Sunday, August 31, 2014

Eurasian Economic Union crumbling part 2

In a previous blog I wrote Putin's Customs Union currently comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, is crumbling.

On Friday, at a Russian youth camp Putin declared: "Russians and Ukrainians are 'practically one people". [Implying, I suppose, that invading Ukraine and trampling over its sovereign rights is not really invading a foreign country at all.]

If there were any truth in this 'practically one people' remark, it could arguably apply to an even greater extent to Russians and Belarusians, so Putin's loose talk will certainly will cause great apprehension and anger in Minsk.

Putin's declaration that same day the Kazakhstan 'was never a state', has already elicited a reaction from that country's president Nursultan Nazarbayev. He has broadly hinted Kazakhstan may even withdraw from the Eurasian Union

"If the rules laid down in the agreement are not carried out, Kazakhstan has the right to give up the Eurasian Economic Union. I have said it before and I say it again," he said.

According to him, Kazakhstan will not be a part of any organization that poses a threat to its independence.

"Our independence is our most precious treasure for which our grandfathers fought," said the president of Kazakhstan. "Firstly, we will never surrender our independence and, secondly, we will do everything to protect it," - said Nazarbayev.

Taras Berezovets in 'Novoye Vremya' explains why Kazakhstan may be being lined up for same treatment as Eastern Ukraine in Putin's strategy to rearrange Russia's borders. About one quarter of Kazakhstan's population is Russian - they live predominantly in regions adjacent Russia. These regions were bolted on in 1936 when Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic was formed from the Kazakh Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic that had existed from 1925 until 1936. [Similaries with Crimea?]

More on Putin's crass remarks and their major significance here

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Will Minsk 2014 be Munich 1938?

Former Putin adviser and now critic Andrei Illarionov, in his blog, quoting many sources, explains what, in his opinion, Putin and Merkel are proposing to Poroshenko and Ukraine in order to resolve the current war between these two countries.

The joint position of Putin and Merkel probably looks something like this:

- Bilateral unconditional cease-fire, which automatically means the legalisation of the separatists and their transformation into a legitimate party in endless negotiations.

- Determination of the internal political system of Ukraine not by Ukrainians, but by Russia and Germany, which will result in the eastern regions of Ukraine being granted special status, i.e. the creation of a "Ukrainian Transnistria" - Putin's beloved "Novorossiya."

- Denial of Ukraine not only from joining NATO, but also denial of any rapprochement with NATO, which would leave her under constant threat of attacks from its aggressive neighbour.

- Denial of Ukraine joining the European Union.

- Solution of gas issues to the satisfaction of Gazprom and Germany.

- For Ukraine's agreement on these points, "Novorossiya" in the Donbas will receive 500 million. Euros from the European Union (Germany) .

Ilaryonov compares the proposed deal to the 1938 Munich Agreement when Hitler was appeased and Czechoslovakia sold down the river. Poroshenko in Minsk will be in a similar position to Czech president of the day, Edvard Benes...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Putin's Customs Union is crumbling

President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko are attending a summit together with top European Union officials in Belarus's capital of Minsk on 26th August.  Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko and Kazkahstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose countries belong to the Russia-led Customs Union, will also be present.

Vitaliy Portnikov makes the following observations in his article "Meeting in Minsk - an important stage toward divorce".

No major break-throughs can be expected. Even if Putin does give any undertakings, he will most likely break them. [There is a 'shed-load' of evidence that Russian regular armed forces have been active in eastern Ukraine. E.g. captured prisoners, captured equipment, scattered iron rations, military equipment packaging, intercepted sig-int.. video evidence, etc. etc. Despite this Russian spokesmen continue to deny any involvement of their troops. So why should Putin be trusted in the future?]

Portnikov says the summit is an opportunity for Lukashenko to at least partially rehabilitate himself with Europeans.

