Posts Tagged ‘negotiation’


Ukraine begins to lobby DC – professionally

January 7, 2017

Many times it has been written that Ukraine would be wise to lobby Washington DC beyond the abilities of its own diplomatic mission and occasional delegations.

So it comes to pass, and probably due to a Trump presidency almost being upon Ukraine, the national leadership has decided to engage professional lobbyists to champion Ukraine inside “The Beltway”.

That said, whilst Ukraine as a State has taken its time to arrive at this decision, many of the Ukrainian elite have long since lobbied their own causes/interests within DC.


Ms Tymoshenko outspends all others (despite her meager income according to her e-declaration.)

The Ukrainian State has chosen to spend a seemingly meager sum of $50,000 per month having BGR Group strengthen ties between the USA and Ukraine, and further encourage US investment and/or US investors to look at Ukraine.


Not before time, and perhaps only because of who the next US president will be, has Ukraine as a State started to spend money where many of its nefarious elites have done so for years.




The contract would seem to last for the duration of 2017.

Although this is definitely the right policy for the Ukrainian State to engage in – indeed to belatedly engage in – a reader may ponder just what returns can be expected for $600,000 per annum when considering that Ms Tymoshenko spent more than that amount in 2014, that same amount in 2015, and would appear to have very little to show for it – unless her lobbying was intended to insure very little was publicly shown regarding her.

So, what do you get for $600,000 of lobbying inside “The Beltway” (even if leveraged with a cooperative Ukrainian Ambassador and embassy)?  BGR Group and 2017 will provide the answers!


The EU Summit (15th December) & Ukraine

December 14, 2016

The 15th December is the date of the last EU Summit (of European leaders) in 2016.

The agenda is going to be full and no doubt the meeting will be prickly affair.


The agenda sees Ukraine as the lunchtime topic for discussion – and perhaps that is because Ukraine is probably the agenda item least likely to cause indigestion compared to all other items up for discussion.

The day covers (in no particular order) Syria, Russia, sanctions, Brexit, Ukraine, Mr Trump and refugees/migration (and by extension Turkey).  Greek issues apparently do not appear this time – there are only so many hours in a day.

With regard to Ukraine the obvious agenda issues relate to 27 of 28 Member States and the European Parliament ratifying the Association Agreement (and DCFTA) with only The Netherlands outstanding, that and the issue to be finally put to bed sometime in February/March 2017 relating to Visa-free tourism for Ukrainians (on the assumption the European Parliament votes appropriately regarding the “Visa-free suspension mechanism” issue also on 15th December).

The issue with the Dutch Association Agreement is one of optics for the domestic Dutch constituency.  In order for the Dutch to ratify the agreement and finally close the bureaucratic process they insist upon official recognition that in ratifying the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement, it is not a pathway toward EU accession for Ukraine.  Further, they require official recognition that it in no way affords EU guarantees regarding collective security guarantees or obligations to military aid.  Lastly that it does not provide an entitlement (obligation) to financially support Ukraine.

It may appear politically ugly considering that only The Netherlands remains to ratify the agreement and now seeks such official understanding to pacify its domestic electorate, but to be quite clear the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (and DCFTA) offers none of these entitlements/EU obligations toward Ukraine anyway.

Nowhere does the Association Agreement infer, let alone state, that the Association Agreement is a stepping stone toward EU accession.  The clauses regarding defence and security offer no expectations of collective security or obligation to military assistance.  It has always been abundantly clear that any and all financial aid to Ukraine comes with conditionality relating to reform.

There is only one way for Ukraine to formally accede to the EU, and that is to first formally apply, and then go through the Acquis Communautaire 31 (minimum) – 35 (the maximum thus far) chapters therein.

There is no denying that if Ukraine complies with the Association Agreement fully and in its entirety (at best a 10 year process, probably longer at the speed Ukraine is proceeding) that for almost all Acquis chapters it will have traveled perhaps 80% – 85% of that journey in each and every chapter.  However there will be few, if any, where it will have traveled the full distance whereby that Aquis chapter will be then closed.  Ergo there would be a few more years thereafter to complete that process if embarked upon at all.

Indeed perhaps there is a need to better conceptualise the legality and spirit of both the Association Agreement and the Acquis Communautaire in fundamental terms.

The Association Agreement exists for Ukraine (at its own speed – despite some timelines in specific spheres within) to bring European values/governance/processes/standards to Ukraine from “Europe”.  Thus the Association Agreement brings a notional/perceived “Europe” to Ukraine – it does not take Ukraine to the EU.

The Acquis Communautaire is a trial undertaken by nations seeking to accede to the EU.  It is the (only) process that would therefore take Ukraine to the EU.

Thus the AA (and DCFTA) brings “Europe” to Ukraine.  The Acquis takes Ukraine to the EU.

Therefore, as politically ugly and difficult to digest for some the Dutch requirements may be, they actually make no difference to the legalities of the Association Agreement, nor the spirit in which it was negotiated and offered.

Ergo, it can be expected, despite the ugly optics, that the Dutch will get the official recognition that they seek even though some Member States will cringe whilst agreeing.  To get the Association Agreement over the finish line by officially acknowledging what is not contained in the Association Agreement will ultimately be a price paid.

Clearly from the agenda items, the Ukrainian issue is the least likely to put a Member State leader off their luncheon.  For good measure the Brexit issues are to be discussed at evening dinner – after UK Prime Minister Ms May has left the Summit and the building.

