Posts Tagged ‘CSTO’

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The end of non-aligned status? Ukraine

December 9, 2014

Tomorrow, 9th December 2014, seems likely to be the date that the new RADA in Ukraine will vote upon the formal removal of Ukraine’s non-aligned status – a significant hurdle to attempting to  join any military block either east or west.

Whether it be a priority in comparison to the removal of MP immunity, of which almost the entire voting constituency of Ukraine is in favour, or a pending change in electoral laws that would remove the endemic corruption and bribery associated with the single mandate, first past the post, RADA seats to be replaced by open party lists, or if it will be seen as a timely tabling of legislation when the entire nation expects a radical reform of the judicial system and a move from rule by law to one of rule of law, is a matter for debate.

However, it cannot be said that any such change in the Ukrainian non-aligned status has gone without some public debate – naturally under the circumstances Ukraine finds itself in.

Opinion polls/surveys regarding the accession to NATO have moved from a solid majority against, to a slim majority for such a move.  Another effect from the Kremlin cause in eastern Ukraine, and illegal annexation of Crimea.   Such a reaction, be it deemed knee-jerk or ill-conceived by those who would prefer the geopolitical status quo to continue, is at least somewhat understandable.  Few that find themselves unquestionably violated twice in quick succession by the same aggressor, would not seek the removal of their own legislation that prevents themselves from trying to find future safety and assistance within the combined weight of numbers that such organisations present.

It goes without saying that the removal of this legislation tomorrow – if passed – does not lead to NATO Membership any time soon (if at all).

Ukraine is a long, long way from meeting any NATO Membership criteria.  At an absolute minimum, Ukraine would need to demonstrate it can uphold a tolerant and inclusive democracy, make solid progress toward a market economy, have its military forces under firm civilian control, be good neighbours with regard to the territorial integrity of other sovereign states, and be robustly working toward the compatibility of its forces with those existing within NATO.

Then the NATO Members would need to agree to Ukraine joining.  That in turn means a Ukraine policy amongst its members – a policy that is clearly absent other than a begrudging lip-service acknowledging the fact the door is open to those that meet necessary criteria.

Nonetheless, whether or not Ukraine ever meets any such criteria, or meets with the approval of all existing NATO Members when it comes to any accession if it were to actually apply, clearly to achieve that it would need to remove the self-imposed shackles of non-alignment currently enshrined within its own legislation.  That is the issue that will be tackled by the RADA.  A case of opening up that opportunity – to Kremlin angst (as well as a few NATO Members) – or not.

At the same time, unlikely as it is, such a move also opens up the opportunity to join the CSTO.

The relevant Bill is likely to be submitted by the Prime Minister’s party, the People’s Front.  In a speech to the RADA on 27th November, President Poroshenko also stated Ukraine should abandon its non-aligned status.  Thus it seems unlikely this Bill will fail if submitted tomorrow, as is the current rumour.

Whether by removing the nation’s non-aligned status, it improves the current interaction between NATO and some of its Members currently assisting Ukraine remains to be seen.  The NATO position is that it supports supporting Ukraine – bilaterally amongst its Members first and foremost, due to the usual lack of consensus within its ranks.   If such a move would encourage the allies Ukraine clearly has amongst the NATO Members to do more bilaterally once non-aligned status has been removed will be interesting to behold.

It is more than likely that The Kremlin will bemoan and lament any such removal of Ukrainian non-aligned status – regardless of the fact that NATO Membership will remain a very distant prospect (if at all) for Ukraine.  However, given the slim majority of the Ukrainian constituency now in favour of NATO Membership, there is obviously a large minority amongst which Kremlin agitprop/disinformation/misinformation will attempt to weave its dark magic.

Regardless of whether this Bill is submitted before the RADA tomorrow or not, that it will be very soon seems certain.  Reactions both externally and internally of Ukraine will be interesting.

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Ukraine and Russia policies – 2 distinctly different animals

December 8, 2014

Sometimes watching the social media putting the regional (and world) problems to rights, there seems to be a distinct smudging of lines – perhaps unsurprisingly where two issues dovetail/merge/overlap.  Even less surprising when there appears to be no recognisable strategy to identify….from anybody.

