Why don’t I write about Russia more?

March 31, 2014

After answering a large number of similar questions yesterday relating to what I thought the future of Ms Tymoshenko holds – within 13 hours of writing it this part became a reality – though I had given advanced warning prior to that entry of yesterday that such a merger/coalition was inevitable:

“At this point, as I have written before, we should be expecting Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitschko’s UDAR to merge or join forces prior to the RADA elections. This will provide Poroshenko with a recongised party that has a very active regional infrastructure capable of producing local candidates. For UDAR it provides finance for the RADA elections.

I do not discount the possibility of Klitschko withdrawing from the presidential race with both he and thus UDAR backing Poroshenko in return for a Solidarity-UDAR coalition guarantee in the RADA. It seems logical for all concerned and may result in a first round victory for Petro Poroshenko large enough to dismiss the need for a second round – a result that would underline in no uncertain terms the legitimacy of the candidate within the Ukrainian voting constituency.

If that be the case, Klitshcko may run (again) for Mayor of Kyiv in order to try and mitigate the candidacy of Yuri Lutsenko whom Ms Tymoshenko has encouraged to run for that position – thus beheading her attempt to control the capital.”

Not especially surprising that is what came to pass – or particularly prophetic – for the reasons I gave – it was simply logical.  Whether the rest of what I wrote comes true, we will have to wait and see.

But there has been another regular question from readers that is deserving of an answer –  Why don’t I write about Russia more?

Perhaps a good question considering the military build up on Ukrainian borders, agent provocateurs and (unfortunately outstandingly effective) propaganda campaigns etc.

Well firstly I thought I had written about  The Kremlin quite a lot over the past few months – at least enough to be commensurate to the threats posed, tactics used/to be used and ultimate goal.

Secondly I write a lot – and not only free to read, less than erudite, unedited offerings such as this blog.  I think of this blog as nothing more than a place to write a few thoughts that I may refer to later – or not – and are there for others to read if they are bored.

Anyway, back in January – long before the fall of ViktorYanukovych or the illegal annexation of Crimea – I predicted The Kremlin goal would be the federalisation of Ukraine in order to either break bits off, continually threaten to break bits off, create pseudo Russian protectorates and subsequently control any Ukrainian government should it allow the nation to become too “Europeanised” and upset Kremlin sensibilities which as a result would threaten to stir up secessionist sentiment.

There is also the permanent threat of annexation under the same pretext as Crimea as well as economic and trade “sanctions” under the guise of various false facades – as has happened before.

What more is there to say?  The broad thrust of The Kremlin desires and tactics has already been written.  At best an Austrian solution without the friendly geographical location.

I know I have not mentioned strategy, only the goal of federalising Ukraine and the tactics of what can be collectively defined as “destabilisation” – but that is because I am yet to identify an overarching strategy to achieve the federalisation goal.  I see only destabilising tactics whilst a defined strategy is being worked out.

We can expect The Kremlin to now try and mirror its diplomatic and political actions that followed Georgia in 2008 – whilst it thinks of a strategy that would prove successful – in the hope that the western world will do as it did in 2008 and simply accept the realities on the ground and move on – a mistake then, and hopefully not a mistake it will make again now.

We must also hope that the western world is not bought off by a political hollow success story, such as the chemical weapons diversion in Syria, that has allowed the regime to continue its crimes against its own people.  Every political and diplomatic conversation with Russia must include reference to the illegal annexation of Crimea – The issue cannot be allowed to pass.


The Kremlin goal will remain consistent.  Ukraine and the western world must remain fully conscious of that, regardless of whether The Kremlin goal can be achieved next week or ten years from now (whilst ever Mr Putin remains in charge, and possibly afterward too) that goal will not change.

In reply to The Kremlin question asked of Ukraine,  there can only be a singular Ukrainian answer (hopefully with the assistance over the next five to ten years from Ukraine’s friends).  That answer must be robust, unwavering and most importantly, it has to be seen to be Ukrainian led.   The Kremlin must see a strong, unshakable Ukrainian response.

That Ukrainian answer is that it will become many of the things The Kremlin doesn’t want it to be – starting with being a genuine and consolidated democracy with rule of law, all basic human rights adhered to with integrity, a free media, balanced economy, responsive, good and transparent governance, and the robust rejection federalisation to negate all the reasons The Kremlin wants to impose it.

The Ukrainian answer also has to be to clean out and rebuild its corrupt, compromised and in some cases infiltrated institutions of State – and that means almost every single institution needs critical attention – as I repeatedly tell anybody who will listen.