In fact Ukraine for once (in the context of AA ratification and the possible mention of Visa-free), may prove to be one of the easiest agenda items.


Savchenko in Minsk

December 12, 2016

As much as this blog was going to avoid comment upon Nadya Savhcenko’s meeting in Minsk with the leaders of the “DNR” Alexandr Zaharchenko, “LNR” Igor Plotnitsky, and Russian interlocutors on 7th December, too many emails, private messages and direct messages have arrived asking for comment that careful and limited comment there will be.

Firstly it has to be recognised that daily Ukrainian soldiers still die on the front lines in eastern Ukraine.  It may well be the case that those on the opposite side also suffer daily fatalities, though no figures are announced daily like those of the Ukrainian military.  Also Minsk, a framework document that has failed to deliver anything approaching a ceasefire (where the fire actually ceases) since its agreement more than 2 years ago and thus remains diplomatically alive only in the absence of any alternative – and indeed that alternative may actually be worse than continuing with the sham of Minsk.

However, at the very least, those freed following negotiations under Minsk will not consider the process a complete failure when their very freedom comes as a result.

Nevertheless it cannot be claimed that the process has been anything other than a failure in the eyes of many.


Having met Nadya Savchenko a few times (the last time in June), with regard to her character of the many insights gleaned, and for the purposes of this entry, it is sufficient to note her strong willed personality – so strong that being an “institutional and/or team player” would clearly be secondary.  These character traits alone, as an entry from May made very clear, are not those particularly welcome within the Batkivshchyna Party.

Those personality traits and the fact that as a parliamentarian she has absolute immunity (and impunity) with regard the law, has the potential for some to be somewhat wary of unpredictable and or predictable but unstoppable acts.  (She can, as all other parliamentarians, do what she likes, when she likes, and without (immediate) legal repercussions until such time as parliamentary immunity is lifted by the Verkhovna Rada or her mandate expires.)

Ergo how and who could stop Nadya Savchenko from going to Minsk (other than Belarus)?

Nevertheless, there is such a thing as party discipline and Yulia Tymoshenko cannot afford to be seen as a weak leader of what is in effect nothing more than a Batkivshchyna Party that is political vehicle solely for promoting Yulia Tymoshenko.

Indeed, of Nadya Savchenko’s Minsk adventure, Batkivshchyna have stated they “consider unacceptable any negotiations with the leaders of “DNR” and “LC” and MP N.Savchenko did not coordinate her actions with the factions and parties, and has recently announced her participation in the new political project.”

That said, she is a member of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party, and has unquestionably gone against the party line that is repeatedly and unambiguously on record.  The “distancing” in the above Batkivshchyna statement is not the same thing as party discipline, nor instigating disciplinary measures within the party for such a blatant departure from the party line.

However, to remove her from the party having been elected upon the party list (as No1 before Yulia Tymoshenko due to populist electioneering when Ms Savchenko was still incarcerated in Russia) opens the way for Ms Savchenko to lose her parliamentary status (as happened to former parliamentarians Mykola Tomenko and Igor Firsov per Article 81 of the Constitution).

The expected and inevitable dilemma for Ms Tymoshenko (foreseen in the May entry linked above) as to just how much she will allow herself (and Batkivshchyna) to be tarred with the undisciplined Ms Savchenko brush once again presents itself.

Dilemma!  What political cost to dealing with Ms Savchenko’s disregard for the party line by disciplinary measures, vis a vis looking weak for not doing so?

Further the SBU is now playing catch up – Yuri Tandit of the SBU making clear that they are now collecting and collating information regarding the Minsk meetings of Nadya Savchenko after the fact.

Nevertheless what’s done is done – and may well happen again (and again).

Ms Savchenko justifies her trip by stating “We must do our best, each of us, to take our heroes home even if we will have to pay those who shoot at us”, saying of President Poroshenko “He, like all of us, wants to pick up our children from captivity and the political prisoners from of Russia.  I am confident that the president on his level of doing everything possible to make this happen as quickly as possible.”

Well fair enough – or is it?

Why shouldn’t she do what she thinks she can?

Putting aside the issue of ugly optics and being seen to be negotiating with the public faces and “leaders” of the “Republics” directly (rather than indirectly and through “channels” as is standard fare, and for good reason of “legitimising” the other parties) there are issues of both her legitimacy and also wider coordination.  (That she has done this at the very least may now make her a “useful idiot” in a wider Kremlin secret service operation.)

And it is perhaps coordination that matters the most.

Ms Savchenko states that she traveled to Minsk on her personal Ukrainian passport and not her diplomatic passport.  Whether or not this is meant to infer a personal and not “official Nadya Savchenko MP” dialogue with the “leaders” of the “Republics” is a matter of perception.  As such, when it comes to framing, were any “negotiations” unofficially official (though they appear unsanctioned officially or tacitly), or were they officially unofficial to which any “negotiation” (whether it may or may not reap results) raises the question of what was “given” and “taken” in that negotiation and the ability, particularly by Ms Savchenko, to deliver thereafter.

