Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Early Predictions on the Ukrainian Crisis

Having been following the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, I thought it best to put up some of my immediate posts reacting to events at the time This was first written February 2014 after violence broke out in Kiev between the police and anti-Yanukovych insurgents.

20th February 2014

Ukraine's geopolitical significance is in that it occupies a vital transit zone for oil and gas entering the EU. By supporting regime change in Ukraine, a clear aim now, the Western powers want to push through a more 'fast track' process of accession to the EU and NATO.
Unfortunately, momentum has passed to the more staunch neoconservative diplomats in Europe such as Radek Sikorski in Poland. His ardent hope has always been to yoke the protection of Ukraine towards Western military and economic institutions that are to reorder it.
For Sikorski this would be the culmination of a historic struggle for hegemony over Ukraine with Russia that goes back to the seventeenth century, one that ensured Russian influence would exercise an influence over Central Europe until the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union.
Evidently, the west of Ukraine is more closely tied culturally and historically to 'the west' and Poland. To force through a change that would break the power of the Party of the Regions, popular in the Russian speaking east of Ukraine, has been the ultimate game plan for over a decade.
The problem is that the EU and US has seen a historical opportunity and has thrown decisive weight behind an insurrection against the Yanukovych government. But in doing so it has pledged itself to condoning violence and the effective overthrow of a government that was democratically elected.
No matter the corruption of the Ukrainian government, the previous one supported by the West had become very unpopular for its oligarchical venality too. But few even bother to invoke the names of Yushchenko or Tymoshenko now. So new political formations backed by the West are vying for power.
The danger is that the gloves are now off in Ukraine. Democratic elections and due process has been cast aside by a more aggressive form of 'People Power' that has made the success of violence seem the key to determining Ukraine's future. Klitchko's party is called Punch.
Smarting over the humiliation that the US suffered after Putin bestrode the world stage as the cautious diplomat preventing military intervention in Syria last summer, Obama has seen an opportunity to try and win back the 'soft power', battle for world opinion.
Unfortunately, Ukraine is seen as an arena of conflict in which Western actors can regain the upper hand over Russia. The problem is that Putin is not going to blink over what is clearly a direct and obvious attempt by the west to get regime change and extend its economic and military power right up the Russian border.
The situation is extremely dangerous. As yet we do not know what the reaction could be from Russian speaking regions as they see a government popular with large sections of the electorate potentially thrown out of power by violent actions in Kiev led mostly by right wing nationalists from the west.
It needs to be remembered that Ukrainian nationalism of the sort represented by Svoboda is not insignificant. They got 70% of the vote in Lviv where nationalists are known to beat up those speaking Russian in public. What if Russian speaking Ukrainians start to mobilise ?
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The prospect of Ukraine descending into a situation similar to that of Yugoslavia in the 1990s proceeds apace. The knock on effects of this could be tragic and terrifying. EU statesmen have blundered on this by forcing a weak Yanukovych to effectively choose between Russia and 'Europe'.

Those that know their history such as Poland's Radek Sikorski and Carl Bildt have staked too much on pushing 'regime change' as some sort of end game now that events seem to point towards a decisive chance to break the power of the Party of the Regions.
There are protesters in Kiev and Lviv and there are insurrectionists determined to use violence as much as the Ukrainian police which itself is now fragmenting into those against the government and those determined to defend it. This is the sign of potential impending civil war.
In Kiev a significant number of protesters remain those committed to liberal democracy but it seems those committed to the language of violence and overthrowing the 'regime' are in the vanguard as those such as Klitschko have conjured up a force beyond their control.
It seems that Klitschko and his Punch Party and others such as Svoboda can hardly now draw back given their role in having stoked up the aggression and comparing Yanukovych to dictators such as Gaddafi, a simplistic populist strategy that has ramped up tensions and made compromise less rather than more likely.
The EU has failed to agree on sanctions preventing any weapons entering Ukraine. Little they can do is going to be effective where there is the will to contend power by force and in a state descending towards fragmentation and lawlessness unless they offer a realistic get out strategy for both sides.
The momentum could have passed away from those now scrambling for a diplomatic solution. And if that happens and the violence intensifies and spreads, as looks likely, then Ukraine and the wider world could have reached the point of no return as regards a peaceful solution to the crisis.
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"While the authorities blocked trains coming to Kiev from the anti-Yanukovych west, protesters in the east lay down on railway tracks to prevent the government transporting military reinforcements to the capital. Crimea, ardently pro-Russian if part of Ukraine, issued threats of secession should the country go into freefall"
The prospect of Ukraine descending into a situation similar to that of Yugoslavia in the 1990s proceeds apace. The knock on effects of this could be tragic and terrifying. EU statesmen have blundered on this by forcing a weak Yanukovych to effectively choose between Russia and 'Europe'
Those that know their history such as Poland's Radek Sikorski and Carl Bildt have staked too much on pushing 'regime change' as some sort of end game now that events seem to point towards a decisive chance to break the power of the Party of the Regions.
There are peaceful protesters in Kiev and Lviv and there are insurrectionists determined to use violence as much as the Ukrainian police which itself is now fragmenting into those against the government and those determined to defend it. This is the sign of potential impending civil war.
In Kiev a significant number of protesters remain those committed to liberal democracy but it seems those committed to the language of violence and overthrowing the 'regime' are in the vanguard as those such as Klitschko have conjured up a nationalistic forcs that are now  beyond their control.
It seems that Klitschko and his Punch Party and others can hardly now draw back given their role in having stoked up the aggression and comparing Yanukovych to dictators such as Gaddafi, a simplistic populist strategy that has ramped up tensions and made compromise less rather than more likely.
The EU has failed to agree on sanctions preventing any weapons entering Ukraine. Little they can do is going to be effective where there is the will to contend power by force and in a state descending towards fragmentation and lawlessness unless they offer a realistic get out strategy for both sides.
The momentum could have passed away from those now scrambling for a diplomatic solution. And if that happens and the violence intensifies and spreads, as looks likely, then Ukraine and the wider world could have reached the point of no return as regards a peaceful solution to the crisis.



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