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Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

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  • Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

    While the US and China are haggling over zones of influence and power in eastern Asia, a similar wrestling is going on in eastern Europe, right on the EUs doorstep. Players : European Union and Russia. Playground : Ukraine, a former soviet republic and a country divided into a russian-speaking eastern and southern part, and a ukrainian/polish/lithuanian speaking and largely pro-western northern and westrn one. When the pro-russian ukrainian governement let an association treaty fail last week, that was supposed to pave the way for closer association of the country with the EU, that was gleefully commented in parts of the anglophone press as alleged evidence of the Unions irrelevancy and failure( "Putins triumph" etc.). Yet these commentators may have miscalculated, just like the russian president. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been taking to the streets since and demonstrate daily against corruption, nepotism, increasing authoritarianism and FOR closer association with the West. The demonstrators, largely young people, defy cold, police brutality ( that has been condemned by the EU, the US and the UN already) and court orders banning demonstrations and occupy main points like the Maidan square in downtown Kiev ( the capital) around the clock. While Russia, that traditionally regards Ukraine as its sphere of influence, is backing the governement, the EU is increasingly loudly taking the side of the demonstrators. German foreign minister Westerwelle has even visited the protesters camp on Maidan square during a stopover and sent a warning to Putin ( that predicatbly drew russian condemnation). US foreign secretary Kerry has cancelled a Ukraine visit due to alleged schedule problems but so far the US is keeping a low profile ( possibly not to endanger cooperation with Russia on the Near East). One of the leaders of the protest is by the way ukrainian born boxing world champion Vitaly Klitchko ( who is also known in the US), who pledges to be a force for change in his home country :


    Kyiv's Maidan protesters in it for the duration | Europe | DW.DE | 05.12.2013

    Ukraine a thorn in the side of NATO-Russia ties | Europe | DW.DE | 05.12.2013

  • #2
    Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

    I think it's regrettable that Russia doesn't play by the same rules as the EU. In an attempt to create a "sphere of influence" they routinely punish their neighbor states when they attempt to forge better relations with other nations in the Middle East, Europe, or Central Asia.

    I invite anyone with a different opinion to voice this, but I don't think the modus operandi of the EU is anything like Russia's. Yes we want more energy security and more trade, and we bring our interpretation of justice, but we don't seek out political power as much. Also more carrots and less sticks.

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    • #3
      Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

      Originally posted by erikvv View Post
      I think it's regrettable that Russia doesn't play by the same rules as the EU. In an attempt to create a "sphere of influence" they routinely punish their neighbor states when they attempt to forge better relations with other nations in the Middle East, Europe, or Central Asia.

      I invite anyone with a different opinion to voice this, but I don't think the modus operandi of the EU is anything like Russia's. Yes we want more energy security and more trade, and we bring our interpretation of justice, but we don't seek out political power as much. Also more carrots and less sticks.
      I agree... and the larger point is: Russia knows all that. Thus they can generally do as they wish to... This is not the first time Russia has done something like this to the Ukraine.

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      • #4
        Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

        I see this ending in a manner in which most things for Russia and their neighbors end, conflict to ultimately warfare. Trade with the EU of course hangs in the balance, but Russia is poised to keep their neighbors locked down. Russia is holding all the cards. Time magazine will have a field day though, plenty of dead kids to photograph once Russian tanks roll in guns blazing.

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        • #5
          Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

          It's going to take another generation for the ex-communists to die off to get any logical foreign policy out of Russia.

          Until we just need to ignore them.

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          • #6
            Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

            Originally posted by Sluggo View Post
            I see this ending in a manner in which most things for Russia and their neighbors end, conflict to ultimately warfare. Trade with the EU of course hangs in the balance, but Russia is poised to keep their neighbors locked down. Russia is holding all the cards. Time magazine will have a field day though, plenty of dead kids to photograph once Russian tanks roll in guns blazing.