With regard to Ukraine and Russia, there is a need to recognise that despite any overlap or smudging, these are two distinct issues that require two distinct policies.

Whilst Ukraine is the territory currently being most noticeably and aggressively violated by the Kremlin, it is clear that the Kremlin is also getting its jollies from sponsoring European political parties, for example he National Front in France, testing Baltic air space and Scandinavian  territorial waters, engaging in a very active disinformation/misinformation/agitprop exercise internationally, meddling in Moldova, being troublesome in Tbilisi, as well as general obstructionism for the sake of obstructionism, the selective use, interpretation or dismissal of international legal instruments etc.  In fact the list goes on and on.  The Kremlin challenge is not only to Ukraine.  It goes beyond and challenges regional and international order.

Ergo, clearly any policy created to meet the current Kremlin shenanigans far exceeds the territorial boundaries of Ukraine.  An entirely “Ukraine Policy” will therefore not meet all the demands required of a “Russia Policy” – and a “Russia Policy” will not meet the needs/desired outcomes of a “Ukraine Policy” either.

Having read President Putin’s last speech, it seems clear that The Kremlin seems to have no real policies of substance looking to the future either.  The same weary domestic economic reforms cited, were not so dissimilar to those trumpeted when President Putin first took office almost 2 decades ago.  That they have failed to arrive during this time is the responsibility of whom if not President Putin?

That it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile the genuine integration of the Russian economy and businesses with the developed economies, with the continence of the current Kremlin regime seemingly has been resolved by making the decision that the regime will continue with its current system at the cost of Russian economic and business development.  That is The Kremlin choice.

As to what a “Ukraine Policy” should look like – or indeed what a “Russia Policy” should look like – or the various paths, benchmarks and objectives within either, that can be debated ad infinitum – regardless of which capital any policymaker or strategist sits.

However, as the Kremlin tactic of simply attempting to destabilise Ukraine in lieu of  coherent strategy lingers on, the EU/US tactic of keeping Ukraine afloat in  lieu of coherent strategy, thus defaulting to a “wait and see” reactionary stupor regarding the effect of tactical sanctions, it seems that Ukraine is the only one with a proactive plan.  A simple plan to use the Association Agreement as the framework of reforms, the implementation of which is (it is claimed) to be achieved within 5 years, whilst attempting to insulate/contain issues in eastern Ukraine for at least 3 years via the time line offered in the Minsk Agreement.  Whether that leads to where the current Ukrainian leadership expects it to, indeed remains to be seen.

One is then left to wonder whether it is the strategists to blame for lack of strategy on all sides.  A faulty perception if one believes that to be the case of course.  There are outstanding policy strategists in all capitals, from The Kremlin, to London, to Berlin, to Rome etc – but strategists and the strategies they present, even if similar in content, are subject to the whim and attention span of the political class to which they offer up their wisdom.  And such wisdom is not always politically expedient or palatable.

Indeed, quite often, the political class are perceived “real leaders” by their constituents only when their attention is concentrated on a specific issue long enough for a strategy to be chosen, and followed, in order to make them look good in the annals of history – assuming that they chose what proves to be a successful strategy option from those offered.

Nevertheless, as and when a coherent strategy rears its head – either for Russia or Ukraine – from any regional actor, it seems it will stand out – for no other reason than it would stand alone.

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Not the best of presents for a Presidential birthday

October 6, 2014

Tuesday 7th October is Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s 62nd birthday.

It is now, also to be the date where in all probability, the currently sitting Verkhovna Rada will formally put an end to the legally held non-aligned status of the nation.

(At the same session that day, the RADA is also expected to adopt a string of anti-corruption legislation too.)

That is not to say Ukraine will immediately assume an aligned status the same day – though it may formally adopt one posthaste.

What the vote will do is remove the existing legal parameters preventing any such aligned status being declared and adopted in the future.  Clearly the inference in the current circumstances, is that any such future choice will not be favourable toward the CSTO. SCO or any other security apparatus with Kremlin involvement.

