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22 February 2014

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jerseycityjoan

I am mighty confused, I will admit it.

I understand that nobody wants the US dragged into this and nobody wants a big blow up in Europe.

However, it also seems that people think the Ukrainians who do not want to be reassociated with Russia are wrong and that they should just shut up and go along with the government that rejected an EU connection and turned to Russia instead.

But who here, given the Ukrainians' experience, would want to give Russia power over them?

As to Russia, when and where over the past 20 years did they do a lot to reassure their pro Western former satellites that they could rest easy, that no matter what internal course Russia would take, they would never ever make a move to reestablish control over them? Despite its vast natural resources, life exppectancy is continuing to go down in Russia, it is losing population, it's domnated by a bunch of crooks.

Why on Earth, while tensions were still sky high and the Olympics were still going on, did the Russians bring up the whole loan issue again this week? Was that not being an instigator, and at the worst possible time for the Ukrainians and the Russian government itself?

All I know is, seeing how the Russian people were reyoked by Putin and Co. before they even got their yokes half-off the 1990s, I find it really hard to be against the Ukrainian protestors.

b

"At a certain point, it became clear to many circles in the United States, Europe and Russia that the situation was heading rapidly toward civil war "

You are missing the period where the situation was inflamed by the United States and Europe. This "civil war" threat was CREATED by these. To now argue that these are the saviors is competely missing the source of the unrest.

@jerseycityjoan

"Despite its vast natural resources, life exppectancy is continuing to go down in Russia, it is losing population, it's domnated by a bunch of crooks."

Russia has positive population growth. Losing populations are the former European satellites especially in the Baltic, Poland and Germany.

"Dominated by a bunch of crooks" is a phrase I could, with the same justification, use for many "western" countries.

confusedponderer

"use of armed violence, true to the character of groups like the Right Bloc, Common Cause and the Afghanzy who all profess to be followers of the World War II era pro-Nazi Stepan Bandera and his Ukrainian National Movement. This network of largely Western Ukrainians directly fought alongside the Nazis and participated in the mass killings of Poles, Jews and "Bolsheviks" throughout the war from 1941-1945."

Indeed, what's not to like?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepan_Bandera
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organization_of_Ukrainian_Nationalists

"In 1940, the OUN split into two parts, with the older more moderate members supporting Andriy Melnyk (OUN-M) while the younger and more radical members supporting Stepan Bandera (OUN-B). Both groups were enthusiastically committed to a new fascist Europe."

"According to the OUN, Ukraine's primary enemies were considered to be Poles and Russians, with Jews playing a secondary role."

The grandfather of a Polish friend of mine lived in what is now Ukraine during WW-II. His brother and brother's family were butchered by thugs of that flavour, because they foolishly stayed in their village when he took to flight.

The Izzies like to maintain that the only victims in WW-II were Jews. Hardly.

PS: This for necessary background:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galicia_%28Eastern_Europe%29

johnf

Thank you very much for this very clear presentation on what is going on.

Until now - the MSM's (including the BBC's) coverage of events - have been so unreliable and one-sided its been essentially impossible to get a clear idea of what is happening.

I regarded the EU foreign ministers arrival as yet another bit of neo con/colour revolutions kabuki, but it is encouraging to see that it is lead by Germany, who, along with Russia, seems to be one of the few adults left in the world game.

Good luck to their efforts.

kao_hsien_chih

My understanding is that the Ukrainians are deeply divided over the issue, and that we wind up hearing disproportionately from the "pro-Western side." The presence of the far right/nationalist elements among those opposing government is indisputable, but the anti-government forces appear to be (and presumably are) drawing from a broader (although not THAT much broader) segment of the population that see a better opportunity in association with the West (and feel that association with Russia is dragging Ukraine backwards.) At the same time, though, a (likely larger) segment of the population who see greater economic and political security and stability (even if backwards) in association with the Russians are not heard from in the West, I think.

The situation is, as understand it, somewhat similar in Russia itself. Many in the West might be thinking of Putin mainly as a tyrant, but to many Russians, he brought a measure of political, economic, and social stability that was sorely lacking for a full decade after USSR fell and there is no potential alternative to Putin in sight that can deliver as much as he did. (some of the alleged "pro-democracy" activists paraded around by the West are downright comical. Among others, the jailed former members of the band Pussy Riot have actually been expelled from their own group for being such a disgrace. Their actions and attitudes towards the general public sentiment in Russia--such as the overt contempt of and vandalism towards the Orthodox Church--are such that they can never be credible with almost any real Russian.)

I think we are deluding ourselves if there is any "democracy" at stake in Ukraine or Russia these days. On the side of the government, there are people (legitimately) afraid of the change and the instability that it will bring are determined to look backwards. On the other side ("our" side) is a mixture of various ideological fringe groups, assorted anti-Russian types, and the mostly deluded who think that the West will somehow bail them out. This is a tragedy alright, but none of our business, especially if the downside is to trigger an armed conflict with the Russians--which seems perilously close anyways, thanks to misadventures elsewhere....

asubbotin

Well, if some ukrainians want customs union with Russia, and some with EU, those that lost the election should shut up and go with the rest of the nation, no? If it works badly, they'll have another chance in 4 years.

