Posts Tagged ‘foreign policy’

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Gaidar becomes Presidential Adviser – Why, and why now?

April 5, 2017

As unusual as it is to read anything so clearly favorable about a Ukrainian politician on this blog, or to write about a politician rather than policy per se, the following prose will be something of an exception.

Maria Gaidar has featured in the blog several times having arrived in Ukraine, being granted Ukrainian citizenship (and relinquishing her Russian citizenship), and subsequently acting as Deputy Head of Odessa Oblast Administration under Governor Misha Saakashvili.

She is perhaps the closest thing Ukraine currently has to political aristocracy, albeit her political aristocracy is rooted in Russia via her late father Yegor Gaidar (Prime Minister of the Russian Federation 15 June – 14 December 1992) and Great Grandfather Arkady Gaidar.

Nevertheless there are few, if any current Ukrainian politicians that can claim 4 generations of political lineage that have all featured at the pinnacle of national policy shaping.

(She also worked with an old friend of this blog, the late Boris Nemtsov.)

All of that said, to be fair, it is all somewhat irrelevant even if interesting.

What matters is what, if anything, Ms Gaidar not only accomplished, but how she went about it, as a Ukrainian politician in Odessa since her adoption of Ukraine (or perhaps vice versa).

Having met her several times, she is undoubtedly one of the best mannered, humble, accessible and intelligent women in Ukrainian politics – and certainly to grace the political and policy stage of Odessa.

She is clearly more than capable of acting upon a stage far greater than Odessa Oblast and yet decided to remain as a local Deputy in the Oblast Rada when the rest of “Team Saakashvili” moved on/was eased out/quit and headed to Kyiv, thus honouring her public mandate.

She has remained a solid, reliable, conscientious, almost media invisible Oblast Deputy who has, so far as can be ascertained, avoided the usual trips and traps of local governance corruption.

She also did a decent job, where it was possible, at clearing up the unintended mess left behind by Hurricane Saakashvili as he whirled around the Oblast when she was his Deputy (while allowing the intended devastation to do what it was intended to do) .

It follows therefore that the blog has no issue with the surprise appointment of Maria Gaidar as Presidential Adviser.   She is certainly brighter and far less tainted than many within the Presidential Administration.

Two questions however – Why, and why now?

Is Ms Gaidar deemed a “Saakashvili legacy” by the new Governor of Odessa, akin to an unwanted fly in his soup – and thus this appointment giving opportunity to have her officially out of Odessa often, despite her local public mandate?

Is it nothing more than a cheap. non point scoring poke at The Kremlin?

Is it a poke at Misha Saakashvili?

Is it an attempt by the Presidential Administration to lure some former “Team Saakashvili” people across?  (Albeit Ms Gaidar was clearly different in her approach to her work than the majority of that team – publicly at least.)

Cynicism asks whether Kyiv simply bereft of smart people to advice the President?

Are there other reasons, be they less than obvious or distinctly motivated by events behind the curtain, for this appointment?

And why now?

For almost a year Ms Gaidar has been, by choice, a lowly Oblast Deputy having resigned as former Governor Saakashvili’s Deputy when the Law on Civil Service came into force in May 2016.  She has been left to fester in Odessa in a political position far below her abilities, so what has now changed to warrant her appointment as a Presidential Adviser (along side her local mandate)?

Is this a reward for perceived loyalty to the President and/or people of Odessa because she did not abandon her responsibilities in Odessa and follow Misha Saakashvili?

It has to be said the appointment is a surprise, and although she is more than equal to the role, the questions of why, and why now, thus far provides for few convincing answers.  Nevertheless President Poroshenko has made this appointment for a reason and that may become clearer only later.

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What is past is prologue (Shakespeare)

January 16, 2017

With Vice President Biden bidding adieu in Kyiv having been point man for the out going US Administration, naturally official statements are a mixture of thanks and platitudes for efforts past and also words of hope for the future.

