Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ukraine - Geneva Agreement

The Geneva Agreement signed last weekend by Russia, EU, USA and Ukraine to "defuse" the situation in South and Eastern Ukraine is either bad or very bad, depending on the commentator.  The fact that Russia signed it at all means they got virtually everything they wanted and gave away nothing.

Andrey Illarionov, as quoted by Paul Gobel in Window on Eurasia, says it was worse than Munich as Ukraine was at the table.  Illarionov list 17 reasons why Putin got everything he wanted and more.

Alexsey Shiropayev, again from Window on Eurasia, says that Russia will simply ignore the agreement and at some point send troops across all of southern Ukraine linking to Transdnistria.

Statements by Putin, even as the Geneva Agreement was being negotiated, certainly seemed to indicate he considered it of no importance.   He referred to southern Ukraine as Novorossiya "as it was known in Tsarist times".  If one looks at maps of Ukraine over the past 1000 years, one can find any configuration that suits them.  (Every border in Europe has been fluid over the past 1000 years, which is why the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was so difficult as every country in central and eastern Europe showed up to defend its "historic claim" to the largest area it ever occupied).

Russian commentator Oleg Noskov (from Window on Eurasia) describes the justification used over the years by Moscow "ingathering of Russian lands".

Supporters of Russian autocracy have justified any action, no matter how many victims foreign or domestic it might entail, Noskov says, as something required to defend the state from “numerous foreign enemies” and as the recovery of what was rightfully Russia’s rather than its expansion into areas that were not.

Such arguments, he continues, not only inform the views of ordinary Russians because they represent the core of the teaching of Russian history textbooks but also have continued to operate by inertia if nothing else as the basis of the modus operandi of the Russian state in its multifarious forms. 

Thus, according to the official Russian accounts, (in conquering Novgorod in the 15th century) Muscovy was doing no more than defending itself by recovering that which was in fact its own from the expansion of foreign influence, an argument, Noskov implies, which has lost none of its power in the intervening centuries and informs the Kremlin’s approach to Ukraine now.

But behind such words, he says, what the Muscovite rulers were about was the extension of their own power and property, not the welfare of the Russian people, as some like to claim. The Russian state was not created “in the interests of the Russian people but exclusively in those of the AUTOCRATS THEMSELVES AND THOSE CLOSE TO THEM.

 At any rate no one expects anything good to come of  the agreement.  The "little green men" running the show in SE Ukraine, not being under Moscow's direction, of course, already have refused to recognize the agreement.  Kyiv has refused to dismantle and disarm the Euromaidan movement.

A truce has been declared by Kyiv for Easter and all will continue Monday.

Stay tuned.

Of course, other countries have their armed standoffs too.  Isn't it fun?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ukraine - Victoria Nuland

This is old news but today is a slow day so far.

Back in early Feb a recording of a bugged phone call between two american diplomats Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, was released on YouTube. The Kremlin and the conspiracy theorists of the Loony Left went into spasms. They were shocked, shocked I tell you, that the USA was interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs. So today I finally read the transcript to see what they did say, besides "F--- the EU". 

The discussion was about leadership in the post-revolution interim government; to the effect that of the three political leaders of Euromaidan Yatseniuk would be the more capable prime minister and that Klitchko lacked experience so far while the Svoboda leader was too far right to be a good fit and that they would counsel them to that effect. Why this is so terrible, I have no idea. Tanya and I had the same discussion and came to the same conclusions.  Had we the opportunity, we would have told them the same thing.  It wasn't rocket science.

Then there was the $5 billion that America spent "to destabilize the Yanukovych regime".  Sometimes I wonder who makes this stuff up - do the Loony Left channel the Kremlin or vice versa?  The facts of the matter can be found in a number of places, THIS one was closest to hand.

(Nuland) described how American taxpayer money has supported Ukraine’s democratic development despite the country’s challenges.

"Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance, all of which are preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its European aspirations," she said. "We have invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine."
The truth
Since 1992, the government has spent about $5.1 billion to support democracy-building programs in Ukraine, Thompson said, with money flowing mostly from the Department of State via U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the departments of Defense, Energy, Agriculture and others. The United States does this with hundreds of other countries.
About $2.4 billion went to programs promoting peace and security, which could include military assistance, border security, human trafficking issues, international narcotics abatement and law enforcement interdiction, Thompson said. More money went to categories with the objectives of "governing justly and democratically" ($800 million), "investing in people" ($400 million), economic growth ($1.1 billion), and humanitarian assistance ($300 million).
I have no idea how much Canada spent on similar programs through CIDA and other agencies but I was involved in a couple of them related to improving beef cattle production. So I suppose the Loony Left will be accusing Harper and I of working to overthrow the "legitimately elected" government of Ukraine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ukraine - No Happy ending in Sight for Ukraine

I need to write something soon tonight before I power out.  This ain't no Hollywood movie, unless maybe "The Empire Strikes Back".  Do not expect a sequel.

