It appears that the war between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists may now be coming to an end, as a cease fire agreed on September 5 looks (increasingly) durable.
After a popular uprising toppled Viktor Yanukovych in February, Ukrainians touring his most lavish palace finally got to visit their ex-president's private zoo. In this sprawling compound just outside Kyiv, built with stolen tax payer money, there areover 2,000 animals. They include pigs, ostriches, and South African eland, a type of antelope. Yanukovych reportedly kept the elands for their milk in the belief that it enhanced the libido.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is in Canada today for an official visit. He comes to Canada at a time when his own country faces down a revanchist Russia that seeks to re-establish its empire. After the illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea in March, Russian troops have now invaded southeastern Ukraine. Western democracies have been unequivocal in their condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s aggression, but they have thus far been unwilling to take the necessary measures to stop him. This has sent Mr. Putin a dangerous signal – that his behavior, though unwelcome, will be tolerated.
The European Union must develop a 10-year plan for Ukraine. This plan will also define what Europe itself will be a decade hence. In tribute to Europe's pivotal politician, who has clearly led Europe's evolving policy towards Ukraine, we might call it the Merkel plan. If it succeeds, a characteristically European version of liberal order will have prevailed over the conservative, nationalist recipe for permanent, violent disorder represented by Vladimir Putin. If it fails, Europe fails again.
We do very little trade with Ukraine and, geopolitically … what happens in Ukraine doesn't pose a direct threat to us,” President Barack Obama declared, almost offhandedly on Sept. 13. His assertion was not made at a major foreign policy forum. It was made in a private home in Baltimore at one in an endless string of political fundraisers, where high income swells pay big money for the novelty of later telling their friends they rubbed shoulders with the president and maybe got to pose a question to the commander-in-chief.
As Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine's president, arrives in Canada to address both houses of parliament the question of why Canada is not willing to give military support to Ukraine is high on the agenda.
The Mejlis is the governing body of Crimea's Tatars, the Muslim indigenous group who make up 12% of the region’s population. On September 16, its headquarters wassurrounded and searched by dozens of Russian police. The raid came just a day after Crimea's elections, which the Tatars, most of whom opposed Russia's takeover of the peninsula this spring, largely boycotted. For the Tatars, who have a long history of oppression at Russian hands, it is the latest in a series of incidents that seem to signal a new effort to suppress their political autonomy.
It is commonly held that events in Ukraine have breathed new life into NATO, reinvigorating it with a sense of external threat. But the flip side of that is also true. In its haste to reassure doubting member states of the inviolability of NATO security guarantees, the alliance's rhetoric has also given the Kremlin exactly what it was lacking in recent years: help in building a picture of national development.
The two sides had already reached this point about a year ago. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was ready, waiting to be signed.
But at the last minute, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych backpedalled. Moscow had threatened severe economic consequences should he actually sign, while simultaneously enticing him with a considerable loan for the heavily indebted country should he turn to Russia.
Don't be surprised if the International Monetary Fund overhauls its Ukraine bailout after national elections in late October, including coordinating a restructuring of the country's debt. The new parliament would ostensibly be able to enact another round of politically tough economic policies that would help it get a better grip on state finances. Those efforts would in turn help secure the additional financing the country likely needs, including a potential write-down of the value of its growing debt.
Ukraine's parliament ratified a landmark association agreement with the EU on Sept. 16. Speaking before the legislature, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko referred to European integration as the country's "national idea." Poroshenko also mentioned that the deal's key free-trade element has been postponed until 2016. In the meantime Ukraine, the EU and Russia will continue to deliberate the future trade regime at trilateral meetings.
President Petro Poroshenko has led a valiant fight, since the day that he was inaugurated, to combat Russian President Vladimir Putin's overwhelming and illegal neo-Soviet aggression against Ukraine. Yet, in conciliatory European and Western fashion, Poroshenko has now boldly advanced in the Ukrainian Parliament a bid for peace against the destruction of Ukraine by Putin and his armies, comprised of the mafiosos of the Donbas and "vacationing Russian soldiers," who have been sent to kill loyal Ukrainians. In return for Poroshenko's generous olive branch, Putin has offered . . . bupkis.
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 email@example.com or 38-044-591-3344 or any of our contacts at www.kyivpost.com/contacts.
The 11-hour search of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis ended with the FSB removing the minutes from several meetings of the Mejlis; religious books and personal items, belonging to Mustafa Dzhemiliev. It appears that Russia and its occupation regime, having failed Russia, having failed to 'tame' or at least silence the Mejlis, are now resorting to open repression
Russia is both a tragedy and a menace. In the Financial Times this week Sergey Karaganov offered an arresting insight into the blend of self-pity and braggadocio currently at work in Moscow. It is as depressing as it is disturbing. Western policy makers seem to believe the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis) is the greater danger. But Russia is the nuclear-armed rump of a former superpower and, ruled by an amoral autocrat, it frightens me even more. For Europe and, I believe, the US, there is no greater foreign policy question than how to deal with today’s Russia.
In late August, Russian-backed rebel forces launched a devastating counter-offensive against Ukrainian troops. They drove them out of border areas of both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine, retook areas south of Donetsk and advanced to within a few miles of the port of Mariupol. A ceasefire came into effect on Sept. 5. It is holding in most areas, but not everywhere. Few have confidence that the fighting is really over and that both the Ukrainians on one side and the rebels and their backers from Russia on the other have not simply called half-time. I took the following photos while reporting for The New York Review over the past few weeks.
One good thing about the Ukraine crisis is that at least now everyone can stop pretending. Russia can stop pretending that it is part of Europe, and Europe can stop pretending it agrees. I remember numerous seminars and conferences with Russian and European politicians at which everyone wore fake smiles and made speeches to the effect that "Europe is our common homeland," the Cold War is over, we no longer pose a threat to each other and so on. The common understanding was that the Cold War had ended with the 1986 summit between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.
"Ukraine is Europe," Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the country's prime minister, told lawmakers as they finally prepared to ratify a much-troubled deal with the European Union on Sept. 16. "We are correcting a mistake we made 350 years ago," he added, referring to the time when Ukraine came under the control of the Russian empire. But has Kyiv's step forward towards Brussels come at the price of two back towards Moscow?
The crisis in Ukraine has created a fundamentally new security situation in Europe. The transatlantic community is now faced with a revisionist power in Europe’s own backyard. Russia has shown that it is willing to use force to extend its influence and control over independent sovereign nations in blatant disregard of international law. From the onset, I have called the crisis a wake-up call. How Western democracies respond to it and reshape Euro-Atlantic security will be, I believe, the defining challenge of the next decade.