Archive for December, 2014

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A move to visible counter-terrorist policing – Odessa

December 31, 2014

Over the past week several entries relating to counter-terrorism have appear here.  One somewhat academic (but hopefully interesting), another somewhat more pragmatic.  Needless to say there are other older entries stretching back many, many months to when it became clear that it was inevitable matters would slide into ad hoc terrorist activity across Ukraine, far beyond the conflict zone in the east.

Anyway, after 5 bombings within the last month in Odessa, Ivan Katerinchuk, Odessa Chief of Police, has decided to take what has appeared to be reasonably successful counter-terrorism activity – judging by the number of arrests and weapons/munitions seizures since the summer months on an almost weekly basis – into a far more overt phase.

As such, there will be far more police and military vehicles, various specialist gadgetry, and uniformed personnel from both, wandering around Odessa with AKs slung over their shoulders than is normally the case.

The public are informed that there is going to be an increase in stop and search and their understanding for this is sought.

Indeed the assistance of the local population is requested – particularly from landlords, hoteliers, and rental agencies regarding suspicious characters.  Business owners, restaurateurs and shopping mall staff are asked to report suspicious objects at their place of work or in crowded places.

There are 2 hot line telephone numbers to Odessa police specifically for the purposes of counter-terrorism 24/7:  7794061 and 7794509 (Operations HQ).

Political parties, unions, and civil society actors are asked, politely, to refrain from organising, protests, pickets and rallies for the time being, as they drain police resources.  An issue that for the next 10 – 12 days is hardly likely to raise its head significantly due to New Year and the Christmas holidays anyway.  Certainly an issue, however, going beyond then – fundamental democratic freedoms and all that.  In no way should the most fundamental of freedoms be endlessly sacrificed at the alter of security, for in doing so, each and every time, a minor success is gained from those who would use terrorism as a tactic.

The next major test of security and public attitude is of course tomorrow, New Year’s Eve, and the usual free events put on by City Hall in the city centre, packed nightclubs, bars and restaurants etc., etc.  Let’s hope we can enter New Year without any such incident – but not be surprised if we do.

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Budget 2015 Ukraine – coming soon (before 2016 anyway)

December 30, 2014

Last night, and in to the early hours of this morning, saw the RADA debate and then pass the budget for 2015 – sort of.

To be blunt, quite what it passed is somewhat fuzzy.  Numerous amendments were agreed in the session, thus what was submitted on paper, is not what was passed.  What passed is seemingly based upon little more than verbal agreement.  How substantially this submitted document will have changed when the amended budget is eventually published remains to be seen.

Indeed, Prime Minister Yatseniuk stated after the vote on the budget – “To be fair, this budget, as well as all the previous budgets adopted in these walls, is far from being perfect, this is why we’ve included a requirement to conduct a mandatory review of it until Feb. 15” – inferring a great deal can still change, even regarding the verbally agreed amendments that saw the budget pass.

Thus whilst the law requiring an annual budget be passed prior to the New Year (budgetary period) may have been satisfied – technically – what has passed is not set in stone, is subject to a revision process until 15th February, and may yet contain numerous verbally agreed amendments that allow the budget to pass – or not.

All somewhat underhand and/or a shambles.  Ukrainians will not know the actual content of the 2015 budget until 15th February at the earliest it appears.

What will probably not change are the foundational assumptions of the budget.  It foresees the country’s GDP at minus 4.3%, nominal GDP at UAH 1.721 trillion, inflation at 13.1%, and the exchange rate at UAH 17 per U.S.$.  Wishful thinking perhaps – but a peg in the ground nonetheless.

Whatever the case, whatever passed through the RADA, has resulted in the IMF very swiftly announcing that its Mission to Ukraine will return on 8th January, remaining until the month end.  “The IMF is moving expeditiously to continue discussions with the Ukrainian authorities on the IMF-supported economic reform program aiming to stabilize the Ukrainian economy and restore sustainable growth.”

Plenty of time to influence the 2015 budget that is – but actually isn’t – prior to 15th February window, when tinkering, adjusting, and changing what will actually become the budget, closes.  Indeed the first quarter of the budgetary year may have passed prior to there actually being a defined budget adopted.

Particularly grim, is the (perhaps little more than notional at present) recognition that the Naftogaz Ukraine deficit could reach UAH 31.5 billion in 2015 – a painful line item in every Ukrainian budget.