The invasion has begun and Ukraine is trying to fight back but it is far different than what was expected.  Troops and tanks surging across the border is so WWII.  Russian special ops infiltrated the three SE oblasts several weeks ago and numbers have only increased, in spite of some being arrested, ID and all.

Strategic towns have been seized, mainly along the railroad line to Crimea.  Ukrainian troops managed to clear them out of one town but have been stopped by Russian use of civilians as human shields just as Putin predicted. These are not hostages but "useful idiots". If they can manage to get 100 to 200 killed then Putin will have his excuse to invade.  Today the soldiers surrendered rather than fire on babushkas.

The Economist has a good article here which pretty much sums up what is happening. 

The state agency, known as the SBU, says that a special reconnaissance and operations unit within the Moscow-based 45th Detached Reconnaissance Regiment of Russian Airborne Troops and military intelligence units from southern Russia are leading the insurgency.
Their objective is to “cause bloodshed on the streets of our cities” and kill “100-200” Ukrainians to provide a pretext for Russia to mass an invasion of eastern Ukraine, said Vitaliy Naida, a high-ranking member of the SBU’s counter-intelligence department. Then, he predicted, “in an hour-and-a-half, tanks and armored personnel carriers of the Russian army will appear on the territory of Ukraine." 
More from Kyiv Post here:

Russia's War Against Ukraine

This article from Forbes describes in detail the proofs that Russian Special Ops are directing the play in SE Ukraine. 

The one I like is the actor who played three different roles on three different Russian TV stations, describing his injuries at the hands of the Nazi Fascists.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ukraine - The Ball has Opened

Ukraine is finally fighting back against Russian sponsored terrorism in South Eastern Ukraine.  More on that subject tomorrow. I am going to bed.  I have been on the internet all day.
Links here: 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Tower of London

Day Two was spent at the British Museum.  All day!  It is huge so we saw maybe 1/4 of it.  We had to pick and choose, so we did China and south east Asia, Egypt and Europe through the middle ages.  Landmark Must-Sees were the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin marbles, the Lewis Chessmen. But everyone will have their own.  The website is good.  At the end of the day we were just beat.  Feet, legs and all joints ached from walking and standing.  We made our way to Chinatown and collapsed in the nearest buffet, then took a London taxi to Waterloo Station.

Day Three was supposed to be Kew Gardens in the  morning and Churchill's War Bunker in the afternoon.  It was rainy; my body refused to move, and Tanya wanted to go shopping.  So they (Tanya and Lyn) did and I read and slept all day.  It was heavenly.  Dasha and Masha were the beneficiaries. Next time...

Day Four was the Tower of London.  That was well worth it.  London is 2000 years old.  The Romans built a fortress there.  William of Normandy, a thousand years later, incorporated part of the Roman walls into the White Tower which was built in 1070.  It was added to and remodeled and so forth for a few centuries, serving as Royal Palace, Citadel, Mint, Armory, Prison among other things.  There are actually 21 towers and many other buildings surrounded by walls and at one time a moat.

Entry to the Tower
The White Tower

Our Yoeman Warder, THE best tour guide, in full dress uniform

Changing of the Guard at the Waterloo Barracks which house the Crown Jewels 

Rudolph Hess was the last prisoner held in the Tower, at the Queen's House

One of the Tower Ravens

Father and Daughter at the Tower Bridge
The next day we left for home, tired and happy and with one extra suitcase.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

London Abridged

First time in London, or actually anywhere in the British Isles, for Tanya and I.  We had one evening and four clear days to see my youngest daughter and make a start to our London Tourist list.  It was rather overpowering to see names and places  actually for real that were previously only known from books. Lyn has been there 3 1/2 years and has become an expert tour guide for folks coming to visit her.

