The upcoming May 25 presidential election is classified as “dangerous.” Today, all eyes are glued to the separatist attacks in the east, the number of Russian soldiers at Ukraine’s borders and the courteous exchanges between diplomats of Ukraine, Russia, America and the European Union. Uncertainty about the ability of Ukraine to organize the election process only increases the tension, and is compounded by the irresponsible attitude of some candidates, public anxiety and expectations of what tomorrow will bring.
A joke is making the rounds among Vladimir Putin’s opponents in Moscow: His two main accomplishments as Russia's president are Yuri Gagarin’s trip to space and Russia’s victory in World War II. This biting bit of sarcasm, which takes a swing at Putin's populist rhetoric, actually gets at something much deeper. It reflects Putin’s vision of the country’s development as well as the style in which he communicates with his citizens and the international community. And yet, though people in Russia understand him, those in the West do not.
For three years now, I’ve been providing a small scholarship to a little girl in the city of Druzhkivka (population: 65,000) in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Province. Her mother, G, has sent me several brief on-the-ground reports of events in Druzhkivka (the translations below, from Ukrainian, are mine). They convey better than any analysis just what average Ukrainians are experiencing as a result of Vladimir Putin’s promotion of terrorism in eastern Ukraine.
Vice President Joe Biden, who went to Ukraine on Monday for a two-day visit to express U.S. support for the government in Kyiv, has accused Russia of being behind the irregular armed forces who are taking over Eastern Ukraine. However, he did not offer much beyond $50 million in assistance to fight corruption. The U.S. also promised to send a symbolic force—four companies of paratroops—to the neighboring NATO countries over the next several months—hardly a deterrence.
The key word in the title of our conference is dialogue. Are we talking about dialogue as a cultural value, or the technological negotiations with terrorists? Leave the last to the police. Considering that after the occupation of Crimea by Russian troops in 2014, the return to atmosphere, and rhetoric of the Cold War is often discussed; I would like to underline what we should not return to. We should not return to attempting to arrange dialogue with the Devil.
Less than a week after the signing of the Geneva agreement on Ukraine, all of the initial optimism has given way to doubt, skepticism and pessimism. More and more politicians and observers now have a hard time believing that the "spirit of Geneva" can be maintained at all. In fact, some even say the Geneva meeting did more harm than good by raising false hopes that Russia and the West can overcome fundamental differences on Ukraine and by creating the illusion that all sides could reach consensus on a way out of the crisis.
Greek philosopher Aristotle once said: “No one loves the man whom he fears”. So why are a significant number of East Ukrainians looking to their former suppressors in Russia to annex their country? As part of a recent parliamentary delegation to Ukraine I witnessed first hand accounts of the main issues in the Ukrainian crisis; it’s not simply about looking to the EU or to Russia, but about tackling mass state corruption.
In earlier postings, I have speculated on what a bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be Ukraine's economy and people. But the situation has deteriorated and getting to the problems associated with the IMF is a long shot. Right now, the Kiyv government and the West nations are wondering about Russia's intentions. And beyond that, could Russia's intentions have "unleashed" tensions internally that cannot be controlled?
You sometimes hear that the Russians, through their annexation of Crimea and their barely-concealed attempts to destabilize the Donbas, have succeeded in uniting a formerly divided Ukraine. Writing at The New Republic, Maria Snegovaya, whom I don’t always agree with but greatly respect, made this case quite explicitly, stating that the Kremlin’s recent aggression in Ukraine had “united the country in its opposition to Putin and his worldview.” Many other pundits have written similar analyses and have argued that while Ukraine might have been divided in the past there is now broad agreement on what needs to happen: the country needs to reform its economy, distance itself from Russia, and integrate with the European Union.
In Collapse of an Empire, Yegor Gaidar, the Russian economist and 1990s shock therapist, wrote that “the identification of state grandeur with being an empire makes the adaptation to the loss of status of superpower a difficult task for the national consciousness of the former metropolis.” Gaidar likened the loss of the Soviet empire to Germany’s defeat in WWI and warned, like Weimar Germany, Russia could thirst for a strong national leader to right the wrongs of the Soviet collapse. Empire, after all, was “an easy-sell product, like Coca-Cola” to a parched population. Gaidar turned out to be premature though prescient. Only now, with the crisis in Ukraine, is the opportunity for Russian revanchism—and the collective trauma that serves as its foundation—fully revealed.
"Yeah, let’s talk about that.” The president wished to change the subject. At a press conference the other day he was being interrogated about Ukraine when a reporter asked a question about health care. Obama was delighted.
At least three major surveys carried out over recent weeks have demonstrated that the supposedly imminent “civil war” that Ukraine is plunging into is an entirely artificial Russian construct. Not one of the surveys has shown any significant level of support for federalization or for parts of the country joining Russia. A majority do not want Russian to become a second state language.
Editor's Note: To counter Russian propaganda lies about the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula on Feb. 27, Dmitry Tymchuk has set up the Center of Military and Political Research in Kyiv. He served in the Army air defense from 1995-1998, the National Guard from 1998-2000 and in the Defense Ministry in subsequent years on missions to Iraq, Lebanon and Kosovo. His blogs are translated into English by Voices of Ukraine. The Kyiv Post has not independently verified his findings, but will correct any misinformation brought to our attention at firstname.lastname@example.org or 38-044-591-3344 or any of our contacts at www.kyivpost.com/contacts
The new Ukrainian government has just made a u-turn on protecting gay rights and the European Commission is playing along.
This year is the centennial of the First World War. One-hundred years ago this month, in April 1914, no one thought there would be a war. But war began, triggered by events in Eastern Europe, by the end of July. It came as an enormous shock, in retrospect almost like the Titanic hitting an iceberg.
Recently Stephen Cohen's "Why Cold War Again?" (The Nation, April 21, 2014) came to my attention again, as a reprint of his Moscow Times (April 4, 2014) piece entitled "Flawed U.S. Policy Led To This New Cold War". This article is representative of a view that Putin's actions towards Ukraine are the result of the West's, especially of the U.S,. hostile actions that threaten Russia's security interests.
After America’s ignominious defeat and hurried departure from Vietnam in 1973 — when the world’s richest and mightiest nation was humbled by the stolid determination of ill-equipped, ideologically inspired peasants — it was generally assumed the United States would not wage war again until the lessons of the Viet Cong victory were taken to heart.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he doesn't think the European community can do without the natural gas it gets from energy monopoly Gazprom. With a Russian economy starting to decline, however, it may be Gazprom that's too strongly interconnected to the European market to break free.
In many ways, the hunt for clear, undeniable proof of direct Russian involvement in the eastern Ukrainian rebellion — above all, the presence of its special forces and intelligence officers — has become a political Rorschach test. Those determined to deny any Russian role can airily dismiss all claims. Those eager to prove a link see evidence all around them. But both miss the point. It is safe to assume that Russian operatives are there, but to assume that they are the gunmen is to misunderstand the nature of the Russian campaign and the new kind of war being fought.