum, so he offers them one. But the UK Parliament – which has surrendered many of its powers to Europe – is loth to allow the unwashed electorate any such power.

The reality today is that almost all “democratic” countries use voting systems which are nowhere near as direct or as represntative of an electorate’s wishes as a refrendum. The US Presidential elections with its electoral college is a case in point. Party democracies in Europe are extremely indirect reflections of the wishes of the electorate. It is political parties which control the names on the party lists. The broad electorate only chooses a Party, and the Party hierarchy and membership usually choose the representatives. The manner in which names enter the Party lists is hardly democratic. European countries which practice proportional representation have a quite “undemocratic” representation in their Parliaments. Extreme minorities have a disproportionately large presence in Parliaments.

There is a lot of noise and bluster from Obama and Kerry and all the EU politicians. But it is the imprudent wooing of Ukraine by the EU and US meddling which has created the current crisis in Ukraine. It is their indiscriminate support of any opposition (just as in Syria) which has allowed the advance of the violent far-right neo Nazis.

I also note that while Obama’s popularity is at an all-time low of 41%, Vladimir Putin’s popularity is at an all-time high of over 70%. And democracy, after all, is just a popularity contest. But the simple fact is that most of the Crimea would prefer to be with Russia than with Ukraine. Obama and his friends may call it illegal and unconstitutional but the Crimean vote yesterday was totally democratic.

Kerry to lead the charge of the G-7 light brigade

March 3, 2014

Washington (AFP)US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev this week in a show of support for the embattled leadership, as Washington and its allies slammed Moscow for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.

kerry to lead the charge on kiev

kerry to lead the charge on kiev

The Crimea has seen its full share of wars, progroms, forced displacements and ethnic cleansing. It has been “ceded” to Ukraine since 1954. And now, as the Ottomans once allied with France and the UK  against Russia,  the Neo-Nazis of Ukraine are finding allies among the US, NATO and the EU  (G-7).

But Crimea contains 60% Russians!

With apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Half a step, half a brain,
 Half a plan given,
All into the valley of Fools
 Rode the G-seven.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“It’s for Democracy” he said:
Into the valley of Fools
 Rode the G-seven!

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there no one  dismayed?
Tho’ every single member knew
 He had no discretion:
Barack Obama had made reply
Kerry had his own fish to fry
Theirs not to question why,
As into the valley of Fools
 Rode the G-seven!


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