Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

19
Mar

Integrity for what’s left of Ukraine

Written on March 19, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Europe, Op Ed

 

Remember, remember: This is about the whole of Ukraine, not just Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin knows that. Ukrainians know that. And we must not forget it. There is nothing the West or Kiev can do to restore Ukrainian control over Crimea. The crucial struggle is now for eastern Ukraine.
If the whole of Ukraine, including the east, participates in peaceful, free and fair presidential elections on May 25, it can survive as an independent country (minus Crimea). It will also be back on an unambiguously democratic, constitutional path. In everything the European Union and the West does over the next two months, that should be our first priority.

 

Only the criminally naive or the hardened fellow traveller could maintain that the pro-Russian groups now working to produce chaos in cities such as Donetsk and Kharkiv are not actively supported by Moscow. In Tuesday’s New York Times, there was a fine account of one such stage-managed demo in Kharkiv. At the base of a giant Lenin statue, a huge banner read, “Our homeland: USSR!” As the reporters pointed out, this was all made for Russian television. Whatever Mr. Putin finally decides to do, the media narrative will be prepared.

It would be equally naive, however, to pretend that there are not real fears among many in eastern Ukraine. The labels “ethnic Ukrainians” and “ethnic Russians” mean almost nothing. What you have here is a fluid, complex mix of national, linguistic, civic and political identities. There are people who think of themselves as Russians. There are those who live their lives mainly in Russian, but also identify as Ukrainians. There are innumerable families of mixed origins, with parents and grandparents who moved around the former Soviet Union. Most of them would rather not have to choose. In a poll conducted in the first half of February, just 15 per cent of those asked in the Kharkiv region and 33 per cent around Donetsk wanted Ukraine to unite with Russia.

In the same poll, the figure for Crimea was 41 per cent. But then take a month of radicalizing politics and Russian takeover, with Ukrainian-language channels yanked off television. Add relentless reporting on the Russian-language media of a “fascist coup” in Kiev, exacerbated by some foolish words and gestures from victorious revolutionaries in Kiev. Subtract Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians living in Crimea, who largely boycotted the referendum. Season with a large pinch of electoral fraud. Presto, 41 per cent becomes 97 per cent.

It is not just Russian “political technology” that changes numbers and loyalties. What happens in such traumatic moments is that identities switch and crystallize quite suddenly, like an unstable chemical compound to which you add one drop of catalyst. Yesterday, you were a Yugoslav; today, a furious Serb or Croat.

So everything done in and for Ukraine in the coming weeks and months must be calculated to keep that identity compound from changing state. Shortly before Mr. Putin’s amazing imperial rant in the Kremlin on Tuesday, another speech was broadcast on a Ukrainian TV channel. Speaking in Russian, interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said that “for the sake of preserving Ukraine’s unity and sovereignty,” the Kiev government is prepared to grant “the broadest range of powers” to the mainly Russian-speaking regions in the east. This would include giving cities the right to run their own police forces and make decisions about education and culture.

That was exactly the right thing to do. Now he and his colleagues should go there and say it again and again – in Russian. They should support Russian as an official second language. They should not dismiss talk of federalization simply because Moscow also favours it. They should actively want to see a pro-Russian candidate in the presidential election. And they should do everything they can to ensure the vote is free and fair, including diversified media coverage in both Russian and Ukrainian – unlike the vote in Crimea.

Europe and the West can support this in numerous ways. International organizations should flood the place with election monitors. Western governments must make sure Ukraine’s authorities have the money to pay the bills. Political parties and NGOs can send advisers. The West can also up the ante. It can make the medium- to long-term economic offer of relations with the EU more attractive. It can threaten Moscow with far worse sanctions – not just if Mr. Putin takes his marked or unmarked forces anywhere else in eastern Ukraine, but if he keeps on trying to destabilize it by proxy.

The time has also come to talk turkey with Ukrainian oligarchs such as Rinat Akhmetov, who is as powerful as any state institution in eastern Ukraine. Quietly but firmly they must be shown carrot and stick: a rosy future in the world economy if you help Ukraine survive as an independent, self-governing state; financial strangulation and endless court proceedings if you don’t. If Mr. Putin’s Olympic sport is hard-core wrestling, we cannot confine ourselves to badminton.

None of this is to suggest that what has happened in Crimea does not matter in itself. In his Kremlin speech, Mr. Putin scored a few telling hits on U.S. unilateralism and Western double standards, but what he has done threatens the foundations of international order. He thanked China for its support, but does Beijing want the Tibetans to secede following a referendum? He recalled Soviet acceptance of German unification and appealed to Germans to back the unification of “the Russian world,” which apparently includes all Russian speakers. With rhetoric more reminiscent of 1914 than 2014, his country is now a revanchist power in plain view.

Without the consent of all parts of the existing state, without due constitutional process and a free, fair vote, Ukraine’s territorial integrity, guaranteed 20 years ago by Russia, the United States and Britain, has been destroyed. In practical terms, that cannot be undone. What can still be rescued, however, is the political integrity of what remains.

Timothy Garton Ash is professor of European studies at Oxford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Published on 19 March in http://www.theglobeandmail.com

14
Mar

Though it would wish otherwise, Turkey cannot avoid being implicated in the Crimean crisis. The peninsula’s 260,000-strong Tatar population, roughly 15 percent of total Crimean population, creates a strong bond. Ethnically, linguistically and by way of religion (Sunni Islam) Tatars are very close to Turks. Several millions of Turkish citizens can claim Tatar roots thanks to the successive migratory waves since the Russian Empire took over the Crimean Khanate, an Ottoman vassal, in 1783. Yusuf Akçura, one of the founding father of Turkish nationalism, was a Tatar too, (though coming from the Volga region rather than Crimea). These days, the Turkish press abounds with articles and op-eds calling for the government to take a tough stance and protect the Tatar minority, largely favourable to the new government in Kyiv, from Russia‘s incursion. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu heeded the call pledging to extend protection.

