United States

Yulia Tymoshenko: Statement to the Ukrainian People

Batkivshchyna leader Yulia Tymoshenko has made a direct video address to the Ukrainian people:

From the statement:

“…we are not alone in this confrontation with Russia. In 1994 Ukraine signed the Budapest Memorandum with the U.S., UK and Russia guaranteeing our security in exchange for giving up our nuclear arsenal. Russia today is flagrantly violating its obligations and invading our territory. But I’m confident that the United States and Great Britain will never violate this Memorandum and will do everything they can to ensure peace in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin knows that by declaring war on us, he is declaring war on the guarantors of our security – the U.S. and Great Britain. I don’t think that Russia will cross this line, because if it does it will lose.

“This should be the main reason for calm in our country.”

Kerry Statement on Ukraine

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release December 10, 2013

2013/1555

Statement by Secretary Kerry

Statement on Events in Ukraine

The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.

Last week in Brussels and Moldova, I underscored publicly the importance of all sides avoiding violence and called on President Yanukovych to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukranian people. We put the government on notice about our concern.

As Vice President Biden made clear to President Yanukovych during their phone call yesterday, respect for democractic principles, including freedom of assembly, is fundamental to the United States’ approach to Ukraine. This is a universal value not just an American one. For weeks, we have called on President Yanukovych and his government to listen to the voices of his people who want peace, justice and a European future. Instead, Ukraine’s leaders appear tonight to have made a very different choice.

We call for utmost restraint. Human life must be protected. Ukrainian authorities bear full responsibility for the security of the Ukrainian people.

As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better.

Softly, Softly on Ukraine

For some time now, observers and political analysts watching the developing crisis in Ukraine have been wondering why the United States government has taken such a passive and secondary role in supporting the Ukrainian opposition, and why it has so far failed to put much pressure on President Yanukovych. On Monday, commenting on a Evropeiska Pravda report, Ukraine expert Taras Kuzio tweeted:

Why is current US administration so pathetically weak? US State Dept. asks Russia to go easy on Ukraine. http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2013/12/9/7005750/ …

In an article for Up Front, Brooking Institution Senior Fellow Steven Pifer sees the situation like this:

[The U.S.] Congress, a traditionally pro-Ukrainian institution that used to mandate huge sums of assistance funds for Ukraine, now shows considerably less enthusiasm for the country. Notably, some on Capitol Hill have even begun talking about applying sanctions, which would have been unheard of in Congress just a couple of years ago.

The upshot is that the United States devotes less time and attention to Ukraine than was the case in the past. As a result, the European Union—the institution and individual EU member-states, such as Poland, Lithuania and Sweden—have taken the Western lead during the past several years.

Not having the United States on the frontline is, on balance, not a bad thing. As noted, the foreign policy agenda in Washington is jammed. Moreover, were the United States leading the Western charge, Moscow would regard it is a particularly dangerous geopolitical challenge. That would introduce to the complicated politics that are now playing out in Kyiv a U.S.-Russia competitive dynamic that would hardly be helpful to—and might well complicate—efforts to find a peaceful political solution to the current crisis

This can, however, be seen as a hollow excuse, an attempt to offload the burden of support for Ukraine from the U.S. onto Europe. As one U.S. commenter writes:

I hope our administration does not follow your advice but rather rises to the occasion of meaningfully supporting 46 million people and a nation being robbed of their national wealth. Over a 100,000 people in the US sent in petitions to have the administration take action against the thugs running Ukraine. There are 300,000 people in the streets in just Kiev – the position advocated above has to be a joke.

Dead End

Having read the Kindle edition of Peter Savodnik’s The Interloper I’m left with a sense of  incompleteness – the book aims to show that Oswald was a far less mysterious personality than most accounts make him out to have been, yet in doing so it raises many more questions than it answers.

In particular, the author’s analysis of Oswald’s inner life seems to lead merely to a confirmation of just how blank and uninteresting that life was. While the study of Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union is well researched, it reveals a dead end: although it’s clear that while in Belorussia Oswald did come into contact with many representatives of the KGB, and was deeply involved with them, there appears to be no link between this fact and anything that might have led him to assassinate the U.S. President. Indeed, as Inessa Yakhliel, who knew Oswald, has recently pointed out, he “spoke about Kennedy very sympathetically. He said he was the only sensible president. Those were his words.”

Savodnik makes much of the ease with which conspiracy theorists have set out to present their own versions of what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and advances his own “simple” explanation – Oswald was angry about issues in his confused personal life and took it out on the president – as most likely to be near the truth. Yet this eagerness to promote the “lone gunman” theory also has its questionable aspect: for in the same way as the conspiracy theories can be used to promote particular political agendas, so can the supposed absence of a conspiracy.

The Kindle edition of the book contains a number of typographical glitches, most of which are unconnected with Oswald’s own idiosyncratic English spelling (in letter and diary passages quoted frequently in the text). In particular, Russian street names and words are sometimes presented wrongly, as in the often-repeated “Kalinina Ulitsa” for “Ulitsa Kalinina”, and there are some odd transliterations that lead, for example, to the Cyrillic letter “у” being rendered as uy. I haven’t seen the book’s print edition, but hopefully these typos have been ironed out there.

The Bomb and the Hedgehog

Despite the often invoked ending of the Cold War, Russia’s defence policy is still focused on nuclear deterrence, and particularly the nuclear balance with the United States.  Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov recently announced that Russia will continue to increase its potential in airspace forces and other parts of its nuclear deterrence strategy.

The Defense Ministry worked on building the early-warning radars along Russia’s borders as well as permanent deployment of S-400 and S-500 anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.

"We have a possibility to efficiently counter a high-technological enemy should it undertake aggression against Russia," Gerasimov said.

Writing in Pravda, a defence correspondent noted that

according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley Miller, U.S. nuclear weapons are in need of urgent modernization. Defense structures experienced global reduction that affected nuclear armed forces of the United States. The Americans are also concerned about Russia’s efforts to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces.

Russia’s conventional armed forces are still in a state of relative disarray, and are currently no match for their U.S. counterparts:

During a conference in Moscow last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that an attack with the use of 3,500-4,000 units of high-precision weapons would deprive Russia of the possibility to resist in only six hours. "According to current estimates from the United States, as a result of such an attack, 80-90 percent of the Russian nuclear potential could be destroyed," said Deputy Prime Minister.

Commenting on Twitter, Carnegie Moscow Center director and defence analyst Dmitri Trenin points out that  while there is an absence of strategic trust between Russia and the United States, the enormous disparity in conventional military power between the two nations means that nuclear deterrence remains the only area in which Russia can maintain equivalence. For Russia, he notes, “this is a hedgehog posture”. 

The Undernet

On the day that Edward Snowden comes to Moscow in his role of NSA whistleblower, a reminder of the Kremlin’s Internet surveillance system. Introduced in late 2012, in its thoroughness and intrusiveness it probably outdoes most other systems of this kind in operation throughout the world today. As Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan point out in Wired magazine:

the new Roskomnadzor system introduces DPI (deep packet inspection) on a nationwide scale. Although DPI is not mentioned in the law, the Ministry of Communications — along with the biggest internet corporations active in Russia — concluded in August that the only way to implement the law was through deep packet inspection.