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Predictions for next week

July 26, 2014

Following on from the last entry – and due to there being no entries next week unless something truly unpredictable occurs – here are a few things to expect next week:

Tuesday 29th July – EU sector sanctions.  Will they change the course of The Kremlin?  In answering that, it is probably wise to consider whether The Kremlin has insured the achievement of any of its goals regarding Ukraine.  If the answer is “no” to the latter, then the answer is likely to be “no” to the former.

However, when considered not in the context of Ukraine, but in the context of the challenge to rule of law, disregard for treaties and charters Russia is itself a ratified signatory of, there appears an obvious need to display collective disapproval and the use of instruments designed to change course – even if they won’t change Kremlin course.

Thursday 31 July – Extraordinary plenary session of the RADA that will see draft laws on “Amending the Law of Ukraine”, the “State Budget of Ukraine for 2014″ and on “Amendments to the Tax Code of Ukraine and other Legislative Acts of Ukraine”  passed.

These are the laws that were not passed on 24th July, that upset Prime Minister Yatseniuk immensely prior to his resignation per the above linked entry.  On the subject of Prime Minister Yatseniuk, expect his resignation to be rejected by the RADA on or before 31st July too.

The net result being, he and the Cabinet of Ministers remain in post whilst having no official coalition.  That in turn allows for President Poroshenko to dissolve the RADA on or around 26th August after the constitutionally required 30 days for any new coalitions to form – which they deliberately won’t – and then announce elections for the 26th October, to be held simultaneously with local elections after the statutory 60 days of electoral campaigning.  All as predicted more than a month ago.

That said, do expect some changes in the Cabinet of Ministers as predicted at the beginning of the month.  These issues remain to be addressed and may also be dealt with on 31st July by a surviving Prime Minister Yatseniuk.

The next entry here, barring truly unpredictable occurrences, will be 4th August – though@OdessaBlogger on twitter will remain at least occasionally active between now and then.

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Much ado about the predictable in the RADA

July 25, 2014

The deliberate collapsing of the coalitions in the RADA this afternoon, followed by resignations seems to have caught many – particular western – on-lookers by surprise.

Quite why so many on-lookers were surprised is – well, surprising.

This morning, this tweet contained within  today’s entry.  Not much warning perhaps.

So lets go back more than a month to this entry that explicitly predicted this occurrence and the reasons why.

Not a surprise when working to time lines – or perhaps better stated, when working backward from a certain date.  For months the goal has been to set new RADA elections at the same time that local elections are to occur.  That date is already set.  It is 26th October.

Thus is it necessary to work back from that date to understand today’s events.

The Constitution of Ukraine states:

The President of Ukraine may terminate the authority of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine prior to the expiration of term, if:
there is a failure to form within one month a coalition of parliamentary factions in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as provided for in Article 83 of this Constitution;
there is a failure, within sixty days following the resignation of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, to form the personal composition of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine;
the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine fails, within thirty days of a single regular session, to commence its plenary meetings.

So moving back from 26th October, adding together the one month required to allow for the forming any new coalition – which will deliberately not be formed – plus the 60 days required for electioneering, delivers us at 31st July as the very last possible day to legally fulfill the Constitutional requirements and simultaneously hold RADA and local elections on 26th October.

Therefore, that this happened on 24th July should come as no surprise to anybody.  That these matters have been engineered by way of dissolved coalitions when working toward 26th October as election day for a new RADA was clear.

It is a matter of math only, to realise that it was now or never if that goal was to be achieved.

It is also a step welcomed by President Poroshenko.

There may be a war on in a small part of Ukraine, but the rest of the nation expects new RADA elections – and will seemingly now get them – with the benefit of budgetary and organisational savings when holding the two elections on the same date.

Having voted in a president with a war on – why not a new RADA and local government too?

The only thing of particular note from today when looking forward is that Vice Prime Minister Groysman is now acting Prime Minister.

But that is predictable too.

Acting PM Groysman is a President Poroshenko man.  A very capable man it has to be said, but he is of the “right horse stable”.  Will Volodymyr Groysman remain Prime Minister after the elections?  There’s a good chance unless he drops the ball between now and 26th October.

 

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And so passes the Communist Party of Ukraine

July 24, 2014

Let us begin here, with the ECfHR Chamber Judgment ruling Erbakan v Turkey no. 59405/00, § 56, 6.07.2006, for it is an important ruling when considering what follows below:

“… tolerance and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings constitute the foundations of a democratic, pluralistic society. That being so, as a matter of principle it may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance…..