As has been written here many, many times over the years – it is time to kill off this particularly odious and toxic beast.  This State behemoth has to be butchered.  It’s breakup is almost a prerequisite to supporting the State budget – not withstanding it is a font from which a great deal of corruption flows.  If there is an expectation that in meeting EU energy regulations, that the corruption pervasive within the Ukrainian energy sector, and that hangs heavily around Naftogaz, will somehow be miraculously cured without the Naftogaz sacrifice at the alter of necessity, then there are some especially deluded policymakers.  Chopping it up into business units that can be either privatised or retained, or both, results in a more manageable, more transparent, more “issue insulated” structures.

Whatever the case, it appears that entering into 2015, Ukraine has a budget that is – but isn’t.

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Crosses to bear

December 29, 2014

This entry begins with a very necessary link to a particularly good blog entry by XX Committee entitled “Putin’s Orthodox Jihad”.  That is not to say all XX Committee blog entries are less than good, they are.  It’s just that the above linked is particularly good.

"Orthodox Jihad" photo from DNR summer 2014

“Orthodox Jihad” photo from DNR summer 2014

There is little that can be added to the XX Committee entry regarding the broad empirical brush strokes it contains.  Perhaps the only current theologian/”man of god” of real influence around President Putin failing to get a mention in the piece is Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, Mr Putin’s personal cleric and spiritual advisor.

Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov is also a fully fledged member of the Izbork Club, a quasi-governmental advisory/think thank/NGO of sorts.  It is an entity notable for several things.  The stature and prominence of its membership within the elite of the elite Russian society, and the fact it contains clear crosscutting cleavages across the otherwise fractious clan system, consistently fighting against each other for prominence within the Kremlin walls and access to the body – President Putin.  It is also an entity to which many of the Kremlin ultra-nationalist and ultra-orthodox leaders belong.  Indeed, a click on the link above, and its logo and picture gallery underline the fusion of religion and nationalism.

To name a few members of this highly exclusive club; Sergei Glazyev, Dmitry Rogozin, Mikhail Leontyev, Aleksandr Prokhanov and of course Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov.  There is no need to roll out a full list, suffice to say the likes of Alexandr Dugin do not make the entry grade.  His “Yevraziya” entity having to claim a mere association to the Izborsk Club on its website on 8th September 2012.  Neither does Konstantine Malofeev feature as a full member – this despite their ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox views, high profile and/or notable personal wealth.

There are few “non-governmental” contenders to the “influence throne” around, and with access to President Putin of more note.  Perhaps the Tagil Club of Igor Kholmanskikh, may make a similar, but less convincing, claim.

Whatever the case, the Izborsk Club was borne of Messrs Glazyev and Rogozin, in no small way to corral, manage and manipulate the thinking of the ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox – with Izborsk becoming prominent post “Russia without Putin” protests in 2011.  The platform seemingly an to attempt to bring the swivel-eyed back under Kremlin control.

Anyway, this entry is not about the Izborsk Club per se, or its members connections to events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine – though they exit.  For those interested in a more detailed, citation loaded, academic look, there are several thousand words devoted to the subject to be found in the print edition of Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia 2015 (Routledge) or on the Europa World website for those that are members – penned by yours truly.

The point of this entry is to zero in a little on the specific issues, more broadly raised in the XX Committee, that have already manifest themselves in Ukraine of an Orthodox flavour.

Way back on 2nd June, an entry was written relating to the prominence, and then fading of, Patriarch Kirill in the Russian media.  It raised the issue of only 15000 of the 27,000 Moscow Patriarch parishes actually being in Russia – the rest being in Ukraine.  The problem therefore being that the harder Patriarch Kirill pushed the ultra-conservative Russian Orthodox line as the Kremlin would wish, the more chance there was of some of the Ukrainian parishes defecting to the Ukrainian Orthodoxy.  Thus he was temporarily being faded out of the media for not being publicly zealous enough for the Kremlin.

This matter was briefly revisited about a month later in this entry, upon the then death of Metropolitan Volodymyr.

Unsurprisingly the gradual shift to the Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the Kyiv Patriarchy under Patriarch Filaret (regardless of Canonical validity) is underway.  It is something that was almost impossible to avoid.  The Ukrainian Orthodoxy, duty bound to defend and tend its flock, led to the inevitable requirement to publicly speak out in favour of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.  It took the side of EuroMaidan quite early on – as did the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – and both have remained steadfast in their support of Ukraine in what came to pass thereafter.

UC

The already existing Orthodox schisms are becoming slowly but surely more pronounced with 12000 Ukrainian parishes to play for.  That is a lot of worshipers, a lot of influence, and a lot of money.  Undoubtedly the beginnings of such a manifestation were foreseen by Patriarch Kirill and the Moscow Patriarchy, and in an effort to avoid it, the summer step backward into the political shadows of The Kremlin machinery as far as was practicable was taken.