Yet the words used by both President Poroshenko and Vice President Biden at their farewell meeting are hardly the most robust and unambiguous when it comes to confirming continued US policy toward Ukraine.

“We really count on the succession by the new U.S. administration in our common work” and “hope that the Ukrainian issue will further unite the entire American political spectrum and remain among the top priorities” the oratory of President Poroshenko is hardly that of a political leader confident in the future policy of an ally.

Further, despite President Poroshenko’s “hope” it is already fact that the Ukrainian issue will not unite the entire American political spectrum insofar as where Ukrainian issues overlap with Russian issues.  The reverse is abundantly clear.  Divisions are widening within the US political arena where Ukrainian and Russian policy overlaps.

In response, VP Biden stating “I hope that the next administration will also want to be a supporter and partner in your continued progress” does little to convey anything solid either.

Yet more “hope“.

Perhaps one more forlorn “hope” is that the in-coming administration even has a Ukraine policy around which the American political spectrum can either diverge or unite – particularly when it comes to overlapping Russia issues.

What is past is prologue (Shakespeare)

Thus what has gone before may have little to offer by way of predicting, and therefore understanding, what is to come.  It may be that there is, as yet, no policy regarding Ukraine as far as the in-coming Administration is concerned, and thus policy drift and/or meandering is what awaits to be exploited by those that seize the moment.

“Hope” no matter how many times it appears in presidential prose is not a strategy.  And it is certainly not a strategy Ukraine will be wise to employ with regard the emissions of the new US Administration.

If “hope” is to play any part in Ukrainian strategy, it is perhaps better replaced with “optimism” and employed within a domestic political and policy context.  “The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, or vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not abandon it to his enemy.” (Bonhoeffer).

It may be prudent therefore to deliver some swift, sensible, domestic inspiration by way of policy!

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Moldavian meetings

January 5, 2017

For the first time since 2008, a President of Moldova, Igor Dodon met with a “President of Transnistria” Vadim Krasnoselsky.

Whether it proves to be anything more than a symbolic gesture by pro-Kremlin Moldavian President Dodon remains to be seen, for his powers as president are extremely limited (which is perhaps a good thing being a robust supporter of federalising Moldova).

Moldova is a parliamentary democracy with the President having very little sway over policy or legislation.  (As such the Moldavian parliamentary elections of 2018 matter far more than the recent election of Mr Dodon as President of Moldova.)

What was known to be discussed appears to have been all rather sensible – and occurred outside of the longstanding 5+2 format which may or may not further frustrate an already frustrated process.  Nevertheless issues such as agriculture in the Dubasari district, education and diplomas, and the movement of citizens across the Dniester river were discussed.

It is said they will meet again soon with proposal to solving the issues discussed and to set timelines to implement agreed solutions.

Time, as it always does, will tell when it comes to results, particularly as President Dodon would have to have the Moldavian parliament “on side” to actually deliver much (if anything).

With regards to meetings, and perhaps worthy of note for those in Kyiv, on 26th December, 3 days after Mr Dodon’s election as president, the odious and criminal Mykola Skoryk MP (Oppo Block) quietly visited Moldova attending a Party of Socialists event to celebrate Mr Dodon’s success.

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President Dodon had been a long serving Chairman of the Party of Socialists after leaving the Communist Party.  Needless to say the Party of Socialists is a robustly Russophile political entity.

That the obnoxious Mykola Skoryk would surround himself with russophiles is in keeping with his personal views (as inferred in the above link).  As regular readers will note however, it is not his russophile views that make Mykola Skoryk obnoxious.  Quite simply there is nothing about his political history, business activities, or egocentric personality that make him likable – russophile or not.

Time will tell whether Prosecutor General Lutsenko will actually get around to trying to strip Mykola Skoryk of his parliamentary immunity and prosecute him as he stated he would in September – but as yet hasn’t.  Perhaps he has forgotten, perhaps he opened his mouth before gathering sufficient evidence, or perhaps a grubby deal has been struck that he won’t now go after Mr Skoryk.  Neither Messrs Lutsenko or Skoryk have been adverse to grubby (and criminal) little deals throughout their political careers.