Perhaps yet more problematic is that it may well be that this becomes a channel or negotiating format of choice for one side but not the other – thus undermining the negotiating formats that are already accepted and working.  Differences between official and unofficial channels may very well complicate matters further and also be deliberately used to frustrate progress by any party concerned in negotiations when those differences are exploited.  The potential nightmare scenario may arise where with insufficient care and coordination there is a real possibility that due to deliberate, or unintentional, mishandling of negotiations, those detained could be held for far longer than would otherwise have been the case.

If this was indeed a personal pilgrimage (well meaning as it may have been) there are real risks as well as potential rewards as a result.


Whatever was negotiated and/or agreed may actually be counterproductive to any (or all recent progress) by the officially nominated trilateral groups.  Indeed it may be that an individual uncoordinated effort with such a focus on a specific issue distorts or blinds to the wider negotiating policy repercussions both in the immediate and longer term.

Further, even if Ms Savchenko’s personal and seemingly unofficial interjection delivers any much welcomed prisoner releases, that does not necessarily mean political gains for Ms Savchenko in the long term.  Many of her actions and statements have already raised red flags in some quarters in Ukraine – for her to succeed swiftly where 2 years of negotiations where heavyweights the like the OSCE, Messrs Kuchma and Gryzlov et al have delivered little, may raise as many (if not more) red flags as it would potential voters.

Time will tell how this plays out for Ms Savchenko, how Batkicshchyna (Ms Tymoshenko) deal with this, how much the SBU and the official negotiators will learn of the “negotiations” (and as importantly the resulting interpretations of all those present), and perhaps most critically for those already working so hard to release, whether there will be results within the parameters they have been asked to remain within.

Perhaps, considering the high profile Ms Savchenko has, what a reader may ponder most is that if Ukraine felt she was the most suitable of people to be directly involved in such negotiations then she most certainly would be – and that she isn’t may well say all that needs to be said.


Normandy Four – 19th October

October 12, 2016

Having not mentioned the “Minsk document” for some time, and on the last occasion being/remaining somewhat dismissive, the Normandy Four will meet in Berlin on 19th October.

That the meeting occurs when President Putin was originally due to be in Paris (opening a new Russian Orthodox Church among other things) boils down to the fact that France accused the Kremlin of war crimes in Syria and wanted the bilateral agenda to focus accordingly – an agenda which President Putin was not going to accept.  Thus the Paris trip was called off and the 19th October witnesses a gathering of the Normandy Four to discuss The Kremlin’s denied war in eastern Ukraine.


That said it seems unlikely that President Putin would head to Berlin and a Normandy Four meeting without something to talk about – and The Kremlin will only talk if it believes that its agenda upon its terms will be furthered.

The options for his attending may be one of PR for domestic (and certain foreign) audiences turning out to be nothing more than a photo op to belie the impression of isolation and/or complete belligerence but that seems less likely than there being something to talk about (on Kremlin terms).

It may also be that the Kremlin thinking is that it is overdue another round of “make it, break it, counter-accuse” negotiation made in bad faith.

Kremlin momentum is currently behind forcing Ukraine to adopt an election law for the occupied territories prior to Ukraine regaining control over its borders.  Both Germany and France whose diplomats have hardly gained any concessions from The Kremlin in more than 2 years of talks seem to have decided that when faced with a belligerent Kremlin it is far easier to press Ukraine to therefore meet Kremlin terms with regard to Minsk event scheduling.

A reader may perceive this (rightly) to be a reflection of the problem of handing policy to diplomats who instinctively want to talk (and prize contacts highly) whilst simultaneously displaying an unwavering and almost principled refusal to learn from experience when it comes to interaction with the current Kremlin.

The out-going US Administration with only 2 months left in office also seems to suffer the same western diplomatic stubbornness when it comes to refusing to accept that the only terms acceptable to The Kremlin are its own – particularly in what it still firmly believes to be its rightful and indisputable sphere of influence.

It is also a US Administration that would like to leave office with something of a foreign policy gain to hand on to those that will follow.

As such this twilight US Administration is going to be tempted to also quietly push Ukraine toward the Kremlin terms regarding the adoption of an election law for the occupied Donbas – even if the US political class more broadly is far more unlikely to agree with such maneuvering in accordance with Kremlin terms.  After all, officially the US is not involved in the “Minsk document” or associated negotiations, so the ability to blame Paris, Berlin, Moscow or Kyiv for any failures to solutions it may quietly push exists and may blunt wider US political unease at such a strategy.

Ukraine for its part has actually managed to defend its current diplomatic position for more than a year when it comes to a ceasefire actually commencing and in which the fire actually ceases, the verified removal of Kremlin personnel and weaponry, and the regaining of control over its borders occur before passing election laws and establishing the conditions of holding free and fair elections.

At no point during the past two years has The Kremlin actually bothered to progress “Minsk” issues over which it has control.  To be entirely blunt, the immediate future and beyond also provides little reason for the Kremlin to seriously pursue doing so either.

Further, The Kremlin’s “conversation” with the current US Administration is over – unless that conversation relates to unilateral US concessions, either directly (Syria) or by influence over third parties (Ukraine), to Kremlin interests.  Both existing and new levers will currently be being prepared for use upon the in-coming US Administration in the New Year.  Kremlin contempt for the current US Administration is crystal clear.

A reader may therefore ponder the content of any on-going Surkov-Nuland diplomacy with regard to Ukraine.  It seems unlikely that they would be unambiguously to the benefit of the Ukrainian State if any negotiating ground is to be given to The Kremlin that forces the order of “Minsk” implementation per a Kremlin list of priorities.