That luxury will no longer be afforded to the Russian Orthodox Church by The Kremlin.  The purity and necessity of Russian Orthodoxy and its promotion is to be a prominent part of The Kremlin play-book looking forward.  A spiritual “them” and “us”, to marry up to the political “them” and “us” – regardless of whether Russia becomes something of an “Orthodox Iran” in pursuing this policy.

This leads us to the Ukrainian Catholic churches that have steadfastly supported Ukraine.  They, amongst many issues that will irk The Kremlin, refuse to acknowledge the illegal annexation of Crimea.  Quite rightly too – we are not about to witness The Holy See legitimise Kremlin action on the peninsula anytime soon.

However, the “authorities” in Crimea seem set to pick a fight with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and in doing so, The Holy See.  Recently, UGCC Patriarch Sviatoslav stated “Many times it was said that the UGCC and other denominations and Muslims suffer a certain pressure. Recently, the so-called Crimean government has enacted legislation according to which all churches and religious organizations must renew their registration. There are requirements that are difficult to comply with. For example, one must specify its highest body in the Russian Federation. If not, then in order to get the right to exist in Crimea, one has to undergo religious expertise in Moscow. De facto, this is law to liquidate churches that do not comply with the idea of loyalty to the existing government.

In short, the expectation is that Catholic churches in Crimea will cease to exist – as will many mosques too.

Quite how an evermore Ottoman (with a dash of “Brotherhood’) styled Turkey will react regarding the closure of mosques on a peninsula it has a far longer historical affinity to than Russia, remains to be seen.  Regardless – a dim view is certainly likely to be taken in the Vatican.

As such, several Russian Orthodoxy “fronts” are beginning to gather momentum in Ukraine.  From ultra-Russian Orthodox fighters in eastern Ukraine, the suppression of the Tatars and their Muslim heredity, to the schisms that are becoming chasms between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox patriarchies, to picking fights with the UGCC and ultimately the Holy See.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that Ukraine, and thus by extension both the Ukrainian Patriarchy and UGCC, find themselves more than a little reliant upon the steadfastness of the Protestant Angela Merkel in managing and maintaining the “European position” toward events within Ukraine and the region.

It is said that we all have our crosses to bear.  Some of those crosses are likely to become increasingly heavy and burdensome very, very soon.

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Waiting for a change in targeting – Ukraine

December 28, 2014

Following on from the entry yesterday relating to a Ukrainian slide into “The Troubles”, it is probably necessary to note two further explosions today.  The first in Odessa just after 0430 this morning, resulting in property damage and the death of the bomber, and a second in Kherson at about 1100 this morning, again resulting in the death of the bomber.

As the concluding paragraph of the entry stated, “However, we are left ponder just what the Ukrainian counter-terrorism policy currently consists of. Though it is not likely to ever be entirely in the public realm (unless leaked), it is doubtful that it will be wildly different from that of many other nations. Perhaps of pressing importance is just how well versed the local authorities and regional institutions of state in Odessa, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv are with regard to national counter-terrorism policy and local emergency planning/response. Hopefully they are now, after the dozens of bombing incidents over the past few months in particular, intimate in their knowledge. If not, then they had better become very well acquainted with it extremely swiftly indeed. Tis an issue that will not be disappearing any time soon.” – Quite so.

Whether these incidents are connected directly, indirectly, coordinated, or are nothing more than coincidental, investigations will perhaps answer.  Knee-jerk conclusions are not going to be helpful – indeed they are likely to be unhelpful.

More broadly however, there is the public perception to consider as was outlined yesterday.

“Whilst all this is going on, the resilience of the Ukrainian public will continue to be tested – despite the proverbial (numerous) recent baptisms of fire during 2014. Maintaining that resilience, in part, requires something approaching a “fear management” policy. A resilient society tends to cope with, and recover from, acts of terrorism swiftly.

How to achieve such a policy without interfering with the democratic normative of a free media? There is much to be said about the generation – or prevention – of fatalistic attitudes amongst the public. Read Frank Furedi’s work on the culture of fear for enlightening prose on this subject.

Thus, onto the usually, and perhaps necessarily, fractious partnership between State and media, and the necessity of a quid pro quo relating to terrorist acts – particularly in what is the “golden hour”/the first hour after a terrorist incident. As has been written here many times relating to different issues, he who frames an incident first, robustly, and convincingly sets the tone, oft wins the debate, even though the first hour is normally very confused and discombobulated.

Thus the State has to be open, honest and frank, providing factual information both directly and via the media. It needs to avoid, where ever possible, unnecessary secrecy, explaining and clarifying the situation, the measures being taken, and confirming or denying rumours swiftly. Clear and concise messaging in a single and maintained tone is vital. Avoiding speculation is important. No news can become news – update regularly, even if to say little has changed.