The question however is what was Mykola Skoryk doing at a Party of Socialists gathering for, and with, the newly invested President Dodon?  A shared russophilia is unlikely to be the answer in and of itself.  There will be more to it.

Perhaps it is a matter of insuring any cross-border “business” is not interrupted under a new presidency.  Perhaps there are now opportunities to expand “business”.  Maybe an arrangement made for an immediate “bolt hole” from Odessa should Prosecutor General Lutsenko actually put action where his rhetoric already exists.  Per chance some plotting and scheming regarding stirring up matters in “Bessarabia” occurred – as one domestic result of a Trump victory in the USA will probably be an emboldened pro-Russian political voice within Ukraine from those that have generally kept a low profile over the past 2 years – those like Mykola Skoryk.

Whatever the case, Mykola Skoryk did not become the first Ukrainian MP to personally congratulate Mr Dodon on his election simply because of a shared russophilia and as Odessa shares a border with Moldova he thought he’d “drop by”.  He is hardly otherwise a regular face at the Party of Socialists gatherings.

That Mr Skoryk has said very little about his trip probably means that more questions should be asked.

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Ukrainian MIC to produce the M4 WAC47

January 3, 2017

Although it is perhaps not secret despite being secret, for quite some time the US has been toying with the idea of (limited) tech transfer to Ukraine with regard to matters MIC (Military Industrial Complex).

Issues that have prevented such (limited) transfers are not Ukrainian ability to produce weaponry from the transferred tech, nor those of any licencing limitations,  but its ability to prevent any tech transfer immediately being leaked to Russia.  Kremlin infiltration withing all institutions in Ukraine remains despite sweeps to remove the most obvious traitors from all institutions.

As is almost always the case, the most obvious infiltrators are not the most damaging.  Low hanging fruit etc.

Hence the tech transfer for the much mentioned Javelin (and other) weaponry providing Ukraine with the ability to manufacture its own remains in purgatory.

No surprises at the desire to assist Ukraine to arm itself vis a vis the obvious problems of a compromised and thoroughly infiltrated institutional structure with the latter prudently holding in abeyance the former.

Infiltration of Ukrainian institutions and structure is a problem that is not going to go away, but it is a problem that can be far better managed with a lot of work over the coming years.

However, there are MIC tech transfers and licencing that can occur whereby there are no or manageable classified issues to consider – thus predominantly only commercial issues are to be solved.

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It has come to pass that Ukrboronservis, part of the State Ukrboronprom monolith, is about to commence the manufacture of the M16 (or more accurately the M4 Carbine WAC47) in Ukraine in partnership with the US company Areoscraft.  The aim of this project is to equip the Ukrainian army with NATO standard weaponry produced in Ukraine by Ukraine and for Ukraine.

Messrs Vladimir Korobov (Ukrboronprom), Sergei Mykytyuk (Ukrboronservis) and Igor Pasternak (Areoscraft) made the very clear inference that the M4 WAC47 was the first weapon for this pilot project and cooperative agreement.  Ergo by inference there will be others, similarly of NATO standard.

The question is whether what follows this first project involves a tech transfer far more sensitive than how to manufacture, and licence the manufacture of, a M4 Carbine.  In short, how quickly and thoroughly can Ukraine reduce the amount of institutional and MIC Kremlin infiltration to a level that the US is prepared to transfer the tech and licencing for the manufacturing of weaponry more advanced than an M4 Carbine?

It appears the M4 WAC47 is set to become a Ukrainian produced standard piece of equipment for the Ukrainian military with the unambiguous intent of making its armed forces and its equipment interoperable with those of NATO.  A welcome step along an obvious MIC pathway – as stated in a less than flattering entry from February 2015.