Basically this is the second time pro-Russian candidate wins presidential election, and the second time western Ukrainian nationalists riot and force him out of office under threat of civil war.

At this point the options for Ukraisian east are
1) put them down, hard, with 1000s of casualties - something Yanukovich decided not to do
2) split the country
3) live as second-class citisens in somebody elses state.

I guess we'll see whether 2) happens within a week

Poul

jerseycityjoan:

IMO Ukraine is a deeply divided country. Just look at which parts of the country supported the President in the 2010 elections. How should going back to the old constitution change that?
http://www.demetra.dk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ukraine2002141.gif

Compare with the areas affected by protests.
http://www.demetra.dk/finansblog/hvem-stotter-janukovich-i-ukraine/

The overlap is obvious. The 8 millions Russians in the eastern part of the country are not on the protesters band wagon.

The extreme nationalist party Svoboda whose members were prominent in the fighting are based in the western part.

Besides the nationalistic undertones you then have the rival oligarchs and their "sistema" network competing for power.

Yanukovich seems to have stepped down as president so who knows what will happen. But my money will be on a continuance of same problems as before.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/22/us-ukraine-idUSBREA1G0OU20140222

PailiP

"Despite its vast natural resources, life exppectancy is continuing to go down in Russia,"

Not true. Male life expectancy has risen from 57 years in 1999 to 64 in 2013.

"it is losing population,"

Not true. Russia's population has been stable since about 2008, and has actually grown the last couple years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Russia

"it's domnated by a bunch of crooks."

They're now far less crooked than the bunch running the place in 1999.

William R. Cumming

Agree with you on the history! The current Russian Federation of 82 entities is a fig leaf for covering up Russian decline. The real problem of course is the Russian nuclear arsenal which is almost the only sinew of strength together with the energy sector left to Putin and others to pretend they are still in the game.

What you left out is environmental contamination, including radiological, that permeates the Russian Federation.

But hey the US bomb complex will require trillions to clean up.

The Russians below the horizon are in the deepest cultural decline in their history. Packs of feral dogs roamed Sochi and environs. THERE IS NO RUSSIAN SOFT POWER TO PROJECT!

Harper correct the Ukraine is a fault line where a shared language and religion cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again.

William R. Cumming

Extract from Wiki:

Russia Listeni/ˈrʌʃə/ or /ˈrʊʃə/ (Russian: Россия, tr. Rossiya, IPA: [rɐˈsʲijə] ( listen)), also officially known as the Russian Federation[7] (Russian: Российская Федерация, tr. Rossiyskaya Federatsiya, IPA: [rɐˈsʲijskəjə fʲɪdʲɪˈrat͡sɨjə] ( listen)), is a country situated in northern Eurasia.[8] It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (both with Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. At 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area. Russia is also the world's ninth most populous nation with 143 million people as of 2012.[9] Extending across the entirety of northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans nine time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms.

William R. Cumming

Extract from Wiki:

Ukraine (Listeni/juːˈkreɪn/; Ukrainian: Україна, transliterated: Ukrayina, [ukrɑˈjinɑ]) is a country in Eastern Europe.[8] Ukraine borders the Russian Federation to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. It has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe.

The territory of Ukraine was first inhabited at least 44,000 years ago, with the country being a candidate site for both the domestication of the horse and for the origins of the Indo-European language family.

William R. Cumming

The Russian Ruble has fallen 10% against the dollar so far this year and is at its lowest point ever against the Euro!

PL often has suggested I am an economic determanist! Maybe in part but I am a believer in historian AJP Taylor that revolutions occur during periods of "rising" expectations.

patrick lang

asubbotin

Perhaps Ukraine should divide itself? the division to be west/Catholic/Ukrainian speaking to split from east/Orthodox/Russian speaking? This is a question, not a suggestion. pl

confusedponderer

"The current Russian Federation of 82 entities "

I disagree. IMO we are seeing not just Russian decline but the late effects of the dissolution of the Habsburg empire. The catholic, supposedly pro-western part of Ukraine is to a large part what was then the Habsburg province of Galicia.

Fred

jcj

"I understand that nobody wants the US dragged into this ..."

Did you not read Harper's comments? Let me highlight one:
"Victoria Nuland, ... the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, spoke in Washington in December 2013 at the National Press Club. In her remarks she boasted that the U.S. had spent $5 billion to shape the future of Ukraine."

Nobody is 'dragging' the US into this. Barrack Hussein Obama consented to spending billions to overthrow the Ukrainian government. Do you get that?

David Habakkuk

johnf,

On media coverage of Russia, there is a useful entitled ‘Four Myths About Russia’ published earlier this month by Professor Paul Robinson of the University of Ottawa, who between doing an undergraduate degree at Oxford and advanced degrees there at Toronto and at Oxford, spent five years in British Army intelligence. The ‘four myths’ to which he refers at 1. that ‘Vladimir Putin has turned Russia into a political dictatorship similar to the Soviet Union’; 2. that ‘Putin is bent on restoring the Soviet empire and is implacably hostile to Western power’; 3. that ‘Russia is on the verge of economic and social collapse’; and 4. that ‘Putin is increasingly unpopular.’

