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Category Archives: ukraine
Ukraine Declares War on Russia
Ukraine has got the message.
Kommersant reports (English synopsis) that the Ukrainian government has embarked upon a massive and ambitious plan to develop and exploit domestic shale gas resources, thereby reducing its dependence on Russia by a factor of three. Not long after that, Ukraine was issuing bellicose threats to Russia and harshly snubbing the Putin regime.
The reason for this action is obvious: Ukrainians don’t trust Russians any more than Georgians do. Slowly but surely, the malignant Putin regime is managing to spoil every one of Russia’s geopolitical relationships in post-Soviet space.
A Ukrainian Gestapo goon pulls down the pants of a helpless FEMEN protester for a little peek at her anatomy while dragging her down from the roof of a vehicle as she heroically protested the clearly illegal prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko in Kiev last week.
Ukraine, off the Reservation
What we are witnessing these days in Ukraine is truly one of the most astounding developments in the modern history of the region.
When Victor Yanukovich was elected president of Ukraine in February 2010 over rival Yulia Tymoshenko, many Russophiles may have thought it was a big win for Russia. But recent events indicate it may become one of Russia’s biggest nightmares.
On the surface, Yanukovich’s sensational arrest and prosecution of Tymoshenko following his election may have seemed like an aggressive move to silence a tough critic of the Moscow Kremlin. Looking deeper, however, it’s anything but that.
Rajan Menon, writing on Foreign Policy:
There’s no love lost between Europe and Ukraine’s ruling regime — or certainly between the Western press and Kiev. Indeed, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who unseated the pro-Western leaders of the Orange Revolution, is commonly depicted outside his country as an oppressive and reflexively pro-Russian figure. But while there’s certainly something to this unflattering characterization, there’s a bit more to the man — and a lot more happening in Ukraine than the authoritarian picture most commentators paint.
After the jump, you will see what happened to a Ukrainian activist from the FEMEN organization who dared to bare all to protest against an effort by her government to increase the retirement age and curtail pension benefits for untold numbers of starving aged countrymen, whose lifespans are far shorter than we have in the West. Having studied at the knee of the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian “president” Victor Yanukovich knows just how to handle the situation.
CAUTION: NUDITY FOLLOWS. USE DISCRETION.
Moscow is on the march. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the most destabilizing – and reckless – great power on the world stage. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia could have become a stable democracy at peace with its neighbors.
Instead, Mr. Putin is erecting a Great Russian empire. He has imposed a brutal police state at home. Journalists routinely are killed. Critics and dissidents are jailed. Media freedoms and opposition parties are under assault. A gangster elite runs the Kremlin, plundering the country’s vast wealth.
Russia has become a rogue state. Mr. Putin’s aim is to make Moscow the center of an anti-American, anti-Western axis. Russia has waged a genocidal war in Chechnya. It has de facto annexed the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It has reduced Belarus to an economic vassal. It menaces the Baltic States. Moscow asserts a sphere of influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus. It has sold vital missile and nuclear technology to Iran’s mullahs. It has close ties with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.
Paul Goble reports:
An “extremely significant segment” of ethnic Russians in Western Ukraine, particularly among the younger generation, regularly vote for pro-Ukrainian parties, either because of “nationalist propaganda” or because they hope to live “‘in Europe’” rather than to maintain “ties with their historical Motherland – Russia,” according to a Russian analyst.
And that is just one of the indications of the declining role of an ethnic community that came into existence in the years after World War II and that played a large role there until the 1990s, Dmitry Korolyev says in a detailed essay on the Russians in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv. The first Russian who settled in Lviv, he writes, was Ivan Fedorov, the printer who arrived in 1572, but until 1939, there were very few ethnic Russians there. They consisted mostly of anti-Bolshevik White Army soldiers and their families, and they numbered at most in “the hundreds.”
Edward Chow, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and Taras Kuzio, a senior fellow for Ukrainian studies at the University of Toronto, writing in the Moscow Times:
President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Ukraine this week is a continuation of the weekly meetings between the Russian government and the new leadership in Kiev at either a presidential or prime ministerial level since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s election in February. The series of high-level meetings don’t appear to confirm Ukraine’s initial intent to establish a balanced foreign policy between Russia and the West.
After years of political crises and instability in Ukraine, the West greeted Yanukovych with a strong desire to believe his promise of bringing stability and reforms. Ukraine fatigue was replaced by wishful thinking.