Likewise, quid pro quo, whilst sensationalism and speculation make headlines and sell media – it can also very well assist the terrorist in their cause in spreading alarm and distress. It is worthy of remembering that not all victims are directly involved in a terrorist incident – some sections of society can be traumatised or unnecessarily alarmed via media reporting, though they be far from any direct involvement.

The media also should remember trail by media can also prejudice trial in a court of law – if Ukraine ever manages to install anything like a genuine rule of law.

The media also has to accept that when dealing with terrorism, and in particular specific terrorist incidents and their immediate aftermath, there is an inherent requirement, at times, for secrecy by the authorities in order for the institutions of state to be effective. What may be interesting to the public, is not necessarily in the public interest to be splashed all over the media with immediate effect. There are issues of timeliness that can be mutually addressed, preferably through voluntarily entered into agreement – no matter how uneasy that feels to either party.

The media, like the State, has an important role to play in fear management/fear impact within society, thus either bolstering or undermining societal resilience to terrorism and terrorist acts.

The aim of both the authorities and media, ideally, is to avoid playing into the hands of the terrorists, whilst being truthful about events. Avoid unnecessary rhetoric or fear-mongering. Report the facts without sensationalism or speculation, thus limiting the impact of any incident. Stimulate the normalisation of society as swiftly as possible to return to business as usual.

Just as with the volunteer battalions that formed after Kremlin shenanigans in eastern Ukraine, following terrorist incidents there is often sections of the community that feel a “need to do something”. Channel that need into something productive – at the very least it reduces societal fear and/or tension.”

However, as yet there seems to be somewhat random target identification, going little beyond the broad swathe of “pro-Ukrainian”, more often than not, currently at least, going to some lengths to avoid casualties.

“So far, targeting nationally appears to be a mixed bag. Odessa has thus far been entirely pro-Ukrainian patriotic businesses/organisational premises after working hours, unoccupied pro-Ukrainian activist cars, and State infrastructure. Mariupol also seems to have concentrated predominantly upon infrastructure. Kharkiv has been a more worrisome combination, ranging from pro-Ukrainian bars with customers inside, to empty pro-Ukrainian premises after hours. Perhaps most worrying, relating to intended loss of life, is Kyiv. Throwing hand grenades at MPs is more than a little reckless. Further, arriving in Kyiv with nail-bombs and planting them in Independence Square at the behest of GRU handlers, has no other intent than to cause loss of life and serious injury.”

Indeed the only two deaths connected to explosions in Odessa, have been the deaths of those who carried them out.  One having apparently been hit by a car after blowing up rail track, the other blowing himself up in the early hours of this morning.  Whether or not these people were responsible for the dozen or so other bombings in Odessa, who knows – but there will undoubtedly be many more such incidents in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

A question that arises, other than the competency of some of the bombers, is at what point will there be a partial or complete shift in targeting – and to what?

If blowing up “patriotic” premises does nothing to test the resolve and resilience of Ukrainian society, when will a targeting shift occur?  Will there be a move to blowing up the cars of police or military officers whilst they are in them, be they are work or not at the time?  The targeting of police or military patrols?  At their place of work?  How solid would the resolve of the officer class be?  What about far more critical infrastructure than moderately used rail track or the occasional bridge?  What of electrical substations, hyrdo power plants – or worse?

These are not questions to think about tomorrow.  These are just a few questions to think about today – before tomorrow answers the questions above (and more).

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A Ukrainian slide into “The Troubles” – The terrorism question

December 27, 2014

As has been mentioned on this blog numerous times since April, most recently here, the anticipation that individual, ad hoc acts of terror seeping beyond the parameters of the conflict areas in Luhansk and Donetsk would manifest themselves (for years to come) has been expected by those with a modicum of forethought and sense.

Since the latest entry, further bombings have occurred in Kharkiv, Mariupol and Odessa several times – not to mention an alleged throwing of a hand grenade at some MPs and foiled nail-bombings in Kyiv – over the past few days alone.  Thus far it would seem only one allegedly guilty individual from Transnistria identified in the past 2 or 3 days- who apparently died after being hit by a car in Odessa, perhaps a little too conveniently.

That said, at least once every ten days or so, reported successes of arrests of those with munitions, explosives and all the terrorist toys in Odessa are announced across the local media.  There are far more media reports of arrests than there have been successfully detonated bombs.  Thus far about a dozen explosions in Odessa causing no injuries – yet.