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Whether such a move will also be a stepping stone to ease any possible legislative friction, such as Article 92 of the Constitution of Ukraine “2) the procedure for deploying units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to other states; the procedure for admitting and the terms for stationing units of armed forces of other states on the territory of Ukraine;” or indeed amending the Constitution, remains to be seen.  However, if Ukraine is going to pick a side, it makes sense to make any legal adjustments to allow that side onto and be stationed within Ukrainian territory with as little bureaucracy as is necessary if and when deemed either necessary or appropriate.

Whether or not Ukraine will also relinquish its observer status to the UN recognised Non-Aligned Movement therefore remains to be seen, as it may not align with anybody any time soon despite preparing the domestic legal ground to do so should it so decide to.

The Kremlin reaction to what is very likely to come to pass is yet to be seen, though no doubt the timing will be seen as a deliberate provocation – and perhaps it is, the repealing of the non-alignment vote was originally due to be held on 14th October.  Nevertheless, not the most welcomed of gifts for the presidential birthday from an important neighbour – nor an anticipated one when embarking upon the Ukrainian adventure for Mr Putin no doubt.

 

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Lukashenka on Ukraine

March 25, 2014

Stripping away all the journalistic fluff from this RFERL article, President Lukashenka is bang on the money when talking about Ukraine – as you would hope from a dictator ruling a neighbouring state.

Firstly he agrees with the entire world – less Russia – that the annexation of Crimea sets “a bad precedent” –  Of course it does, for international legal agreements such as the Helsinki Final Act (amongst a list of international agreements) have not only been challenged but clearly ruptured.

It may not be that President Lukashenka has any great concerns regarding the annexation of parts of Belarus, but he will have concerns regarding separatist movements within the Russian Federation that by extension may have detrimental outcomes for Belarus.

When it comes to recognizing or not recognizing the annexation of Crimea, Crimea is not an independent state unlike Ossetia or Abkhazia.  Crimea today is a part of Russian territory. You can recognize or not recognize that, but this will change absolutely nothing.

Nobody would dispute what he says – the reality on the ground speaks for itself.  The only thing really worthy of note is that by stating “Crimea today is part of Russian territory” may infer he holds a belief that may not always be the case – though it seems a very remote and distant prospect.

The next statement I will unpack into separate parts.

“Ukraine should stay a united, undivided, integral state that is not a member of any block because it would be very sensitive both for us and for Russia if, for example, NATO’s military would deploy in Ukraine tomorrow, this we can’t allow to happen.  This is our global interest. So we have to make an agreement that nobody has a right to meddle in Ukraine anymore.”

The first – “Ukraine should stay a united, undivided, integral state” .  Here he is absolutely right.  The federalising of Ukraine will do nothing more than create a permanently unstable nation for decades to come.

Secondly – ” that is not a member of any block because it would be very sensitive both for us and for Russia if, for example, NATO’s military would deploy in Ukraine tomorrow, this we can’t allow to happen.  This is our global interest.” 

As I have written before “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.”

President Lukashenka also pushing an internationally recognised neutral status for Ukraine as part of the solution it would seem.

To his last point “So we have to make an agreement that nobody has a right to meddle in Ukraine anymore.” – He is quite right.  The problem now being there is no trust.

Having seen the UN Charter, Helsinki Final Act, Budapest Memorandum, The Russia-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty and more, simply raped of any meaning unilaterally by Russia – and to be frank rather feebly responded to by the Europeans and certain guarantors thus far – trust in Russia is at an all time low, and trust in a few western nations has been shaken too.

What possible guarantees of non-interference in exchange for non-block neutrality will now be accepted – and from who would Ukraine accept such guarantees in the belief they could be called upon, and a swift and robust response delivered?

The trust problem not only exists between Ukraine and Russia of course.  Who would act as guarantor for Ukraine now, when any guarantor can no longer trust Russia to act reliably and legally?

Sadly President Lukashenka offered no insight into the very serious problem of trust.

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CSTO consider Євромайдан a threat

December 24, 2013

It seems that Євромайдан has been targeted by the (Russian led) Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and identified as a threat similar to “colour revolutions” – which it quantifies as “a special model of the coup using political, information, communication , moral and psychological methods of influence, and its ultimate goal – the complete disintegration of the state, the change of power and the establishment of foreign control over the country” – according to a Kommersant article.