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Pinchuk & the WSJ

January 1, 2017

It has to be said that Viktor Pinchuk of all the Ukrainian oligarchy has always been the most intriguing for this blog.

Firstly, compared to the others, Mr Pinchuk is actually a clever guy.  He had managed to become a multi-millionaire through his engineering creativity before marrying the daughter of former President Kuchma – and thereafter leveraging that marriage during the Kuchma epoch to move from being a multi-millionaire to a billionaire.

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His time directly (rather than indirectly) in Ukrainian political life as a parliamentarian was really rather brief and began in the same year as his marriage to former President Kuchma’s daughter in 2002 and ended with the “Orange Revolution” of 2004/5 with Mr Pinchuk having backed Viktor Yanukovych.  Despite easily being able to buy his way into any parliament, he chose not to do so.

Since then his political influence has been indirect insofar as manifesting via parliamentarians both national and local that are loyal to him.  It should also be noted that “his people” are generally far more subtle than the drones of Kolomoisky, Firtash or Akhmetov.

He also has a penchant for collecting famous friends – The Clintons, Damien Hirst, Elton John etc.

In fact, aside from feeding from the State subsidy trough and self-interest indirect political machinations, Mr Pinchuk set about rehabilitating his image through philanthropy and his own foundation from 2006 onward with very little domestic public oratory or prose.

The annual YES conference is a Pinchuk brainchild that he funds – which in 2016 notably saw Mr Pinchuk pay Donald Trump to speak at (albeit a speech lacking in clarity and not without technical problems) via a video link despite his association with (and donations to) the Clintons for many years.

Perhaps a lesser known fact was that during the “Revolution of Dignity”, Mr Pinchuk funded the provision of medical supplies to treat the injured.

Aside from a few historical legal battles, most notably with Ihor Kolomoisky over assets, Mr Pinchuk rarely features in the news – unlike many of his peer oligarchs.  There is in fact very little that can be attributed to him personally by way of public statements or on the record oratory.  Clearly a deliberate policy on his part.

It was something of a surprise therefore when an article appeared in the WSJ, authored by, or ghost written and then attributed to, Viktor Pinchuk.  The article has ruffled many Ukrainian feathers, both political and societal, being prima facie interpreted as a plan for capitulation to The Kremlin.

In a nutshell he spoke (wrote) out in favour of elections in the “DNR” and “LNR” by politely forgetting about Crimea if it meant an end to the deaths in the occupied Donbas, the abandoning of any thoughts of joining NATO and the creation of a formal understanding that Ukraine would not be joining the EU any time soon.

Now to be fair, there are those on the Crimea Committee of the Verkhovna Rada, even of patriotic leaning, that have privately told the blog that they foresee Crimea returning to Ukraine only if the Russian Federation implodes in similar fashion to that of the USSR – and if that be so then the returning of Crimea will be an issue dwarfed by the ramifications of such an implosion for Ukraine more generally.

That said, there is none on the said committee that would advocate anything other than “Crimea is Ukraine” as a domestic and international policy – quite rightly.

With regard to the EU, as previously written the Association Agreement (and DCFTA) is not an instrument that takes Ukraine into the EU.  Only the completion of the Aquis Communautaire can do that – and that is a process Ukraine has not even asked to commence.  The simplest way to view the Association Agreement is as a document that brings “European norms” to Ukraine at a speed at which Ukraine can achieve them – ie it brings “Europe” to Ukraine at a speed and in chunks that Ukraine can handle/digest.  For Ukraine to go to the EU, an entirely different thing, then it is the Aquis that is the only route – a route more demanding than anything within the Association Agreement.

Likewise, whatever Ukraine may or may not do with NATO, it is currently a long way from being at a civilian and military standard by which it could join.

In short, Ukraine is decades away from meeting the requirements of the Aquis for EU accession – if it ever applies.  It is probably about a decade away from fully meeting the civilian and military standards required for NATO entry – should it ever ask to join.

