Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ukraine - Unsanctified Sanctions

Wars are started by and for the benefit of the rich and powerful.  They are fought by the children of the poor and if civilians suffer it is usually the poor again who bear the brunt of it.  Wars are paid for by taxes (direct or indirect) on the general public and if infrastructure is destroyed hopefully it is in the enemy's country and not yours.  America has fought three such wars in the past 25 years plus all kinds of little adventures.  A great deal of blood has been shed by combatants and by civilians (collateral damage as it is known) and the rich and powerful in America have become more rich and powerful.  However the general public are tired of body bags and especially tired of paying for these imperial wars from which they get no benefit, only costs.

Economic and related sanctions on the other hand are a way to damage the enemy without physical harm to one's own country, without high expenses, without body bags.  Seems safe enough...BUT.  It only works cost free to the perpetrators of the sanctions if the country is poor and under developed, like Iraq or Iran.  The "but" is when in a globally integrated economy of a reasonably sized country, the sanctions bite back.  They don't hurt the general public but horror of horrors, they hurt the rich and powerful who have invested in the enemy country, who trade with the enemy country.  We can't have that.  Better to send the offspring of the poor to their deaths in their thousands and have the public pay than the rich and powerful should suffer.

The big oil companies have already reassured Putin they are with him all the way.  The notion that the West wanted Ukraine in their camp so the hydrocarbon companies could profit is not true as they will get theirs anyway.  Can you imagine the fuss if Obama sanctions oil companies working in Russia?

London is THE banking centre for the offshore billions of the Russian Oligarchs. Do you think Britain will do anything foolish?  And every two-bit company in Europe is lobbying the EU fiercely against sanctions as it might affect their bottom line.  Steal skim milk from a sick kitten, they would, and sell it to their blind grandmother for cream.

The war of words over Ukraine continues, though I haven't checked in a couple hours so if someone started shooting, I missed it.  Russia has its military on the border with Ukraine to back up its words; America has some pretty stiff sanctions they can apply to back up theirs (IF). I do not want to talk about the EU.

All the articles I read today were about sanctions. This one is worth passing on as it advocates more effort to defeat Russian subversion. Window on Eurasia: Western Sanctions versus Russian Subversion

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ukraine - The Brzezinski Factor

Kerry and Lavrov are still hurling threats.  Which is better than shooting, unless it were at each other.  Lavrov's face affects me much like W's. Nausea.  You can tell when Putin and Lavrov lie about Russian involvement in Ukraine; their lips move.

Ukraine's security apparatus is in an unenviable position.  Thoroughly infiltrated by Russia, after 20 odd years of full cooperation, they find it hard to know whom to trust.  Compounding the difficulty is that the Russian backed terrorist activities in eastern Ukraine have more of a partisan aspect as locals actively participate. Shooting unarmed locals is bad press so they are really trying hard not to do that but it makes it difficult to shoot the armed ones who hide behind them.

Apparently using the military on your own people is OK as long as it is Chechens, Syrians or Ukrainians by a pro-Russian government, but not against imported Russian terrorists and their local accomplices.

All well and good, until I ran into an article a few days back that made me realize just how nasty and cruel realpolitik is. Forget the Spin, Putin Is Holding a Losing Hand compares the current situation in Ukraine with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan(1). The Soviet Union was in the process of turning Afghanistan into a secular nation with a strong central government which raised the ire of the War Lords and Imams who saw their authority diminishing.

Zbigniew Brzezinski (2), President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, saw this as an opportunity to give the Soviet Union its own Vietnam.  Consequently America began covertly supporting the Mujaheddin against the Afghan government, hoping to draw the Soviet Union into armed support of its protégé.  If they didn't fall for it, at least America would be rid of a government aligned with the USSR and if they did fall for it, they were doomed.  Win-win.

When the Red Army invaded, the Soviet leadership claimed that they were entering Afghanistan to defend the existing Afghan government against a covert war initiated by the United States. The Carter administration adamantly denied the Soviet claims, and the Soviet complaints were ridiculed in the national media -- like Medvedev's words this week -- as nothing more than self-serving propaganda...  Except, as it turns out, it would appear that the Soviet claims were true.

The people of Afghanistan were simply pawns in the game  as was obvious when America abandoned Afghanistan immediately after the Soviets left in 1989. Something similar happened in Iraq after Desert Storm.  Iraqis were encouraged to revolt against Saddam Hussein but the Shias and Kurds who believed they would get American support were left to their fate as the desired revolt was within Saddam's Party to replace him with another dictator but more amenable to American policy. 