            Russian tanks in Kiev ? Dont hold your breath. Modern Russia isnt the Soviet Union, it is poorer, less self sufficient, less armed and more reliant on international trade and investions, to mention a couple of things. And the lions share of foreign investions and foreign credit comes from the EU, most notably Germany. That means it is most certainly not Russia holding ALL the cards. Additionally the country is more democratic. Wether the russian people would support military action against Ukraine is quite a different question than wether theyd like to keep the country in Russias orbit. And would be a highly risky gamble for Wladimir Putin. And finally Russia has a much more convenient tool. Ukraines sizeable russian-speaking, pro-russian population. It is pretty easy for Russia to stir up tensions or to influence policymaking in Ukraine much more elegantly than through tanks. By bribing, financing and blackmailing (which Russia evidently does) and of course by waving the energy card. With western Europe this game makes no sense, the EU can shop for energy on the global market and Russia would shoot itself in the foot, Ukraine is a different story however. The country is dependent enough on russian energy deliveries and has little means to resist.
            Russia has therefore enough cards to sit at the table in any grand bargain over Ukraine. But most certainly not a hand strong enough to determine the outcome on its own. The baltic states are in the EU now in spite of huge russian minorities and plenty of haggling with Russia over their status. The former eastern bloc states are all either in the Union or hold membership talks ( only exception : Belarus) which means that the EU, that also implies certain ideas about democratic governance, political rights etc. is creeping closer to Russias borders and Russias influence has been steadily pushed back in the end. At the same time the nations of the EU ( notably Germany as by far biggest trade partner and investor ) are of vital economic importance for Russia, as export markets ( its entire energy isnt worth shit without reliable and solvent customers), investors, donors and strategic partners. Russia can be assumed to do many things to keep the pro-russian side in the saddle in Kiev, but not to lay the axe to economic fundamentals with "open warfare" ( not to mention that Russias armed forces are in a rather miserable state and make more headlines with malnutrition and abuse of conscripts than with their capabilities. And not to mention that Ukraine is one of Europes largest countries by territory and not a tiny caucasian mountain republic) . Military escalation is HIGHLY unlikely currently, more dangerous would be a breaking up of the ukrainian state along ethnic lines. Since what happens then is nothing that anyone wants to imagine. And interventions, possibly by more than one power, would be on the agenda.


            An article about the corruption surrounding the ukrainian regime :


            http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russ...eads-to-london
            Last edited by Voland; 12-05-2013, 03:02 PM.

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            • #7
              Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

              I have a good friend who has been to the Ukrain 2-3 times as a missionary. I hear that they are pretty poor for the most part. The orphanages are severely neglected and understaffed. This can't be a good situation for them.

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              • #8
                Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

                Originally posted by Voland View Post
                Russian tanks in Kiev ? Dont hold your breath. Modern Russia isnt the Soviet Union, it is poorer, less self sufficient, less armed and more reliant on international trade and investions, to mention a couple of things. And the lions share of foreign investions and foreign credit comes from the EU, most notably Germany. That means it is most certainly not Russia holding ALL the cards. Additionally the country is more democratic. Wether the russian people would support military action against Ukraine is quite a different question than wether theyd like to keep the country in Russias orbit. And would be a highly risky gamble for Wladimir Putin. And finally Russia has a much more convenient tool. Ukraines sizeable russian-speaking, pro-russian population. It is pretty easy for Russia to stir up tensions or to influence policymaking in Ukraine much more elegantly than through tanks. By bribing, financing and blackmailing (which Russia evidently does) and of course by waving the energy card. With western Europe this game makes no sense, the EU can shop for energy on the global market and Russia would shoot itself in the foot, Ukraine is a different story however. The country is dependent enough on russian energy deliveries and has little means to resist.
                Russia has therefore enough cards to sit at the table in any grand bargain over Ukraine. But most certainly not a hand strong enough to determine the outcome on its own. The baltic states are in the EU now in spite of huge russian minorities and plenty of haggling with Russia over their status. The former eastern bloc states are all either in the Union or hold membership talks ( only exception : Belarus) which means that the EU, that also implies certain ideas about democratic governance, political rights etc. is creeping closer to Russias borders and Russias influence has been steadily pushed back in the end. At the same time the nations of the EU ( notably Germany as by far biggest trade partner and investor ) are of vital economic importance for Russia, as export markets ( its entire energy isnt worth shit without reliable and solvent customers), investors, donors and strategic partners. Russia can be assumed to do many things to keep the pro-russian side in the saddle in Kiev, but not to lay the axe to economic fundamentals with "open warfare" ( not to mention that Russias armed forces are in a rather miserable state and make more headlines with malnutrition and abuse of conscripts than with their capabilities. And not to mention that Ukraine is one of Europes largest countries by territory and not a tiny caucasian mountain republic) . Military escalation is HIGHLY unlikely currently, more dangerous would be a breaking up of the ukrainian state along ethnic lines. Since what happens then is nothing that anyone wants to imagine. And interventions, possibly by more than one power, would be on the agenda.