Less than 100 days later, though, it should now be abundantly clear to Western governments and international organizations such as NATO and the European Union that neither stability nor reforms are in the cards for Ukraine, and there are five reasons for this:
Half a decade after a series of “colored revolutions” toppled Moscow-backed rulers across the former Soviet Union and replaced them with pro-Western ones, the Kremlin seems to be finally getting its payback. Already this year Russia can count two scalps—Ukraine’s Viktor Yushchenko and Kyrgyzstan’s Kurmanbek Bakiyev, both ousted by challengers friendlier to Moscow. While it would be a stretch to say that Russia was the sole architect and puppet master of Ukraine’s February presidential election and Kyrgyzstan’s messy coup in April, the country certainly played a key role. It sheltered and supported Kyrgyz opposition leaders and made it clear to Ukrainian voters that a victory for Viktor Yanukovych would usher in a new era of cheap gas and increased trade. Moreover, this year’s strategic victories have inspired the Kremlin to encourage further regime change in what Russians still call their “near abroad.”
Vladimir Putin, Raving Psychopath
As many predicted it would do after Russia’s 2008 annexation of Ossetia and Abkhazia, it appears Russian success with aggression in Georgia has induced it to turn its eye toward an even juicier tidbit known, for now, as Ukraine.
Last Friday, in one of the most fully deranged displays by a world leader in recent memory, Russian “prime minister” Vladimir Putin spontaneously announced at a press conference in front of his Ukrainian counterpart in Moscow that he thought it would be a good idea if Russia’s giant natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, acquired its Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz lock, stock and gas pipelines.
What was so astounding was not that Putin would entertain such thoughts, or even that he would say them (most of Russian public supports neo-Soviet aggression against Ukraine and Georgia), but that he would publicly announce such a scheme without giving any advance warning to his diplomatic peer, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who could do nothing but stammer in diplomatese that Putin had “expressed it in an impromptu way.” It’s simply unheard of for a the leader of a major nation to behave this way. Which means, of course, that it’s not the least bit surprising to find the Russians doing it.
Defense expert Alexander Golts, agreeing with a point we made last week and writing in the Moscow Times, points out how Ukraine has suckered Russia on the Sevastopol naval base deal it recently inked:
The Duke of Wellington used to say some victories are worse than defeat. I suspect that President Dmitry Medvedev’s “brilliant diplomatic victory” in Kharkiv on behalf of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet will in reality create very serious problems for Russia in the future.
After inflating gas prices for Ukraine a few months ago, Moscow has now graciously agreed to reduce them by 30 percent in exchange for Kiev’s agreement to extend the lease on the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol through 2042. The Kremlin thereby resolved an important strategic problem. Only a few years ago, the Black Sea Fleet, which is virtually locked in by the Bosporus, seemed like a deadweight and a throwback to the Cold War era. But the increasingly unstable situation in the Caucasus and Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008 have given the Black Sea Fleet a new meaning. It gives Russia the ability to deploy its forces rapidly into a region where crises are most likely to develop. In addition, the Kremlin believes that keeping the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea symbolizes Russia’s continuing influence over Ukraine.
Ukraine suckers Russia, but Good!
Last week, Ukraine’s new president Victor Yanukovich sold a piece of his country to Putin’s Russia in exchange for wildly reduced prices on natural gas.
Specifically, Yanukovich renewed Russia’s lease on its naval base on the Black Sea at Sevastopol from 2017 to 2042. For Yanukovich, it was the deal of the century. For Russian “president” Dima Medvedev, it was yet another amazing sucker move.
The irony in light of our lead editorial in this issue is palpable: Russia is running out of gas rapidly, yet it is going to send a flow of cheap energy to Ukraine indefinitely in order to secure a naval base which offers Russia absolutely no strategic value, since the Russian “navy” is a mere figment of the Kremlin’s imagination, in reality nothing more than rusty, creaking bucket of bolts.
Paul Goble reports:
Even as the Russian government proclaims “a new era” in relations with Kyiv thanks to the election of “pro-Russian” Viktor Yanukovich and even as the new Ukrainian president announces plans to build a bridge linking Crimea and Kuban, Moscow is seeking to suppress the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians in Russia. These various actions may seem contradictory to some, but in fact, they reflect a deeper and longstanding set of Russian attitudes, one that many in the West are loathe to admit or even share: the current Russian leadership and those in neighboring countries it can put pressure on do not view Ukrainians as a separate nation worthy of a separate state.