So far, targeting nationally appears to be a mixed bag.  Odessa has thus far been entirely pro-Ukrainian patriotic businesses/organisational premises after working hours, unoccupied pro-Ukrainian activist cars, and State infrastructure.  Mariupol also seems to have concentrated predominantly upon infrastructure.  Kharkiv has been a more worrisome combination, ranging from pro-Ukrainian bars with customers inside, to empty pro-Ukrainian premises after hours.  Perhaps most worrying, relating to intended loss of life, is Kyiv.  Throwing hand grenades at MPs is more than a little reckless.  Further, arriving in Kyiv with nail-bombs and planting them in Independence Square at the behest of GRU handlers, has no other intent than to cause loss of life and serious injury.

Thus, it is perhaps now timely to leap from metaphorical policy and strategy mountain top to mountain top, ignoring the minutiae in the valleys of tactics, and perhaps take a look at what a Ukrainian slide toward “The Troubles” will mean.

There is little to be gained for the purposes of this entry by meandering down rabbit holes, such as those relating to the benefits – or not – of the metaphorical beheading of terrorist organisations with regards to removal of leaders.

Such matters are dependent upon a belief that religiously inspired terrorism suffers far more from the elimination of charismatic leaders than paramilitary groups.  Perhaps any metaphorical beheading of leadership within the religiously inspired terrorist groups lead to nothing more than its splintering, and thus a multi-headed hydra instead as other charismatic leaders emerge.

Whatever the case, at present Ukraine would appear to be facing far more of a paramilitary type terrorist organisation with robust command structures – the issue of metaphorical beheading is therefore somewhat mute anyway, with leader replacement more or less automatic via the chain of command.

(Whilst leaping from one metaphorical mountain top to another, numerous terrorism scholars (and some of their publications) will be mentioned – Google them, it’s interesting stuff.  Better still, buy the books with those Christmas gift vouchers.)

Firstly, terrorism means different things to different people – which is probably fair enough, considering there is no globally recognised definition.  The last attempt at a global definition was made by Kofi Anan whilst heading the UN – and it failed.

What could be problematic with the wording “deliberate killing of civilians and non-combatants for political purposes” or the moral messaging that terrorism is “unacceptable and unjustifiable under any circumstances”?

Well, numerous UN Member States rejected Kofi Anan’s attempt at a globally recognised definition of terrorism on the premise that if their sovereign territory has been invaded and occupied, the violated State reserves the right to sponsor and support what could otherwise become defined as acts of terrorism during justified attempts to regain their sovereign territory from the occupier.  In short one man’s terrorist may be another man’s freedom fighter – or one occupying State’s terrorist may be an occupied State’s partisan.

Crafting/drafting such a law is therefore extremely problematic due to the way words are rigidly, or elastically, interpreted to suit political expediency.  The absence of a globally accepted definition is equally as problematic of course.

Academics too have been wrestling with what should, and should not be, contained in any such terrorism definition – for decades.  Certainly since 1988 Alex Schmid and Albert Jongerman have been wrestling with it.  In 2011, they were still wrestling with it, along with the rest of academia involved in terrorism studies.

Should any definition include a need for definitive doctrine or practice of violent action?  Is terrorism to be limited to an employed tactic?  Should it contain the concepts of physical and/or threats of violence?  Does terrorism begin with a threat based communication process?   Should any definition include the word “fear”.  “Fear” is a perception – should the definition read “perceived fear” – if so whose perception?  Does there need to be direct victims?  Despite the fact direct victims are frequently not the ultimate targets of a terrorist act, does it matter who the victim is defined/identified as?  What of intent?  Is there a need to include the political aspect of terrorism within the definition?  Is motivation enough?  If not, how to define sufficient engagement in terrorism to meet any definition?  Does any singular act need to form part of a wider campaign of violence?

Eurpol recognises the following types of terrorism: Religiously inspired, ethno nationalist/separatist, left wing/anarchist, right wing, and single issue – but who else recognises what else?

Hopefully there is no need to go on and on – the difficulties are becoming clear.

When everything else is fluid and/or ill-defined, can there be a static definition of “terrorism” considering it is a practice that has been carried out in various forms throughout recorded human history – for example the 11th century “Assassins”, or the widely recognised 4 waves of “modern terrorism” as identified by David Raporport.

(In case you are wondering those 4 Raporport waves are as follows:  1st wave – Anarchists, 1880’s.  2nd wave – Anti-colonials, 1920s.  3rd Wave – Left/Red Wave, 1960’s.  4th wave – Religious, 1979 to present.  Each wave lasting several decades.  Yes dear readers, if that pattern is to continue, we are due for the 5th wave, whatever that may be, and however that will eventually be defined, may well come down to the ever changing parameters of what is generally accepted as terrorism.)

