Archive for August 7th, 2011

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Tymoshenko arrest and political rhetoric

August 7, 2011

Well dear readers, ex Prime Minister Tymoshenko has been arrested for what in effect seems to be a continued strategy of “contempt of court”.  One can only assume that Ms Tymoshenko, when embarking on this strategy, was deliberately goading the court to take such action and well aware of the probable outcome.  If so, nothing wrong with that, the strategy worked and raised her case in the international headlines.

Well it almost did.  The death of famous and influential Polish politicians, the USA AAA rating being downgraded, the new IMF Chief now being investigated over matters in France, the Euro crisis, China publicly scolding the US for its lack of concern over investors and the responsibilities of being the global reserve currency, further tragedies in Afghanistan,  trade indexes globally plummeting, odious acts in Syria and a whole host of things that people are more interested in and concerned about outside of Ukraine (and within for many) rapidly pushed her situation down the headlines to a footnote on a global scale.

Whilst some professional commentators see this strategy as a way to demean and display this trial as a sham, others have stated that, very much like any army, respect is shown to the agency and those who hold the commissioned ranks, even if those who wear the commissioned ranks are complete fools and the agency dysfunctional.  In effect you salute the rank and not the person from an enlisted man’s point of view.  You still stand for the national anthem even if the country has gone down the toilet is another example.

Some of these professional commentators go on to say that Ms Tymoshenko had plenty of opportunity to reform the judiciary and rule of law (ably supported by EU millions) and failed to do so allowing her fellow nationals to be subjected to the same system she currently is and had no compunction to change it when it didn’t affect her.

That maybe true, but it is somewhat harsh given the circumstances of having only a majority of 1 in the parliament and being embroiled in bitter in-fighting within the coalition itself.

Yet others state her actions are not worthy of a national leader and international face of Ukraine, her actions  encouraging the citizenry of Ukraine to act in a similar way, thus resulting in the complete breakdown of rule of law (such as it exists) nationally.  Maybe so, but that may well over-estimate her popularity.  Whilst the current government may be sliding down the popularity polls, she has not benefited from any increase in popularity.  There is also the distinction between “them” (the untouchable, above the law, political class) and “us” (always being screwed by the political class and the government agencies) across the vast majority of Ukrainian society.

Of course, Ukrainian cyberspace is still somewhat charged over this recent event and the expatriate forums are no exception.

Here is a comment I wrote when the question was asked if the EU would now walk away from the DCFTA and AA talks with Ukraine.

To be honest, yes I expect they will carry on with the DCFTA and AA talks, albeit in a more sombre atmosphere. The geopolitical battle with Russia is far more important than Tymoshenko, a fact recognised by Tymoshenko herself when she told the EU publicly not to allow what was happening to her to stop the process of the DCFTA and AA talks continuing and being initialed at the end of the year. 

Depending on which of the three tiers of the EU’s comments you read, I would anticipate they will range from “very concerned” to “concerned” within the tiers that count (Von Rumpoy, Barraso, Ashton and the chap who is President of the CoE (I forget his name)) but will stop short of powerful words like “condemnation” and the like.

MEPs on the other hand, particularly amongst the EPP will be far more likely to use words like “condemnation” or “persecution” or “outrageous” etc, simply because the European Parliament whilst the only democratically elected body in the EU is actually the weakest in terms of who and what is being negotiated and who signs off the agreements for the EU.

The AA is signed and ratified by the Member States and does not involve the MEPs in any shape for or manner and the European Commission initials the DCFTA, again something that does not involve the MEPs. That said, as the majority of EU MEP’s are within the EPP umbrella, if they listened to Tymoshenko who is affiliated to the EPP, they would do as she asks and get it through and ratified anyway.

The biggest winner, should the EU put Tymoshenko ahead of the DCFTA and AA will be Russia which is something Tymoshenko (and the EU) are no doubt well aware of (as of course will the Russians).

Will the EU deliberately lose the geopolitical battle to Russia when it is so close to winning it over Tymoshenko? – I think not.

Does Tymoshenko want Russia to win the geopolitical battle with the EU because of her? I think not.

Will every EU Ambassador and Foreign Office have planned for this eventuality and their reactions? Of course they have, which is why there will be differing levels of rhetoric from different tiers within the EU as an entity and also from the sovereign nations individually.

It should also be noted that even in the middle of a major Eurozone crisis, of the MEPs and EU luminaries 80% have gone on holiday for the month of August. Now if the Eurozone crisis cannot keep them at work, Tymoshenko getting put on remand is hardly likely to make any of them spill their Pimms or choke on a canape.

Will there be extreme pressure put on the government of Ukraine behind the scenes far surpassing the public statements (and words used within said statements)? – Oh yes!

Most likely outcomes now?

1. Tymoshenko found guilty, time served on remand will be her sentence if she has indeed exceeded her authority/misused her office. As yet, and despite following this as closely as possible, I am still not convinced that she did or did not abuse her office, a matter which is the first principle of the entire case.

If she did, fair enough – guilty. If she didn’t, regardless of if it cost Ukraine UAH 10 or UAH 10 trillion, poor judgment is not a crime.