Lukashenko and Nazarbayev can also use next week's meeting to distance themselves a bit from Putin because the current Russia/Ukraine crisis is harming their countries' interests. They are fearful of an aggressive Putin and will try to delicately persuade him to come to his senses. They feel that by his unilateral declaration of sanctions against EU countries, Putin has 'dissed' Customs Union members Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Interesting podcast on what awaits Russia

Listen to this most engaging 'rferl' 50 minute podcast entitled:

 'Russia's Elusive New Normal',

Peter Pomerantsev and Ben Judah speculate on what lies in store for Putin and Russia following Putin's policy of 'perpetual mobilisation and agitation' - combining both 'patriotic cocaine' and fear - of which the current Russia/Ukraine crisis forms a central plank.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A wicked imported conflict [updated]

Check out this article from Spiegel [in English] about the surreal Russian - Ukrainian war:

"Could it be that the much discussed conflict between the Russians, the West and the eastern Ukrainians doesn't really exist?
The longer I am in this city [of Donetsk], the more I believe that much of what is said about the war in eastern Ukraine isn't true. Others have imported the conflict."

p.s. An absolute must-read: Andrey Kurkov's just-published 'Ukraine Diaries'...
"an invaluable guide to the present crisis"

Also "Strategic snapshots: The Ukraine Crisis and the International System"
Short 10 minute video from IISS here 

pps "Of all the horror I've seen this one


stands out. Girl in dress symbolizes "suicidal" country of mine." 03'40"

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Collective madness against Ukraine [update 2]

If anyone has doubts as to Putin's intent to punish and subjugate Ukraine  then they should check out this video of a recent Biker show held in Sevastopol:

The crudest anti-Ukrainian propaganda concoction imaginable.. an Orwellian nightmare come true...on a par with Hitler's Germany..

What harm have Ukrainians done to Russians to deserve this?

p.s. the MC of the show, blurting the anti-Ukraine rhetoric, is Alexander Zaldostanov (a.k.a 'The Surgeon)', head of the Night Wolves. He allegedly has an enduring friendship with Putin himself, no less....

Update: This hate-show about #Ukraine was broadcast live on #Russia-2 TV channel. [source]

Here's a much shorter, 20-minute version..

Update 2: A great analysis of this diabolical show, and message from Putin,  from Buzzfeed here

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Seeds of Merkel-led de-escalation plan?

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko had a phone conversation with Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. [Saturday night]

The President drew attention to the efforts of the Ukrainian government to establish humanitarian assistance in the cities affected by the actions of terrorists. In particular, about sending to Lugansk professionals to repair electrical substations and restore water and food supply.

Petro Poroshenko informed that after the talks with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer and other international partners, the possibility of sending a humanitarian mission to Lugansk is considered: "We are ready to receive humanitarian assistance, but it will be an international mission, without military escort, which goes only through border crossing points controlled by Ukrainian border guards and accompanied by Ukrainian military for the security of the mission", stressed the President.

Angela Merkel said that Germany, as well as its allies, holds a clear position that any humanitarian mission should be sent only in accordance with the international law, namely only through the channels of the UN or the Red Cross, and only in consultation with the Ukrainian side. "Our position is clear - any invasion, even if it is called humanitarian, is an invasion, and it is a red line that no state may cross", said the Chancellor of Germany.

Angela Merkel and Petro Poroshenko discussed the possibility of participation of Germany in international humanitarian mission. They also coordinated the next steps for de-escalation of the situation in the counter-terrorist operation.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Will Russia invade Ukraine?

If you have a spare half hour or so, listen to this excellent, frequently fascinating podcast from 'The Interpreter' 

"This week on The Interpreter podcast Boston College Professor Matt Sienkiewicz and The Interpreter’s managing editor James Miller are joined by The Interpreter’s editor-in-chief Michael Weiss to discuss the latest news from Ukraine.

The key questions on everyone’s mind — will Russia invade Ukraine? What is Russia’s end game here? Why is Putin doing what Putin is doing? And what does this all have to do with the shooting down of MH17?"

One of the speakers explains: To understand 'The Godfather' or series like 'The Sopranos'...