……the Court is also careful to make a distinction in its findings between, on the one hand, genuine and serious incitement to extremism and, on the other hand, the right of individuals, including journalists and politicians to express their views freely and to “offend, shock or disturb” others.”

A ruling necessary to consider as the Communist Party of Ukraine ceases to exist – banned under a new Ukrainian law, with effect from today.

As democracy demands all political parties that adhere to, and remain within the law, be allowed to engage in the political discourse, particularly so those with sufficient constituency support to enter legislative bodies as the Communist Party currently does – even if only just enough to pass the 5% threshold to sit in the RADA as a party.

Thus there is a need to ponder how a democratically elected party garnering more than the 5% electoral threshold to sit in the RADA can be denied its place in the political discourse.

The reason for the immediate demise of the Communist Party was to relate to support for the “federalisation” of Ukraine and allegations of “incitement” of people in eastern Ukraine beginning back in March, against the current leadership.  However, within the technicalities of the RADA, the shrinking in size of the Communist Party from 33 to 23 MPs could allow for the dissolution of the Communist Party as a RADA force – but that is not the same as banning the entire party.

Whilst “federalising” Ukraine would be a disaster for the nation in the current circumstances, giving The Kremlin a mechanism to manipulate to its advantage – and hence why the current Ukrainian leadership will not pursue that avenue – supporting “federalisation” vocally in the RADA or anywhere else is not a crime.  It surely falls within the rights of a politician and/or political party to “express their views freely” even if it “offend, shock or disturb others”.

Now it may be that the Communist Party support for “federalisation” and “incitement” went far beyond vocal support against the current authorities in Kyiv – both in the RADA and within the eastern regions.  Perhaps there was financial support that was deliberately opaque, intended and used for nefarious criminal acts.  Perhaps there was administrative and/or organisational support for action that deliberately went far beyond any boundaries of peaceful, legal and legitimate protest.  In short active assistance or participation in clearly unlawful incidents.

If so, then that is a matter for the courts to consider, which they have been doing for some months, and any court ruling of guilt would therefore give good grounds for the banning of the Communist Party, having failed to remain within the legal boundaries incumbent on all political actors in a democracy.  In short, by remaining entirely lawful, democracy  demands political inclusion.  If not, democracy demands its exclusion.

As yet, there is no court decision – though one may arrive on cue today to underpin the ban, after the law allowing for the banning of political parties guilty of various actions was signed only two days ago by the president – something which naturally provides for a particularly poor perception and reeks of a political and swiftly following legal stitch up – regardless of how good or bad any evidence against the Communist Party actually is.  Perhaps the RADA technicality will be the singular mechanism to remove the Communists from the RADA.

Cynically one may ask whether any court judgment will arrive before or after the official banning.

If there is any traction within the above tweet, perhaps it may have been wiser to instigate a legal investigation into the alleged incitement etc, pass the relevant laws to ban parties found guilty of such crimes, but in the meantime hold the early RADA elections and let the Communists fight against the 5% threshold to enter the RADA as a party?  It is not beyond comprehension that legal judgments can be so delayed as to fit such a timetable after all.

Surely it is better to have the Communist Party die at the ballot box through insufficient support as the first option.  Let democracy kill it at the polls if it can, and thereafter await any judgments should it survive – or not.  Legally beheading it, live or dead, post the elections seems far more elegant and less hurried – giving due consideration to the accompanying perceptions that go with both timetables.

Presumably the Communist Party MPs being democratically elected will retain their mandates and are now to be without a party.  If they are to be individually held responsible for any wrong doing and their mandates stripped, is banning the entire party and those not involved warranted considering the party’s democratic mandate from the constituency?  If the RADA deliberately assassinates itself today as rumour has it, was there a need to ban the Communist Party now?

Thus the banning of the party may lead to little more than a change from the comical People’s Front of Judea, to the Judean People’s Front at the next elections.

The same feckless MPs, with the same ideology (which is far from communist ideology to be blunt) re-branded.

This blog has made no secret regarding an absolute loathing of communism and fascism in equal measure.  Both are simply cancerous and odious ideologies.  There are no historical entries in support of either.  There are however, numerous entries robustly criticising and bemoaning both the Communist Party and the far right politicians alike and in equal measure.  That will remain the case.