Some of it was easy.  Ride the train, bus, underground and taxi.  Public transportation is incredible, as it ought to be with that many people in a small area.  I loved the trains and double-decked red buses; the tube not so much.  Compared to Kyiv, the cars were narrow and low, there were hundreds of meters of low narrow passageways to change between routes and though there were some escalators and elevators, I have to say that London is every bit as unfriendly for anyone with mobility problems as Kyiv or Dnipro with stairs everywhere. On the plus side, with 250 miles of underground, people are not as packed even at rush hour.  Buying an "oyster card" allows access to all transportation at one low price.

Well, one price anyhow.  Prices are reasonable if they were only in dollars but when you multiply by 2, suddenly they are not so reasonable anymore.  It is expensive to live in London. This we found at restaurants.  Also on our list were an Indian restaurant, a Chinese buffet (because we miss that) and fish and chips in an English pub.  The food was awesome.  And Tanya earned the everlasting gratitude of Lyn and her two roomies by making bliny one morning and borshch and plov for supper one evening.

Nelson and George IV
The important stuff on our list took some doing.  Day 1, Saturday, we went to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square.  It was the top on Tanya's list.  We looked at famous paintings by famous painters until our legs were going to drop off.  The National Gallery needs a three day tour to see and longer if you are actually going to study art not just look at it. Trafalgar Square hosted the International Pillow Fight that afternoon and thousands of people possible from all over but certainly from London turned out to bash each other with pillows.

It was so cold Nelson's rooster turned blue?
Canada House just off Trafalgar Square
Then we set out on a walking tour, past the Household Cavalry Barracks, to St James Park, on to Buckingham Palace.  From there to Westminster Abbey and the Parliament Buildings including Big Ben which struck 6 pm to mark our arrival. (A little Roger Miller is allowed here if you wish). Then we walked across Westminster bridge past the London Eye to Waterloo Station.  My hips and knees were burning in agony but it was fun just the same.

Buckingham Palace
 Lyn showed us where she had curled up on the grass the night before William and Kate's wedding so she would have a good spot for the procession.

St James Park, second oldest in London
Tanya took lots of pictures of the flower beds.

Westminster Abbey, Lyn, Tanya and bus.

Proof we were there.

Parliament Buildings from the south bank of the Thames; Westminster bridge to the right.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ukraine – IMF, Japan and Insergency

We leave on the train for Kyiv tonight.  We are off to London the visit the Queen…of Sarcasm.  Actually that is not true.  My oldest daughter is the Queen of Sarcasm.  My youngest, in London, is the undisputed Empress of the Universe of Sarcasm.  (Their middle sister is actually quite nice but do NOT get her riled as she can be quite acerbic in her own right.  My son on the other hand deals in brilliant insults on a par with the greats like Churchill, Shaw or Mills.  They were raised right!)

I am not taking my computer so this is likely the last post (bugle sound) for a week.  I am a couple days behind anyhow but you can find most of the stuff I read linked to by the Kyiv Post.

This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy but now I can’t find the link. The premise is that the reforms that IMF is demanding, much needed as they are, may well make the government so unpopular that election outcomes could be in jeopardy.

In addition to raising natural gas prices to market levels, the IMF also wants Ukraine to rein in government spending, be more transparent and close loopholes that make it easy for officials to hand out lucrative government contracts to their cronies. But cutting natural gas subsidies will likely be the most difficult. Right now the government buys gas from Russia at high prices and then sells it to companies and consumers at low prices, a holdover practice from Soviet days that continuously leaves a gaping hole in the national budget.

Yatsenyuk said he wouldn't allow the country to go bankrupt and introduced a set of what he called "very unpopular, very complex, hard reforms" to parliament that would raise taxes on the wealthy and big business, as well as on the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

He may have introduced the bill to the Rada but it remains to be seen if the Deputies will vote for it.  They cut out the middle-man here in Ukraine; oligarchs and wealthy businessmen are elected to the Rada.  No lobbying necessary.  The rich have been unwilling to be taxed in times past but this time may be different.  Some to Ukraine or ALL to Putin if the country collapses and ends up in the Eurasian Union just to stay alive.

A former Japanese Defense Minister had some interesting comments regarding the new world we live in. 

Vladimir Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea is echoing through the non-Russian nations within the Russian Federation, but it is also creating a new Ukrainian problem for the Kremlin leader in the Russian Far East where a former Japanese defense minister has noted that 60 percent of the inhabitants on the disputed Etorofu Island (one of the Kuril Islands) are Ukrainian.  She wonders whether, given the share of ethnic Ukrainians on these islands, “Putin would accept” an independence referendum there “as readily as he did the ballot in Crimea, undertaken at the barrel of a gun.”