After the Soviet Union came apart, there were 11.4 million ethnic Russians living in Ukraine, something Moscow worked hard to ensure that the entire world knew and that the Russian government insisted the international community demand that Russian-language schools there be kept open. But at the same time, few people paid much attention to the equally important reality that there were three to five million ethnic Ukrainians living in the Russian Federation, for whom there were no Ukrainian-language schools or other native-language institutions and who even faced loss of work in the early 1990s if they sought to acquire Ukrainian citizenship.
A Serious Misstep from Tymoshenko
It’s a pity that Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko could not see her way clear to take our advice. We believe that both she and her country will come to regret it.
When Tymoshenko lost her bid to succeed Victor Yushchenko as president, going down to defeat against Victor Yanukovich in a runoff, we urged her to accept the results rather than contest them. Tymoshenko’s firey, impulsive disposition had already cost her the presidency, because she was too confrontational with Yushchenko and he ended up refusing to support her in the runoff after going down to defeat himself. Without his supporters, Tymoshenko could not prevail.
We urged Tymoshenko to be more constructive in dealing with Yanukovich, so she could preserve her position as prime minister, but once again she refused to do so. Her coalition collapsed, and she was forced out.
We understand why Tymoshenko acts the way she does.
Ronald D. Asmus, executive director of the Transatlantic Center of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels and author of The Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West, writing in the Moscow Times:
What is the most important source of disagreement today between Russia and the West? It is not the issues most often in the news — Iran or Afghanistan. It is Europe’s contested neighborhood: the future of those countries between the eastern border of NATO and the European Union and the western border of Russia. While the West and Russia still talk the talk of cooperative security in Europe, geopolitical competition for influence has been renewed in these regions.
Russia today openly lays claim to a sphere of interest in its borderlands — in direct contradiction to commitments made under the Helsinki process. It has embraced policies and a military doctrine that places NATO as the top external military danger and justifies the right to intervene in neighboring countries. While packaged in smooth diplomatic language, President Dmitry Medvedev’s new proposal for pan-European security has the less-than-hidden goal of stopping and rolling back Western influence.
Rather than moving into the 21st century, Russia seems determined to revert to 19th-century strategic thinking. With the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama focused on Afghanistan and Iran, the Kremlin hopes that a West in need of its cooperation will acquiesce to its demands.
The File on Victor Yanukovich
Victor Yanukovich, the new president of Ukraine, is a moron, a liar and a criminal.
He claims to have earned not just an MA in international law but also a PhD in economics, including writing a dissertation, while serving as the lieutenant governor and governor of Donetsk region. Just as Vladimir Putin openly plagiarized his dissertation in order to get an advanced degree, Yanukovich’s academic credentials are shamelessly bogus. Either that, of course, or else he simply was not doing his job as governor and spent all his time furiously studying.
He has an extensive record of convictions for thuglike violence as a youth.
He can’t spell the word “professor” and “he has confused poet Anna Akhmatova with his billionaire backer Rinat Akhmetov, the Jewish writer Isaac Babel with the German socialist August Bebel, Slovenia with Slovakia and genocide with genetics. He has called Russian playwright Anton Chekhov a Ukrainian poet and the Helsinki Treaty the Stockholm Treaty.”
But you won’t, of course, hear any of the Russophile scum railing against Yanukovich the way they do against Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili. Yanokovich may be a moron, liar and criminal but — they think — he’s their moron, liar and criminal. So it’s OK.
Yulia Latynina, hero journalist, writing in the Moscow Times:
Viktor Yanukovych’s victory in Sunday’s presidential election — not unlike the victories of former Chilean President Salvador Allende, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Adolf Hitler — once again raises doubt about the basic premise of democracy: that the people are capable of choosing their own leader. Unfortunately, only wealthy people are truly capable of electing their leaders in a responsible manner. Poor people elect politicians like Yanukovych or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
When the Orange Revolution hit Ukraine five years ago, the people arose in a united wave and did not allow themselves to be deceived by the corrupt elite. That elite had reached an agreement with the criminals and oligarchs of Donetsk to make a minor criminal, who could not string two sentences together, the successor to former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.
Five years ago, the Ukrainian people gave President Viktor Yushchenko a mandate for reform, but he failed. The country remains highly corrupt. One example: Yushchenko himself allowed the murky scheme in which all Russian gas came into the country through the intermediary firm RosUkrEnergo.
Whenever a weak leader is incapable of managing the state, he starts looking for enemies and begins stoking nationalist passions. Yushchenko singled out Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as his enemy and engaged her in a heated polemic over the Holodomor.