Thus not only do terrorist ideologies ebb and flow/come and go, so does the essence of terrorism evolve as well.  Would an 1880’s globally accepted definition of terrorism meet the requirements of 2014?  Probably not – though clearly there would be no consensus on any redefinition, as Kofi Anan will attest to.

In 1975, the renowned terrorism academic, Brain Jenkins, stated “Terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead” – a true statement at the time.  In 2006 Mr Jenkins stated “The most striking development is that terrorism has become bloodier in terms of what acts are committed and how many victims are involved.”  Unfortunately another true statement.  There is no need to ponder now the reasons put forward for that change in this entry – though he does suggests some thoughts as to why.

If we are to accept terrorism as a process based around – attention => respect => legitimacy => power – there is a paradox to terrorism that persists throughout all previously identified terrorist waves.  That paradox is that whilst terrorism as a tactic continues globally – and it is now beginning to appear across Ukraine far from the conflict in the east – and successfully gains the attention craved (even if only domestically), generally it continues to attract recruits to the relevant cause, and of course it causes alarm and misery, rarely, if ever, has it brought success when measured against its own goals.  Strategically it almost always fails to pass “attention =>” and reach “respect => legitimacy => power”.

Clearly those that embark on the course of terrorism, despite history being very clear as to the tactic’s potential for success, continue to believe that eventually it will work beyond causing alarm/fear and unnecessary misery/death.  In a book by Max Abrahams aptly titled “Why terrorism doesn’t work” the academic water is tested regarding the effectiveness of terrorism achieving its political goals.  He arrives at a success rate of 7% of the time – and of that percentage, most were targeting of military targets to the exclusion of civilian targets.  The bottom line, as such, is that attacking civilians in any shape or form, historically equals unambiguous failure.

Having now very briefly addressed the issue (statistically) of success – depending upon your definition of success – relating to terrorism in achieving its long term strategic political goals, an equally quick glance as to what, (statistically at least), works from the point of view of the authorities, is in order.

In 2008, Messrs Seth Jones and Martin Libicki of RAND crunched the numbers and outcomes of terrorist activity.  It should be noted that they came to the statistical conclusion terrorism achieves its aims 10% of the time – not 7% as Mr Abrahams does.  Whatever!

What is statistically effective for the authorities as far as counter-terrorism is concerned?

40% of terrorist groups were found to end due to the actions of local policing and the intelligence services.  In short, disruption, cell penetration and arrests etc, in combination with amended legislation and the criminalisation of dubious and nefarious activities that previously escaped the reach of existing laws.

Depending upon the narrowness or width of the political goals of terrorist organisations, 43% of terrorist organisations abandoned terrorism for inclusion in the political process.  This, of course, a decision based upon cost/benefit analysis within the terrorist groups, and a precondition of abandoning violence set by authorities facilitating their inclusion in the political process – see the IRA/Sinn Fein for example.  Whether the violence between 1916 and 1998 was worth the current political outcome on the Emerald Isle is a matter for debate no doubt.

What clearly works least well for the authorities statistically, is confrontation of terrorism by military forces – a success rate of 7%.  Thus whilst Ukraine’s ATO may well have contained what are more or less Kremlin backed and/or blatantly Russian conventional forces in eastern Ukraine – army verses army if you will – the seepage of terrorist incidents into Odessa, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv are going to be best dealt with by a combination of policing and political processes.

That President Poroshenko’s peace plan has concentrated on political process shows a recognition – subconsciously or otherwise – that this will be the most likely way to a successful/sustainable outcome, whilst the almost equally effective (if done right) policing/intelligence services deals with the seepage escaping from the military containment.  Statistically, the combination of policing and political processes would produce an 83% chance of acceptable outcomes.

It offers no quick fix for the areas currently outside of the control of the Ukrainian State, nor continued effective containment should a military push come from the anti-Kyiv actors some time in the future.  That remains the domain of the military domestically, and diplomacy internationally.

There is also the perception of proportionality to consider as “the State” when reacting to a terrorist incident.  Sovereign States are naturally obligated to abide by Jus Cogens, ratified international agreements and instruments they signed up to – unlike terrorists.  Jus Cogens and any relevant national legislation, both fully ignored by terrorists, are their only notional restraints.

Thus thinking outside of Ukraine for a moment, that embassies and national symbols/entities are attacked in various nations by terrorists reflects little more than the ease of accessibility in many cases – it is after all far easier to attack a nation’s embassy in your own country, than it is to travel to and then attack a different target in the country that draws the terrorist ire – more often than not anyway.  The terrorist message to the mighty State is that it cannot protect its own everywhere, all of the time.  As there is no such thing as 100% security, the terrorists are right, and it follows that every now and again successful terrorist attacks will hit the headlines.  What hardly ever hits the headlines, often quite necessarily, are terrorist failures.