I have lost count of how often I bang the “institutions of State” drum with EU MEPs who seem intent on concentrating on civil society or the political class in the hope of horizontal or top down instigated institutional change.  I will be frank, I know quite a few heads of local institutions of State in Odessa and most would very much welcome somebody helping them plant and enforce “keep of the grass” signs for the political class to adhere to.


Oversight is one thing – the wanton trespassing upon the lawns of institutional pillars – as currently occurs – is quite another.  Particularly so as more often than not, that wanton trespassing is for nefarious reasons.  In short the Ukrainian institutions of State need direct assistance.

Just as The Kremlin goal regarding Ukraine will not change until it is achieved, the Ukrainian answer cannot be any less robust.  It will take years – perhaps a decade – before that answer will be understood as unequivocal to The Kremlin strategists and planners.  Even then it won’t prevent the pursuit of the Kremlin goal as long as the subjugation of Ukraine remains that goal.

As The Kremlin question of Ukraine is known and will not change – I prefer to concentrate upon the Ukrainian answer when I write.  Until The Kremlin arrives at an identifiable strategy, uses military force within Ukraine (outside of the Crimean peninsula), or really ramps up efforts to destabilise Ukraine far beyond current levels, there is little more of any importance to say about Ukraine’s large neighbour.

Instead of concentrating upon the Kremlin disease,  I will continue to look at the Ukrainian cure.  I trust that answers the question asked of me.


  1. GREAT post.

    I think the focus for Crimea should be a ‘short sell.’ Sell it to Russia for $350 Billion at 12% for 40 years …. all mineral and water rights remain with Ukraine.

    I miss Odessa.

    I am busy establishing work opportunities in Texas for Ukrainians. But, I will be back soon.


  2. Yeah…….this post seems to be based on a lot of wishful thinking and not much on cold, hard reality.

    The reality is that the West “accepting the realities on the ground and moving on” as you put it in Georgia (which is not what really happened as no western country has recognized either Abkhazia or South Ossetia) is no more a mistake than the western countries “accepting the reality on the ground and moving on” over Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, tight grip on entry and exit to Gaza and occupation (and annexation!) of the Golan Heights. It is no more a mistake than the western countries “accepting the reality on the ground and moving on” over Morocco’s occupation and annexation of Western Sahara, or Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus, or Ethiopia’s occupation of parts of Eritrea and Somalia at various points, or the occupation of vast stretches of the Democratic Republic of Congo by Uganda and Rwanda. It is also no more a mistake than the rest of the world “accepting the realities on the ground and moving on” (and indeed for some western nations to participate in) the American-led occupation of Iraq.

    Occupations will happen. And in almost all cases it is not worth it to forego cooperation in other essential areas just because of a military occupation by some country. Yes other countries will work hard to actually end such occupations (after all the Middle East peace process is not and has never been a mere facade but has actually been a process involving a LOT of work by the diplomats involved) but such work generally tends to be along lines which it appears YOU regard as a weak response as opposed to a practical on. Good thing you aren’t in a position to determine how any country should respond to such regional crises as surely we would have long ago seen Israel, the US, Turkey, Morocco and Russia so alienated that they would have abandoned the current international system and just done whatever the hell they wanted (at that point we would probably have seen an occupation of Cuba, war with Algeria, a full blown occupation of all of Cyprus and northern Syria and northern Iraq, a re-occupation of Lebanon and an all out occupation of Georgia).

    Carrots and sticks tend to work better than mere sticks alone.

    • Hmmm – I regard as a “weak” response? Having spent 16 years working for HMG you think I consider the international response weak or inappropriate despite having written previously it is all that can be reasonably expected in the current circumstances? Contrary to your belief I consider “hard options” as the only options, you are quite wrong. Nowhere in this entire blog since it began will you ever find any recommendation for war.

      Certainly I would expect a war should Russia leave the Crimean peninsula but I don’t expect them to do so in the near future – if at all.

      I suppose some may consider the initial Ukrainian response in Crimea weak when a few “green men” appeared, but without knowing what was known in Kyiv when the decision to do what was done – or not done – was made, that is simply nothing more than opinion, and an opinion I have not expressed over Kyiv’s immediate response.

      This post to which you reply applies to the response that must now come – not a historical response that perhaps should have come according to some.