So the author argues that America put relentless pressure on Russia, forcing her to react which brought us to today's crisis: 

The post-Cold War strategy of encirclement was more aggressive in design than simple containment. America's goalin Brzezinski's words, was to "shape a political context that is congenial to Russia's assimilation into a larger framework of European cooperation." That is to say, Russia would be pushed toward the right choice -- democratization and decentralization -- and pay a price if it chose poorly...  On the one hand, steadily tightening a military noose around Russia -- ultimately to include Ukraine and Georgia -- would constrain its imperial ambitions, the integration of democracies along the Russian periphery into the European community would push Russia toward political and economic reform. 
On the other hand, should Russia ultimately push back against the West's broken commitments and military would demonstrate to the world that Russia continued to harbor imperial ambitions and remained a threat to the rest of the world, justifying punitive measures to further isolate Russia economically and politically. It was a win-win strategy: Either outcome would serve America's interests in the region...
 ...Despite the talk of partnership, the fact is that the United States has consistently pursued aggressive and hostile policies designed to contain Russia, and -- if Brzezinski has his way -- ultimately see Russia broken up into a confederation of smaller states. Yet, by and large, the American media has bought into the dominant narrative, and ignored the deeper strategy at play. America's core strategy remains intact, and from the Brzezinski perspective everything is on track. Vladimir Putin has not been the master strategist of the media's imagination, the puppetmaster who has outfoxed American at every turn. Instead, he has long been caught in a trap, his actions manipulated in a game of power and strategy that goes back decades and in which he is playing a role, not writing the script.

Ukraine and the people of Ukraine are merely pawns in the Great Game according to this theory. Perhaps but there are major flaws in the comparison. According to Foreign Policy "NATO Expansion Didn't Set Off the Ukrainian Crisis". Russia hasn't been "encircled" by the West -- Vladimir Putin simply wants to be able to invade his neighbors at will.

First off, it took no pressure at all to draw the former Warsaw Pact countries into NATO.  They had been under Moscow's heel in times past and wanted no more of it.  NATO was their guarantee.  And Russia made it even easier by continuing to bully her former colonies even after the breakup of the USSR before the first round of NATO expansion occurred when the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined in 1999.

In 1992 and 1993 -- after Russia formally recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- Moscow cut off energy supplies to these small, reborn democracies in an attempt to pressure them into keeping Russian military forces and intelligence officers on their sovereign territory. From 1997 to 2000, according to former U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Keith C. Smith, Russia cut off oil shipments to the country no less than nine times after it refused to sell refineries to a Russian state company. To this day, the Russian Foreign Ministry maintains that the Baltic republics -- which Russia militarily conquered, occupied, and subjugated for nearly five decades -- "voluntarily joined the Soviet Union in 1940 (3)." The Balts didn't become part of NATO until 2004. Given this history, is it any wonder why these countries -- or any other country victimized by Soviet-imposed tyranny -- would want to join the alliance? Is it NATO's fault for saying OK?

As Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt aptly pointed out on Twitter recently, it was the "historic failure of Russia that a quarter of a century after fall of Soviet Union the new generations in its neighbors see it as an enemy," while, "A generation or two after 1945 Germany is surrounded by countries that, after all the horrible pain and suffering, see it as a friend."

(1) For those interested in the history of the CIA in Afghanistan, read Steve Coll's Ghost Wars
(2) For those interested in Russia and Ukraine in the "roaring 90s", read Casino Moscow by Zbigniew's nephew Matthew Brzezinski. 
(3) In the same kind of referendum in which Crimea "volunteered" to rejoin Russia.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Walk along the River

Enough crisis for a while.

I took my camera today when the dogs and I walked along the river.  Early this spring it was dry enough and windy enough that they got the best burn off of old reeds ever.  It was the first time in 6 years that I could see this much of the Yellow River, after which the city was named.  By late summer the reeds will be 3 meters or more tall again.

Took a picture of the new road over the river east of our place. The old picture from I think 2010 was taken from the same spot so you can see how much of an improvement it has made for traffic.

Old road c. 2010

Rebuilt this past winter

The burnoff made for lush green grass along the river

The burned off area is showing green through the burnt stubble

Village across the way

None of this is visible once the reeds grow tall

Putin’s Project

An excellent article by historian Timothy Snyder, examining the roots of today's conflict in Ukraine. Briefly covers Ukrainian history, Stalin's policies, WWII, anti-fascist propaganda as opposed to actually opposing fascism, and Putin's Eurasian ideology. Well worth the read for those who would understand.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ukraine - Invasion Day Draws Closer

Someone said that Russian invasion of Ukraine would come about May 4th so Putin could celebrate the "Russian" victory over Nazi German and his victory over Nazi Ukraine on May 9th.  As good a guess as any.