                An article about the corruption surrounding the ukrainian regime :


                Yanukovych, the luxury residence and the money trail that leads to London | openDemocracy
                If all of this is accurate, I do not see how we can avoid a Ukraine mess.

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                • #9
                  Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

                  Originally posted by Sluggo View Post
                  If all of this is accurate, I do not see how we can avoid a Ukraine mess.
                  Well, the state of Ukraine IS a mess and has been since its foundation. If it had better leadership, its problems would still be manageable though.

                  The current ukrainian governement has quite obviously miscalculated. Playing the EU against Russia and recieve cash from both sides only works if skillfully orchestrated. The Europeans take issues like policemen beating up youngsters waving EU flags on TV and treaties as well as promised legislative reforms seriously. And also the recent revelations about the extreme corruption under president Yanukovichs governement have done nothing to make Brussels more accomodating to Kiev. The EU IS interested in drawing Ukraine into its camp, but not at any price. Especially since the young generation appears to be overwhelmingly pro-european, the EU knows they can wait. It is on the other side not very likely that Putin will come up with large sums of cash and cheap energy unless Ukraine agrees to join Putins "Eurasian Union", along with states like Belarus and Kazakstan. Which would effectively mean the end of Ukraines sovereignity. Without financial help from either side though Ukraines economic mess will show no signs of improvement, which will rock president Yanukovichs chair as well. That means his sudden visit to China last week might have had an obvious reason.
                  Russia engages in the most full-mouthed rethoric, but that only conceals that their options are limited. A military intervention would in theory be possible, but trigger a global crisis. It would force the West to retaliate ( anyway it would require a buildup that couldnt go unnoticed). And it would choke the russian economy along the way. Since western, mostly european investions and trade, keep it running. Add to that it is highly questionable wether Putin would gain huge public support to fight Ukrainians ( that Russians overwhelmingly regard as a fellow slav people), also in the official Cremlin propaganda. The first state that called itself "russian" was founded in Ukraine ( "Ukraina" means "borderland" in russian). The capital was moved to Moscov after the mongol invasions, a place which at the time was hidden deep in forests and swamps that didnt allow the mongol cavalry to take action). That, along with the huge russian population is rountinely cited as justification why Ukraine is "not really foreign territory". But it also takes most possible justifications for armed intervention effectively off the table.
                  And most of all it would do nothing to adress Putins most important concern. If Ukrainians could sucessfully wrestle for more democracy, greater public accountability and chase a corrupt regime out, than why cant Russians themselves one day ?
                  No, military action does not appear to be in the cards. The far greater danger is the ukrainian state becoming ultimately dysfunctional, by splitting into a pro-western and a pro-russian part, plagued by a cleptocratic regime and russian meddling in the east and south of the country.
                  The EUs strategy on the one hand is less dramatic than crisis meetings and moral appeals, but probably more effective in shaping the future of Ukraine : By making travelling, working and studying in the EU, gaining scholarships and university cooperation easier for Ukraines huge and well educated young generation. The EU also keeps geopolitics out of official statements, they are focusing on fundamental rights, freedom of opinion, assembly and free trade and their guarantee in Ukraine instead ( and support NGOs and civic organizations but not political parties). And they connect further, also financial assistance for Ukraine to progress on these fields. Which of course also comes down to geopolitics since the ukrainian conflict is also about societal models, and the sides concerned are standing for diverse ones.

