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Time Lines – (Ukraine against the clock)

July 13, 2014

One of the more interesting – and often overlooked – things about policy and strategy is its relation to time.

A good policy can die through untimely implementation.  Likewise it can also cease to be good policy and indeed become a counterproductive policy over time.

Ergo, it is perhaps pertinent to look at a few time lines facing Ukraine – particularly over the next 6 months or so.

The first key date is 16th July.  It is the next meeting of the European Council and one that will decide whether the next sector stage of sanctions will be applied – or not.  That in turn will prompt a reaction from The Kremlin – whatever and perhaps where ever that may be.  It is probably a now or never moment for sector sanctions – unless Russian Federation troops cross the Ukrainian border sometime in the Autumn.

The current EU Commission also concludes its term in office on 31st October.  The make-up and preferences/biases of any new commission and commissioners is as yet unknown, though it slowly emerges.  16th July will be a telling date as to appointments.  Therefore new personal relationships will need to be built amongst the Ukrainian and European elites – and personal relationships do matter.

Should Federica Mogherini, Italy’s current Foreign Minister take over the role currently occupied by Baroness Cathy Ashton as the head of the EEAS, it will have a tangible and negative effect for Ukraine, vis a vis the appointment of Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, that would have a tangible and positive effect for Ukraine.

In fact every EaP nation would suffer, as would the EEAS itself under Federica Mogherini – the main beneficiary in the region?  The Kremlin.

Further, if Ukraine considers the current rotation of the EU presidency to Italy problematic, Italy being a nation whose energy policy does not favour Ukraine but rather Russia, then it need have yet more concerns for the year end.

2015 sees the exchange of OSCE chairmanship when Switzerland hands over to Serbia.  Serbia is an undoubted Kremlin Trojan Horse, and it is certainly a chairmanship that may cause Ukraine far more problems within the OSCE than that of the neutral Swiss, should ATO actions still be on-going by then.

Regardless of the 16th July date and perceived positive or negative outcomes for Ukraine, in the immediate term and relating to the east, for the current authorities momentum matters.  Should the current ATO stall in Donetsk and Luhansk regions there remains a real chance of Transnistia scenarios still playing out.  The longer the stalling of Kyiv’s current momentum, the more chance those societies will organise themselves with political and institutional mechanisms – be they under the current self-appointed and/or gun toting management or not.

Once such genuinely civilian and unarmed structures formulate, it becomes very hard for Kyiv to say they have nobody to negotiate with.  Dialogue drags on and on, an eastern Transnistria de facto is born.

As such Kyiv needs to buy time by talking peace in the absence of anybody any right thinking person would expect it to engage with, whilst waging war if it is to bring its ATO to its logical and swift conclusion.  That conclusion, at the very least, removing the armed foreign contingent from those areas and taking real control of the nation’s borders.

Currently it has significant support from the Europeans and Americans.  How robust and prolonged that support will be should Kyiv lose its momentum in the east is open to question with regard to some capitals.  Such momentum will be measured not only by territory reclaimed, but by proportionality of force used and time by many.

There is also a need to dissolve the current RADA and hold new elections to provide a more representative parliament.  Many of those in the east are no longer represented by those elected, as either their MPs fled, or their MPs have changed political allegiances, leaving the party lists upon which they were elected, or who having left those parties they were elected under are now creating new parties that necessarily require some form of democratic legitimacy from the ballot box.

Party of Regions in effect has split into four.

The question facing the current president is how call new parliamentary elections constitutionally when none of the three reasons for dissolution present themselves.  The RADA must therefore present such a reason to him first – either deliberately engineered or by genuine failures.

There is also the oligarchical battle between Igor Kolomoisky on one hand and Sergei Liovochkin/Dmitry Firtash on the other, which is about to become a fight for the direction of the nation across every public societal pillar.  Kolomoisky having long since declared in word and deed his intention that Ukraine heads westward, and Firtash/Liovochkin that would prevent any speedy westward movement whilst prolonging murky gas deals and historical  political manipulations within the RADA.

Bizarrely as it may seem – and as dangerous as it would be – a Kolomoisky win amongst the oligarchy would be the best outcome for Mr Putin’s very close friend, Viktor Medvedchuk.  Mr Kolomoisky favours his return to Ukrainian politics despite him being an obvious Trojan Horse.  Clearly the feeling is that in knowing him to be a Trojan Horse, Kyiv can closely control him once he returns to the political arena.  There would be little need for Mr Mededchuk in any Firtash/Liovochkin set up.

Thus the sooner RADA elections occur, the sooner that oligarchical battle will leave the public domain.  If RADA elections are to be held at the end of October – at the same time as local elections – then a reason for legitimate dissolution need present itself allowing for the statutorily required 60 days of electioneering to fit that polling date.

There is also the need to recognise that by the end of September, and prior to any RADA elections, the conscription release, recruitment and training period for the Russian Federation would be at a point whereby stationing 40,000 trained troops on the Ukrainian border would be feasible once more.  The eight battalions currently on the border may be a threat, but not a number large enough to completely overwhelm Ukraine.

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No less forgiving is the heating situation for Ukraine this winter and the unresolved question of gas.

In short, the current Ukrainian authorities have less time on their side than may be thought.  They have until mid-August – beginning of September to solve the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and at the very least return it to a diplomatic/negotiation forum.  Thereafter, a great many time lines that could conspire against Kyiv’s interests will begin their convergence – and in doing so would appear to foretell a very bleak outlook in avoiding a more or less Transnistrian styled outcome.

In the meantime, it need be remembered that events in eastern Ukraine are occurring in a very small part of the nation.  The rest of Ukraine will be expecting promised reforms to begin to be implemented before the year is out.

 

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