Those are the bureaucratic realities and limitations of Ukrainian reformation and their speed – notwithstanding political limitations of those that would have to agree to any Ukrainian accession.  None of this is a secret.  The respective institutions know it.  The Kremlin knows it.  Ukraine knows it.  And Mr Pinchuk knows it.

The domestic angst naturally, insofar as NATO and the EU is concerned, comes from his call for codification of such matters and the legislative boundaries they would place upon Ukraine for at best, uncertain and ill-defined “gains”.  Peace at any cost does not bring peace – it brings an armistice fated to fail at some undetermined point in the future.

Why then, has Mr Pinchuk who rarely makes public statements, decided now is the time to make such a statement and one that is guaranteed to irk the public, the political class, and paint him as a Kremlin stooge domestically and among many of Ukraine’s “friends” abroad?

Is it a reaction to witnessing fellow oligarch Dmitry Firtash exiled to Vienna, or Ihor Kolomoisky lose PrivatBank to nationalisation, or seeing all oligarchs with fingers in high energy usage industries (including Mr Pinchuk) now subject to energy pricing that sees an end to subsidies/most favoured user status?  It seems somewhat unlikely.

Will the oligarchy now find common ground for a robust fightback against the government in 2017, and this is somehow Mr Pinchuk declaring unity?  Also somewhat unlikely.

Has Mr Pinchuk simply decided that giving in to The Kremlin is the only way to undo the current deadlock?  Maybe, maybe not.

Has he been bought off or manipulated by Moscow somehow?

As the chances of any of his WSJ points being implemented are currently very slim at best, and will make him extremely unpopular at home, how does Mr Pinchuk benefit from his unusual public intervention?

All questions to be asked.

Also to be asked are why make such statements now, and why chose the WSJ to do it in?

The answer may be that the article was written and published in the WSJ specifically for one reader.  That reader being Donald Trump.

It may well be that Mr Pinchuk has little belief that what he has written will become policy and be implemented.

He may well not believe that this is the right policy either.

However, just as with voting at the UN, it is not that uncommon to see some nations prima facie voting against their own interests in order to curry favour with others – in the full knowledge that the vote will be vetoed by yet another.

Maybe it was written to defend the business interests of Mr Pinchuk in the USA?

Perhaps the end result here, considering Mr Pinchuk’s penchant for collecting “friends” like the Clintons, Damien Hirst and Elton John etc, is that Mr Pinchuk may be seeking to become the Ukrainian “name” most liked and granted most access by Donald Trump – no differently than Nigel Farage is angling to get (and may succeed) more personal interaction with Donald Trump than UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

 

If Mr Pinchuk can achieve a personal status that grants him more access to Donald Trump (and a kinder ear) than President Porosehnko simply by writing something he believes Mr Trump would read agreeably within the WSJ, then he may feel it a gamble worth taking with the repercussions among Ukrainian domestic politics a prize worth chasing.

Perhaps a lens through which to view Mr Pinchuk’s rare public prose?  Perhaps all it takes is being a billionaire, a few well chosen (if never implemented) words in the WSJ agreeable to a personality like Mr Trump and suddenly Mr Pinchuk becomes “Don’s man in Ukraine”.

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The official EU overview of Ukrainian progress 2016

December 13, 2016

A very short entry to bring a reader’s attention to the official EU overview of Ukrainian progress during 2016.

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Predictably the issues where Ukraine invariably fails (and highlighted by the blog) is left to the concluding paragraph.

“Reform in Ukraine is a long-term process looking to bring long-term results. As outlined in this report, many important reforms are ripe to move from the legislative and institutional phase to effective implementation, which will benefit Ukraine’s citizens and contribute further to its political association and economic integration with the EU. Ukrainian civil society and other stakeholders have suggested that the EU and Ukraine should do more to communicate publicly, both in Ukraine and abroad, and explain the rationale for, and benefits of, the reforms undertaken by the government.”

