Reading between the lines – A satellite or annexation……or…..March 21, 2014
I wrote this a few days ago, but the antics of a few incredibly irresponsible Svoboda MPs delayed its publishing and it already feels somewhat “dated” – nevertheless “publish and be damned” as my favourite British historical character once stated.
Immediately prior to the official and illegal annexation of Crimea – or perhaps better referred to as “occupied Ukraine” – President Putin gave a (well written) speech during which I tweeted:
Why is anything done by homo sovietus subject to a politburo monologue of flapdoodle and codswallop prior to the inevitable scandalous act?
— Nikolai Holmov (@OdessaBlogger) March 18, 2014
Perhaps I was somewhat juvenile, sarcastic and rhetorical simultaneously – but the content is also quite true.
Anyway, amongst very few truths, several half-truths and a considerable amount of absurdity, one statement caught my eye:
“After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons – may God judge them – added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine.”
A statement that reading between the lines, corroborates what I wrote a few days ago, confirming the fact that the Ukrainian choice is either a return to becoming a satellite state of The Kremlin, or the annexation of Ukraine with the probable exception of Galacia – the routes out of the current situation very much shaping up to be per those in my link above.
Clearly Mr Putin no longer recognises the current demarcated Ukrainian borders – not only relating to Crimea. In fact it seems he is pursuing the Yeltsin policies of the 1990’s toward Ukraine – and elsewhere.
Crimea is now taken as far as Russia is concerned – the “cleansing” of Crimea will undoubtedly begin with immediate effect. Ukraine, wisely, withdrawing its military from Crimea to live and fight another day – if necessary.
NATO membership has already been taken off the table by Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatseniuk, together with a commitment to extend far greater autonomy to regional/local governance, although “federalisation” has not been muted thankfully – all as I said it would be.
EU membership was never likely to be achievable before 2035 due to the standards demanded by the aquis communautaire and also the way EU enlargement is actually funded in 7 year budgetary periods. Even so, The Kremlin will want a definite commitment from Ukraine that it will not join – preferably sanctified within any new Ukrainian constitution (with the same constitutional commitment to remain neutral militarily).
The DCFTA vis a vis Customs Union trade agreements kicked into the long grass for now by Prime Minister Yatseniuk.
Thus only the political Association Agreement will be signed at 9.30am on Friday 21st March between the EU and Ukraine – assuming more of Ukraine has not been annexed between now and then as I sarcastically pointed out to Carl Bildt.
— Nikolai Holmov (@OdessaBlogger) March 18, 2014
All playing out as foreseen thus far.
Just in case Ukraine has any ideas that the threats to its sovereignty simply come from Russian forces to the east, Transnistria (home to several thousand Russian troops) is now seeking to follow the Crimean route and join Russia – this issue to be discussed by the Duma today. Either way it presents a firmer threat from the west for cities like Odessa.
And from the north, you ask? – This statement which probably slipped under many a radar due to the Crimean situation is the answer:
“By the year end, the Russian aviation base, which is permanently located at Belarus’s Baranovichi aerodrome, will accommodate a fighter air regiment of 24 Su-27SM3. The fighters will be used for air defense and to provide inviolability of the air space of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.
Right now in Belarus we have four Su-27SM3 jets that carry out tasks of the Union State of Russia and Belarus air force. According to the plan for this year, we add a squadron there, and by the yearend at the Baranovichi aerodrome, where our air base is, we shall have a regiment of Su-27SM3 of two squadrons – the total of 24 fighters.” – Russian Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev
Ukraine should be thankful Turkey sits to the south – although the Black Sea will effectively now be a Russian-Turkish affair militarily.
The political choice offered once again – an officially neutral state that does not “Europeanise” too much and offend Russian sensibilities – or what is left of Ukraine (Lviv and a few surrounding fields that were once Galacia) can do as they will once the south and east have been secured by Russia one way or another.
The European strategy to prevent this? Well, there is no common foreign policy outside of issuing official communiques, lowest common denominator sanctions, and humanitarian aid on an ad hoc basis – so naturally there isn’t a strategy – only reactive tactics.
The only remotely strategic prospect appears to be a Polish and Lithuanian drive to blow the dust off of a long forgotten project from 2009 to create a Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian military brigade – which naturally will be too little too late.
As Russia is certainly prepared to take far harsher sanctions than those the west will be prepared to impose – does anybody have any doubt over the immediate destiny of Ukraine short of the Ukrainian people directly engaging in yet another battle with a far more ruthless and calculating foe than Viktor Yanukovych for their future?
Let us hope The Kremlin recognises that garlands of flowers are not waiting across the Ukrainian border for a liberating Russian military – Another Crimea is not how things will play out. However a military solution is not necessary regarding the rest of Ukraine. The immediate choking of the Ukrainian economy is surely about to begin from Russia (and other CIS nations) together with the engineered drive for separatism or federalistion in the regions most desired by The Kremlin. Much slower than annexation – but just as effective in undermining Ukrainian direction. 1 year, perhaps 2 before Ukraine would collapse entirely (without consistent external help of serious proportions)?
Can the Ukrainian people control their feckless political class, clean up their corrupt institutions of state, re-orientate the economy and escape Moscow’s shadow? Yes they can – Time is on the side of Ukraine and Ukrainians, despite immediate territorial, domestic political and foreign policy prospects looking very bleak.
I have faith in the new found identity and patriotism of many Ukrainians that was either absent or in hibernation before – but peaceful and determined momentum must be maintained and tangible results achieved.
Now is the time for the people of Ukraine to demand a democratic governance model that is transparent and responsive, inclusive and tolerant – curtailing corruption as its top priority – whilst keeping a very wary eye on Moscow and a compassionate eye on Crimea.
Now is the time to lay the unshakable foundations of democracy – forged in the fires of necessity and resilience. No greater defeat could The Kremlin receive – no greater victory won by Ukraine.
It won’t be that quick and it will be far, far easy – but it can be done with some support from outside, even in the circumstances Ukraine finds itself in.
Pray God the light of the Ukrainian spirit and its new found patriotism (not nationalism) continues to shine far brighter than the suffocating darkness that currently surrounds it.