Month: May 2014

The Wavering Line

There are some interesting insights into the political status and prospects of Ukraine’s president-elect Poroshenko in this (NB) Valdai Club article. A couple of excerpts:

Statements made by US politicians did not have much influence on Ukrainian voters. More likely, the electorate was swayed by technologies invented by a Ukrainian spin doctor, Igor Gryniv (who was behind the electoral success of Viktor Yushchenko and still earlier planned the establishment of the Reforms and Order and Our Ukraine parties). First of all, he cleaned out the minds of Ukrainian voters and made them accept Poroshenko as a “new politician.” Next he began publishing his growing ratings and convinced the public that his client took the lead in the race. All that remained was to give voters a motivation for support and urge a first-round vote.

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The new Ukrainian government’s ability to steer an independent line with regard to the Russian Federation will depend on many factors, including the international situation. The world is volatile. Poroshenko, a flexible politician and diplomat, is unlikely to focus on just one line of behavior. I would not be surprised if the utterly pro-American politician Poroshenko turns into a no less enthusiastic pro-Russian politician, come a change of mood in the world. It’s almost like an old joke from the Stalin era: “Did you waver with regard to the Party’s general line? I wavered with the general line.”

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Ukraine as Antidote

In the wake of the large gains by ultra-right wing parties in the recent European elections, Timothy Snyder suggests in the New York Review of Books that Ukraine could provide an antidote to the problem. A country that actively wants to join the European Union and is willing to work for it could help the body to rediscover its purpose:

In the Ukrainian revolution, people fought carrying the EU flag; in the Ukrainian elections, people stood in line for hours wearing EU symbols. The European Union has been enlarging since its establishment as the European Communities, and it will and should continue to do so. A promise of further enlargement would not be expensive: on the contrary, the incentives for reform and for investment would reduce the need for future aid.

By contrast, Snyder says, the voters who in Scotland, France, England, Greece, Austria, Bulgaria and elsewhere in Europe voted for a return to the nation state are living in a parallel universe, and really voted for a “separation from the world”. Their detachment from reality is merely enabling Putin’s scheme for the Russian domination of Europe – the Russkiy Mir – for these nationalists and advocates of “independence” also support Putin’s aims and policies. However, “if Europeans voted the way Ukrainians did, Europe could count on a far more secure and prosperous future.”

Russian right-wing mercenaries in Ukraine

The Winnipeg Media Centre has published a detailed survey of the leaders of Russian neo-Nazi and other extreme right wing groups currently operating in eastern Ukraine. These include the high-profile Strelkov-Girkin ‘Donbass self-defence’ group, but also many others that are less well known but are also trained in Russia and have a fascistic, anti-Semitic and militaristic orientation.

Ukraine: Real Deals

In Grani, Ilya Milstein writes about the aftermath and possible consequences of yesterday’s Ukrainian presidential election (my tr.):

Meanwhile Tymoshenko has other plans. Her “Fatherland ” party is initiating a referendum on Ukraine’s accession to NATO, and it is only outwardly that this step appears risky, reckless and unwise. Well, yes, NATO does not accept states with unresolved territorial issues, but after all it is not a question of joining the alliance immediately. It is rather about scaring Putin, who has been scaring the Russians and giving himself nightmares about a terrible scenario: the entry of American cruisers into the peaceful waters of Sevastopol and the installation of American missiles on the territory of Ukraine. Now, if the issue is discussed in the Rada, the propaganda horror stories that were suitable only for justifying intervention in Crimea will acquire the traits of another geopolitical disaster.

Poroshenko himself is by no means a supporter of Ukraine’s accession to NATO, but he can offer Putin an exchange. You get rid of Grandpa Babai and his RPGs, and I will calm Yulia. You stop supporting the bandits who are already building real concentration camps in our country and have effectively used them, and we will postpone the referendum on accession to NATO. You temporarily forget about Ukraine and stop blackmailing us with rising gas prices, and we will temporarily forget about Crimea. Agreed?

Kyiv’s eastern strategy

Mychailo Wynnyckyj in Euromaidan PR:

Effectively, the strategy of Kyiv in the Donbas must gradually shift from waging a “hot war” to exercising “soft power” eastward – i.e. the goal must be to shift the line that formerly defined Ukraine’s electoral geography to the Russian border (or at least as far eastward and southward as possible). From this perspective, the war in eastern Ukraine becomes a civilizational war (i.e. informational, economic, cultural). The conflict is less about whether the population wishes to be Ukrainian or Russian (or about what language they speak), but rather about whether the Donbas will be a part of Europe or will continue to be (post)Soviet. Putin has made it eminently clear that he wishes to reinstate the USSR, and during the economic summit in St. Petersburg today he reiterated that he views the conflict in eastern Ukraine in geo-political terms (as engaging the US and EU), rather than as a local/regional struggle for ethnic or linguistic self-determination.

Russian army tries to break up Tatar rally

The Russian army has used military helicopters in an attempt to disrupt a small prayer rally of Crimean Tatars in Bakhchisaray, after the occupying forces banned all commemorations of the 1944 deportations under Stalin.

https://twitter.com/svaboda/status/467934317482876928/photo/1

 There are similar reports from other areas of Crimea today.

Ukraine: Thinking Together

An international conference called Ukraine: Thinking Together («Мислити з Україною») is currently being held in Kyiv, with participants who include Timothy Snyder, Leon Wieseltier, Timothy Garton Ash, Adam Michnik, Slavenka Drakulić, Paul Berman and others. The conference aims to discuss Maidan and reactions to it in the context of wider questions of human rights and contemporary geopolitics, and the sessions can be followed in livestream here.