Posts Tagged ‘Romania’

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Romania to spend €43.5 billion on infrastructure – Anybody in Odessa know?

September 15, 2016

Although it becomes wearisome to continually state that Kyiv has to radically improve its relations and communication primarily with Warsaw and Bucharest in the immediate neighbourhood, it is once again stated.

15th September witnessed Romanian Transport Minister Sorin Buse unveil an infrastructure master plan for Romania between now and 2030.  A total of €43.5 billion will be spent on roads, railways, airports, ports etc.

Sorin Buse

Sorin Buse

The reason for this huge investment?  The fact that Romania is consistently losing significant inward investment from EU manufacturers due to poor infrastructure – or at least that is what the EU manufacturers are consistently telling Government Romania.

With regard to the investment into roads and rail specifically, for there is a clear interest insofar as Odessa is concerned, 6800 kilometers of new roads and 5000 kilometers of rail modernisation is planned within Romania.

Most of this new and revamped infrastructure will naturally head from Romania toward neighbouring EU nations in order to remove/mitigate the current hurdles to inward EU manufacturing investment in Romania.

However the political leadership in Odessa (and/or Ukraine) may be wise to pay a visit to their Romanian counterparts (something they simply do not do enough of anyway) considering the previously mentioned Odessa-Reni road that is meant to swiftly link Ukraine to Romania, and Odessa ultimately to Bucharest, not withstanding plans to rehabilitate dilapidated rail links between Odessa and Chisinau, ultimately leading to Bucharest and Sophia.

First and foremost, do these routes still feature in the Romanian grand plan for its infrastructure following this announcement?

Does the Romanian grand plan open up any other opportunities as far as Odessa (and Ukraine) is concerned?  Not only road and rail, but ports, airports etc?  Cheap commercial flights?  Air cargo?  Are any of the ports to be modernised situated on the Danube Delta?

In short are there any feasible “bolt on” infrastructure projects that can reasonably be developed on a similar timescale in the Odessa side of the border?

Did anybody in Odessa or Ukraine know about the small matter of a €43.5 billion Romanian infrastructure grand plan next door?

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Floating a new flotilla – The Ukrainian Navy

June 3, 2016

The internal collapse of the USSR by 1991 led to the division of the Crimean based Soviet Black Sea Fleet into The Ukrainian and Russian Federation (Black Sea) Fleets – both remaining based in Crimea.  The 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and its subsequent looting of the Ukrainian Navy ships and related equipment further reduced in size the naval units and their projection capabilities for Ukraine – notwithstanding some losses of personnel of varying experience.

The past 2 years of Russian occupation following the illegal annexation of Crimea has seen the Kremlin increase the military presence on the peninsula changing the defence and security environment for Ukraine – and some NATO members a little further afield.

Indeed nations such as Romania who are directly effected by the increasing militarisation of Crimea by The Kremlin have sought to assemble a permanent NATO naval force in the area, despite NATO ally Turkey remaining by far the largest naval presence in the region.

(A reader should note that much of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet inherited and divided between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, and the subsequent “maintenance” of these fleets by both nations over the decades that followed, left tourists in Crimea surveying a number of rusting hulks amongst the warships and auxiliary vessels year on year.)

The Ukrainian Navy (or what is left of it after looting and/or rusting away) has moved to Odessa.

The increased and energetic cooperation between Ukraine and NATO since the Crimean annexation and war in the nation’s east has more dimensions than to simply see Ukraine holding the line in The Donbas.  There appears to be a qualitative effort at pursuing NATO standards and interoperability – which is no bad thing whether Ukraine ever joins NATO or not when considering any regional “coalitions of the willing” that appear will certainly involve some NATO members.

navy

Last week Ukraine announced that its navy will receive/acquire 30 new vessels by 2020.

This announcement raises many questions – not only that of whether 30 vessels can actually be built/bought and equipped by 2020.

The 30 new vessels, whatever their type, class and operational remits/expectations, will have a predicted working/seafaring life measured in decades.  Therefore it is necessary to question the strategic thinking behind what will be in effect, a new navy.

The threats to Ukraine are abundantly clear at the time of the announcement last week.

Those threats will remain for at least as long as the current Kremlin occupants remain – probably for decades beyond that.  Ukraine (and the West) are engaged in a war of exhaustion with The Kremlin (on many fronts, not just militarily).  The Kremlin is betting it will not  be the first to be politically or militarily exhausted over Ukraine and its future, even if confrontation (in whichever theatre(s) – political, diplomatic, economic, military, espionage, media etc.) has to continue for decades.

It can be reasonably expected that the majority, if not all, of the 30 vessels Ukraine intends to bring into the service of its navy by 2020 (as fanciful as that number may appear on the presumption these vessels are more than canoes) have the sole purpose of countering Kremlin military projection from a reinforced and increasingly offensive (rather than purely defensive) occupied Crimean peninsula.

Ergo it is hoped that not only do these 30 vessels seek to leverage whatever advantages they may be perceived to have over what The Kremlin currently has in occupied Crimea (and the possibilities those assets now provide The Kremlin), but also that those ordering these vessels have one eye upon what The Kremlin could place on the peninsula in the years (indeed decades) ahead.  In short, what capabilities and remit will these vessels have, not only for 2020, but for 2030 and 2040 in order to remain strategically relevant?

What are the relevant weaknesses any Kremlin naval presence has in Crimea?  Do the newly announced vessels adequately exploit those weaknesses now – and will they do so in the future?  If so, for how long into the future?

What role will they effectively play in any Ukrainian military doctrine now – and in the future?

How are they to be used?  Is speed and punch-power far more important than armour and self-defence capability?  Are they primarily to defend Odessa and other Ukrainian ports, or more generally to retain control of Ukrainian waters, or have expeditionary projection ability – such as a number of landing craft, 2 of which have recently been ordered from domestic shipyards?  Are they to be able to do all or any combination thereof?

What of suitability for secondary roles – immigrants, piracy, smuggling patrols, or participation in humanitarian missions during their decades of projected seafaring?

What of technology?  How extensive will technology transfer be between Ukraine and NATO when equipping these vessels?  Compatible communication systems?  Weapons, guidance systems, defensive capabilities?  How seamless the interoperability with NATO members?

What role can these vessels play in any “coalition of the willing” upon the Black Sea (and beyond)?  How well would what will (hopefully) be delivered to the Ukrainian Navy in 2020 fit into any larger international naval force – tactically specific, or strategically?

How do the current Ukrainian civilian and military leadership see Ukraine’s role without (rather than within) the Black Sea regionally?  Is there a projection capability with the new vessels that matches any aspirations  for operations in other waters?

Within the EU Association Agreement, Ukraine has certain ratified obligations regarding the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (should the Europeans ever arrive at a common security and defence policy).  If Ukraine were to offer naval hardware and personnel to the EU (as Ukraine does to the UN with MiG helicopters and pilots) would what is offered be of any use whatsoever?

In short,  on the presumption that the new vessels will meet NATO standards when considering their projected decades of operational sea life, together with robust Ukrainian efforts to move toward NATO standards, it would be extremely foolish to bring into service 30 new vessels that don’t make the grade.

Are these new vessels ordered with tactical shortsightedness, or longsighted strategic vision – or a bit of both?

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The spy in the sky – Romania in Ukrainian airspace

April 24, 2016

The 23rd April saw the 25th anniversary of Hobart Earle as conductor of the Odessa Philharmonic and also Prokofiev’s 125th birthday.  Ergo the evening of 22nd April saw a passionate performance of Rachmaninoff’s 3rd by the fabulous Vazgen Vartanian, followed by the Odessa Philharmonic paying due homage to Prokofiev by way of the Scythian Suite in all its pagan glory.

Such events always draw an erudite and educated audience, among which happened to be the Romanian Consular General.  Such occasions are hardly conducive to a private chat regarding Black Sea security issues, but they are conducive to arranging such things.

Clearly security in and around the Black Sea is a matter that concerns both Ukraine and Romania as well as many others – and naturally Odessa features prominently.

Indeed the Ukrainian President has just returned from an official visit to Bucharest – one of far too few visits.

Undeniably Ukrainian and Romanian relations could and should be far better than they currently are across every sphere of life.  That said the meeting of the two national leaders in Bucharest was not without results – for why meet otherwise?

Long has this blog, albeit occasionally, mentioned the continued espionage activities of Ukraine in Romania and Romania in Ukraine.  There are occasional jailings, such as those in 2010 of two alleged Ukrainian spooks in Romania, but generally such business is carried out as it should be – discreetly.

The Moldavian SIS, Romanian SIE and Ukrainian SBU do what all neighbours do – engage in espionage against each other.  They also do so over common interests, or perhaps better stated, common ground – that of Transnestria – which holds within concerns for them all.

Events after EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and the appearance of Potemkin “Bessarabian” groups in Odessa Oblast hostile to the authorities in Kyiv, Ukrainian unity, and enjoying clear support from the Kremlin and swivel-eyed political loons from Bulgaria and Moldova, are not just a Ukrainian concern.

Both Moldova and Romania will want to poke around within and without such entities and the local communities they seek to influence, as well as remain aware of local Kremlin subterfuge, espionage. This notwithstanding  any military and spook activity within the Transnistrain enclave.

That is the nature of things.  It is to be, and is, expected – particularly so when the SBU as of the time of writing admits to still having only re-vetted about 50% of its staff since Kremlin shenanigans were taken to an entirely new kinetic level in 2013/14 and beyond.

That there remains a significant degree of Kremlin infiltration should be taken for granted.  Indeed after numerous vetting sweeps through all Ukrainian institutions, let alone a half completed sweep of the SBU, it should still be taken for granted that Kremlin infiltration remains.  Infiltration should always be taken for granted.

No doubt the CI people in Romania, Moldova, and all the post-Warsaw Pact nations (and beyond) would admit that they too remain infiltrated by the Kremlin some 25 years after the collapse of the Communist collective space.  Indeed, just because a spook or a spook network may have been identified by CI, it doesn’t mean they will do anything overt or covert about it immediately – if ever.

drone

All of which brings about the recent events surrounding a Romanian Diamond 42 aircraft operating out of Lasi airport carrying out overflights over Transnistria on 4th, 17th and 22nd April, and straying/entering into Ukrainian airspace in doing so.

17th April

17th April

22nd April

22nd April

Ukraine will be aware of the Romanian SIE being particularly active in the south of Odessa Oblast.  The Romanian SIE will know that Ukraine knows too.  This is not an incident as far as either Romania or Ukraine is concerned that will put a strain upon relations.  There will not be major huffing and puffing, nor testosterone induced chest thumping within the Ukrainian intelligence community demanding some form of robust response.

Ukraine has made no public comment regarding these latest incidents, and it is unclear if the Ukrainian air force reacted to such incursions of Ukrainian airspace.

Whether or not diplomatic noises have been made privately who knows?

It may or may not be that Romania will now share any gathered intelligence with Ukraine having seemingly entered Ukrainian airspace uninvited.  Then again, perhaps it was subject to a tacit approval, or an officially blind Ukrainian eye in the expectation of shared intelligence material.  Again, who knows?

More than a year ago the blog, both in writing and at “closed door” round table gatherings began to make reference toward creating a far more robust triangular relationship between Warsaw, Bucharest and Kyiv – for to be blunt, those 3 capitals (with the exception of the Baltic states) hold a particularly sharp view of Kremlin action in Ukraine (and beyond).  Both Bucharest and Warsaw perceive a strong Ukraine as part of a solid defence of their own nations.

Naturally The Kremlin and the quasi-authorities of Transnistria will proclaim “concern”, or perhaps even “alarm” over this incident.

In order to put on a display of displeasure – or not – The Kremlin may decide to recommence the flights of the (officially unarmed) “peacekeeping” helicopter squadron based in Tiraspol, (under Protocol 1 of the July 1992 agreement), the flights of which have long been suspended.

A wandering Russian MiG helicopter from the Transnestrian “peacekeeping squadron” into Ukrainian airspace could have many different consequences, but would have to be met with some sort of official response from Ukraine be it publicly or in private.  Moldova too would have little choice but to react in some official manner should a “peacekeeping” helicopter wander over its territory uninvited.

As yet, not differently to Ukraine, there seems to be no public response from the Kremlin over the incident despite the undoubted lamenting and wailing by those quasi-officials in Tiraspol.

The incident nevertheless perhaps provides yet more weight for the argument that Kyiv and Bucharest should aim to continue to strengthen bilateral communication and cooperation far beyond that envisaged in any current regional or bilateral agreements.  It is surely in the interests of both nations to do so.

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Another international peace format? – Ukraine

August 17, 2015

At the end of last month an entry appeared that briefly mentioned the activities of domestic and foreign intelligence/security agencies active within the Odessa Oblast.

“Further, it gives the Ukrainian SBU, Moldavian SIS and Romanian SIE intelligence services all the more reason to simultaneously be poking about in Mr Cisse’s backyard a little more forcefully/overtly than usual – something that will not sit particularly well for very long.”

Whilst the mention of the Romanian SIE was fleeting, its activities are quite clear for those who care to look.  Romania, after all, has good reason to actively monitor events within Ukraine, and in particular events that are close to its borders – notwithstanding a large number of Romanian passport holders/citizens within Moldova.  A belligerent and truculent Kremlin with a truly dependent vassal in Transnistria is naturally a cause for concern in Bucharest.

Needless to say, relations both security/intelligence and political/diplomatic between Romania and Ukraine have significantly improved since the illegal annexation of Crimea.  It would seem, considering the “blind eye” being turned to SIE activity upon Ukrainian soil, those relations continue to strengthen.

Between 12th and 15th March, Romanian President Iohannis first met then President Komorowski of Poland, and then President Poroshenko (the first visit of a Romanian president to Ukraine for 7 years).  The upshot – “We must increase regional cooperation between Ukraine, Poland and Romania, and create a certain group of solidarity.” – President Iohannis.

To be sure, Romania, Poland and Ukraine (plus Lithuania) have a very clear-eyed understanding of their shared perceived threats – and are the most vocal about them compared to others in the immediate neighbourhood.  These threats it has to be said, are not shared to the same intensity, nor understood to the same degree, by the supranational entities these nations belong to.  Neither the EU nor NATO, consisting of many of the same sovereign parts, see the issues quite the same way as the Poles, Romanians or Lithuanians – not to mention the organisational outsider in both cases, Ukraine (the victim and current front line).

The shared position being to appease or accommodate the current Kremlin is not the answer unless reinforcing a truculent, belligerent, aggressive, unlawful attitude is the desired outcome.  Stand firm now, or stand firm later when the costs and difficulties will be much greater.  In no way should The Kremlin concerns become paramount, thus relegating everybody else’s to much lesser importance – issues your author has written about elsewhere.

It has also come to pass that the PolLitUkr Brigade, an entirely paper entity since its initial floating in 2007, is now a reality headquartered in Poland.  As historical entries relating to the PolLitUkr Brigade have stated – “The assumption by many that two NATO nations creating a brigade with a non-NATO nation would unnecessarily drag NATO into a confrontation with an aggressor against Ukraine is perhaps something of a leap – despite initial appearances.  NATO, like the EU, has no control over the foreign policy of its members – and its members can and do act unilaterally in the militarily sphere without doing so under the NATO flag. “Coalitions of the willing” and all that.”

There are numerous “push” and “pull” forces at work on many levels with regard to the creation of “coalitions of the willing” in the absence of consensus from the broader supranational entities.  The question of continued cohesiveness of the supranational “whole” the most fundamental of those questions.

The most ferociously guarded sovereign spheres within the EU by Member States are those of foreign policy and defence – hence the much (and perhaps rightly) maligned  EEAS is hamstrung from the start with regard to a common defence or common foreign policy that consists of anything more than a consensus driven lowest common denominator.  As almost (but not) all EU Members are NATO members, NATO suffers from similar issues to the EU when it comes to shared threat assessments and associated intensity with which those threats are felt by sovereign capitals.  By extension, the collective response is perhaps not what it could or should be to any identified threat.

Thus “coalitions of the willing” within, and including those without the EU and NATO that share the same threat perceptions with the same intensity and foreboding are an entirely natural result.

It so comes to pass that the newly elected Polish President Andrzej Duda has not only floated the idea, but via Krzysztof Szczerski is going to implement, a new format for “peace talks” relating to Ukraine.  Simply put, President Duda seemingly considers the Normandy Four format unsuitable, unrepresentative and unable to project the thoughts and concerns of the neighbours of Ukraine (and perhaps Ukraine itself).

President Andrzej Duda

President Andrzej Duda

He proposes and is instigating a group of the “strongest States“, including Poland, “to participate in talks on restoring peace“.

Move over France and Germany – Poland, Lithuania and Romania are sitting at the negotiating table too?

Does President Duda bring new ideas and possible solutions to the peace table in lieu of Minsk II? – An agreement that all seem to cling to, otherwise being devoid of other ideas.

If not, this raises the question about the usefulness of any “Duda format” – particularly as the Kremlin will see any new format as robustly (and rightly) in favour of Ukraine losing no more territorial space nor accepting any more political/diplomatic black eyes for organisational time it once needed, but no longer.  Manipulating a hawkish Duda will not be as easy as a dovish Hollande.

Why would the Kremlin entertain sitting down with a “Duda format”, particularly when it can continue to obstruct and obfuscate within the Normandy Four with impunity, whilst hoping to strike deals and talk to the US behind everybody else’s back?  Even downsizing to “Contact Group” talks under the OSCE gaze seeming implies no potential (geo)political gains for a Duda format – and sitting presidents don’t do downsized “Contact Groups” with unrecognised armed groups.

Does President Duda see this newly proposed format as a replacement for the Normandy Four when the Minsk II deadline at the year end passes without Minsk II implementation?  If so what positional shifts does he expect from those positions currently taken by the parties involved?  Who does he expect to shift from their current positions (and what are the ramifications if they do, not just for Ukraine, but for Poland, European and international order)?

Considering the specific Ukraine-centric US-Kremlin communication line, the Normandy Four, existing bilateral and supranational formal channels within numerous involved entities (UN, CoE, EU etc), notwithstanding “Track Two” and other less formal channels., some may wonder what yet another “format/communication/negotiation/diplomatic” platform is likely to achieve where others have failed.

There is no quick fix as long as the Kremlin doesn’t want/need one.

It takes no effort to see that Romania and Poland currently enjoy good strategic partnerships with the US – think missile defence, but it also takes little effort to see that the US is now front and centre leading the western response to the events in Ukraine – both inside and outside of the Ukrainian nation.

Once again, the glacial and inert supranational blob that is the EU is reliant upon a far more nimble trans-Atlantic partner to lead in the immediate matters pertaining to its own European continental security.  The US, in turn, can rely upon the inert EU blob to engage The Kremlin in many years of bureaucratic and technocratic lawfare over the medium term.

Would a “Duda Format” relieve the US of that baton it picked up when Germany ran out of room/desire within the EU constraints?  Is it about political and diplomatic energy?  Does President Duda feel Germany and France are simply flagging and paying grossly insufficient attention to The Kremlin, distracted by other issues?  Is it about Poland taking a lead role in its neighbourhood under new leadership?

The Kremlin has thus far played the game regarding the “Normandy Four” format as far as rhetoric goes – although certainly not as far as action is concerned.  As a result of rhetoric with deliberate lack of action, more importantly for the Kremlin it has publicly achieved its goal of a direct US-Kremlin communication line specifically with regard to Ukraine – exclusive of direct German, French and Ukrainian input.

Whilst the US is very unlikely to strike deals behind the backs of Ukraine, Germany and France, the Kremlin will nonetheless see the publicly acknowledged establishment of this communication channel as a diplomatic and domestic propaganda win when trying to present Russia as a “pole” of global influence to its domestic audience.  It will also, of course, try its very best to get the US to strike deals behind the backs of Ukraine, and the Europeans.

The Europeans collectively have gone as far as the can go being consensus driven, and the “coalitions of the willing” currently beginning to manifest in and of themselves, simply do not currently present the military, political or diplomatic weight to give the Kremlin any pause for thought.

Perhaps therefore, Presidents Duda, Iohannis, Grybauskaitė and others robustly aligned, believe they have levers that will make the Kremlin take note – levers that France and Germany for whatever reason would not use or did not have.  If so what are they?

What does the Kremlin, its inner circle, and the security apparatus that surrounds it care about that has thus far been spared any European attention?

If there is nothing left that has EU consensus, what of the “coalitions of the willing” and Kremlin shenanigans within their nations?  What impact would it have?

A coordinated seizing of Kremlin assets legitimately in line with the Yukos court ruling perhaps?  Reciprocity would naturally follow, but if as with sanctions, Poland, Romania and others are prepared for that, is that a lever worthy of consideration (over and above the legal obligation to enact the court ruling anyway).

What else?  What costs the Kremlin money and time that cannot be swiftly or easily replaced?

A coordinated, former Communist, multi-nation rolling up of Kremlin espionage networks?  Not spies under diplomatic cover that are swiftly and easily replaced, but the illegals where money and time has been spent both on training and integrating such networks in host nations for the purpose of years (perhaps decades) of espionage?

After all, every European nation hosts, and is indeed aware of, Kremlin networks on their soil – whether they roll them up or decide not to.  Rarely if ever has there been a coordinated, multinational rolling up of such Kremlin inserted espionage people.  It would be a major blow with long lasting effect.

Again reciprocity raises its head – but how many illegal networks exist inside Russia run by the Europeans vis a vis those run by the Kremlin within every European nation, and what is lost by who and to what extent if mass roll-ups occur in a coordinated effort?

The targeting and public exposure of all Kremlin sponsored (in full or in part) politicians, political parties, NGOs and media outlets in the European/international media?  Reciprocity is not really an issue here for the “5th Column” has long been targeted by the Kremlin inside Russia.

The coordinated seizing of dirty money/assets (and await the seizing of foreign owned legitimate assets within Russia in response)?  Is there enough dirty money to have an impact within the territory of the “strongest nations” President Duda intends to rally to the “peace” table?

Would the genuine will and ability to arm Ukraine with lethal weaponry tip the balance?  If so, which way?

A “squeeze” on Kaliningrad in some form or another?

What will the “Duda Format” bring to the “peace” table and effectively be able to progress, using what levers that have otherwise been unemployed/underemployed?

How many nations are the “strongest nations” he speaks of?  Too many people sat around the table can make matters worse, not better.  Sometimes less is more!

Perhaps the “Duda Format” it will bring nothing more than a willingness to pay the (additional) price for failing to reward  Kremlin truculent, belligerent, aggressive, unlawful behaviour.  Perhaps that alone will be enough.  It was Lenin who said “Probe with a bayonet; if you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, then push” after all, – and Soviet rehabilitation is currently en vogue in the absence of a genuinely accepted Russian identity.  Perhaps the “Duda Format” intends to be the negotiating/diplomatic steel rather than the preceding Minsk mush?

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Meanwhile back in Bessarabia…..

July 30, 2015

It has been quite some time since “Bessarabia” was last mentioned here – quite simply because the Potemkin manifestation hasn’t really manifested (outside of a few websites and an extremely small number of people’s imaginations and/or aspirations for 15 minutes of fame).

Nevertheless, a “veche” took place in the Kominternovsky region of Odessa Oblast yesterday, the outcome of which saw Aleksandr Yankov, a former senior Oblast prosecutor, nominated “Governor” of Bessarabia.  That appointment being backed by the “leader of the Bessarabian parliament” Vera Shevchenko – who didn’t actually attend the “veche”.

Naturally anti-Poroshenko and anti-Saakashvili statements were made by the newly appointed “Governor”, which actually defies the current political reality for the tiny part of Odessa Oblast that was once historically part of Bessarabia – At least it defies political reality to anybody who understands the politics of the Oblast.

Anton Cisse

Anton Cisse

Regardless of holding the office of President and Governor respectively, political and business power in that tiny southwestern most part of the Oblast is actually wielded by Anton Cisse MP (who is also leader of the ethnic Bulgarians there).  His influence in that part of the Oblast is (almost) omnipresent – unlike that of the President or Governor.

Anton Cisse is no political ally of President Poroshenko, and therefore by extension is no political ally of Governor Saakashvili – however he is not stupid either.  Indeed he is nobody’s fool.

Mr Cisse is quite capable of looking across the border to Transnistria and seeing what a basket case it is, particularly economically.  As a businessman first and foremost (and a politician secondly) there is simply no gain for him in any form of separatist movement within his stronghold that would move his patch toward an economic disaster area whilst also eschewing it from Odessa, its infrastructure, and its wealth.

Neither would he take kindly to his small fiefdom becoming a second devastated Donbas for the sake of an illusionary Bessarabia.

Certainly he is not about to pooh-pooh, Governor Saakashvili’s plan to begin a new major road from Odessa to Reni, and thus into his fiefdom.

Thus, no matter what sympathies Mr Cisse may have (or not) for the Kremlin inspired “Bessarabia project” Mr Cisse, and his very loyal ethic Bulgarian constituents, are not about to sanction, encourage, give any meaningful support to, or lead the charge for, an independent/autonomous/ Bessarabia any time soon.

Without Mr Cisse’s overt and energetic support, Bessarabia will remain a historical entry in history books, a (very poorly funded) Kremlin destabilisation project, a fantasy in the heads of a few deluded individuals and content within a couple of websites.

Further, it gives the Ukrainian SBU, Moldavian SIS and Romanian SIE intelligence services all the more reason to simultaneously be poking about in Mr Cisse’s backyard a little more forcefully/overtly than usual – something that will not sit particularly well for very long.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see the results of the local elections at the end of October – perhaps “Bessarabian candidates” will take control of  Kominternovsky in its entirety, or a village somewhere within?  Then again, perhaps not.

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Checks and imbalances – Structural immunity and civil reactions

November 6, 2011

I have written many times about politicians, judges and their ilk from the former Communist nations managing one way or another to avoid what the public and external actors feel they richly deserve by way of justice.  There is also the alternative case of the public and external actors feeling that some get what they do not deserve if a nation does something about it.

Then there are the cases where the public feel these people get what they deserve but the external actors don’t like it.

As I have previously written, I anticipate Ms Tymoshenko being out of jail by Christmas at the latest.  Not that her incarceration necessarily means she was guilty or that her release necessarily means she is innocent.  In fact there are few internally of Ukraine who claim she was innocent outside her own political party and I have yet to read a statement from any European politician stating she was innocent either.

There are a number within Ukraine who doubt the motivation behind her incarceration and quite rightly.  The politicians and courts should be held to public scrutiny.  There are those who agree with her incarceration and believe she broke the law under which she was charged but do not like the manner and judicial system by way of transparency under which she was found guilty.  They do still believe she was guilty even if they don’t like the process.  The EU does not like the possibility of political motivation or the process but none have claimed she is innocent.

That however does not stop the coercive pressure for her release.  For the EU, guilty or not, it is important she takes part in the elections next year as she is the closest thing to an opposition figure that will  provide any semblance of an interesting democratic vote.  For them, even if she gets a spanking at the polls, she must take part.  During the entire circus that was her trial and as of today, her political support seems unchanged at 13% of the national vote.  Unpopular as the current powers are, they remain quite some distance ahead.

As I have previously pointed out in the above link though, the EU is still publicly and repeatedly moaning about Bulgaria and Romania dragging their feet prosecuting past political office holders and politicians.  On the other hand it has serious concerns over the state of Hungary and its plans to prosecute 3 past Prime Ministers.  As yet I have not read any serious comments over Iceland charging their ex-Prime Minister for quite  literally doing nothing.  That is despite Iceland moving towards EU Membership.

We now have the case of a Romanian judge under investigation in Romania as per the broad EU pressure on it to deal with corruption, only to find that the search and seizure of evidence against her cannot be used as the home she shares with her husband has diplomatic protection as he sits on the bench at the Strasbourg and holds diplomatic immunity.  Ergo, Romania goes after a corrupt judge at the top of the Romanian justice system to find she is fire-proof because of her husband’s position and Europe backs him.

Luckily they have Poland, the poster child of the EU when it comes to Eastern Europe.  Or do we?

Poland went after a corrupt ex Prime Minister and has again been cut off at the knees by Europe.

This Polish case has implications for Ukraine who have opened investigations into Ms Tymoshenko for her opaque dealings when head of the monopoly gas supplier and intermediary, United Energy Systems in the 1990’s.  The Russian Department of Defence claims to be owed $405 million which Ms Tymoshenko flatly denied until recently, when she then changed her position and stated there was a debt but not to the amount stated.

Intermingled in this cesspit of opaque gas deals and ultimately costing the Ukrainian people $ billions, is ex-Prime Minister Lazerenko who was jailed for laundering gas money in the US and is to be released in January 2012.

You have a sovereign nation in Russia claiming theft/fraud, an ex-Prime Minister jailed in the US for laundering opaque gas proceeds from UES whilst under Ms Tymoshenko’s directorship and I read with incredulity a female German MEP stating no Ukrainian politician is an angel and the matter should be left with the sleeping dogs.

She is right that no Ukrainian politician is an angel.  Nobody who survived in a position of power through the 1990’s can possibly be an angel.  It was a dirty, murky, nefarious time and make no mistake, but is she seriously advocating drawing a line under past deeds for politicians past and present in Ukraine?  What about justice?  Defrauding and stealing from the people of Ukraine is OK if you are a politician past or present as long as it occurred prior to some arbitrary time-line in the sand?

I would remind this German MEP of a statement by Golda Meir – “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.”

At what point could Ukraine go after her (or any other Ukrainian politician who has held public office) for such crimes?  When she is as old and as infirm as Jacques Chirac and no longer matters on the political scene.  Is France setting the precedent?  Only then can the law have its turn?  Should Italy prosecute Berlusconi only when he retires from office or should they wait for a while afterwards and prosecute him posthumously?

Both Romania and Poland have had their legs licked out from under them when prosecuting past political leaders by European Courts in the past few weeks.  If the Polish case is anything to go by, should Ms Tymoshenko ever face trial and be convicted over the $405 million owing to Russia, she will win an appeal at the ECtHR as the same reasoning that the judge is not independent of the State will surely apply in Ukraine.

Now I know I am not even scratching the surface of the incidents in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland,  Romania or Poland.  I am not getting into the technicalities, rules of procedure, motivations, laws or individual national legal systems for good reason.  That good reason is the hoy polloy never do.

The great unwashed of which I am a fully paid up member, see only corrupt politicians and those at the top of the structures of state getting away with crimes and nefarious acts that have ultimately cost them money all the time, and when something is done, they see the EU supra-structures kicking the legs out from under the national system one way or another.

The human rights of the collective sacrificed at the alter of the human rights of the individual?  The law and justice sacrificed at the alter of political expediency?  National sovereignty sacrificed at the alter of the supra-structure?  National economics sacrificed at the alter of the markets?

