Friday, 6 June 2014

Ukraine: The Path Towards Civil War Continued

The election of President Poroshenko has not seen any moves that would need to be taken if Ukraine is to avoid the nascent civil war in the east developing further. In fact, on May 26th 2014 the Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, Andriy Parubiy visited NATO headquarters.

The failure to remove Parubiy, a far right politician with a paramilitary background who has stated his intention to send paramilitary forces east from Kiev, was a clear indication that the game plan remains one of crushing all opposition by military means.

The decision to ram through IMF austerity measures and the clear attempt to use the crisis to pull Ukraine decisively into western military and economic structures could only intensify the resentment towards Kiev in the eastern regions where civilian casualties have steadily mounted.

The Ukrainian air force's non-guided rocket attacks on the regional administration building in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk was reported to have killed eight civilians on June 2. As one witness put it, “This isn’t an antiterror operation...It’s a terror operation against their own people.”

One reason Kiev has not shown restraint is that the political elites have regarded the overthrow as a unique opportunity to remake Ukraine in a way that decisively rolls back the power of the eastern regions. Eastern Ukraine also has copious reserves of shale gas in the Dnieper-Donets basin.

Washington was advancing its energy interests in Ukraine before the mass protests broke out in November 2013. Victoria Nuland gave a speech on December 13th at a conference sponsored by Chevron which urged Ukrainian elites to force through IMF reforms.

The intensity of the geopolitical tug of war over Ukraine reflects the competition to control the shale gas reserves and the oil off the Crimean coast that Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil had all coveted. To be worthy of support, Kiev has to demonstrate it can retain the 'territorial integrity' of Ukraine.

Both the Kiev elites and Western governments fear that eastern Ukraine and its strategically vital territory which lies on the east to west transit route for oil and gas could be drawn into a breakaway semi-state. That would thwart NATO's ambition to control the entire Black Sea region.

The preservation of Ukraine as a territorial state would be made possible only if NATO entry was decisely ruled out. Not only do two thirds of Ukrainian not support it, it is opposed by many more those industrial and mining regions with close economic ties with Russia who regard it as 'western imperialism'.

The danger as Mark Almond points out is this- 'If Kiev were to assert its authority by deploying troops or the new paramilitary National Guard (necessarily drawn from western Ukraine) it could look like a “foreign” occupation to local Russians who have not taken part in the protests'.

The way to avert civil war would be for Kiev to outline a new constitutional settlement which proposes greater regional autonomy for the Donbas, equal federalisation across Ukraine and not to make Russia surrendering Crimea a precondition for diplomatic negotiations between the Great Powers.

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