                  http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog...tests-way-out/


                  Meanwhile it is noteworthy that the EU, in the ukrainian case led by Poland (whose ex-president Kwasniewski is special envoy for Ukraine), Lithuania ( that has the rotating EU presidency) and Germany (that has been the most outspoken, and is also the hugest trade partner for Ukraine AND Russia by far) are upping the pressure on Russia. Germanys foreign minister Westerwelle has been the first EU leader to officially visit the protesters camp in Kiev, the usually diplomatic Angela Merkel has fired a verbal broadside against Putin only yesterday ( and said that the russian side shouldnt miscalculate the price of certain actions), and met ukrainian opposition leader Vitaly Klitchko in the chancellery, in the presence of journalists , and Germanys president Gauck ( a former anti-communist civic resistance leader by the way) has announced today that he will boycott the Olympics in Russia next year ( which for the last time happened in 1982, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan) And if the Germans do it, they are not likely to be the only Europeans.
                  Last edited by Voland; 12-08-2013, 05:01 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

                    Things have been moving back and forth in Ukraine, with no clear direction or course and confusing signals. Police were apparently sent into downtown Kiev to club down demonstrators and remove barricades, but pulled back unsuccessfully (and probably in connection with threats from the EU), and the opposition under boxing champion Klitchko claims to have forced them to retreat. A couple of hours before president Yanukovich had assured the unions foreign secretary, Catherine Ashton, to be ready for talks and against violence, which he is now allegedly again, just the pro-european opposition has ruled out coming the table after the short but brutal police assault. Prime minister Asarov has surprisingly announced to be actually willing to sign the treaty with the EU that the demonstrators demand ( which must have irked the Cremlin), but demanded a 20 billion sweetener on top ( which both Brussels and Berlin have already rejected /"This isnt a bazaar shopping bargain" (Merkel)). Both the EU and the US have threatened the regime and persons, businesses and groups associated with it with sanctions, including travel bans and freezing of assets, should it try to crush the protests violently once again. And Wladimir Putin has apparently announced a speech for today that might outline which course of action Russia is willing to take. :


                    Ukraine protesters rebuild barricades after police assault | World news | The Guardian


                    EuroMaidan rallies in Ukraine (live updates)

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                    • #11
                      Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

                      Wladimir Putins "state of the nation speech" sounded almost de-escalating. The russian president claimed that Russia was NOT seeking to be a regional hegemon, that any political choice should be up to Ukraine ( though he said which one he expected), and that he was expecting a "solution" very soon. Putin indirectly attacked the EU for meddling in Ukraines internal affairs ("unlike others, we dont tell anybody how to live"), but didnt choose a direct rethorical target (previously he had called the Ukraine protests "Made, assembled and engineered in Germany").
                      Putins comparative restraint may be due to the upcoming Sotchi Olympics and his desire not to convince other leaders to follow the german presidents example. But aside from that and his full mouthed rethoric in recent weeks, he doesnt have a particularly good hand as well. The notoriously corrupt and diplomatically clumsy Yanukovich regime is unpopular even among the russian speakers in Ukraine. Putins desire to trigger a crisis with potentially global consequences by intervention on behalf of a disgraced autocrat that even many supporters of a union with Russia would like to chase out can only be assumed to be limited. Additionally since Yanukovich has proven to both sides to be unreliable (by constantly trying to promise both sides everything and then making U-turns when encountering resistance). A treaty on Ukraines association with Russia hasnt been signed either after all. And then there is also a debate in Russia itself wether the cost of active engagement wouldnt be greater than the gains. And that does not only mean vital economic interests that Russia has in the West, and notably Germany, but also the danger of being drawn in an inner-ukrainian political swamp :


                      http://carnegie.ru/eurasiaoutlook/?fa=53848

                      Finally, Russia needs to follow the Ukrainian situation closely and be ready to adjust course at short notice. Ukraine has entered uncharted waters. Whatever the outcome of the current political standoff in Kiev and of the forthcoming presidential elections, the economic situation of the country is very difficult. This, however, is Ukraine's problem, and Russia should dearly wish that Ukraine manages it, with the European Union and the IMF providing assistance.