The upper sign on the tree reads “Yanukovich” while the lower reads “Tymoshenko.” The skier wears the colors of Ukraine.
The Election in Ukraine
Before voters ever went to the polls in Ukraine last weekend, they had already won.
They had already shown themselves to be far more civilized and advanced than their Russian neighbors, for instance, because they had carried out a real election, ousting the current regime and replacing it with a radically different opposition candidate. They repudiated the sitting president long before the votes were counted, and we can only wonder: What sort of barbaric crimes would Vladimir Putin have to commit before Russian voters would do the same. Would he have to actually eat babies on TV? Would even that suffice. Russia, behaving like a nation in the dark ages, has never once ousted a regime in an election in its entire thousand-year history — not once, not ever.
Similarly, Ukraine is building a real economy, not relying on the accident of natural energy resources, and it is not attacking any of its neighbors in any way, but rather building solid relationships with Western nations that will last for centuries..
What’s more, as we reported in our last issue, Ukrainians have already made it clear that no matter who won, Ukraine would turn its back on Russia and look towards the West for its future prosperity and security.
So there was lots of good news, and Ukrainians have much to be proud of. With that said, Ukrainian voters sadly made the wrong choice on Sunday when they handed power to the charlatan Victor Yanukovich.
Nina Khrushcheva, writing in the Moscow Times:
A pox on both your houses” may be an appropriate individual response to frustration with the political candidates on offer in an election. But it is a dangerous sentiment for governments to hold. Choice is the essence of governance and to abstain from it — for whatever reason — is to shirk responsibility.
But that seems to be the stance of the entire West regarding Sunday’s second round of Ukraine’s presidential election. Because the Orange Revolution in 2004 turned out to be a seemingly unending series of disappointments, most Western leaders are acting as if it makes no difference whether Prime MinisterYulia Tymoshenko or her rival, Viktor Yanukovych, wins.
They are wrong — not only about what the election will mean for Ukrainians, who have stoically endured so much, but also about what it will mean for security and stability across Eurasia. If the Orange Revolution demonstrated one thing, it is that Ukraine’s politics are not those of a pendulum, swinging predictably between opposing forces that agree on the fundamental rules of democracy. Indeed, it is patently clear from his own words that Yanukovych does not accept the legitimacy of the Orange Revolution, which means that he does not accept the bedrock principle of democracy that you cannot cheat your way to power.
Yanukovych’s anti-democratic position should come as no surprise. His criminal record is often noted, but the particular crimes that sent him to prison are rarely spelled out. Let me do it.
When Yuri Davydov needed investors to expand his Ukrainian food company, he looked west to the European Union, not east to Russia, even though his VAT Creativ Industrial Group is in the Russian-speaking part of the country.
“We have good connections with Russia, but we prefer to trade with non-Russian companies,” Davydov said after a Jan. 19 presentation to potential investors in Vienna. “If the European Union removes barriers, we can find a niche.”
His attitude may explain why both contenders in the Feb. 7 runoff presidential election, Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Timoshenko, have vowed to sign a trade accord with the EU. They favor it even though Yanukovych had Russian backing for his first run in 2004 and Timoshenko accused President Viktor Yushchenko of being too confrontational toward Russia.
The EU is looking more attractive to executives from Ukraine’s eastern industrial centers of Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk, as well as in Kiev and Lviv farther west. The need to diversify from Russia, Ukraine’s largest single trading partner, has business leaders pushing politicians for easier access to the 27-nation EU. Its market of 449 million people is more than triple the population of Russia.
Russia on the Verge of a New Energy War
Once again, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved itself wholly unable to carry on productive, friendly relations with its nearest neighbors.
Last week, in response to libelous, provocative unilateral Russian threats to shut down gas supplies in the event of payment default or “theft” of gas, Ukraine announced that “it would double the fees that Russia must pay to transport natural gas through Ukrainian territory to the rest of Europe.” Russia called the announcement “political blackmail,” yet Ukraine has not been late on any payments to Russia this year and there have been no allegations of siphoning.
Russia’s crude threats are the same ones the world heard last year, and Ukraine’s response was predictable as well. The reasons for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine are perfectly clear.
Ariel Cohen, in Moscow, writing on the Heritage Foundation website:
Is the Obama Administration, busy pushing the “reset button” with Russia is about to suffer a geopolitical setback in Ukraine? When talking to the security experts here, it sure looks like it.