The 19th October therefore may be a severe test of the Ukrainian position if “progress at any cost” tops the German, French, Russian and behind the curtain US agenda – for “any cost” will be borne by President Poroshenko who is eyeing ever-poor popularity figures while already positioning for a run at a second term.

If the assumptions described above are even halfway accurate and Ukraine is forced to cede to a Kremlin led Minsk implementation timetable (which The Kremlin probably wouldn’t fulfill on its part), what wiggle room is available to the Ukrainians regarding any proposed law that would stand even the remotest chance of getting through a Verkhovna Rada vote?

(A reader will note that this is a statutory law requiring 226 majority rather than any Constitution changing vote that will simply not see the required 300+ votes no matter how much money or coercion was offered to vote “the right way” to amend the basic law of the land.)

Firstly the Ukrainian State and any “special” statutory electoral legislation has to try to avoid stating a definitive date around which circumstances can and will be manipulated.  Rather, it may be prudent to consider a definitive set of circumstances that automatically trigger the election date.

A definitive set of circumstances may include a consolidating and verifiable time period based upon an absolute and verified ceasefire.  For example 100 days (or whatever) from a complete and strictly observed ceasefire becomes election day.  Any breach of ceasefire resets that clock.

During the electioneering Ukrainian and international media has full and free access to the occupied Donbas.  Should that freedom be curtailed, the 100 day clock is reset.

International election observers have unconditional access during the electioneering period, on election day, and during vote counts – which in turn demands a security environment that facilitates such freedoms.  Any failure resets the election day clock.

Who can actually vote needs to be unambiguously stated.  Perhaps only those voters registered in the occupied territories on 1st January 2014 in order to avoid “constituency stuffing”.  IDPs wherever their location, if registered as a genuine resident upon any specified historical registered voter date will need to be afforded the maximum opportunity to vote – be they displaced within Ukraine or have left for other nations (including Russia).

In short it could be possible to write an election law that may possibly be forced, coerced and bought through the Verkhovna Rada and that possess enough “snap-back clauses” to prevent a volatile reaction among the more militant of Ukrainians, and which would also avoid the most serious of political damage within the majority of the Ukrainian constituency.

Naturally the Kremlin would not be keen on such a law, but it may be enough to appease the “friends of Ukraine” all of whom have domestic political reasons to push the Minsk timetable and proclaim “successes” no matter how small, and yet avoid being perceived to cave into the Kremlin.

(For the sake of sarcasm – Alternatively, following the experience of the Budapest Memorandum, perhaps Ukraine should agree to a Kremlin timetable only and exclusively under the explicit guarantee (not assurances or other woolly terminology) from Berlin, Paris and Washington that should the Kremlin fail to abide, a very specific set of actions would occur.  Naturally none would agree to providing such guarantees when there is no trust in the current Kremlin – so why should Ukraine be any more trusting?)

As 19th October is unlikely to be a PR exercise for President Putin, and neither is any pretense at being constructive likely to seriously influence western capitals regarding sanctions or increased top level interaction, there is probably something else that brings President Putin to the Normandy Four gathering.  Thus questions as to what degree of further concessions and/or appeasement does he expect, what if any will be given with regard to and/or by Ukraine, and what is the substance of any Surkov-Nuland deals behind the curtain?

Will there be another Normandy Four meeting before the year end?

If so will there be yet another official rolling over of “Minsk” as there was last year?  Will somebody within the EU see any wisdom in loosening the rhetoric that ties sanctions to “Minsk” if its rolling over is not to occur but it is instead finally pronounced dead?  Do such sanctions die if “Minsk” to which they are consistently rhetorically tied dies?


Opposition Block on the western media offensive?

September 25, 2016

A recent article in The Guardian written by Vadim Novinsky has ruffled some feathers, not necessarily among the Ukrainian ruling elite, but among the Ukraine watchers, academics, diplomatic corps,  think-tanks et al.

Anders Umland making the comment “This is the second dubious publication by a former Yanukovych man in a major Western outlet after a recent article of Liovochkin in POLITICO.  Critique of corruption and bigotry in Ukraine is necessary.  But super rich former members of an oligarchic kleptocratic authoritarian regime like Novinsky or Liovochkin are the last to have a right to do so.  Why do you not publish an article about the lack of democracy in Africa written by Mugabe, The Guardian POLITICO Magazine?  Or are you against democracy in Africa?”

A statement that in sum highlights that objectivity is giving all a fair hearing. It does not equate to false moral equivalence.

Firstly, while no comment will be made about the authorship of the Sergei Liovochkin piece in POLITICO, most assuredly Vadim Novinsky did not write the piece for The Guardian, albeit he is the named author.

The Guardian piece was ghost written and published under Vadim Novinsky’s name.  It was written by Oleg Voloshin, a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs employee who is clearly willing to employ the literary skills and disciplines of diplomatic training and experience for the Novinsky coin and/or Opposition Block coin.

So be it.  There is a market for well thought out, deftly framed, ghost written public communication,  particularly by those exceptionally sullied by past and current deeds – such as Messrs Novinsky and Liovochkin.

A reader may ponder perhaps why the articles were not placed under Yuri Boiko’s name being the official head of the Opposition Block faction.