                      As for Russia itself, it needs to confound the old—and false—dictum that it can only be great if Ukraine is safely embedded within it. In the 21st century world, this is particularly not true. A hypothetical accession by Ukraine—as it presently is—to the Customs Union would only weaken Russia, drain its resources, and make the union itself unstable. The Russian Federation does not lack land, resources, or even people. The issue is upgrading the quality of governance and the quality of the people, starting with the elites. Ukraine—take it or leave it—will not help.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

                        Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have again demonstrated for a pro-western course of their country and against their regime over the weekend, in spite of freezing temperatures and threats of a police crackdown. The new wave of unrest had been caused by news that president Yanukovich was going to Moscov to sign the deal that Mr. Putin has allegedly prepared for him ( and that would anchor Ukraine in Russias orbit, as a political satellite). At the same time the governement in Kiev has signalled that also a EU deal may still be possible, the only problem is that Brussels has frozen talks with the regime ( and rejected requested additional payments).
                        This time the demonstrators were joined by visitors from the US that were also adressing the crowds : John McCain ( who is apparently making a habit of baiting Putin whereever he can across the former Soviet Union and a democratic member of the US senate, Chris Murphy. Their visit may not only further infuriate Wladimir Putin, it may also signal that the US is waking up to the ukrainian protests ( so far the gauntlet over Ukraine has been picked up by the EU and vocally led by a group of nations such as Germany, Poland and Lithuania) :

                        Ukraine protesters return en masse to central Kiev for pro-EU campaign | World news | theguardian.com


                        http://www.spiegel.de/international/...-a-938933.html
                        Last edited by Voland; 12-16-2013, 12:26 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

                          If John McCain is involved, you may want to buckle your seat belts.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

                            John McCain ( who is apparently making a habit of baiting Putin whereever he can across the former Soviet Union)
                            Good observation. He seems really out to get the Russky's. He received Georgia's PM last month and he's still for intervening in Syria. When there isn't an anti-Russian side he defaults to the pro-war position. I wouldn't McCain at my rally, purely for those reasons (nothing to do with his domestic positions). Just because I don't like Russia's policies doesn't mean I default to whatever other side I can find.

                            Though he also met with Yanukovych. I don't see why Y would want to receive M either. Not like McCain will ever change his mind.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Ukraine on the edge of revolution ?

                              Originally posted by erikvv View Post
                              Good observation. He seems really out to get the Russky's. He received Georgia's PM last month and he's still for intervening in Syria. When there isn't an anti-Russian side he defaults to the pro-war position. I wouldn't McCain at my rally, purely for those reasons (nothing to do with his domestic positions). Just because I don't like Russia's policies doesn't mean I default to whatever other side I can find.

                              Though he also met with Yanukovych. I don't see why Y would want to receive M either. Not like McCain will ever change his mind.

                              True. Yet I also wonder when the Russians will get it. It is not as if russian positions were unreasonable per se or as if Russia wouldn't have letigimate interests (especially in a country full of russian speakers like Ukraine).
                              But what has Putin achieved so far ? He has managed to unite a pretty heterogeneous ukrainian opposition and turn into into a powerful political force (against Russia).
                              He has brought an ally (Yanukovich) on the edge of being overthrown by the "street".
                              He has highly underestimated the resolve of the western Europeans (most notably Merkel/Gauck) to play hardball with him over Ukraine.
                              He has cornered himself into a situation where giving in doesn't look like wisely seeking a sensible compromise, but like defeat.
                              It is notable that in spite of his mumbling about "german engineered" protests Putin has never attacked Merkel personally. He knows that at the end of the day he needs the chancellor to climb out of the Ukraine trap that he built for himself.

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