That there is reason, even if only symbolically, to celebrate the banning of the Communist Party from Ukrainian politics?  Absolutely – goodbye and good riddance!  Let us hope that the far right political parties and politicians follow in short order too.

Yet there is reason to have concern about how this has been engineered and the perceptions it will project – rightly or wrongly – regarding democracy in Ukraine?  Sadly very much so based upon the evidence available in the public domain against the Communist Party when held against the ECfHR ruling that begins this entry – RADA technicalities or no.

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From SAGs to a Council – Reforming the reformers

July 24, 2014

Following on from the entry yesterday, wherein there is a paragraph or two that relates to the necessity to continue with undiminished energy regarding reforms in Ukraine, despite the issues in the east, perhaps a glance toward how that reform is progressing is in order, and more pointedly, the structures behind reform input.

“…..The EU is far better at assisting in the delivery of softer solutions than it is in making hard choices. As such, the EU is far more at ease in supporting Ukraine than it is at sanctioning The Kremlin.

This is clearly seen by decisions such the creation and deployment of a civilian mission to advise on sector security reform (rule of law) at today’s European Council meeting – a wholly welcomed outcome it has to be said…..”

That well crafted reforms move along swiftly and are implemented effectively is crucial not only for the internal workings of Ukraine, but now as something of a bolt-on national security issue to Kremlin driven events in the east.  After all, those events are designed to act as an anchor, at the very least slowing – if not preventing – Ukraine’s path toward European norms.  Thus events in the east cannot be allowed to prevent or stall the reform process granting The Kremlin an unnecessary or easy win.

To be entirely blunt, Ukraine’s victory will come when effective reform across government, institutions and society – despite the hurdles of doing so generated internally or externally of the nation – are achieved.  When it becomes everything that The Kremlin’s present day Russia isn’t, and stand shoulder to shoulder in the democratic world.

Of course Ukraine doesn’t need to join the EU or NATO to achieve that – but it certainly needs the help of the EU to reform – and sadly any comfort NATO can give Ukraine would not be turned away, be it intelligence sharing, military planning etc., in the current situation.

Whatever the case, and however it gets there, Ukraine’s greatest victory will be to transform itself from a Soviet hangover to a far more modern,  democratic, rule of law driven, construct.  There will be no more important a victory than that.

So, how is Ukraine looking at reforms by way of existing structures – over and above those State departments and institutions already tasked with such issues?

Currently, external of those official State structures mentioned above, there are SAGs – Strategic Advisory Groups – working along side the ministries of health, culture, The National Bank of Ukraine, regional development and economy.  They are Ukrainian led – by the resident Ukrainians or in some cases diaspora as well, with a sprinkling of input from Georgia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, who already have the “been there, done that” T shirts.

The SAGs work under the guidance of the SAGs Steering Committee – currently chaired by Alex Pivovarsky, Senior Adviser for Corporate Strategy at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and  Oleksandr Sushko, Board Chair of the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF).

The overarching theme being good governance, anti-corruption, law enforcement and macroeconomic development across a range of sectors including energy, infrastructure, finance, health and education – a lot to go at, and all in desperate need of robust reform.

Needless to say relevant Ministers interact with the relevant SAGs.

It seems however, there is to be a reform of the reformers – at least by way of structure.

There is now to be a National Reform Council to be run by senior government officials, with Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Dmytro Shymkiv calling upon civil society, businesses, international donors and political allies to contribute to the creation of the new council.

As such the question becomes, how long does it take to reform the reformers into this new structure – and expand it – before much needed reforms begin to occur – and as importantly, are seen to occur – considering just how important the reform issue truly is to the survival of the Ukrainian State?

Well considered reforms and effective implementation of them is an absolute priority.  How much time will be lost in (re)creating bureaucratic structures for the sake of (re)creating bureaucratic structures vis a vis delivery of solid reform – ro are the current SAGs failing in their role?  If so, why?

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Silence

July 23, 2014

Today sees another European Council meeting – the 28 Foreign Ministers of the EU – gathered to discuss and respond to Kremlin action in Ukraine once more.

The meeting began with a minute’s silence for those who were murdered on flight MH17.

For many, it now begs the question, just when that European minute’s silence will end with regard to anything more than rhetoric, and herald the introduction of painful sanctions toward the Kremlin.  Today that silence seems very likely to continue with no new sanctions forthcoming.