Equally worthy of consideration is that aside from the diplomats, academics, pro-Kremlin politicians, and assorted variously flavoured think tanks, it really doesn’t make much difference if Mr Voloshin or Mr Novinsky, or Mr Liovochkin, (or Mr Boiko) are named as author for the article published in The Guardian – none of the British public have any clue whatsoever who any of these men are, or indeed what the Opposition Block is made of, stands for, or would do if returned power.  The British public had little interest in Ukraine pre-Brexit and have even less post-Brexit.

The UK public could not tell you what interests the UK has in Ukraine, what public money is spent on here, how much, (and whether it is bilateral or via the soon to be exited EU), or for why.

Between the football season starting, Brexit, and whichever celebrity has been caught in a photograph doing something “risky” or “silly”, there is little interest in Ukraine among the UK hoi polloi.  Therefore the audience for these articles is not the average UK citizen (or indeed the average English speaking citizen).

Nevertheless these articles, appearing within a week of each other, are simply not “noise” but “signal”.  More of the same seems certain to appear.  The question is what do they signal?


Having discounted them as being simply the usual disinformation, misinformation, half truth, half story propaganda noise – are they part of an influence operation??  If so, are they part of an Opposition Block influence operation, or that of The Kremlin – for neither article mentions Russia whatsoever (perhaps wisely considering it has just had its equivalent to its MH17 moment when bombing the UN convoy in Syria a few days ago).  Neither do the ties to Moscow that both (named) authors possess become apparent.  Nevertheless with the deliberate omission of mentioning Russia, neither article do the Kremlin narrative any harm (unsurprisingly).

To be blunt, although it does the Kremlin narrative no harm, and it may well be something The Kremlin co-opts along the way, it seems much more probable that it is an Oppo Block inspired attempt at an influence operation..

If that is true however, to what end?

If it is an Oppo Block influence op, then why isn’t it Yuri Boiko’s name on The Guardian piece rather than Mr Novinsky?  Surely the officially recognised leader would be the name to promote?

Mr Liovochkin rightly complaining in POLITICO about the criminality surrounding the Inter incident is understandable as a co-owner (even if more than a little hypocritical for a man that was Head of the Presidential Administration of Viktor Yanukovych when journalists were regularly beaten (and worse) around Ukraine).

(An outline of the criminal incident and also dubious internal workings of Inter has previously been written.)

Neither article however, places much emphasis upon the Oppo Block, and neither “author” really claim to be writing on behalf of the party.

As recently stated, Mykola Skoryk of the Oppo Block is likely to see his parliamentary immunity removed next week – perhaps somewhat ironically in connection with the beating of journalists and demonstrators in Odessa on 19th February 2014.

After Mr Skoryk, Mr Novinsky, the “author” of the Guardian piece is quite likely to soon top the parliamentary immunity stripping list having been accused of assaulting and threatening the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarch.  Mr Novinsky is a firm adherent of the Moscow Patriarchy and finds the Ukrainian Patriarchy bid for autocephaly nothing short of scandalous (not to mention it would seriously reduce Moscow’s influence through “the church” and cost the Moscow Patriarchy a lot of  Ukrainian souls, earthly riches and property).  Indeed he partly funded a Moscow Patriarchy “Peace March” that was widely perceived by the Ukrainian constituency as a Kremlin influence operation – which it was.

(Few will doubt both Germany and France being subject to Kremlin influence operations in 2017.)

Rumour also circulates that Mr Novinsky may be stripped of the Ukrainian citizenship granted to him by former President Yanukovych (for (dubious) services to Ukraine), leaving him to rely upon his natural Russian citizenship and a hope that he will not be swiftly persona non grata (PNG) from Ukraine thereafter.

Mr Liovochkin is unlikely to face the same chances of prison (or being found guilty in absentia) or ejected from the country, but perhaps will see if not Inter taken off air soon, then broadcasting licence problems when it is due for renewal – an unquestionable disaster for the Oppo Block that projects its propaganda from the Inter platform.

Therefore if the UK (and English speaking) hoi polloi are not the target audience in this influence operation, it has not yet been co-opted by The Kremlin, and the article content doesn’t really promote Oppo Block positions,  then the journalists, diplomats, academics, think tanks, and political class that will take notice must be the target.

The articles therefore can possibly be considered as preparatory media plants that pre-frame “persecution” in relation to the foreseen events specifically surrounding these two men/”authors”.  He/she that frames first and robustly often wins the argument.

It is clear that these articles are not (coincidental) random noise generated by the Oppo Block to simply undermine the current authorities (despite some valid points albeit deliberately lacking more holistic optics) or to promote the “party position”.

Will this influence operation be sufficient to dissuade the above predicted domestic action against them in Ukraine (probably not), or alternatively generate “international concern” when their “persecution” begins and the “persecuted” claim “told you so”?

(They will be able to join the likes of Messrs Martynenko (formerly People’s Front) and  Onyshchenko (Ms Tymoshenko’s financial sponsor) on the self-proclaimed “unfairly persecuted list” – hopefully to be joined by others such as the ever-more nefarious Messrs Nasirov, Pashinsky and Kononenko one day soon.)

Perhaps the question for the immediate future is where the next article of similar theme will be published, or whether the Ukrainian authorities strike first.


Ukraine and the IMF – Where are we at?