      There is a balance between carrot and stick depending upon the circumstances – there are also carrots and sticks wheedled over certain issues apparently completely unconnected to gain progress on other seemingly unrelated issues. (No different to the horse trading involved in EU and UN voting)

      As a certain Russian diplomat said to me many years ago – “All things are connected, even when they appear otherwise”.

      The issue for the west is about continued raising of the Crimean subject every time interlocutors engage – aside from any assistance the west may provide Ukraine with in more tangible forms.

      The realities on the ground have not changed with regard to what occurred in Georgia or in many other such similar instances – That is a different reality from that of diplomatic acceptance of the matter. However that refusal to accept matters on the ground in Georgia has lost some of its voice diplomatically – though that refusal to recognise independence of the “states” remains.

      However the subject is not raised at each and every contact with Russia as it once was. Many a diplomat will tell you privately that dropping it down the agenda is and was a mistake. Russia will understand this as the west moving on. I know they do as both Russian diplomats and western diplomats have said so in private conversation.

      My statement that the west has moved on I stand by from the conversations I have had with the diplomatic corps.

      What happened diplomatically with Georgia regarding agendas cannot what can be allowed to happen with Ukraine and Crimea this time. Carl Bildt FM Sweden understands this, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski understands this – I had interaction with both yesterday – and so does Radosław Sikorski they tell me. It will not be their nations that gradually let it drop off the diplomatic or political agendas over the next few years. However, European nations far further west, or indeed some ex-Warsaw Pact nations still far too dependent on Russia, will eventually let it drop from their agendas when interacting with Russia – just as happened with Georgia.

      You may have your opinion on the abilities and the intentions of diplomats – as is your right. I don’t know how many diplomats you have interaction with and whose thoughts and comments you can glean. However of all those I know and have known, all would make the distinction between the reality on the ground to that of diplomatic realities of acceptance and yet another from how vocal those issues are raised. One does not equal the other and in many cases will never equal the other.

      Personally, engaging in “whataboutism” is something I tend not to do often. All too often there are similarities and also very stark but nuanced differences. There is a stark difference between “occupation” and formal annexation. However no amount of “whataboutism” ever makes something that is wrong, right. It neither justifies nor legitimises. All “whataboutism” accomplishes is excuses for every single wrong that has occurred. It rights no wrongs and prevents no further wrongs – and further wrongs there will be. The deterrent to that is the international response that follows the wrong. It would be very hard to influence the USA or China from any wrongs they do due to their size, military and/or economic weight etc. However, dissuading Albania from annexing Kosovo, or Spain annexing Gibraltar for example can be done through the appropriate response. Simply accepting the reality on the ground dissuades nobody – be they large or small.

      With regard to the Golan Heights for example, Russia is very vocal in its decrying of the situation – and yet occupied and the annexed Crimea turning it into part of the Russian Federation. Yet when South Ossetia asked to join the Russian Federation after its “liberation” by Russia, the Russian Federation politely refused.

      The world works in shades of grey and ever changing balance of national interests verses values – it is no secret to anybody. As such duplicity and hypocrisy seemingly abound.

      • Carl Bildt? Radosław Sikorski?


        Oh God! I haven’t laughed so hard in years.

        If those jokers are the people you consider as serious diplomats I can see why the tone of your post seems to be based on wishful thinking (whether or not you worked for 16 years in HMG – and for someone who has worked in HMG, it’s puzzling that you didn’t seem to know about laws that could fall into abeyance without having to be officially repealed or scrapped. Oh well). If their nations (assuming they are even in their respective offices by the end of 2014 and 2015) are not going to be the ones “that gradually let it drop off the diplomatic or political agendas over the next few years” it would be interesting to know, exactly how that is relevant considering that for the most part their nations are not and have not been in any position to really push such issues since before 1900.

        The plain and very simple reason stuff like this drops from being at the top of agendas or even on agendas at all is because life has to go in other areas (otherwise nothing gets done…ever). It’s why despite strong European support for an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories we don’t see concerted efforts to keep Israelis from playing in European football leagues or have any and all interactions with Israel start with “what about the Palestinians?”

      • Errrm – No I don’t consider Carl Bilt etc diplomats. The are politicians. They set policy, diplomats do not. If you consider politicians diplomats you you need help. Two completely different animals.

        As for things dropping of agendas – that is a conscious decision for each nation, not something that “just happens”.

        As for political clout, particularly in this part of the world, Poland in particular certainly has some. Globally it may not have much, but regionally it has a lot.

        Nevertheless, believe what you wish – it is not as though it will make any difference to anybody.

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