But the noose is slowly tightening.  The Geneva Agreement gave Russia what it needed, something to claim that Kyiv is not observing in that it refuses to disband Euromaidan encampment or disarm the pro-Ukrainian militants.

Violence early Easter Sunday morning at a roadblock near Slovyansk, north of Donetsk, claimed the lives of three local pro-Russia protestors and injured three others, all of whom "were armed with only sticks", according to one pro-Russian report.  However the burned out carcasses of two vehicles at least one with bullet holes (pictured HERE with the story from the Toronto Star) with other reports describing a shootout, make it likely that they were at least armed.

Images emerged quickly on Russian television, showing a trove of evidence that was somehow retrieved unblemished from two smouldering attack vehicles — a bundle of U.S. dollars, Nazi-era weaponry, a satellite map of the region and a telltale business card bearing the name of the Right Sector, the Ukrainian ultranationalist group that swiftly bore the brunt of Moscow’s blame.

The "recovery" of the above "evidence" created a great deal of mirth on the internet and then someone noticed that the video footage of the scene which showed up on Russian TV and YouTube just before 9:00 am Sunday, April 20th was dated April 19th.  Story HERE.

The shootout in the early hours of Sunday morning at a militant checkpoint near Bylbasivka on the outskirts of Slovyansk received swift and extensive coverage on Russian television.  So swift in fact that the video of the event may have been made in advance.  Ukrainska Pravda has posted a screen shot of the video shown on Russian Lifenews and posted on YouTube with this dated April 19, although the channel phoned its correspondent who said that the shootout was at “around 1.30 a.m.” on April 20.  The video and report were posted on the Lifenews site at 8.53 a.m. that morning. Such discrepancies are, of course, possible if equipment or a server from a different time zone are used, though why they should be in this case seems unclear.

 On April 21st, it was reported that two bodies identified as pro-Russian protestors had been pulled from the river; they had been stabbed to death.  Details are hard to come by as OSCE observers are having a "difficult time" getting into the parts of eastern Ukraine where they need to be and journalists other than Russian are in danger of arrest, beating or kidnapping.  One journalist, a woman from Kyiv, now is being held as a spy accused of war-crimes.

Anti-Semitism is picking up in Russia, not that it was ever dead.  Since no one was buying the notion that Ukraine was over run by anti-Semites, Russia is now claiming for its internal audience that it is ALL the fault of JEWS.

With all the focus on the Donetsk incident, the conversation has missed the forest while being distracted by a single tree. During the past month, since the annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin has shifted its rhetoric and tactics in playing the “Jewish card.” It has embraced the language of classical Russian nationalism, going back to tsarist times, and has engaged the dark forces of the Russian ultra-right. That includes using anti-Semitism as an ingredient in the anti-Ukrainian campaign.

In a nutshell: the Kremlin’s attempt, back in late February and March, to paint the new Ukrainian regime as Nazi and anti-Semitic has failed. It didn’t pick up much traction in world public opinion. So now the Kremlin is spreading the line that the Ukrainian leaders are Jews. Or at the very least, servants and lackeys of Jews. The intended audience is no longer international; it is domestic.

Russian TV is ramping up the hate propaganda against Ukraine.  Pro-Russia militia took over a TV tower and techs shut down all Ukrainian channels and placed a high tech satellite receiver on it to blast Russian propaganda TV across a swath of SE Ukraine.  Power was turned off to the tower but the militia put a generator system in place.

A new anti-Semitic TV station opened on April 20th which along with Easter was also Hitler's birthday.

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: 

Friday, April 11, 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.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ukraine – Crimea Again/Still

So Putin phoned Obama last Friday to begin negotiations over Ukraine.  I don’t know how the President reacted but if it had been me, I would have checked to see where my wife and kids were.  Kerry and Lavrov met on Sunday.  The Russian position seems to be if you just give us what we want then we won’t have to invade and we will have peace in our time.  It seems that Kerry agreed with him.  America is selling us down the drain according to this article

The good news is, and I am sure you have seen the headlines, Russia is beginning to pull troops back from the border with Ukraine.  The bad news is that it is only 500 men of 80,000 and no one has actually seen them move yet.

Putin’s hurried annexation of Crimea reminds me of the guy who was in a hurry to sell his horse.  He had a bill of sale for it and as long as the new buyer rode east, it was good but if he rode west, it was maybe not so good.  It seems the referendum numbers of 83% turn out and 97% in favour, reminiscent of post-war votes in the Baltics and elsewhere to join the USSR or elect a Communist government may have been just a tad exaggerated.  Just a tad.