2. Mistrial over some technicality (deliberately found to stop the trial in its tracks) and a decision that after such a public (and shambolic) trial thus far, there is no possibility of a fair trial due to the exposure in an effort to move on.

I am not a betting man, but I think option 1 is more likely and I think the EU and Member States would also bet that way, whilst actively encouraging option 2. Either way they will be prepared but I simply don’t see them being willing to lose the geopolitical battle to Russia when they are so close to winning it.

Human rights could have been used to stop the DCFTA and AA before it even started, so even Tymoshenko’s will not be enough to derail the on-going process so close to a major strategic victory for the EU.

I could be wrong, but as and when the statements from the EU come rolling out in the press, anything short of “condemnation” will mean the process will continue I expect.

These are, of course, comments made without much reflection and were made pretty much as the news of her arrest was broken.

However, a few days on, the political rhetoric coming from the differing tiers of the EU has now reached the press.

In politics, negotiation and diplomacy, the words used have always been (or should always be) very carefully chosen.  They have a tradition of their own which implies the level of dissatisfaction by those making them even though the MSM often try to make those words buck their traditional and historical diplomatic parameters as understood by diplomats on the giving and receiving ends of those words.  Headlines sell news of course.

Anyway, let us look at who and what has been said from within the EU and highlight a few words and whether those words are powerful enough to be interpreted as the suspension of DCFTA and AA talks with Ukraine.

Cathy Ashton EU High Rep for Foreign Affairs is  extremely concerned.

The EU and other international partners of Ukraine have repeatedly underlined the need for fair, transparent and independent legal processes to avoid any perception of a policy of selective justice. Today’s events are therefore a cause for concern about the state of the rule of law in Ukraine.”

So not much of a shift in position from that tier of the EU echelons.

EU parliament chief Jerry Buzek “The context and conditions raise concern about the politically motivated nature of this decision, and about the application of the rule of law in Ukraine.”

Such concerns have been repeatedly raised for months, so again not much movement if any by way of public statement.

Now for the ineffective and, as far as the EU/Ukrainian negotiations are concerned, out of the loop MEP statements.

Wilfred Martens, EPP Party Chief (to which Ms Tymoshenko and her party are affiliated) “I call on [Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovych to put an immediate end to this sham – Europe’s patience has reached its limit.” Well not if you look at the words within the statements that matter from those above in the hierarchy of the EU.

Carl Bildt, Swedish centre-right Foreign Minister “an embarrassing spectacle and does great damage to a great country.” – Quite true but it has been an embarrassing spectacle from the start as pro and anti Tymoshenko commentators alike agree.  Unfortunately with the EU encouraging (and getting frustrated at the lack of progress) Romania and Bulgaria to go after their elites, past and present, regardless of remaining in politics or not,  in power or opposition, condemning the spectacle and application rather than the reasons is as far as he can sensibly go.

The French Foreign Ministry is “strongly concerned.” Quite in keeping with Cathy Ashton’s statement then.

So, no words used like condemnation or disgust,  illegal or illegitimate,  nothing resembling persecution.  No words that would prevent the continuance of the DCFTA and AA negotiations.

You have to go some way from the epicentre of politics and diplomacy to find anything like the rhetoric of condemnation.

Is there then a disconnect from the diplomats and politicians from civil society agencies as is so often the accusation from voters world wild?  Maybe, however, it is maybe more sensible to look at the matter as a case of the further from the epicentre of politics and diplomacy where all things are connected (even when they appear not to be), the more things are seen as individual issues with no circumspection as to causal effects of a specific action in and on the diplomatic and political web.

In short would Action A over incident B have an inherent and disastrous outcome on issues C, D and E which are in our interests to secure?  Risk analysis and judgment are the only answers to that when it comes to a national interest, regardless of public perception and the metaphorical braying of asses and gaggling of geese that make up society.  (That metaphor is used by Albert Pike somewhere within Morals and Dogma – it is not original and it is not word prefect.  It is quite some time since I read it and thus it is somewhat paraphrased I suspect.)

Will there be demonstrations from the civil society in Ukraine?  Maybe, but not to the extent there was in December 2004 or over the Tax Code law changes within the last year I suspect.

All of those contingency plans and options slaved over by foreign embassies and foreign offices, EU entities  and others in anticipation of this eventuality, will now be working frantically behind the scenes to put pressure where they think it should bear.

Watch the unfolding rhetoric and specifically the words used and we will see whether the DCFTA and AA is in any real danger of stalling before the year end.  Thus far, from what has been said (in public) it appears negotiations will continue, probably quite rightly, as the geopolitical prize is close at hand and not one the EU will want to lose now.

The battle over Ms Tymoshenko can be fought another day and using ratification of the DCFTA and AA amongst the sticks, carrots and levers in the EU negotiation bag, but first they have to be in the bag to employ.  One thing is certain, Russia will not care whether Ms Tymoshenko is in jail or not if it sees the opportunity to welcome Ukraine back into the fold due to EU sensibilities.

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