Archive for March 3rd, 2014

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Wise words from the past for the leaders of Ukraine and Europe

March 3, 2014

As Lithuania and Latvia invoke Article 4 of the NATO Treaty in response to Russian action in Ukraine, diplomatic communiques fill the Internet and Russian Embassies throughout the western world, and the situation in Crimea continually escalates – added to which predictably pro-Russian demonstrations appeared in Mariopol, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Odessa in no small part due to the “interim national unity government” having no MPs from parties that represent those regions within it.

The net result is that Ukraine can expect nothing from “the west” by way of direct military intervention – quite rightly at this juncture.  As yet, no shots have been fired after all.

The window for other western diplomatic tools and political posturing remains one or two levels below making such uncomfortable decisions.  The issue of Ukrainian sovereignty ever more desperate.

“The west” may move military forces to the borders of Poland, Hungary, the Baltic nations etc. and that may be inferred by many as preparation for intervention – but in reality it will be little more than posturing and a comforting arm around those nations bordering Russia and Ukraine.

It may announce it will snub the G8 conference in Sochi in June.  It may announce sanctions on certain Russian citizens, Russian businesses, revoke Visas, issue Visa bans.  It may even make Russian access to western banking systems more difficult, put pressure on the Ruble and thus invite tensions within Russia to divert Mr Putin’s attention.   The recall of Ambassadors perhaps.   An international observer or two?

But much more than a pick “n” mix from that assorted bag is simply out of the question – and the effects of the above take time whilst also inviting reciprocal action.  Ukraine has little time to spare if it hopes to retain any meaningful control over Crimea in the future.  And perhaps The Kremlin will decide it will not stop there.

Regular readers will know I am not a conspiracy theorist – but I am a realist – and also quite cynical.  Perhaps they are necessarily symbiotic.

Therefore what I am about to write should not be seen as “conspiracy theory” – but perhaps be better understood by way of “cynical realism”.

Seemingly, Ms Tymoshenko has been attending all meetings of the National Security Council of Ukraine (and many other meetings too) since her release – in what capacity I am not sure.  Obviously not as interim President, Prime Minister, or Minister.

Nobody would be very surprised if she attends as de facto decision maker regardless of de jure ability to make decisions would they?

Anyway, the upshot is, Ms Tymoshenko flies to Moscow tomorrow with members of the interim government for talks with The Kremlin.  Again in what capacity she negotiates for Ukraine I am not sure.  Her mandate comes from nowhere it seems.  (Was stopping this kind of back-door, dubious politics not part of the cause for which 88 Ukrainians died only a few weeks ago?)

Her ability to negotiate a good deal for Ukraine with Mr Putin in a crisis obviously has a precedent given the absolutely splendid gas deal she brokered with Russia back in 2009 – which was anything but splendid.

Why would Mr Putin strike a good deal for Ukraine with Ms Tymoshenko whilst sitting (temporarily or otherwise) in the ascendancy in Crimea?

To be more explicit, having gone to extraordinary lengths to install a Kremlin vassal as Crimean Prime Minister and insisting on the legitimacy of “President” Yanukovych, why would Mr Putin stop prior to the engineered results of the forthcoming Crimean referendum and the “official and legal recognition” of the results by the newly installed Crimean Prime Minister and “President” Yanukovych?

Why would The Kremlin enter into any meaningful negotiation with an interim government whose legitimacy it questions?  Meaningful dialogue leading to deliverables with this Tymoshenko delegation would provide it with some legitimacy after all.

Why over recent weeks since her release – and considering a return to the 2004 Constitution and its distribution of powers – have Russian commentators been suggesting she would make a good Prime Minister?  Ultimately The Kremlin’s favoured soul post Yanukovych – once the Crimean (and maybe eastern) adventure is completed?

Ms Tymoshenko knows only autocratic and oligarchical politics.  She knows seedy opaque deals.  She understands zero sum, conflict and division.  As her reception upon her release at Maidan clearly displayed, she represents all the political manifestations that the protesters want to move away from – and all those The Kremlin would be happy to keep.

Having stated all that, what are we therefore supposed to think of any deals she may strike in Moscow?  She is hardly in the strongest of negotiating positions and is in Moscow on the back of a dubious/non existent Ukrainian mandate from the people.  Returning to Ukraine as the braided heroine having struck a miraculously good deal must surely raise red flags (once again).

Who or what will have been sold out to reach a deal?  Democracy?  The “European path” will exist only in word but not deed?  A deal that insures she has Moscow’s backing and help in returning her to power?  Something else?  These are all questions that society will undoubtedly ask, as serious concessions would be surrendered from a position as weak as that I outline above.

Perhaps her visit will be a complete failure – but if it is not and the foundations of any deal are based upon a return to autocratic/oligarchical politics – it is a betrayed of all who stood – not to mention those who fell – over recent months.

Of course I will be pleased if she can contribute to some form of de-esculation of the current situation – if it is done with integrity and selflessness.  There is such a thing as a deal so bad you really cannot take it despite the consequences of not doing so.  Sometimes the options other than fighting are far worse than the actual fight.

Too many people mistake stability as (democratic) freedom.  Blood has been spilled in Ukraine chasing the ideal of democracy for the first time since independence.  It cannot be wasted.  Stability and freedom cannot be mistaken again.

The Ukrainian people have stood against the Ukrainian political class demanding good, transparent, democratic governance, an end to corruption and thievery, state oppression etc.  over the past months – are we now to doubt the Ukrainian people are capable of standing against a foreign political class that is equally as rotten?  Why so?  Because it happens to be Mr Putin?

How long would any grubby little deal that once again fails the transparency expectations of the Ukrainian people last?

A wise chap once stated “They who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” – Mr Franklin was and is quite right.  That is a message that Ms Tymsohenko and the Ukrainian interim officials would do well to remember whilst sat in The Kremlin tomorrow.

For the European politicians and diplomats that read this blog – perhaps a few more wise words also need to be recalled given the consistent appeasement of Mr Putin and in light of the current circumstance:

Over and over again, we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies; but it has been in vain.

We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called, with our allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world.

It is a principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges, which sanctions the use of force or threat of force against the sovereignty and independence of other states.

Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right, and if this principle were established through the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole British Commonwealth of nations would be in danger.

But far more than this, the peoples of the world would be kept in bondage of fear, and all hopes of settled peace and of the security, of justice and liberty, among nations, would be ended.

This is the ultimate issue which confronts us. For the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, and of the world order and peace, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge.

It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home, and my peoples across the seas, who will make our cause their own.

I ask them to stand calm and firm and united in this time of trial.

The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield, but we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God. If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God’s help, we shall prevail.

May He bless and keep us all.

Lest they forget its origin – an extract from the speech of King George VI 3rd September 1939.

Mr Putin, when all the fluff is stripped away, understands strength and weakness.  Having consistently appeased and shown weakness – it is perhaps now time for the political class of both Ukraine and “the west” to show the determined and unwavering strength of which they are capable.  Being relieved at any de-esculation and accepting the “new” status quo cannot be an option for “the west” any more than it can be an option for Ukraine.

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