July 15, 2016

Firstly a disclaimer.  Despite suffering several years of economics lectures during one of the degrees held by this blog, and therefore having been exposed to some level of economic theory, it was dull.  It was a labour to gain the credits at a high enough level as not to adversely effect the overall outcome of the Degree grade.  Compared to other subject matter within that degree curriculum economics was the most tedious – albeit not the most intellectually difficult to grasp.

(Surprisingly all the economic attachés since met and spoken with, none have been dull or have resulted in laboured discussion.  Perhaps the lack of intellectual stimulation was therefore due to the (now long-since retired) lecturer in question.  Perhaps not, perhaps it really is dull.)

Whatever the case, the following entry is written with those in mind who find economics less than stimulating.  In fact it relates less to economics and more to politics, policy, and official obligations undertaken – with a little bit of economics.

The (most recent and on-going) IMF programme with Ukraine witnessed a suspension of tranches due to the political turmoil surrounding the lead up to, and subsequent departure of Arseniy Yatseniuk as Prime Minister.  The installation of Prime Minister Groisman and a new Cabinet may or may not have calmed the political seas from an IMF point of view.  We will soon see if the programme restarts very soon.

Much will depend upon how the IMF see the chances of future survival for PM Groisman and Cabinet vis a vis calls from various parts of the political spectrum for early Verkhovna Rada elections – for there are agreement obligations to deliver.  It is no coincidence that PM Groisman has begun a public political offensive against the populists – and in particular against Ms Tymoshenko who repeatedly claims she “knows how to negotiate with the IMF, she’s done it before“.

Indeed she has – below is a document outlining her agreement with the IMF in 2008:





The document shows that with respect to ending subsidies, depoliticising rates calculations, unifying prices of domestically produced and imported gas (which forces out the nefarious schemes), and protecting the socially vulnerable groups, Ms Tymoshenko agreed to carry out the exact same policy as PM Groisman and current Cabinet are doing now regarding energy and utilities pricing – except Ms Tymoshenko broke the agreement when it came time to implement her promises and after having received some of the IMF funding.

As is always the case with Ms Tymoshenko, be you a Ukrainian politician or an international partner, it is foolish (beyond naive) to expect Ms Tymoshenko to honour her obligations.

A reader may ponder whether the issue of Ms Tymoshenko’s gas deal with Mr Putin, which agreed what was probably the highest ever price for gas in Ukrainian history, will also – chapter and verse – be used against her current populist nonsense in the coming months.  It’s not as though such documented ammunition is unavailable or forgotten about.

Indeed Mr Groisman may yet take a deliberate path of fulfilling many of Ms Tymoshenko’s old political statements/promises that she herself failed to do.  A “she talked it years ago (here’s the proof) – I walked it today because she never did” tactic.

However, recent IMF history aside, whether or not the next, delayed, IMF tranche to Ukraine under the current agreement will appear any time soon remains unknown.

Much legislative time was lost during the eviction of Mr Yatseniuk and installation of Mr Groisman.  Some IMF required legislation has passed per the existing agreement – although not all – and the Verkhovna Rada from 15th July to 6th September is now effectively on legislative holiday.

It is anticipated that on or about 25th July the IMF will make a decision to deliver the next tranche to Ukraine – or not.


In early April this year, at the Odessa Security Conference, a Deputy Finance Minster was present.  During a chat it became clear that this Deputy Minister did not expect all such IMF required legislation to be passed swiftly – not solely due to the situation then surrounding the position of PM, but also owing to the fact that Ukraine was in a far better position than expected at that time (and still is).  With reserves that could last 3 or 4 months and slowly rising, there would be insufficient desire among the parliamentarians to fulfill their obligations until those reserves started to be burned through absent the IMF funding.

In summary, no rush with IMF required legislation due to the attitudes and culture of Ukrainian parliamentarians – one of manyana/just in time/just enough.  Prophetic this Deputy Minister has proven to be – not all obligations within the agreement have been met yet, and probably in part due to the reasoning of this Deputy Minister.

Has the Ukrainian parliament done enough to continue to enjoy the confidence of the IMF?  Probably, but not definitely.

If it has failed to do enough it is not a catastrophe for Ukraine given its current situation, but it is certainly not good either – and for reasons that have little to do with the national balance sheet.

The current, albeit small economic bounce having hit the bottom of the economic pit is not yet over – although the question of maintaining the upward trajectory throughout 2017 and beyond remains large.  Agricultural and IT sectors seem likely to be the drivers for export growth and also the most attractive sectors for FDI.  Other primarily export sectors are at the whim of the global commodities market, which is not exactly overflowing with demand.

The problem with not achieving a return to IMF lending is one of confidence – both internally of Ukraine and also that of those considering investing in Ukraine.

Internally of Ukraine the IMF tranche immediately reduces “safety net” concerns fiscally – which also has a psychological effect upon the domestic constituency.

Externally regarding FDI, it probably would have little effect upon the major, slowly unrolling, investments by Japan, China, US, UK etc that have already begun.  However the IMF matters when it comes to decisions by other institutions such as the World Bank or the EBRD.  Their actions in turn influence those still considering Ukraine but have not yet made a decision.  No return by the IMF will be interpreted as Ukraine failing (once again) to fulfill its obligations with a major international institution.

