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“Putin” things back together again eventually – or not

March 9, 2014

I ended yesterday’s entry with the paragraph “However, should the result go in favour of joining the Russian Federation, the question is then whether Russia would agree despite the political capital employed in engineering the current situation. A precedent exists whereby after numerous shenanigans in South Ossetia, when it subsequently asked to join the Russian Federation, the request was politely declined.”

This, it has to be said, depending upon the decision of Mr Putin, would affect everything I am about to write.

Only Mr Putin knows what he intends to do – or if he is still weighing up outcomes, only he will make a decision as to what he will do within an ever shrinking time frame.

He may decide to blow international law and outcomes into orbit and annex Crimea, or he may politely refuse the Crimean request to join the Russian Federation, offering some form of protection or quasi-status unrecognised by anybody else, to hang like the sword of Damocles over the heads of any government in Kyiv indefinitely with the inference he can antagonise the situation at a whim once more, this time with clear intent to accept any Russian Federation application.

Taking the latter option of course regains some of the currently lost leverage within Kyiv.  It may seemingly leave the Russian Black Sea Fleet more vulnerable than that of annexing Crimea, but for Kyiv to insist it leaves in the absence of any development plan for the region would bring economic havoc to a Crimean economy that already depends on handouts from Kyiv – which is currently, and for the foreseeable future, broke and dependent upon handouts itself.  Whether liked or not, the Russian Black Sea Fleet is a significant part of the Crimean economy.

There are of course economic levers to pull as well as far as Ukraine is concerned.

So where to begin with reconstruction – or perhaps a first real attempt at constructing modern Ukraine from the Soviet legacy should Mr Putin ultimately decide to leave Ukrainian territorial integrity alone?

The stakeholders are obviously the 46 million Ukrainians first and foremost.  Thereafter are their neighbours and trading partners – Russia, the EU, Turkey the most prominent – though China has invested $billions and billions for the long term in Ukraine and is also therefore in need of note.

Also ticking is the clock.  An angry public, whether it be western looking, eastern looking or adamantly neutral in its desires for the Ukrainian future currently remains very angry.  The only way to calm them is to deliver results swiftly – and results that deliver on common desires.

Back at the end of February, immediately after Viktor Yanukovych took to his heels, I was questioning the priorities of the interim government and the effects of less than inclusive acts.  The interim government is still anything other than one of “national unity”, being little more than a Ms Tymoshenko vassal.

Not only is its legitimacy questioned by Russia, it is also questioned by many Ukrainians – Russian leaning or not.  The more it becomes clear it is a vassal for Ms Tymoshenko, the less legitimacy it has.

Thus the clear priority must be presidential elections – which are now set for 25th May.  Thereafter it would be a very wise move to seriously consider RADA elections – with entirely transparent candidate lists after a genuine purge of party ranks from all parties of the most corrupt within.

Thus a domestically and internationally recognised legitimate president and legitimate government make relations far easier for all – and with dialogue, tensions should ease.

Neither the Ukrainian voting constituency, the EU, Russia, Turkey, China or others are going to object to the above.

Thereafter, those who win cannot afford to head off on an expedition likely to alienate those who didn’t back them.  There are enough issues to deal with that will have universal support within Ukraine and amongst its neighbours to start on some very solid middle ground.

We have President Putin calling Ukraine more corrupt even than Russia – and he is probably right – and stating he understood why people protested at Maidan.  We have Herman Von Rompuy stating that the people of Ukraine who protested and died for an end to corruption, democracy and rule of law need those demands realised.  I have never met a Ukrainian who didn’t want an end to the rampant corruption that infects Ukraine like a cancer.  We have global business and international lenders calling for an end to corruption.

Corruption, corruption, corruption……….

For Ukraine to effectively tackle corruption it will need external help and input – both Russian, Turkish, European and Chinese – as well as guidance and assistance from international institutions such as OSCE, the Venice Commission, the UN etc – and a good deal of resolution from the Ukrainian public not to wilt under the pressure of the odious and unclean state institutions.

All of this requires dialogue and also addresses an issue of concern common to all parties – both internal and external, whilst staying well clear of more divisive and emotive issues that really are not a priority to anybody but the political class in their posturing.

That is not to say the emotive and divisive issues should forever be put on the back burner – they have to be dealt with eventually – but they are not where the inclusive and tolerant dialogue is to be found when attempting to restore reasonable relations with all interested parties.

As there is always a need for a place to start, it would seem it might as well be corruption – on the presumption that the reality Russia is currently putting on Crimean ground is not going to become a permanent feature.  If it is to become so, then this entry will have been a wasted 10 minutes of my life.

After all, Mr Putin may have decided that a request for the Russian Black Sea Fleet to vacate early was simply a matter of time, and with no interim leader or subsequently successful presidential candidate unlikely to refuse to sign the deals with the EU – sooner rather than later – Crimea (and securing the Russian Black Sea Fleet base) is the price Ukraine will pay for heading west – the result of which is unchartered waters for all – except the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

strategy

The next few weeks will identify Mr Putin’s real strategy – in the meantime, with “the west” have no strategy whatsoever, it is left to fumble around with the tactics of mitigation.

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