Whether you consider the downing of MH17 a “game changer” or not – and that is very much a question of perception when considering that any new sanctions seem hardly likely to change the Kremlin’s goals regarding Ukraine – some form of action would certainly be deemed appropriate by many capitals.

Whether those more hawkish European capitals can convince the somewhat more dovish European capitals of a far more robust cost to the Kremlin due to continued shenanigans remains to be seen.  Thus the minute’s silence at the European Council’s meeting today may actually turn into a week’s silence whilst pressure is put to bear.  Perhaps even longer.

The EU as a collective is not a nimble body.  The 28 Hydra heads all have varying opinions.  It is not as swift and agile as the USA or Russia due to its internal mechanics of decision making.

The EU is far better at assisting in the delivery of softer solutions than it is in making hard choices.  As such, the EU is far more at ease in supporting Ukraine than it is at sanctioning The Kremlin.

This is clearly seen by decisions such the creation and deployment of a civilian mission to advise on sector security reform (rule of law) at today’s European Council meeting – a wholly welcomed outcome it has to be said – but one that will not make any headlines or be perceived as “European unity” either internally of Europe, or of unity with Ukraine, by many.

The media will claim that the Europeans “bottled it”  again – should nothing robust by way of sanctions be forthcoming today in the post MH17 situation.  And let us be blunt – they will have “bottled it” in that regard if and when that proves to be the case – which seems most likely .

However, the two most pressing issues for the Ukrainian leadership are securing its borders with Russia, thus making it far easier to deal with the troubles in the east, and rule of law – or the absence of it – from where almost all societal ills and complaints spring forth and can be cured.

If the EU Member States cannot find the collective will to act in tandem with the USA regarding severity of sanctions and the cost they impose on The Kremlin (and themselves), then perhaps a far smarter division of labour should be considered between the western nations.  The Europeans cannot be excused their obligations with regard sanctions, but their limitations are all too clear.  A complete and flagrant breaking of the law regarding Crimea is easily sanctioned, meddling by supposed proxies in eastern Ukraine, apparently not.

Perhaps the Europeans should be primarily directed at assisting Ukraine and supporting the USA led sanctions as best they are collectively able – not that it removes the ability to unilaterally act with integrity by individual nations within Europe – whilst the USA supports the Europeans where necessary in direct Ukrainian assistance, but leads the way on sanctions.

Such an arrangement would remove a lot of frustration between the western parties and also give the appearance of “western unity” as each plays out the part they are most capable of and comfortable in, regarding differing forms of assistance to Ukraine.

One of the key tactics of Kremlin policy is to drive wedges into perceived splits in unity.  However, by putting the players into the roles in which they are most effective and comfortable would certainly reduce any apparent splits – and either which way, Ukraine continues to get the help it needs.

It is an idea – not one particularly palatable as it hides European weaknesses whilst playing to its strengths – but it may be one of the few ways to continue to show a “united front” to The Kremlin in rebuffing its designs on Ukraine.

In the meantime, the sound of silence will continue regarding harder sanctions within Europe.

 

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When the doves begin to sound like hawks

July 22, 2014

There has been an enormous amount of criticism of Chancellor Merkel across the Ukrainian social media since the World Cup Final and her interaction with President Putin.

Exceptionally wrong-head statements about “Frau Ribbentrop”  became the misguided theme for extremely irate and upset Ukrainians.  That they were and are extremely irate and upset is more than understandable.  In fact it would be worrisome that they were in any way accepting of Kremlin actions – both direct and indirect – aimed at their nation.

As post WWII Europe designed NATO to keep the Soviets out, the Americans in and the Germans down militarily, the political system in Germany (more or less imposed) was designed to prevent charismatic and wrong-headed leaders rising and leading the German nation astray once more.  Thus the system produces coalitions and consensus

Ukrainians identify her as “all powerful” in Germany, no differently to the previous presidents of Ukraine who raped, pillaged and corrupted the country with impunity.  After decades of seeing that what the president says – goes – unquestioned and unstopped, there is an expectation that Chancellor Merkel can do the same and all other German politicians will simply fall in line.  A wrongful perception.

There is a lack of understanding regarding the fact she sits atop a coalition that requires a good deal of internal diplomacy and compromise – particularly when faced with a crisis.