“For Japanese leaders and citizens,” Koike writes, “President Vladimir Putin’s brutal annexation of Crimea was an unsurprising return to the normal paradigm of Russian history. Indeed, most Japanese regard the move as having been determined by some expansionist gene in Russia’s political DNA, rather than by Putin himself or the specifics of the Ukraine crisis.”

Several more articles worth reading if you can take the time:

Apparently they are on track to determine who did the shooting on Maidan, with two suspects arrestedAs reported earlier, according to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, beginning from 18 February 2014, as the result of clashes in the center of Kyiv, 1,528 people were injured, 103 anti-government protesters died, and 166 are listed as missing.

Right Sector is wearing out its welcome and has been removed from the Dnipro Hotel where they have had their HQ until now, leaving their weapons behind.  This was a result of a March 31 shooting spree by a Right Sector member wounding three people, among them Kyiv city administration deputy head Bohdan Dubas. The suspect was subsequently detained and placed in the Ukrainian Security Service's pre-trial detention center. Russia would like to see this group totally disarmed and disbanded as would most moderates as they are dangerously extreme.  However come the invasion, this group will be one of the leaders of Partisan warfare.

Moscow’s intentions toward Ukraine remain uncertain. Crimea may be enough, or Russia may pursue a wider conquests such as :
1. A land bridge across southeastern Ukraine to Crimea
2. Eastern and central but not western Ukraine, or
3. All of Ukraine.
Blazing a land bridge to Crimea would require massing Russian troops only on the southeastern border of Ukraine. A land bridge would facilitate Russian economic and military ties with Crimea.
Yet Russian forces are also poised across Ukraine’s eastern and northeastern borders. This suggests the Kremlin is contemplating taking eastern and perhaps central Ukraine. If Kyiv were seized, Ukraine’s government would be forced into exile, perhaps in the western region of the country.
The third option would incur higher risks—anti-Russian sentiments in western Ukraine are strong. On the other hand, an occupier's scorched-earth tactics are more effective when all the contested ground is held. Ukraine would have to locate its government-in-exile abroad, perhaps in Poland.
The second and third options jibe with Putin's expressed view that Ukraine “is not even a country.”

Ukrainians would face daunting risks if they chose insurgency. Soviet and Russian counterinsurgency tactics are not about winning hearts and minds. They are about graves and mass punishment. From their occupation of East Germany during and after World War II, to Hungary in 1956, to Afghanistan in the 1980s and to Chechnya more recently, Moscow’s legions have employed rough measures. A Russian army reacting to an insurgency could visit horrible retribution on resistors and those around them. Europe could witness human misery not seen on its continent since Yugoslavia broke up.

Putin isn’t the only Russian to have belittled Ukraine.  Russians have historically looked down on Ukrainians and done everything in their power to stamp out any signs of Ukrainian Nationalism.  The Ukrainians in the Far East, refered to in the above link were part of a large group sent there during the last years of the Russian Empire.

But beyond the reality of Bandera is the myth, and what he represents. Historians and analysts in Ukraine think that by attacking Bandera, Putin isn’t attacking simply a man reviled by Stalin but also the broader notion of Ukrainian independence.

“During 300 years of Russian imperial occupation, there have only been three Ukrainian nationalist heroes,” said Stanislav Kulchytsky, the head of the department of Ukrainian history at the country’s National Academy of Sciences. “All three have been turned into one-word pejoratives by the Russians. To be a Ukrainian hero is to be a Russian villain. Bandera is the most recent.”

This article pretty much sums up the Russian “negotiating” position.

In the weeks since Russian forces seized Crimea, Vladimir Putin’s plan for mainland Ukraine has become increasingly clear: partition.

Putin’s ambassadors and ministers don’t use that word, of course. In talks with their U.S. and NATO counterparts, they prefer the word “federalism.” They want to organize manipulated referendums to create Russian-aligned governments in the eastern regions of Ukraine. These governments would be endowed with broad powers, including authority over trade, investment, and security. Russia would then reach deals with these governments in an arrangement that would amount to annexation in all but name.

Russia, of course, is itself one of the most centralized nations on earth. The president appoints regional governors, who in turn handpick the Federation Council, Russia’s Senate. The central government controls most state revenue, the police— really, almost everything.