The second reason Ankara takes interest in the ongoing crisis is Turkey’s sense of belonging the Black Sea region, however blurry it might be. Although its foreign policy has been firmly tied with the Middle East for the past five years or so, Ukraine is seen as a neighbouring country. A change of the territorial status quo in the area is not to be taken light heartedly. It’s not solely the long-standing concern about its own territorial integrity which is at stake but potentially other tension points across the post-Soviet space such as Nagorno-Karabakh. As the independence referendum tabled by the Crimean Parliament for 16 March draws near, prospects for secession are becoming all too real. Turkey will no doubt have to respond and denounce the outcome of the referendum. The question is how far it is prepared to go in a concerted push-back action against Russia. Read more….

 

By Dimitar Bechev, Published on Mar. 13, 2014 in the European Council on Foreign Relations http://ecfr.eu/blog

6
Mar

Henry A. Kissinger was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977.

Public discussion on Ukraine is all about confrontation. But do we know where we are going? In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.

Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.

Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status, and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States.
The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia.The European Union must recognize that its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities.

The Ukrainians are the decisive element. They live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939, when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian, became part of Ukraine only in 1954 , when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or breakup. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system. Read more…

As published in the Washington Post on March 5, 2014 http://www.washingtonpost.com

 

5
Mar

putin By Thomas Friedman

Just as we’ve turned the coverage of politics into sports, we’re doing the same with geopolitics. There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. We vastly exaggerate Putin’s strength — so does he — and we vastly underestimate our own strength, and ability to weaken him through nonmilitary means.

Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.

So Putin is now fighting human nature among his own young people and his neighbors — who both want more E.U. and less Putinism. To put it in market terms, Putin is long oil and short history. He has made himself steadily richer and Russia steadily more reliant on natural resources rather than its human ones. History will not be kind to him — especially if energy prices ever collapse.

So spare me the Putin-body-slammed-Obama prattle. This isn’t All-Star Wrestling. The fact that Putin has seized Crimea, a Russian-speaking zone of Ukraine, once part of Russia, where many of the citizens prefer to be part of Russia and where Russia has a major naval base, is not like taking Poland. I support economic and diplomatic sanctions to punish Russia for its violation of international norms and making clear that harsher sanctions, even military aid for Kiev, would ensue should Putin try to bite off more of Ukraine. But we need to remember that that little corner of the world is always going to mean more, much more, to Putin than to us, and we should refrain from making threats on which we’re not going to deliver.

What disturbs me about Crimea is the larger trend it fits into, that Putinism used to just be a threat to Russia but is now becoming a threat to global stability. I opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War, when Russia was at its most democratic and least threatening. It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.

I don’t want to go to war with Putin, but it is time we expose his real weakness and our real strength. That, though, requires a long-term strategy — not just fulminating on “Meet the Press.” It requires going after the twin pillars of his regime: oil and gas. Just as the oil glut of the 1980s, partly engineered by the Saudis, brought down global oil prices to a level that helped collapse Soviet Communism, we could do the same today to Putinism by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead. I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).

You want to frighten Putin? Just announce those steps. But you know the story, the tough guys in Washington who want to take on Putin would rather ask 1 percent of Americans — the military and their families — to make the ultimate sacrifice than have all of us make a small sacrifice in the form of tiny energy price increases. Those tough guys who thump their chests in Congress but run for the hills if you ask them to vote for a 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax that would actually boost our leverage, they’ll never rise to this challenge. We’ll do anything to expose Putin’s weakness; anything that isn’t hard. And you wonder why Putin holds us in contempt?

3
Mar

This is perhaps the most dangerous point in Europe‘s history since the end of the cold war. Direct confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian forces will draw in the United States, one way or another. While there is still time, it’s extremely important to understand what each party involved is aiming for.

Over the last 10 days, Moscow has been unpleasantly surprised several times. First, when Ukraine‘s then president, Viktor Yanukovych, halted an operation which would have cleared his opponents from the positions they occupied in central Kiev. Given the clear order, the Berkut riot police were closing in on the Maidan – the protest movement, named after Kiev’s Independence Square, whose leaders were desperately calling for a truce, – but suddenly the Berkut advance was stopped. Instead, Yanukovych invited the opposition for negotiations. The second surprise came when the negotiations turned into talks about Yanukovych’s concessions, with the participation of three European Union foreign ministers.

The agreement, signed on 21 February, was a delayed capitulation by Yanukovych – who had been seen triumphant only a couple of days earlier. An even bigger surprise was the rejection of these capitulation terms by the radicals, and the opposition supporting Yanukovych’s immediate resignation. Finally, the German, Polish and French governments, who had just witnessed the Kiev accord, raised no objection to the just-signed agreement being scrapped within hours.

Russia, whose representative had been invited to witness the signing of the 21 February document, but who wisely refused to co-sign it, was incensed. What Moscow saw on 21-22 February was a coup d’état in Kiev. This development led to a fundamental reassessment of Russian policy in Ukraine, and vis-à-vis the West.

Viewing the February revolution in Kiev as a coup engineered by Ukrainian radical nationalists from the west of the country – assisted by Europe and the United States – the Kremlin believed Russia’s important interests were directly affected. First, Russian president Vladimir Putin‘s plans of economic integration in the post-Soviet space would have to do without Ukraine. Second, the fact that radical nationalist components were among the beneficiaries of the Kiev revolution left no doubt about Ukraine’s future foreign and security policy and its domestic policies. Read more…

By Dmitri Trenin, Published in the Guardian on 2 March 2014, www.theguardian.com