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 arrested. As 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.