Ergo, should the IMF decide Ukraine has done too little, without a dramatic, almost force majeure change in current circumstance, fiscal and economic collapse will not immediately follow, perhaps delayed for as long as 6 months or more – giving the Ukrainian parliamentarians a fairly leisurely timeline to correct their manyana attitude toward their responsibilities that allow Ukraine to meet its national obligations.

The same cannot be said when it comes to the perception of trust and the willingness to meet actively all obligations entered into – for that timeline is a real time timeline for a nation like Ukraine which has “trust/confidence credits” that are only as good as the last commitment and/or obligation it  has met.


NATO Warsaw 2016 – What does a “good result” for Ukraine look like?

July 4, 2016

With the NATO Summit in Warsaw now upon its Members (and partners), and with clear eyes noting the numerous issues facing the organisation and the Member States that form its constituent parts, be those issues coming from Russia, MENA, from cyberspace, or climate issues and its repercussions (to name but the most obvious) it is perhaps worth pondering what constitutes a “good result” for Ukraine.

Putting aside fanciful rhetoric of actual membership in the near future (if ever) there are certain possibilities and opportunities that with far less political will than that required regarding membership (in the near future, if ever) are worthy of pursuit – even if Warsaw 2016 be the official or unofficial platform from whence such goals, policies and strategies begin (or are further developed).

So what does a “good result” for Ukraine look like?  (Apart from more US anti-battery radar systems and assorted high-tech kit.)  Most will have their own ideas of what a “good result” would be, so here are a few thoughts that would/should/could fall within the limits of (wildest) expectation and acceptance by both parties.

It is already clear that Ukraine still blips brightly upon the NATO radar – even if it is not entirely clear where NATO “Ukraine policy” ends and NATO “Russia policy” begins.  Perhaps there is a necessarily (or deliberately – “strategic ambiguity” and all that) smudged line/overlap in places.


Whatever the case, Ukraine gets a top table one to one with NATO leaders on 9th July – a propaganda result in and of itself (be the tangible outcome good, bad or indifferent).

It is also almost assuredly going to be the recipient of a package of NATO political and practical assistance.  Clearly the support thus far given with regard to capability development, defence restructuring, continued training and advice (both military and civilian), and progress toward universally meeting the most basic of NATO standards will continue.

As assuredly the repeated yet necessary rhetoric regarding the unequivocal support for, and recognition of, Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity will continue – and be clearly orated.  No doubt there will be mention of Minsk, but hopefully not one that overshadows or dilutes the unequivocal support for, and recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in and of itself (with or without Minsk).

Specific NATO trust funds (hopefully under NATO administration) will be announced for various issues (Vets care etc) as well as future assistance in dealing with IEDs/war remnants, strategic communications, more non-lethal aid et al.

So far, so predictable – but not necessarily a “good result”.

However, having mentioned the prospect of (highly unlikely) NATO membership, it is perhaps time that the NATO Members actually made a decision with real meaning behind it regarding further NATO membership (regardless of what the Washington/North Atlantic Treaty actually says).

Ukraine, despite any rhetoric to the contrary, is at least a decade away from meeting the most basic of NATO standards in a holistic manner (and despite PM Groisman’s statements that he believes the nation will be within the EU in a decade, that certainly wont happen either – due to EU budgetary cycles and nations like France who will not want to see a lot more “Eastern European” MEPs contesting with “Club Med” MEPs, if for no other reasons).  Indeed perhaps Ukraine is further away from NATO standards than a decade considering the sound and sensible advice it has already received – and occasionally ignored.  (Take the stop-start policy of numerically large, and thus poorly prepared and trained mobilisation/demobilisation it continues to pursue, against the advice given regarding a rolling mobilisation/demobilisation in smaller yet better trained numbers as one very basic example of several when it comes to ignoring the advice it asks for.)

Nevertheless, weak and non-committal NATO “open door policy” statements are little use to anybody.  A definitive “Yes the door is open when you make the grade”, or equally explicit “No the door is not open for Membership whether you make the grade or not – but this is unquestionably on offer if you do” is now approaching something of a policy necessity – particularly when Georgia is there or thereabouts when it comes to making the NATO grade.

It is perhaps time the NATO Members made very clear the prospects (or almost certainly lack thereof) for NATO Membership.  If Montenegro, and perhaps Macedonia if it can settle its “name” issue with Greece, together with a few Balkan nations are to be the final membership count, then that should be made clear – whether it rubs against the text of the NATO Founding Treaty or not.

There are however anchors that Ukraine can drop solidly into the NATO waters that both partners can and perhaps should pursue sensibly – but also in earnest.  For all the West looks in at Ukraine, and Ukraine (to varying degrees examines itself), it also seeks an opportunity to do something practical and tangible externally to assist those that currently assist it quid pro quo,  and to project itself beyond its borders and UN physical commitments.

Perhaps those practical and tangible opportunities should be offered.

As written within entries past, the convergence between espionage, sabotage, organised crime and terrorism within cyberspace is increasing.  It is reaching a point where it can be difficult to tell espionage from sabotage until sometime after the fact (deliberately leaving delayed “nasties” in the system far beyond intelligence gathering).  Likewise organised crime becomes a funding revenue stream for terrorism, increasingly on-line.  There is certainly significant room for a far closer and integrated partnership considering the clear cyber-convergence trend and overlaps for all things illicit in the grubbier parts of the dark net.