The 123% turnout in Sevastopol is just the beginning.

This post appeared a week ago. .  It made the case that in recent opinion polls only about 40% of Crimeans favoured joining Russia.  Since there were no outside observers with credibility, the Crimean Tatars who certainly have a vested interest kept their own tally and came up with about 34% turnout.  Russian claims of outside observers were a joke as they were hand picked from extremist groups on the right and left that Putin is cultivating even while he is shocked, shocked I tell you, that there are extremists in Ukraine.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers were continually turned back at the Crimean border, the third time with automatic weapons fired in the air over their heads.

Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor to the President of Russia, is quoted quite often in a number of reports, especially by Paul Goble who writes the Window on Eurasia blog.  Gobel is blessed with a talent that many others don’t have; he is fluent in Russian and his posts are essentially a digest of material written by Russians. 

A couple days ago, McClatchy DC came out with an article citing any number of irregularities.  “Carousel voting” by busloads of imported Russians, some were Don Cossaks, observed at several locations in sequence. A reporter for the local Tatar ATR television station said he was able to register and vote in four separate polling stations.

A Russian biker gang, equivalent to Hell’s Angels and all good buddies of Putin, turned up in Crimea to help keep law and order according to their leader and were observed voting in Sevastopol, complete with automatic weapons.

The Crimean Ukrainians and the Tatars make up just under 30% of the 2.2 million residents of Crimea.  They organized a boycott and even though some did vote, the notion of 83% turnout is mathematically impossible without multiple voting by pro-Russian voters.

Putin “was using percentages out of North Korea,” said Vladimir Kazarin, a professor of journalism at Simferopol’s Russian language Vernadsky University and a former high official in the Crimean and Sevastopol government. “It’s not truthful.”

Video cameras were missing from polling places, control tabs from ballots were not collected. One polling station with about 2000 registered voters was almost empty just before closing time.  A long list of people had signed the register but one ballot box was empty and two others were1/3 full. Most of the voters observed were old people, looking to see their pensions doubled by joining Russia.

As Potapova surveyed the scene, a student walked in to register. “The entire referendum commission stood up and applauded,” she recounted. The student asked them: ‘What’s going on?’ She said members of the board responded that he was the first young person to appear the entire day.

There is even more in the article which is linked below.

Now we all KNOW that Crimea was gifted to Ukraine in 1954, on the 300th anniversary of the signing away of Ukrainian independence by Bohdan Khmelnitsky, by a drunken Khrushchev for whatever reasons.  Maybe not.  Reading comments is usually bad for my blood pressure but invariable if one checks enough comments in enough articles, someone has something useful to say and THIS article was no exception.

Commenter Gennady Shkliarevsky had this to say:
I would like to dispel several very common and very important misconceptions about Crimea:
1. Malenkov, not Khrushchev, transferred Crimea to Ukraine.
2. Voroshilov signed the decree on the transfer dated February 19, 1954.
3. Russia received in exchange Taganrog and some other fertile black soil areas that were equal to the territory of Crimea (Minutes of the meeting of the Central Committee of the CPSU No. 49, January 25, 1954).
4. As a result of the transfer, Ukraine faced the following problems:
-- It had received dry salty steppe areas in Crimea
-- The territory had no agriculture or industry
-- There were no sources of energy or water
-- Vast unpopulated areas with no infrastructure
5. The Soviet government set the task for Ukraine to develop industry and agriculture in Crimea in a very short period of time, and to organize the area as a resort zone for the citizens of the USSR.
6. The funding for all this development was to come from the budget of Ukraine.

Another article HERE in Russian appears to confirm the above.

But, Tagenrog and surrounding area in Rostov Oblast had been under administration of Ukraine SSR from 1921 to 1924 according to Wikipedia and another commenter.  Also I found a site with the relevant minutes all in Russian and even translating them with Google didn’t clarify much. I am no historian as I prefer to read the research of others, I guess.

Even with out Tagenrog, the rest of the information makes sense.  The channel for irrigation water from the Dnipro River to Crimea was built after it became part of Ukraine.  As to the development of Crimea as a resort zone, it certainly had been for the Russian rich and famous but most of the infrastructure for the common masses is post 1954.

Regardless of the justice, legality or referendum, Crimea is gone, taken by force of arms while everyone watched.  America is treating it as a given that it now belongs to Russia and lets accept it, recognize it and get on with it.

I am glad my girls, at least, got to see it when it was still part of Ukraine.  Now you need a Russian visa to visit Livadia.