If only the blog had a Dollar for every time the phrase “effective policy” and “effective implementation” had been written during the many years it has been running!

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Radicals submit a draft Bill to leave the NPT – Ukraine

December 7, 2016

With the passing of the anniversary of the signing of the Budapest Memorandum a few days ago (the only signatory to which that can claim to have unambiguously fulfilled its obligations being Ukraine) it is perhaps unsurprising that the populist Radical Party has simultaneously submitted a draft Bill to the Verkhovna Rada to facilitate Ukrainian departure from the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) 1968.

The Budapest Memorandum whilst a stand alone text was the result of Ukraine acceding to the NFP, albeit acceding with notable “Reservations” to the treaty.

(A “Reservation” is a unilateral statement made by a State when ratifying a treaty whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty and their application to that State.  In effect a “Reservation” can veto a clause or certain clauses of a treaty from having any legal obligation whilst the rest of the treaty is legally binding.  “Reservations” are in fact common with regard to international treaties.)

Almost all Ukrainian “Reservations” to the NPT related to security – hence the Budapest Memorandum.

In short the proposed Radical Party draft Bill seeks to abolish the law “On the Accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 1st July 1968”.

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Well fair enough, but that alone would not free Ukraine from its NPT obligations.

For Ukraine to free itself from its NPT obligations it would have to provide notice to the UN and all other ratified signatories to the treaty of its intention to do so by activating Article X(1) – “Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.”

Lo, 3 months thereafter any notification Ukraine would be free to legally pursue nuclear weapon capabilities of which it is certainly technically capable – albeit entirely lacking the domestic infrastructure required to produce the nuclear material.  Ukraine has no enrichment facilities even though it is more than capable of producing delivery systems as evidenced by its reputation for reliable engine production with regard to space missions etc.

Ukraine would not be the first nation to leave the NPT, nor cause its robustness into question.  For example both India and Pakistan were declared nuclear powers in 1998 with no serious penalties, North Korea officially withdrew in 2003, notwithstanding both Iraq and Iran pursuing nuclear power status “covertly”.  There is then the historically “ambiguous” Israeli position – though in the modern day the only “ambiguity” relates to an exact number of nuclear warheads Israel possesses.

This illicit pursuit (less North Korea who exited the treaty per treaty text) is perhaps the result of a 1968 Treaty being signed and ratified when few nations had the expertise or desire to hold such weaponry.  We are no longer in 1968 and Ukraine is no longer in 1994 when it ratified the NPT and agreed to rid itself of the 3rd largest nuclear weapon arsenal on earth (at the time).

As unlikely as it is that the Radical Party draft Bill will get anywhere near gaining the required parliamentary votes to set into motion events that would allow Ukraine to become a “nuclear power” once again, if hypothetically it were to occur then the NPT cannot be dealt with in isolation by Ukraine when it comes to international treaties – for nuclear warheads aside, there are treaties relating to methods of delivery to which Ukraine is also a ratified signatory.

Ukraine may also have to consider other international obligations to which it is a ratified signatory, for example the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missiles (HCOC).

(Further, without checking the treaty texts of  the Biological & Toxin Weapon Convention (BTWC), Chemical Weapon Convention (CWC), Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Zangger Committee and Australia Group (AG), within these international instruments there may be clauses that would also require an official shift in Ukrainian participation and/or Reservations.)

Political populism aside, naturally the Radical Party draft Bill as currently written makes no mention of any of these potential legal repercussions as far as international obligations are concerned.  This is perhaps in part due to the fact they do not expect the draft Bill to garner sufficient parliamentary traction, and certainly in part due to the fact they simply are unable to craft domestic legislation of any quality regardless of legislative sphere – let alone that with international obligation appendages.

Nevertheless in a time where unpredictable and/or unexpected political outcomes are becoming more and more commonplace, it is perhaps a piece of draft legislation that a watchful eye will gaze upon now and again regarding any legislative progress.

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