However, Chancellor Merkel is no dove when it comes to President Putin or The Kremlin.  She is not the problem.  Indeed over the past few years in particular, it is difficult to identify a more hawkish German Chancellor toward The Kremlin since German reunification.

Her coalition party partner is indeed very dovish toward The Kremlin.  Of that party, the most high profile of the doves is probably Frank Steinmeier, the current German Foreign Minister.  To be blunt, not somebody Chancellor Merkel would have picked as her FM if the mechanics of forming the German coalition government would have allowed – but it didn’t.

Thus Germany presents a hawkish Chancellor and a dovish Foreign Minister to The Kremlin (and the world).

It is therefore important to look very carefully at the statements of FM Steinmeier to ascertain just how far Chancellor Merkel is managing to nudge her coalition doves (and industry lobbyists) along without endangering her coalition government at home.

When the doves begin to sound like hawks, she is having some success in moving the reticent along.  Despite the above tweet still appearing rather dovish, for FM Steinmeier it is far from that and would suggest that the German doves have now moved far enough toward the German hawks for more sanctions aimed at The Kremlin.

In the meantime, Federica Mogherini, who officially is the Foreign Minister of Italy – but whom could easily be confused for either an ENI spokesperson or Kremlin apologist – or both, if you didn’t know otherwise – today apparently faces a meeting with UK and Dutch counterparts, who will no doubt to outline her errant Kremlin apologist/dovish ways that cost her the position of EEAS head, and may cost Italy any Dutch and UK support over EU issues that matter greatly to Italy should Italy try and block any new sanctions that now seem likely to come.

Though sanctions are really only effective when threatened or lifted, as sanctions outcomes during the time that they are actually implemented are almost entirely dependent upon the will to take pain by those sanctioned – and to be blunt, there is a good deal of political will in The Kremlin to endure any such pain – just as the illegal annexation of Crimea could not go without costs and a clear response, the continued flow or arms across the Russian border into Ukraine and the downing of MH17 can no longer go without costs and a clear response either.

It seems the European hawks have been lining up the European doves over the weekend and today – more sanctions look somewhat inevitable – even if they are highly unlikely to change Kremlin course in Ukraine.

 

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As suggested by mere mortals…..

July 21, 2014

Following this tweet of two days ago

And this entry yesterday morning, President Poroshenko came to a similar conclusion.

“President of Ukraine urges UN to condemn acts of terrorism

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko had a telephone conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

During the talk Ban Ki-moon called the crash of “Malaysia Airlines” aircraft shocking and unacceptable. He stressed the need to figure out all the circumstances of this tragedy, and supported the actions of the Ukrainian side towards an open and independent international investigation. Ban Ki-moon called Petro Poroshenko to use all possible international instruments, including the UN, to conduct a proper examination.

Petro Poroshenko assured the UN Secretary General in complete openness to the international investigation. President of Ukraine called on the UN to condemn acts of terrorism and to recognize so-called “DNR” and “LNR” as terrorist organizations. He also informed that terrorists continue to keep shelling and attacking Ukrainian military units, and prevent the access of experts to the crash site.

UN Secretary-General noted that the President of Ukraine has every right to defend its territory and protect its citizens.

Petro Poroshenko informed Secretary-General on the possibility of forced early return of Ukrainian helicopters involved in the UN peacekeeping operations. Meanwhile, the President of Ukraine said that the support of the international community together with the United Nations will provide an opportunity to resolve the situation by other means.

The parties have agreed to closely coordinate further action. In particular, Ban Ki-moon said that for this purpose he has delegated the Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman to visit Ukraine on 28-29 July.”

A statement agreed with by Linas Linkevicius, Foreign Minister of Lithuiania today.

This blog ahead of the curve once more it appears – if only by 48 hours – and in this particular circumstance it would be difficult to be any more ahead.

Very good.  That’s why you dear readers spend a moment of your valuable time reading this blog – it is usually there, or thereabouts.

As yesterday’s final paragraph  stated:

“Something worth considering, if not now, then in the future? Possibly so, for it does seem somewhat too hopeful that even in the unlikely event The Kremlin ceases its current support, that ad hoc violent and/or destructive acts under the banners of DPR and LPR will simply stop on the territory of Ukraine in the coming years.”

The question posed therefore remains – though now with a little more political momentum behind it perhaps – will the international institutions and other sovereign States actually do so?

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