There is certainly a common interest and possibilities for dedicated and prolonged Ukrainian participation in the Romanian led call for a NATO Black Sea presence – a legacy of an increasingly militarised Crimea.  As suffering as the Ukrainian Navy currently is, as yesterday’s entry infers, there is also the scope for its inclusion in any NATO and EU efforts with MENA migration on the open seas too.  It would go some way toward Ukraine meeting its new obligations toward the EU CSDP, increase interoperability with NATO, and enhance the necessary deepening of relations with Romania.  (Warsaw being the other vital capitol to deepen ties with in the neighbourhood when it comes to understanding shared threats.)

It is not all a one way street either.  Ukraine has hard earned experience of front line Russian led warfare to share.  It has experience of Russian equipment limitations and weaknesses.  It has experience of Kremlin led warfare against it in cyberspace (including infrastructure disabling), social manipulation, disinformation on a colossal scale (its domestic effects and effective counters), of continued and continuing infiltration, of agent provocateur and “Potemkin destabilising projects” etc., etc.

Significant and unambiguous steps toward clarifying and/or participating in all of the above during Warsaw 2016?  Now that would be a “good result” for Ukraine.


Honorary (or not so honourable) diplomacy – Odessa

April 18, 2016

Odessa has approximately 30 consulates sprinkled around the city, with more nations deciding it is a city worthy of a presence.

By far the biggest (and rather splendid) consulate in Odessa is that of China, the most modern looking is that of Poland, the most imposing that of Russia (atop a hill overlooking Arcadia), with the majority situated in aesthetically pleasing Viennese styled buildings in and around the city centre.

The most visible of the resident professional diplomatic corps socially are Turkey, Greece, Georgia and Armenia, the consuls (and staff) to be found enjoying Odessa’s cosmopolitan and numerous restaurants almost daily.

There is an Odessa Diplomatic Club that meets fairly frequently at the encouragement of Konstantin Rzhepishevsky, head of the Odessa Ministry of Foreign Affairs – and decade plus friend of this blog.

It has to be said the Odessa Diplomatic Club is rather fun having attended a few gatherings.  It is always interesting to see who is particularly friendly with who, and listen to the gossip – albeit nothing beats one to one “chats”.

The Odessa diplomatic scene, no differently to many outside of capital cities, is predominantly composed of professional diplomats, but it also includes a reasonable number of Honorary Consuls.

Honorary Consuls are not professional diplomats, and are usually foreign citizens living and working in the host country, paying taxes therein, whilst simultaneously representing their native country on a voluntary (or at least non-salaried) basis.  There may be a few expenses covered such as “Honorary” business cards and ad hoc taxi fares occasionally, but that is as far as it goes for many “honorary” title holders.

The criteria set for having an honorary consul varies from nation to nation.  Some nations simply do not entertain having them.  Others, such as the UK, go through cycles where honorary consuls are in fashion – or not.  (Indeed this blog many, many years ago was approached and asked if acting in such a role for the UK would be possible – but they went out of fashion once again and that was that.)


There are also issues of what interest, if any, does a nation have in a city where they feel it necessary to have a visible, official presence, but insufficient to have a professional diplomatic presence outside of a national capital.  Is it based on the number of their nationals within that city?  On the level of existing or proposed investment?  Is it that a particular city is deemed strategic enough, or otherwise important enough that a low cost, yet overt and official presence is somehow justified if none of the usual reasons apply?

Whilst there are naturally good reasons for having (cheap) official “diplomatic” representation in far flung, but nevertheless important regions and cities outside national capitals (in certain nations and for certain nations), there are also potential problems.

There are certainly some “colourful characters” acting as honorary consuls for certain nations in Odessa – nations from both Europe and MENA.  Certain individuals seem to use their “honorary” status as a veneer of respectability to put a gloss upon some questionable business activities.  Indeed their “seasonal gifts” can be of a value far exceeding that which would certainly require either refusal or declaration by most professional diplomats if they be accepted.

Indeed so “colourful” are these particular bottom-feeding honorary consuls that Long Term Election Observers (LTOs) that have met them in their roaming, necessarily liaising with candidates and “the local enlightened” during the regular election campaigns, have commented to this blog regarding their lack of integrity.

Yet there are also those that wear the “honorary” title with, well honour, and who assume their positions responsibly as solid citizens representing their nation in good faith and with unquestioned morality, befitting of their professional counterpart’s ethic.

The long-serving German Honorary Consul,  Alexander Kifaku, for decades a practicing lawyer of wholesome repute in Odessa, on 18th April kept the “honour” in “honorary”.

He is about to purchase UAH 30,000,000 ($1.2 million) worth of land (and the property that sits thereon) around the city.  (Specifically 1 hectare of warehousing on Motornaya, 1.45 hectares of land on Proselochmaya, 0.2 hectares on Kanatnaya, 0.3 hectares on Marshalla Zhovokva, 05 hectares on Lustdorf, and 0.2 hectares on Chapeyev.)

He has chosen, though it be entirely unnecessary to do so, to make such information very public himself – perhaps (or indeed probably) to insure that the City Hall/Administration can do nothing opaque or nefarious involving himself, and thus avoiding the potential of an entirely unnecessary stain upon Germany by inference.

Quite wise.

After all, arguably the only honour to be found within City Hall is honour among thieves, and thus caveat emptor applies to reputation as well as purchase.

%d bloggers like this: