DECONSTRUCTING THE RESULT OF THE FOUR PARTY TALKS

The media refers to the document that emerged out of today’s four party talks as an “agreement”. This is not strictly correct. The text of the document is here:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/17/ukraine-diplomats-meet-in-geneva-in-bid-to-ease-crisis-live-coverage?view=desktop#block-5350089ce4b056a9012cda6f

As its text makes clear what this document is in reality is not an an agreement to settle the Ukrainian crisis or even an outline of such an agreement but rather a statement of basic principles around which an agreement should be negotiated. The real agreement (if it comes about) will emerge from negotiations based on the principles set out in this document.

A number of points:

1. Kiev’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding, the statement that “all sides must refrain from all violence, intimidation and provocative actions” clearly rules out the “anti terrorist operation” in the eastern Ukraine that Kiev launched on Sunday;

2. As Lavrov has correctly pointed out the provisions in the third paragraph that require the disarmament and dissolution of armed groups is clearly intended to refer as much to Right Sector and the Maidan Self Defence Force as it does to the protesters in the east. Note specifically that the statement calls for a general amnesty except for those who have committed capital crimes (ie. murder). So far no protesters in the east have murdered anyone. Even Kiev admits that none of its soldiers have so far been killed. The same obviously cannot be said of Right Sector and of the Maidan Self Defence Force even if one disregards their likely responsibility for the sniper killings in Kiev on 20th February 2014;

3. The document clearly refers to Maidan itself, which it says must be cleared. Specifically alongside illegally occupied buildings the document refers to “all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities”. The reference to “squares” clearly is intended to refer to Maidan, which the militants in Kiev have said they will continue to occupy at least until the elections on 25th May 2014 and even beyond;

4. Importantly there is NO time line in the document.  There is no demand therefore that buildings be evacuated by any particular date or time.  That has to be agreed and coordinated with the OSCE monitors on the ground.  The people in the eastern Ukraine are therefore entirely within their rights to stay in the buildings at the moment until a timeline is agreed with the OSCE monitors, one requirement of which will surely be parallel evacuations of occupied squares and buildings in Kiev and the west including Maidan.

5. The referral to the OSCE as the enforcement and mediation agency between the regime and its opponents gives Russia a formal role in the process since it is a member of the OSCE. By contrast the negotiations which took place before 21st February 2014 were negotiated and mediated by the EU of which Russia is not a member;

6. The reference to the fact that in the negotiations concerning constitutional changes there should be “outreach to all the Ukraine’s regions and constituencies” (note especially use of the word “constituencies”) gives a role to the protesters in the east in the negotiations and not just to those formal official bodies currently recognised by Kiev.

This document on its face therefore represents a shift towards the Russian/east Ukrainian side. Indeed it basically sets out principles Russia has been arguing for ever since Yanukovitch was deposed on 22nd February 2014.

Unfortunately that does not mean this road map is going to be successfully followed. Already Kiev is trying to argue that the “anti terrorist operation” it has ordered is somehow exempt from it (it isn’t) whilst the US is threatening to impose more sanctions on Russia if following the weekend Russia fails to impose pressure on the eastern Ukrainians to evacuate buildings they occupy without the US undertaking to put any corresponding pressure on its clients in Kiev (shades of Syria here). It is very easy to see how the US and its allies could then blame Russia for the failure of the road map whilst having caused that failure themselves.

However the Russians do have a number of strong cards to play of their own:

1. The growing unrest in the Donbass, which will almost certainly spread to more regions of the eastern Ukraine unless some serious concessions are made. The events of the last few days have exposed Kiev’s difficulties in suppressing this unrest. Significantly no further step in pursuit of the “anti terrorist operation” seems to have been taken today as Kiev reels from the military defections of yesterday;

2. Russia as Putin pointedly reminded everybody in his television marathon today can always refuse to recognise the results of the Presidential elections on 25th May 2014 if the negotiations are failing to make progress and also has authority from the Federation Council to send troops into the eastern Ukraine if the situation there deteriorates further. A refusal to recognise the results of the election will further undermine the legitimacy of whoever is elected. It is now clear that there will be no significant military resistance from forces loyal to Kiev if the Russian army moves into the eastern Ukraine. If that happens the likelihood is that Kiev will lose the easterh Ukraine forever (note Putin’s pointed reference to “Novorossiya” in his television marathon today) – a nightmare scenario for both Kiev and the west though not one Russia is pursuing at the moment;

3. It is now clear that without Russia’s assistance the possibility of stabilising the Ukraine’s economy quite simply does not exist. The last paragraph specifically refers to the importance of the Ukraine “financial and economic stability” to “the participants” and says “the participants…. would be ready to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented”. The most important of the “participants” in this regard is Russia. It bears repeating (as Putin has recently pointed out) that Russia is the only participant so far providing any economic assistance to the Ukraine at all. The US is only offering $1 billion in loan guarantees and the EU is offering just 1.6 billion euros none of which have so far been provided. What this document in effect therefore says is that whilst Russia is prepared to assist in the stabilisation of the Ukraine’s economy its help is conditional on the fulfilment of the provisions of the road map;

4. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is growing resistance within the EU to further sanctions against Russia. The fact that a process has now been launched to settle this crisis will redouble European reluctance to introduce more sanctions and will increase pressure within the EU for the process to be treated seriously so that it can succeed.

In conclusion, we are not out of the woods or anywhere close. This is not the beginning of the end of the crisis. But we may be a small step closer to that point. A lot will depend on what happens next and the key decisions will be made on the ground in the Ukraine itself.

Russian Federation Sitrep 20140417

 

KIEV ATTACKS. On Tuesday what remains of Kiev’s army, accompanied with threats of destruction, entered two eastern cities, Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. The soldiers soon switched sides (or as they say in Kiev “Russian terrorist sabotage groups have been captured six units of armored vehicles”), up went the Russian flags and St George ribbons and the townspeople fed them; I guess the American rations didn’t get to them. Interview. And another column stopped. Good news – especially when you think of what the rhetoric of easterners as “terrorists” and Washington’s enthusiastic encouragement could have led to. Today will probably tell: if the attacks fizzle out, there’s still hope for a federalised Ukraine. I look forward to watching Washington, Brussels (and Ottawa, I am ashamed to include) try and spin their way out of this shattering confutation of their fantasies. Reminds me of the Ossetia War when Wikileaks revealed that the US Embassy had uncritically transmitted whatever nonsense it was being fed by the Saakashvili regime.

TIME TO GO? Staff in Kiev’s power ministries are changing sides, refusing to attack the protesters, melting away; there are more dismissals in the power organs. Kiev’s new rulers have, apart from the uncertain loyalty of the most extreme, little force available (vide Kramatorsk). Moody’s has dropped Ukraine to “default imminent with little prospect for recovery”. Their sponsors in Brussels and Washington have kicked in only a sum that would about cover what China is suing Ukraine for. Meanwhile conditions worsen for the ordinary stiff. Large areas of the east ignore Kiev and demand more autonomy or a referendum. And where’s Right Sector? Disarmed? Mobilising? Or beating up presidential candidates and demanding resignations in Kiev? Can’t think Yatsenyuk will be around for much longer: no power, no money, no support. A visit from the CIA head isn’t much comfort.

SNIPERS. It’s almost forgotten now, but the Ukraine crisis was negotiated to a satisfactory result on 21 February. The agreement collapsed thanks to the snipers on the Maidan. So who were they? The new people in Kiev, predictably, blame Yanukovych and hint at Russian involvement. However, the simple application of the principle of cui bono would query that. The Ashton-Paet intercept raised the possibility that the snipers were connected with the people now in power in Kiev. A German investigation supports this conclusion. This question is at the core of the nature of the regime now in Kiev and, Dear Reader, its coverage, or ignoring, will be another test of whether your local media outlet is reporting or re-typing. Original in German, English translation on JRL/2014/84/1or here.

SNIPPETS. Far extreme anti Russia propaganda (but note what Tymoshenko said and how The Telegraph chose to frame the story.) Note this photo of Kiev’s Interior Minister; what’s the story on the flag patch on his guard’s uniform? You may be sure that people in south and east wonder. Here are some easterners stopping a lone tank. The “Russian colonel” video is a fake. These are former Ukrainian vehicles that switched sides.

SANCTIONS. Remember how Russia’s stock market was going to be badly hurt by the sanctions? Not so much.

AND EVEN BIGGER CONSEQUENCES? The “petro-dollar” is a pillar of US power. There are straws in the wind: the BRICS talking about setting up their own IMF. Russia, China and India thinking about by-passing the US Dollar in oil deals. Et Cetera. I wonder if the fall in the US stock market has anything to do with this. After all, Washington does not look like a good bet at the moment: hugely overextended, empty blustering, incompetent and destabilising interference. Time to bring it down? Or time to get yourself out from under the crash?

RUSSIAN MASSING. Finally NATO issued some pictures of the Russian forces “massing” along the border. Nonsense! all clearly bases: everything neatly lined up, fences around the edges, buildings, no tactical grouping. Not evidence at all. In some cases you can find same or similar photos on Google Earth from months ago; the airfield at Primorsko-Akhtarsk for example; same aircraft in different places. Holly finds no Russians.

PUTIN LETTER. Trying to inject some reality, Putin sent a letter to Russia’s European gas customers. It says: Ukraine’s economy is collapsing; Russia has been providing cheap gas, other money and discounts totalling about US$35 billion in the last 4 years; the EU has contributed nothing; Ukraine hasn’t paid anything for gas for several months. Russia is close to demanding payment in advance for deliveries; this “increases the risk of siphoning off natural gas passing through Ukraine’s territory and heading to European consumers”. We must all get together to figure out a solution. Merkel has indicated she is taking this seriously.

 

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/ http://us-russia.org/)

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Russian Federation Sitrep 3 April 2014

 

THE FUTURE OF UKRAINE. The Ukraine of six months ago no longer exists; it has been destroyed by the scheming of Brussels and Washington. If there is to be something on the map named “Ukraine” at the end of the year that in anyway resembles what was there six months ago, Moscow’s plan must be adopted. Autonomy for the regions so that one half can’t bully the other half; minority language rights; neutrality, neither NATO nor Russia. As to Crimea, it is part of Russia; that is done. If it offends you to call this the Moscow plan, you may call it the Kissinger plan. If these principles are not accepted, and fairly soon, then by the end of the year south and east Ukraine (known as Novorossiya – New Russia – for two centuries) will be independent or part of Russia while rump Ukraine will be in full economic collapse and even civil war (and eventual absorption by Poland?). The only thing left undetermined will be the border of Novorossiya and rump Ukraine. None of this was necessary; all of it was predictable. (Here I am in December. But I claim no special prescience: everyone who knew anything about Ukraine knew it was fatal to the project to force an all-or-nothing choice. The West did this twice: ten years ago with NATO and now with an exclusive EU trade relationship, with NATO in the background). So here we are: hard times ahead for the citizens of any conceivable future Ukraine.

RUSSIA’S INVISIBLE ARMY. Much about how Russia is “massing” its army along the Ukrainian border. These reports are so confused as to be valueless – read this one carefully for example, noting contradictions; note the rag-bag elements tossed together of this one. No “massing Russian troops” were found in a 200 mile trip by Daily Telegraph reporters; nor in a 500-mile trip by NBC reporters. But it’s still hyped by NATO. (Once upon a time I believed NATO over Moscow. No more. Kosovo wounded it; Libya killed it; Ukraine has buried it. From now on my base assumption is that NATO is lying.) There is no need for “massing”: Russian troops in Crimea (already there, which is why US int couldn’t find them) were welcomed by an enormous majority and 90% of the Ukrainian forces either joined them or quit. There is every reason to expect that the reception of the Russians would be the same in Novorossiya, as we should perhaps get used to calling it.

UN VOTE. A General Assembly vote saying the Crimea referendum was unlawful passed 100-11 allowing various organs to trumpet that Russia was isolated. But closer scrutiny adds 58 abstentions and 24 who didn’t vote at all to the 11: a total of 93. Given that established states strongly disapprove of secession, a 50-50 split is a sign that Russia is not isolated at all. By now many know they might be on the list for a “humanitarian intervention” and they are happy to see the West humbled in an attempt.

LONGER TERM EFFECTS. I think this will prove to be pretty big; maybe even the moment when the EU and NATO will be seen to have begun their slide to oblivion. The final effects are of course contingent on many factors but some can be seen on the horizon. I think Putin (and most Russians) feel that they have been lied to by the West for the last time. (Just what did happen to the 21 February agreement, by the way?) China has taken sides in an occidental squabble for the first time I can recall. Most of the opposition groups in Russia so loved by the West are revealed to be sock puppets. All intelligent observers now know that Western N“G”Os have hostile intent (Nuland’s $5 billion). The BRICS have moved closer to becoming a political entity. NATO is further weakened (Poland would not want foreign troops stationed on it if it trusted Article 5). The EU has taken another step towards irrelevance (notice that the discussions now are Kerry-Lavrov; Ashton doesn’t exist). As a reminder, listen to Nuland’s speech in December: not at all the landslide she thought she was starting.

BOSTON BOMBING.In September 2011, Russia’s FSB sent a cable to the CIA restating their initial warning, and a second note on Tsarnaev was entered on the TECS system, but his name was misspelled ‘Tsarnayev’”. Umpteen billion dollars’ worth of NSA communications capture and storage goes for naught because the Russians have their own alphabet. Who knew? No one at State apparently.

THE “PUTIN MYSTERY”. Read what he says, watch what he does, think about it (hint: the fact that people are asking who he is after 15 years shows they haven’t been paying attention). Start with the idea of patriotic Russian. As a indication, what does Putin find so funny here? the interviewer hasn’t a clue.

NASA. Has severed relations with Russia. Except for the International Space Station. Which is prudent, given that Russian rockets are the only way to get there. Washington had better hope that Moscow doesn’t get really angry – Afghanistan is the other location Washington depends on Moscow to get to.

 

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/ http://us-russia.org/)

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The Lavrov-Kerry Meeting

We do not have anywhere near complete information about what happened at the Lavrov Kerry meeting on Sunday.  That in itself is a good sign.  It almost certainly means that with the Crimean issue out of the way (and with the western powers having tacitly admitted that the Crimea is now part of Russia) real negotiations have begun.  Lavrov described the talks he had with Kerry as “very constructive” and a Russian diplomatic source has said that for the first time since the start of the Ukrainian crisis there was straightforward talking.  That suggests serious negotiations and that we have at last got past the point of grandstanding and positioning.
A few points:
1. We know what the Russian demands are: (1) federalisation (2) official status for the Russian language and (3) a binding treaty securing the Ukraine’s neutrality.
2. It is completely unclear what US demands are.  Obama has spoken about Russia withdrawing its troops from the Ukraine’s eastern borders.  These concentrations of troops do not exist and Obama has anyway admitted that Russia has the right to deploy its own troops on its own territory.  There are also references to the OSCE mission and to Russian troops in the Crimea returning to their bases.  These are holdovers from an earlier stage in the crisis when it was primarily about the Crimea.  The OSCE mission is now in place and does not include the Crimea whilst the demand that Russian troops in the Crimea return to their bases is now redundant.
3. We also know that the Lavrov Kerry talks began following a telephone conversation between Obama and Putin and that Obama in that conversation asked that Russia put its proposals in writing.  That together with the absence of any demands or proposals from the US side suggests that it is the Russian demands/proposals that are the basis of discussion.
Though the US has not made its demands clear there can be no doubt about what is the predominant wish of its European allies: an end to the crisis and the Ukraine’s stabilisation.  It has become utterly clear over the last few weeks that the Europeans have no wish to be drawn into a prolonged confrontation with Russia that would seriously harm their economies.  If only for that reason the pressure will be on to achieve a settlement that will bring this crisis to an end.  Given that the Germans have already made know that they are sympathetic to the Russians’ proposals that means that the pressure is on the US to compromise.
The important thing is that the US is not rejecting the Russian proposals.  Obviously it is saying that it is the Ukrainians who must ultimately decide questions of federalisation etc.  The Russians are saying that too.  No one wants to appear to be imposing a diktat.  However “Ukrainians” as everyone by now knows includes east Ukrainians who favour these proposals.
There also seem to be some glimmers of possible compromise coming out of Kiev.  Amongst Ukrainian politicians Yatsenyuk has already spoken strongly of the need for what he calls decentralisation whilst Poroshenko today is reported as saying that he is prepared to compromise with the Russians about everything except the Crimea (which is not coming back) or European integration (which is not on offer and which Barroso again ruled out). Lukashenko’s meeting with Turchinov may have been intended to open a line of contact between Moscow and Kiev (Lukashenko is due to meet Putin in Minsk soon) whilst the threatened crackdown by Kiev on the radicals including Right Sector whilst largely driven by internal factors nonetheless meets a Russian demand.
This is not going to be an easy negotiation and it is going to take time.  There is no certainty about its outcome and there is a real risk that the negotiations could fail and that things could go seriously wrong.  The hardliners in Washington (Nuland etc) and in Kiev (Tyagnibok etc and probably Tymoshenko) will resist compromise every inch of the way.  We are at a start of what is probably a long and difficult process.  It is most unlikely anything will be resolved before the Presidential election in May.  However at least the Americans are finally talking to the Russians whilst the Russians have some strong cards to play in that without their help the stabilisation of the Ukraine’s economy is probably impossible at any remotely acceptable cost.  Given that this is so and given the pressure to find a settlement from Europe it is more likely than not that some sort of deal involving the setting up of a contact group that will then present Kiev with “proposals” for constitutional reform which Kiev will have to accept in return for economic help will at some point come to pass.

Russian federation Sitrep 20 March 2014

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 March 2014

PUTIN SPEECH. After the referendum (by the way, perfectly normal numbers for this sort of thing see Falklands Islands, Kosovo and others) the process of re-joining Russia has begun – Putin’s speech here. One of his points was the illegality of Khrushchev’s transfer in 1954 “What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol.” He quoted the UN International Court ruling of July 22, 2010. If I were to pick two sentences to sum it up, they would be these: “Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right.” The second: “Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in,  retreat to who knows where?” But it should be read: again, read what he says, not what people tell you he says.

UKRAINE FUTURE. Putin said he has no intention of absorbing other parts of Ukraine but this must be considered conditional. The warning is here: “But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s [ie Russophones] rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.”  If it gets bad, he will. Yatsenyuk has said he will disarm the extremists. Let’s hope that he does but I think he’s the von Papen of this revolution and I doubt he’ll be around in six months.

LIFE IN UKRAINE. Now that the Crimea issue has been resolved, maybe our intrepid reporters can find the time to turn their attention to investigating fake voting in the Rada, vigilantes “lustrating” doctors, press people being beaten up (congratulations to Huff Post for carrying this one), neo-nazi thugs parading through towns, ditto beating up passers by, ditto beating up cops, ditto smashing up buildings, the “heroes” shaking down a gas station, people in the east turning back Ukrainian armed forces, big pro-Russia demos. Then again, maybe not.  But they won’t have to go far or stay in uncomfortable hotels: this stuff is all over the Net and just has to be looked for.

UTTER FAILURE. Whatever the EU and Washington thought they were doing in Ukraine, it has been an utter failure. And there is more failure to come. Ukraine is broke, thousands and thousands of people in the south and east want out, some very nasty people hold the power in Kiev. The West’s absurd “sanctions” (parodied here) have been mocked by the whole Duma requesting to be put on the list. Is Ukraine more united? more democratic? richer? Is NATO stronger? more attractive? How about the EU? Does it look like a good bet for the future? Are Washington-EU relations stronger? Is Russia weaker? divided? poorer? Putin less popular? Do the people of Western countries think their leaders are smarter, more competent, more electable than they did a month ago? Do people believe their media outlets? (read the comments, for example, here). And they just keep digging their hole deeper. Just think, if Nuland, Ashton and the rest had kept their meddling hands out, Crimea would still be part of Ukraine and the tensions inherent in the Ukraine concept would not have burst open. But the concept has been broken and it will likely get nastier before it’s over. Biden may think that Russia is “naked and alone” but note Putin’s thanks to India and China. The world has changed;  a lot of people are glad to see the “West” humbled.

SEA OF OKHOTSK. The relevant UN commission has agreed that a 52,000 sq kms section of the Sea is part of Russia’s continental shelf giving it exclusive rights to what may be a lot of resources.

HMMM. There is a report that more than $100B worth of US treasury bills were shifted out of New York.

JIHADISM. The Caucasus Emirate has announced, without details, the death of its leader Doku Umarov. It doesn’t say when so it may be that Kadyrov was correct when he said earlier this year that he had been killed. He was around for a long time – I see my first reference to him was in a Sitrep in June 2006 when he became President of the Chechen Republic/Ichkeria. As the obituary says, soon after he “raised the banner of monotheism and proclaimed the Caucasus Emirate.”

SYRIAN CW. The OPCW announces that more than 45%  of the Syrian CW stockpile has been removed with 2 more shipments loaded at Latakia in the last week.

 

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/ http://us-russia.org/)

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Five Myths about the Crimean Referendum

As voting gets underway – and by all accounts, it seems to be overwhelmingly heading for the pro-secession choice – it’s worthwhile to dispel four common but erroneous beliefs about it.

(1) The referendum is unconstitutional.

Where political power in Ukraine rests today.

Where political power in Ukraine rests today.

This is true enough, as all of Ukraine would have to vote on it. But there is one big catch: The Ukrainian Constitution has been null and void since around February 22, 2014, when the Kiev mob overthrew a democratically elected President and the opposition seized power.  If the new regime absolutely insists on constitutional niceties, then it should dissolve itself and bring back Yanukovych from Rostov. This is hardly going to be happening anytime soon, so the only conclusion to be drawn is that, as in much else, the new regime and its Western backers only discover legality when it suits them. And that’s just fine, it’s “people power” and that’s supposed to be great and all, especially when it’s happening outside the West… but unless one wants to proudly and openly embrace double standards, then the mobs in Crimea have just as much of a right to decide their own destiny as do the mobs in Kiev.

(2) The referendum can’t be fair because of the presence of armed Russian troops.

Of course, nobody is buying the official Kremlin line that there are no Russian troops – or at least mercenaries – operating in Crimea. That said, if we insist on going by this standard, then we’ll have to concede that all Afghan elections since 2001 and all Iraqi elections since 2003 will have to be likewise invalidated. For some reason, I don’t see Washington conceding this anytime soon.

(3) There is no choice – both options are, in effect, a “yes.”

cimeaHere is the form, which is printed in the Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar languages. The two options are:

  1. Do you support joining Crimea with the Russian Federation as a subject of Russian Federation?
  2. Do you support restoration of 1992 Crimean Constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine?

It is also clearly stated that marking both answers will count as a spoiled ballot.

So the option isn’t between joining Russia or joining Russia, but between joining Russia and getting more autonomy. Furthermore, there is a clear and democratic way to vote AGAINST any changes – boycott the referendum (as official Kiev and the Mejlis have been urging Crimeans to do). If turnout is below 50%, the referendum is automatically invalidated.

(4) Most Crimeans do not support independence.

[Read more...]

After The Referendum

If, as seems to be generally expected, tomorrow’s referendum in Crimea produces a substantial majority in favour of union with the Russian Federation, what will Moscow’s reaction be?

I strongly expect that it will be……

Nothing.

There are several reason why I think this. One is that Moscow is reluctant to break up states. I know that that assertion will bring howls of laughter from the Russophobes who imagine that Putin has geography dreams every night but reflect that Russia only recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after Georgia had actually attacked South Ossetia. The reason for recognition was to prevent other Georgian attacks. Behind that was the memory of the chaos caused in the Russian North Caucasus as an aftermath of Tbilisi’s attacks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the 1990s. Russia is a profoundly status quo country – largely because it fears change would lead to something worse – and will not move on such matters until it feels it has no other choice. We are not, I believe, quite at that point yet on Crimea let alone eastern Ukraine.

Moscow can afford to do nothing now because time is on its side. The more time passes, the more people in the West will learn who the new rulers of Kiev are (finally, the news has reached the USA: “It’s become popular to dismiss Russian President Vladimir Putin as paranoid and out of touch with reality. But his denunciation of ‘neofascist extremists’ within the movement that toppled the old Ukrainian government, and in the ranks of the new one, is worth heeding.” Sanctions cut both ways. Driving Russia and China (and the rest of the BRICS) together is not a triumph of “smart power”; especially if they decide that US securities are not, in fact, a reliable investment. The cost of supporting even the western rump of Ukraine is one that no one wants to pay. Militarily the mighty West can do little short of starting a nuclear war which would evenly-handedly destroy everyone. Western populations have lost their enthusiasm for glorious little wars for human rights. The propaganda line is not selling as well as it did in 2008 and one can see this reading the disbelieving comments on news items: see here, here, here, here for recent examples. China is clearing its throat. The more time passes, the more Western elder statesmen come out against the rhetoric – the most recent being Gerhard Schroeder and Helmut Kohl. The sniper phonecall intercept has now been bolstered by the testimony of the former chief of the Ukrainian Security Service. Because the story is still mostly on the Russian media, the Western MSM can continue to ignore it; but it may be too big in a week to ignore. For all these reasons, Moscow won’t lose anything by waiting a week or two or three.

Then there are the hollow threats. US Secretary of State Kerry is quoted as saying: “There will be a response of some kind to the referendum itself… If there is no sign [from Russia] of any capacity to respond to this issue … there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday.” But, typically, he is already backpeddling: “We hope President Putin will recognize that none of what we’re saying is meant as a threat, it’s not meant in a personal way. It is meant as a matter of respect for the international, multilateral structure that we have lived by since World War II, and for the standards of behavior about annexation, about succession, about independence, and how countries come about it.” Suppose, come Monday, Moscow says nothing at all. Then what? More threats unless Moscow stops doing nothing? The truly powerful never make threats; they make promises. There is simply no comparison between the competence and determination of Putin’s team and those on the American and EU side.

The fact is that Russia hasn’t actually done anything. It hasn’t “invaded” Crimea; why even the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff doesn’t have evidence they are Russian troops. It certainly hasn’t “annexed” Crimea. It hasn’t invaded eastern Ukraine or even threatened it. It has held some “long-scheduled” military exercises (one of which will probably come to a “long-scheduled” ending on Monday). It has issued statements (which are “promises” not “threats”) and refused to recognise the new regime in Kiev. It knows that the US/EU case is crumbling and losing support; it knows that to win, it need only do nothing and do it calmly and determinedly – a sort of zen judo.

If, on the other hand, tomorrow’s referendum produces a majority for staying in Ukraine, what will Moscow’s reaction be?

I strongly expect that it will be……

Nothing.

And the same for any other result.

Let the West fume and issue cheap threats, Moscow is in the stronger position.

The chickens light-heartedly thrown aloft by Washington and Brussels are coming home and no one can stop them from roosting.

In other words, if the Obama administration now finds itself in an awkward situation, having encouraged an anti-Russian revolution on Russia’s doorstep and now finding itself unable or unwilling, thankfully, to follow through, it is a problem entirely of its own making.

He [Schroeder] also claimed that the European Union appeared not to have ‘the remotest idea’ that the Ukraine was ‘culturally divided’ and had made mistakes from the outset in its attempts to reach an association agreement with the country.

 

Russian Federation Sitrep 20140313

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP

13 March 2014

Propaganda. Watch for these news items in your local media outlet to indicate when it stops re-typing and starts reporting. Who is what in the new govt in Kiev; the sniper story; General Dempsey has no evidence the soldiers in Crimea are Russians; what the treaty allows Russia to have in Crimea; whether Yanukovych was deposed according to the constitution. There are others but these are a start. Most have had some mention in Europe but very little in North America. The Guardian seems to have the most even coverage. While waiting, amuse yourself by applying to the USA the US State Department method of getting rid of presidents you don’t like. (Number 4; no messy constitutions). Or enjoy the psychoanalysis of Putin.

“Remember the yellow water!” I steal this from Gordon Hahn: remember all the stories about Sochi? Many of them outright lies? Don’t be taken in again. Remember the yellow water. And everything worked.

Not selling. But the information war doesn’t seem to be selling. In the Ossetian War the West’s propaganda line was well accepted and it was only months later that the truth started to appear. This time however, I notice that many commenters spurn the standard line. On many websites 50% or more do not buy it. Why the difference? The New Media is more powerful and there are more alternate sources of information than your local media outlets; too many people have heard US diplomats stage-directing things; the rather flippant reaction by Ashton to the sniper story; words of sobriety from Kissinger, Cohen or Matlock. A few examples of these sceptical comments.

Development. Very interesting chart from World Bank data comparing incomes of the former USSR countries in 1994 with 2012. Two things leap out: the Baltics haven’t done better, despite NATO and EU, than Belarus. And how badly the successive gangs of thieves and fantasists have served Ukraine – it’s dead last.

Crimea poll. The respondents on Sunday are offered two questions: join Russia? Stay in Ukraine with 1992 Constitution. Polling at the moment expects 80% yes to the first. My guess is that Moscow will wait to see if anything develops before saying yes. Remember it only recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia after a war.

China. I don’t recall Beijing expressing an opinion on previous Western overthrows but it has this time. Indeed, Beijing’s statements – enigmatically expressed in its media – are becoming more outspoken. The latest from Global Times says “Chinese public opinion should firmly stand by Russia and support its resistance to pressure from the West”. Interesting way to put it, don’t you think? “pressure from the West”. This may prove to be the most significant consequence of this idiotic Western adventure.

Ukraine national guard. With the discovery that the Armed Forces barely exist, the Rada has decided to create a 60,000-strong national guard. Given that “a source in the government” has said that some members will be recruited from “activists” involved in the protests, we will learn whether the neo-nazis are indeed just something in the “Russian media’s fun-house mirror”.

Probably not coincidences. A Russian ICBM was successfully tested; a big air defence exercise is on; an airborne division is exercising. All “long-planned” no doubt like the US warship in the Black Sea. However, in light of Kiev’s statement that there are 220,000 Russian troops on its borders, Moscow is allowing a reconnaissance flight to show Kiev that there are not.

Corruption. Turning to Russia, the dismissed Defence Minister, Anatoliy Serdyukov, has been amnestied. At first glance (and second) this would seem to make a mockery of Putin’s oft-repeated promises that no one is exempt in the anti-corruption effort. He seems to have been surrounded with corruption but has escaped personal blame. Interested people may follow the discussion here. One theory is that he is being protected by higher levels – ie Medvedev or Putin or, alternatively, he has something on one of them. (The weakness with that theory is that he would hardly have been fired in the first place.) Another theory is that these kinds of high-level cases never come to a satisfactory conclusion: the swindles are so complicated, involve so many people, the parts are so deniable that it is almost impossible to put a case together – see, for example, the Lockheed case. It is always possible that he was a nincompoop who just didn’t notice. Nonetheless it is a shabby ending to a case that seemed to establish Putin’s seriousness.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/ http://us-russia.org/)

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Russian Federation Sitrep 20140306

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP

6 March 2014

Information battlespace. Just as in the Ossetia War, Western governments and media are in full propaganda mode. And, again, their citizens and news consumers will eventually find out they are being lied to. But this time it will be sooner because the New Media is stronger and alternative views are available. The discovery of neo-Nazis and the sniper story will accelerate the collapse. Washington will soon be talking to itself.

Snipers. On 21 February an agreement was cobbled together by representatives of the EU-Russia-Yanukovych-opposition (text here). Very soon snipers started killing people on Maidan Square – both police and protesters and the agreement collapsed. We have an intercepted conversation from 26 February in which an Estonian diplomat tells Ashton that his information is that the snipers were from the “new coalition” (ie the people now in power in Kiev). It is genuine. Easy deductions: the sigint part of the former Ukrainian security service bugged the call. Ergo it has defected from Kiev; ergo what’s the next revelation going to be? It now would seem to be a good bet that these guys bugged the Nuland phonecall too and maybe the Crimea communication too (see below). It took a day but the story has crossed the Atlantic and arrived on Fox.

Zen Judo. Russia wins if it does nothing; USA/EU lose if they do anything.

Who’s in charge? These guys have the street power: “talking” to prosecutors; no one will take my weapons away; a town council gets the word. Why do you suppose these things are proudly filmed and put out on You Tube? Pour encourager les autres? The BBC interviews some of these people; go to 2:48 – a little bit like Hitler… in our own way. The Guardian finally reports; the comments are fun to read – that’s not what you told us! “I had thought that Russian propaganda about ‘Nazis’ was just that, propaganda, nothing more. Now I read this article describing the composition of the new cabinet, and I’m floored. It’s dominated by neo-nazis and palaeo-nazis, with only token representation of moderates.” More on the Pravy Sektor and Svoboda presence. Another media outlet wakes up. A Swedish paper. There’s’ a report from Russian media (tomorrow’s news today in many cases – the sniper story first appeared on RT and spread from there) that Yatsenyuk is trying to regularise these people as an accepted militia. When will this information cross the Atlantic? Floored indeed.

It’s over. Ukraine is a space on the map combining bits of the Russian Empire, Poland and Romania bounded by lines drawn by Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev. Inside that space are indeed people who regard themselves as “Ukrainians” but there are lots of other national identities too. It is a country split on “east-west” issues. The “Ukraine concept” could rub along so long as no one tried to make all Ukraine obey the desires of half Ukraine. To insist on alliance with Russia alienates the west just as NATO membership alienates the south and east. The stable option is neutrality. To insist on EU association and cutting Russia off is as bad as a Russia trade connection that cut the EU off. The stable option is an arrangement with each (“tripartite” – here rejected by the EU). But Western arrogance and ignorance keeps trying to split it (blaming Russia as it does). The so-called “Orange Revolution” ten years ago soon forgot “democracy” and “reform” in its desire for NATO membership. This time the “Ukraine concept” has been blown apart thanks to the West’s insistence on EU and not Russia and the neo-Nazi seizure of power. Ukraine is slowly separating along the tear line. Not “secession” yet, let alone joining Russia, but “dissociation”. This would be happening if Putin had never existed; it was implicit in the “Ukraine concept”. The Armed Forces, security structure, police services have probably split. The Ukrainian state has ceased to exist and I don’t see how it can be put back together.

Stepan Bandera. Learn about him, he’s a hero in the west of Ukraine and the people in power in Kiev but in the south and east he’s a “fascist” or “Nazi”. This disagreement is the precise oin-point of the destruction of the “Ukraine concept”. Here’s Wikipedia to start with.

Coup in Crimea thwarted? Some people have pieced together a story of a coup attempt in Crimea on 27/28 February that was thwarted by Russian special forces. Here are the arguments and information; read them for yourself. One, Two Three. Videos, intercepted communications, aircraft movements.

Reality bites. US supply routes to Afghanistan depend very heavily on Russia. Crimeans are perfectly happy with the situation. Russia by treaty is entitled to have 25,000 troops in Crimea; it has not exceeded that number. Russian gas supplies to Europe. China is not amused. Turkey is calm. Abandon US dollar? And the nature of the people Washington and Brussels have put into power. And polling data.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/ http://us-russia.org/)

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Russia sees Ukraine’s future in the past

Kommersant found out why Moscow insists to return to the agreement, signed on February 21st

Original article here

Elena Tsjernenko, Kommersant, 05/03/2014

Translation by Nils van der Vegte

KMO_088197_176912_1_t218_212649

 

Фото: Zoubeir Souissi / Reuters

Yesterday, in Madrid, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov discussed the events in Ukraine with the `Minister` of Foreign Affairs of the European Union, Catherine Ashton. Lavrov told Ashton that Moscow is not going to change its policy and criticized the EU and America for the failure of the previous agreements. A Russian diplomatic source called `B` confirmed: The Kremlin convinced Yanukovich to sign the now defunct agreement. Reporting from Madrid with more details is Elena Tsjernenko. 

The meeting the foreign ministers began in a tense atmosphere. Lavrov talked to Ashton at the residence of the Russian Ambassador in Madrid and offered her a plate with biscuits on it: `The biscuits are, of course, not from Maidan , but still`. Ashton refused: `I have never eaten cookies in my life` she said. There was an awkward pause after this. `It looks beautiful here`, Ashton said, trying to lighten the mood. `Yes, our ambassador has earned the right to work in such a place`, the Russian minister said but could not resist taunting Ashton: `Unlike some, we appoint people on merit, not on political beliefs.` He clearly hinted at the new government in Ukraine. Ashton started to objecting but then asked the press to leave the room.

The sarcastic remarks of Lavrov reflect the mood in Moscow, which now clearly harbors a grudge against Brussels. Not only in connection with the announcement of sanctions but also of events that transpired much earlier. A Russian diplomatic source confirmed the statement by Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski that it was Vladimir Putin who, during a telephone conversation on february the 21st, convinced Yanukovich to make consessions to the opposition. According to this source, Vladimir Putin urged Yanukovich to abbandon plans for a state of emergency and begin negotiations with the opposition to stop the bloodshed.

According to the source, President Barrack Obama and the leaders of Germany, France and Poland, requested Putin to influence Yanukovich on this matter. In return, these countries promissed the Kremlin that they would ensure that the Ukrainian opposition would hold up their end of the agreement of February the 21st, which included the creation of a government of `National Unity`, constitutional reforms, early elections and surrendering the illegally acquired weapons. `Yanukovich completely fulfilled his side of the agreement but the opposition did not comply with anything`, the source said. `Now the EU and US wants us to behave like there was no agreement in the first place and `look ahead` but we will not do this.`

In addition, the German authorities have recently reported that Vladimir Putin accepted the proposal of Chancellor Angela Merkel to establish an international mission to investigate the situation in the Crimea under the auspices of the OSCE. However, the source told Kommersant that this is `wishfull thinking` of the Germans. `There are fears that they are trying to draw us in all kinds of formats for legitimizing the new Ukrainian government.` `We are ready to continue the dialogue with our Western partners but only if they are prepared to return to the agreements of February the 21st and that all political forces will be involved in this.` Moscow, according to the source, will not insist on returning Yanukovich to power, but will seek a reallocation of ministerial portfolios which is in the interest of those regions not supporting Maidan.

The EU and the US, it seems, have already given up on the agreements of February the 21st. The statement put out after an emergency session of the Foreign Ministers of the EU did not say a word on these agreements. What it did say is that the EU may impose sanctions on Russia if it did not `de-escalate` the situation in the Crimea. It could be that the EU will consider freezing the negotiations on the liberalization of the visa regime and work on a new basic agreement between the EU and Russia.

`Those who get angry are always wrong` Lavrov answered on the request of Kommersant to comment on the threats made by the West.  `If our partners in Europe and the U.S. are not able to do anything in order to fulfill its obligations pertaining to the agreements between the government and opposition , why are others guilty of their own inaction?` According to Lavrov, Russia´s position is honest and Russia will therefore not change it.

On top of that, the threat made on suspending work on the simplification of visa formalities and the new basic agreement is not particulary worrisome for Moscow: negotiations on those themes stalled long before the Ukrainian crisis. However, the EU does not rule out that it may expand the number of sanctions to include  financial and trade restrictions , as well as the introduction of extensive black list of banned individuals. According to ” Kommersant ”  Moscow is  hoping that the EU will not be able to agree on a common list of measures and sanctions , and believes that  ” Old Europe ”  wil soften the zeal of “Young” East European members of the Union . Such a calculation may well be justified : Germany , the UK and Spain are against those sanctions.