Is it any wonder that the masses are getting rather miffed across the continent?

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Political Persecution in Ukraine – Why no forthright condemnation?

July 24, 2011

When poking around in cyberspace for all things Ukrainian, it seems there is a fair cry from either foreigners in Ukraine and Ukrainians outside Ukraine, although thus far not much of a furore within Ukraine (yet), over the alleged political persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko.

Why is it that many governments and political institutions are warning against the “appearance of selective prosecutions” rather than condemning her trial (and that of others in the opposition) as “political persecution” which Ms Tymoshenko and supporters claim it is?

Kyiv, after all, is home to Embassies of almost every nation with Ambassadors who have easy access to Ms Tymoshenko, she to them, and also with the current authorities. The Ambassadors, Deputy Head of Missions and assorted mandarins at all these embassies are not stupid people and yet they and their governments go only as far as warning against the “appearance of selective prosecutions” rather than full and forthright condemnations.

Part of the reason, no doubt, is that these people have far more knowledge of the situation than the average person on the street. They do after all have direct access to both sides in person. There are also other on-going issues, quite possibly of reasonable bilateral consequence, that outright condemnation would jeopardise. Another reason is the case against Ms Tymoshenko is on-going and thus there is no finding of guilt (yet). Should she be found not guilty and the rule of law and judicial system run its course to that end without excessive external influence, it is no bad thing. People are found not guilty in courts in every nation every day.

There is also the possibility that amongst the many charges she now faces, she is indeed guilty of one or more of them. It may be the case that the luminaries and diplomats of other nations are actually aware that is probably the case and thus they are stopping short of “condemnation”. HM Ambassador Leigh Turner makes a valid point in the last paragraph of this blog entry.

I have no views on the rights and wrongs of individual cases. And I have read with interest a list distributed by the authorities designed to show that many figures associated with the present government are being prosecuted in addition to members of the previous government. The authorities argue that the list shows that justice is indeed being applied evenly. The problem is that when corruption is widespread, whatever the facts of individual cases, prosecutions will always risk looking selective if only some people are prosecuted. And in a democracy, any prosecution of important figures from the political opposition will always, rightly, be the subject of particular scrutiny both inside the country and outside.

He is absolutely correct and speaks from a position that is probably far more informed than most of the populous of the nation, who are in effect only following the media trial of both judge, court system and Ms Tymoshenko.

There are though other reasons to tread carefully. Only a few months ago, the EU was throwing garlands at Croatia for the beginning of prosecution of some members of its previous leadership. Somewhat very similar in principle to what is happening in Ukraine now, and yet there was no pause to caution over “political persecutions”. Of course Croatia is due to join the EU in 2013/14 and needs to be seen to be dealing with corruption and the powerful elite. Is that not where Ukraine is slowly heading though, even if it is 15 or 20 years away?

Then there are the issues with the already existing EU members of Bulgaria and Romania, both of which also continue to suffer with major corruption, organised crime and a very obtuse legal system. These are already members of the EU but fall so far short of the EU standards they were both subjected to something called the “Co-operation and Verification Mechanism” in which the EU actively monitors and reports upon the corruption, rule of law and judicial processes (and progress) in both nations. This has been going on for years and the latest report for Bulgaria is here, and the latest for Romania here. As you can see, both reports are dated 20 July 2011 and are therefore only a few days old.

Both nations are far closer to Ukraine than the EU when reading these reports when it comes to corruption, organised crime, judiciary and rule of law. One wonders where nations like Italy and Greece would also sit if subjected to the same scrutiny.

They make rather grim reading, however any report written upon Ukraine would be no worse. It should also be remembered that Bulgaria and Romania receive far more help in addressing these issues being EU members already than Ukraine does being outside.

In short, in both Bulgaria and Romania, just as with other nations like Serbia and Croatia, are being actively encouraged to go after and prosecute the elites regardless of whether they are in power, in opposition or retired from highly influential positions. Let us not forget the EU has been demanding successive governments of Ukraine to do the same for many years as well.

It is therefore very difficult for the EU nations in particular, to “condemn” Ukraine for “political persecution” for all the above reasons within this post and all the links within it. “Appearance of selective prosecutions” is about as strong a phrase they can currently use without walking dangerously close to the line of duplicity when calling for prosecutions, including opposition members, in other nations.

Once the legal course has been run in Ukraine, then that position may change, although one would expect an ECHR appeal by Ms Tymoshenko should she be found guilty, so even then, with on-going legal action, many nations may not move particularly far with regards to rhetoric until there are no further options.

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