Of course global condemnation always follows a successful terrorist attack – but that condemnation is nothing compared to the condemnation a State receives from other States, media, civil society and public, if its response to any terrorist attack is deemed to be disproportionate.  The moral high ground is generally perceived as being surrendered when swatting a fly with a 10 ton weight, instead of employing a fly-swatter.  What that says about the world today is perhaps a different question – the fly, either way, remains swatted.

Returning to Ukraine and the issues clearly manifesting.  Externally of the current fairly well contained militarised conflict zone in the east, there is the short term, 3D approach of “detect, deter and disrupt” regarding terrorist incidents elsewhere – no easy task, particularly when facing the GRU and its proxies.  Also, both domestically and regionally, a longer term holistic approach is in order, which considering The Kremlin’s pronounced role in matters, will require considerable political will from both Ukraine and its international allies, in staying the course for years, if not a decade or more, to come.

But what of the public?

Whilst all this is going on, the resilience of the Ukrainian public will continue to be tested – despite the proverbial (numerous) recent baptisms of fire during 2014.  Maintaining that resilience, in part, requires something approaching a “fear management” policy.  A resilient society tends to cope with, and recover from, acts of terrorism swiftly.

How to achieve such a policy without interfering with the democratic normative of a free media?  There is much to be said about the generation – or prevention – of fatalistic attitudes amongst the public.  Read Frank Furedi’s work on the culture of fear for enlightening prose on this subject.

Thus, onto the usually, and perhaps necessarily, fractious partnership between State and media, and the necessity of a quid pro quo relating to terrorist acts – particularly in what is the “golden hour”/the first hour after a terrorist incident.  As has been written here many times relating to different issues, he who frames an incident first, robustly, and convincingly sets the tone, oft wins the debate, even though the first hour is normally very confused and discombobulated.

Thus the State has to be open, honest and frank, providing factual information both directly and via the media.  It needs to avoid, where ever possible, unnecessary secrecy, explaining and clarifying the situation, the measures being taken, and confirming or denying rumours swiftly.  Clear and concise messaging in a single and maintained tone is vital.  Avoiding speculation is important.  No news can become news – update regularly, even if to say little has changed.

Likewise, quid pro quo, whilst sensationalism and speculation make headlines and sell media – it can also very well assist the terrorist in their cause in spreading alarm and distress.  It is worthy of remembering that not all victims are directly involved in a terrorist incident – some sections of society can be traumatised or unnecessarily alarmed via media reporting, though they be far from any direct involvement.

The media also should remember trail by media can also prejudice trial in a court of law – if Ukraine ever manages to install anything like a genuine rule of law.

The media also has to accept that when dealing with terrorism, and in particular specific terrorist incidents and their immediate aftermath, there is an inherent requirement, at times, for secrecy by the authorities in order for the institutions of state to be effective.  What may be interesting to the public, is not necessarily in the public interest to be splashed all over the media with immediate effect.  There are issues of timeliness that can be mutually addressed, preferably through voluntarily entered into agreement – no matter how uneasy that feels to either party.

The media, like the State, has an important role to play in fear management/fear impact within society, thus either bolstering or undermining societal resilience to terrorism and terrorist acts.

The aim of both the authorities and media, ideally, is to avoid playing into the hands of the terrorists, whilst being truthful about events.  Avoid unnecessary rhetoric or fear-mongering.  Report the facts without sensationalism or speculation, thus limiting the impact of any incident.  Stimulate the normalisation of society as swiftly as possible to return to business as usual.

Just as with the volunteer battalions that formed after Kremlin shenanigans in eastern Ukraine, following terrorist incidents there is often sections of the community that feel a “need to do something”.  Channel that need into something productive – at the very least it reduces societal fear and/or tension.

These are but a few metaphorical policy/strategy mountain tops very briefly touched upon within a very complex policy/strategy mountain range.  For example, the strategy issues of unwinding the radicalised has been left for another day – the appropriateness of the Indonesian or Saudi religious orientated models, compared to that of the more military demobilising FARC policy, or Norwegian and Swedish right wing deradicalisation programmes all, perhaps, have something to offer.  Likewise the push and pull factors behind joining a terrorist group require analysis prior to preventative policy creation.  So having written the above, it still says very little, which is just as well considering the voluminous tomes on the subject – and it is an entry that deliberately stays clear of the valleys full of tactical detail.