Apparently those pesky “Western opponents of the Russian Federation manipulate international institutions election observation , actively influence the minds of Internet users, through NGOs and the media form a distorted picture of public sentiment.”  – Blimey, I didn’t know we still had it in us to do that collectively.  The EU normally works on the lowest common denominator agreed by all, and it would take a long time to reach such a consensus as described above – particularly when such nefarious deeds are normally a very sovereign affair.

But a threat to the CSTO?  Well of course – both in terms of regional instability to use a broad – and very real –  expression, but also the casuistic democracy gene may infiltrate CSTO society with renewed vigor.  A terribly bad thing to happen for those sat atop a power vertical – the fall is often unsightly from such lofty heights.

The recommendations of this CSTO summit?  The “generation of counter-propaganda tools“.

None of this is a surprise of course.  The only questions are once those counter-propaganda tools have been generated are they used defensively or pro-actively?  Are they strictly used domestically, or projected?

Does it matter?

These days acting pro-actively seems to be the de facto definition of defence.  Perhaps the question would be better worded as to whether they will be used passively or aggressively – home or abroad?

Of course the task is now to counter-propaganda the counter propaganda.

Now, I will wish those readers who celebrate Christmas on 25th December, a very, very merry Christmas!

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Ukraine – Absent!

December 20, 2012

Much headline space yesterday was given to the cancellation of President Yanukovych’s visit to President Putin and short notice – at such short notice in fact, that the Ukrainian press corps had arrived in Moscow to discover that the visit had been canceled at the last moment.

Media speculation runs rife as to the reason for the late cancellation – was it due to the telephone call initiated by President Barroso of the EU to President Yanukovych, during which he may have persuaded him to leave any formal announcements or signing of deals with Russia or the Customs Union until after the 25th February EU-Ukraine summit?   Or was it, as has been officially stated by both sides, that the documents and deals that were to be signed are not yet ready to be signed?

After all, every president likes to have something to show from an official visit, be they the visitor or the host.

Maybe it was a bit of both?

However, what has not got the media coverage, is that on the same day as the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia were due to meet and didn’t – there were also meetings of the Eurasian Economic Council, the Supreme Council of the Customs Union and Common Economic Space, EurAsEc summit and the CSTO summit – all of which Ukraine can attend in various guises – but attended none!

What to make of that?

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Changing the rules of engagement – Ukraine amends laws on military

September 21, 2012

Tempted as I am to join the throng raising legitimate concern over the proposed criminalisation of libel in Ukraine – something that should never be a criminal offence, and with quality journalism simply wouldn’t happen anyway, I won’t – yet!

Concerned as I am over the new law that entered into force yesterday over the requirement to give 48 hours notice to the authorities for mass gatherings and the requirement for such rallies/demonstrations to be authorised, I am not going to.  Admittedly this new law is pretty much in line with those that exist in many nations, that cannot be denied, but this is Ukraine and the manipulation of such a law for political ends is a real issue.

No, worthy as both those issues are of reflection and comment, today I will ruminate of the amendments to laws relating to the Ukrainian military that were made a few days ago, and which have largely passed under the radar.

More specifically the changes to the laws that govern the Ukrainian military were changed in relation to its activities outside the territorial borders of Ukraine – rather than within.

The laws have been changed not only to allow for increased input by the Ukrainian military into humanitarian assistance and conflict prevention, and Ukraine is a keen UN participant – particularly when it comes to Chapter 8 of the UN Charter, but also allows for the Ukrainian military to engage in combat missions on foreign soil – something it was until a few days ago prevented from doing.

In total, 11 existing laws were amended to allow all the above to occur.

What these changes, particularly with respect to combat operations in effect mean, is that the Ukrainian military could now, theoretically speaking, join joint actions with the EU battle groups for example, or NATO, or equally those of the CSTO, or any other organisation that Ukraine belongs to that is currently or in the future may become militarised.

For such a potentially major change in Ukrainian military policy, it has brought very little media or political comment.

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