(See http://cips.uottawa.ca/four-myths-about-russia/ )

Having argued that none of these four ‘myths’ is supported by evidence, Professor Robinson argues that:

‘The facts about Russia, when not obscured by the above myths, speak of a country which is slowly rebuilding itself after the traumas of communism and its collapse. The rebuilding process is unsteady, gradual and imperfect. Economic growth exists alongside great corruption, while the political system combines an unfamiliar mix of liberalism and conservatism, democracy and autocracy. Russia is far from being a model liberal democracy. However, it deserves a better, more honest press than it has been getting.’

This month also saw the appearance of an article entitled ‘Distorting Russia’ by the veteran historian and commentator Professor Stephen F. Cohen. Among other things, he brings out the way that – as with so many other countries, including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Iran, etc etc, shoddy and superficial coverage leads naturally to a questionable and potentially acutely dangerous optimism about the prospects for, and likely consequences of, ‘regime change’:

‘The media therefore eagerly await Putin’s downfall – due to his “failing economy” (some of its indicators are better than US ones), the valor of street protesters and other right-minded oppositionists (whose policies are rarely examined), the defection of his electorate (his approval ratings remain around 65 percent) or some welcomed “cataclysm.” Evidently believing, as does the Times, for example, that democrats and a “much better future” will succeed Putin (not zealous ultranationalists growing in the streets and corridors of power), US commentators remain indifferent to what the hoped-for “destabilization of his regime” might mean in the world’s largest nuclear country.’

(See http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37635.htm )

turcopolier

CP

Thanks for the history and culture of this conflict. much the same kind of historic conflict made Croatia and Serbia into two countries. pl

David Habakkuk

WRC,

Interestingly, Putin is acquiring a small, but not insignificant constituency in the West – largely on the political right.

Last September, Crispin Black – a very bright former military intelligence analyst – published an article under the title ‘Vladimir Putin: an increasingly attractive political leader.’ Much of this was taken up by a sober argument that Putin had been right about Syria and in his response to Obama’s assertion of American ‘exceptionalism’.

An entertaining paragraph, however, related to David Cameron:

‘David Cameron (who will be 46 on 9 October) looked dead on his feet on a short run across Horse Guards Parade on Tuesday: Sandhurst PT Instructors had a label for his type - 'too fat to fight'. Meanwhile Putin (61 two days earlier) is as fit as a fiddle thanks to regular bouts of judo, a sport he took up aged 11, and karate. He's a black belt in both and also expert in sambo, Russia's own rather alarming version of unarmed combat, a hybrid of Japanese martial arts and Mongolian wrestling.’

(See http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/55195/vladimir-putin-increasingly-attractive-political-leader#ixzz2u4CsWwkn )

William R. Cumming

CP! I think you are correct! Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are very different religions!

And the borders of the former province of Habsburg Galacia still have a relevancy even for this century.

William R. Cumming

David H.! Thanks for this comment! But one quibble!
Putin has ensured like the Czars that there are no political [economic also?]alternatives to him.

Ramojus

All,

I would be very interested in a separate, detailed discussion (posting) regarding a division of the eastern and western parts of the country. The Czech and Slovak republics did it peacefully.

Borders have shifted throughout history; Ukraine, Poland and German territory were shifted west after WWII per Yalta(?).

confusedponderer

Thanks. It's a recent discovery of mine.

When pondering I noticed, to my horror, a white spot on my historical map. That spot was the dissolution of the Habsburg empire, and what happened between 1918 and 1940 in Poland and the other the Habsburg successor states.

People tend to focus too much on Versaille. Trianon was just as important as far as eastern Europe is concerned.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Trianon

Two ago or so I argued about Hungary with an enthusiastic supporter of Victor Orban, the nationalist strongman there. The last time I met such histrionic jingoists was in 2002/2003, and then it was Americans.

When he wasn't praising Orban to the skies - that authoritarianism of Orban's was necessary to thwart communist subversion (in 2012!) - he kept whining over poor Hungary, unfairly treated by history and now also unjustifiedly criticised by the EU, the territories lost in the unjust treaty of Trianon and them damn Slovaks who gobbled up so much of Hungary.

He talked as if it had happened yesterday.

Noteworthy: He praised Orban for handing out Hungarian passports to ethnic Hungarian Slovaks and Romanians, so his 'Hungarian kin' is now, finally, protected. Whether by Mother Hungary, or Father Victor was unclear to me. It gave me rings of 'Heim ins Reich'.

That is to say that there is ample potential for conflict in the region.

Norbert M Salamon

another view on why riots/ revolutions occurred in the last few months:

http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/a-complex-systems-model-predicted-the-revolutions-sweeping-the-globe-right

and if the drought in California/Brazil/North China persist then the food inflation will really take off. and the consequences?

Babak Makkinejad

As well as Iran and Afghanistan, or Czech & Slovakia or India and Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Babak Makkinejad

They are not in their catechism - they differ in that the Eastern Orthodox do not acknowledge the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.

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