As an aside, it will be interesting to see how The Kremlin deals with any returning ultra-nationalist and/or ultra-Orthodox swivel-eyed that were mobilised.

However, we are left ponder just what the Ukrainian counter-terrorism policy currently consists of.  Though it is not likely to ever be entirely in the public realm (unless leaked), it is doubtful that it will be wildly different from that of many other nations.  Perhaps of pressing importance is just how well versed the local authorities and regional institutions of state in Odessa, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv are with regard to national counter-terrorism policy and local emergency planning/response.  Hopefully they are now, after the dozens of bombing incidents over the past few months in particular, intimate in their knowledge.  If not, then they had better become very well acquainted with it extremely swiftly indeed.  Tis an issue that will not be disappearing any time soon.

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RADA Timeliness – Or not!

December 25, 2014

Yesterday, the law intended to expand the scope of powers held by the National Security Defence Council, and thus by extension its Secretary, Olexandr Turchynov, failed by 3 votes to pass through the RADA.

Whether or not the NSDC, and its Secretary, require further powers is a matter of debate, both politically with regard to the power dynamics between Poroshenko, Yatseniuk and Turchynov in the immediate, but also long term, the consequences when those with alternatives views come to power.  And power Trinities are, of course, topical at this time of year.

For those that have placed some hope on the actual genuine independence of the new National Anti-Corruption Bureau, acknowledging the convoluted method of its conception and lead appointments, there is text within the law expanding the NSDC powers that are of concern.

Is it possible to have a politically independent body when the current pending NSDC law states it will assume “coordination and control of the executive authorities in combating corruption.”  If the newly formed NACB, via elaborately convoluted systems to give the appearance and perception of genuine independence from political office and government, is to become subservient the the highly political NSDC when its powers are expanded, why bother with extravagantly convoluted selection processes or creating perceptions of genuine independence?

Why, in fact, is there a desire to have a power vertical regarding the issue of corruption, when numerous overlapping horizontal structures are far more difficult to corrupt?

Whatever the case, the law expanding the scope and powers of the NSDC, and Mr Turchynov, will be returned to the RADA tomorrow and is likely to pass the vote this time.  Whether or not any glaring issues amongst the text, such as that highlighted above, are amended or removed before tomorrow’s vote remains to be seen.  Is there the time to amend or remove when it seems the Prime Minister is deliberately trying to push a metaphorical legislative camel through the eye of a needle regarding time.

Aside from ramming through serious legislation regarding national security, The RADA is also legally required to pass a 2015 budget prior to 2015 – naturally.  As has been written previously, if the 2015 budget is based upon a raft of changed, amended or introduced legislation, then in order to prevent putting cart before horse, the legislation upon which revenues for the budget is based necessarily should be passed first.

This eventually seems to have dawned on the Cabinet of Ministers – who have now decided to try and ram through 44 legislative changes prior to the submission of the 2015 budget on 30th December.

yatsIn 6 days, these 44 legislative changes, plus the changes to the NSDC, and a lengthy and technical budget are meant to be submitted, debated, amended and summarily passed?

Seriously?

This is part of the reforms, a new way of governance?  What has previous been a theatre of the absurd in governments past, remains a theatre of the absurd?

Having spend 6 weeks putting together a lengthy majority coalition agreement at the expense of functioning parliamentary time, the result is to be a legislative “business as usual”?  A “business as usual” where very few MPs read anything that they are voting for, but vote “for” because they are told to?  This compounded because there is now not the time to carry out parliamentary procedures properly before year end?

The causal effect regarding credibility, domestically and regionally regarding commitment to democracy is raised by this farce?

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An update on Odessa Regional Administration

December 24, 2014

On 11th November an entry was published relating to the change of Chairman of the Odessa Regional Administration following the resignation of Alexie Goncharenko who took up a seat in the RADA, and the subsequent vote and hidden shenanigans behind it.

“The voting required one candidate to gain 67 votes to be appointed as Chairman – which failed to occur.

The results were, Mr Shmushkovitch – 62. Mr Hlytsov – 44. Abstentions – 6.

Thus, temporarily, Mr Shmushkovitch assumes the position of “Acting Chairman” until mid December when another vote is held. Looking at the numbers, Mr Klyuyev, via his representatives, will have to dig deep and bribe a lot of Regional Council members to turn it around. Mr Shmushkovitch, need convince those who previously abstained and/or a few that previously voted for Mr Hlytsov of the hopelessness of their position – something perhaps easier to achieve from the position of “Acting Chairman”.”

Today, finally, the matter has been settled following another vote.

The outcome:  Mr Shmushkovitch with 78 votes in favour, now assumes the role in which he has been “acting” since that entry – as expected.

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