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Electoral recognition – The Kremlin, will it or won’t it?

May 24, 2014

Not long ago I wrote about The Kremlin statement regarding “partial legitimacy” of the Ukrainian presidential vote on 25th May.

Since then, things have not become clearer – or perhaps they have.

A few days ago I tweeted:

Somewhat sarcastic, but a probable outcome so why not front-run it?  “Biased”, “incomplete”, “naive”, “incomplete” – you can choose the word, but a negative qualifier is likely to be used if indeed any OSCE report is accepted by The Kremlin whatsoever.  It may simply be dismissed.  That is after all, the reason for not participating in a regional organisation’s activity of which Russia is a member and obviously has a vested interest in the outcomes.

Continuing along the muddied theme identified in my earlier linked entry and that tweet, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov  had the following to say on Friday:

“Let’s wait for the elections first.  Naturally, when Russia considers this issue on legitimacy we will take into account all factors.”

Amongst those factors being that between Luhansk and Donetsk only about 50% of polling stations will be free of interference.  (On the map below – Purple problem areas within Luhansk and Donetsk – Yellow voting as normal as of the time of writing.)  Others will be subject to mild and/or serious interference.

Enough to call any voting illegitimate when the rest of Ukraine remains unaffected and the margin between the top candidate and others is vast?

elec map

Considering that The Kremlin recognised the Crimean referendum free and fair – not to mention the complete debacle of the recent votes in Luhansk and Donetsk slightly more than somewhat legitimate, it would take a very large dose of duplicity to claim the Ukrainian vote any less legitimate – but duplicity is what makes the (geo)political world go round.

Perhaps more interestingly was his statement over a NATO-Russia Council meeting:

“For the last three weeks we have been seeking to hold this meeting as quickly as possible, we were prepared to hold it even yesterday or today.  Certainly we do not refuse to hold it at a later date, but there is need to find a mutually acceptable date now.  I am not prepared to say whether it will be held next week, 27th May the date NATO proposes does not suit us.”

Such statements always raise a little concern – not that such dialogue takes place, for it must – but that there is an expectation that anything said or agreed relating to Ukraine – and it will not be the only subject discussed – will automatically be accepted by Ukraine.

Those with a keen eye may also wonder why, if for the past 21 days The Kremlin has allegedly sought talks with NATO, that when NATO apparently agrees, its proposed date is suddenly not suitable for The Kremlin.

The answer to that would presumably be that the Kremlin desire to hold such talks before the Ukrainian elections took place, with the then inferred aim of leverage and influencing electoral events, are countered by the NATO desire to have the elections take place before any talks, for the same reasons.

The final outcome of all this seems almost certain to produce the “partial legitimacy” previously written about and the consequences thereof.

A long decade awaits Ukraine with a continued fight (one way or another) for its independence – as well as becoming something of a “frontier state” for the EU and other European regional institutions that now cannot let it fail after The Kremlin unilaterally threw out the regional legal instruments that Europe has nestled peacefully within since the Helsinki Final Act 1975.

A return to the Cold War, probably not.  A chill in the air for some years to come seems certain.

The European nations and institutions would now be wise to consider helping Ukraine and any new president first and foremost – rather than concentrating upon how to further sanction The Kremlin whilst trying to mitigate the damage to itself in doing so.

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