Talks between French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Dmitri Medvedev went in Russia’s favor. The Russian’s received a security guarantee that Georgia wouldn’t attack South Ossetia and Abkhazia in exchange for withdrawing its forces from Georgian territory and allowing the deployment 200 international monitors beginning Oct 1. Russia will keep nearly 8000 troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia just in case.
This is not to say that the talks went smooth. At one point Sarkozy almost walked out. Sounds like Georgia was left in the dust. Saakashvili tried to save face by calling the agreement “a step forward.” The scorecard: Russia: win; the EU: win, South Ossetia and Abkhazia: win; Georgia: lose; and the American Cold Warrior blowhards: lose.
According to the NY Times, the hardliners in the Bush Administration have lost another internal battle. Bush, to his credit, has decided follow the EU’s lead and not to take any unilateral action against Russia. As US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “If we act too precipitously, we could be the ones who are isolated.” I hope that plate of realism served to Dick Cheney tasted real bitter.
Speaking of Cheney, here’s a good article from Kommersant on how the Azeris snubbed him. The Guardian‘s Lionel Beehner sums up the real motives behind Cheney’s Caucasian swing: antagonizing Russia, oil, and helping the Republicans.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
President Bush and Putin appeared to come to some agreement over the placing of missile defense systems in East Europe. The United States has claimed that any missile defense system would be aimed at preventing attacks from “rouge nations” like Iran and North Korea. Russia has repeatedly rejected this explanation instead arguing that the systems were against a non existent threat and the American’s real intention as to further contain Russia.
Well it seems that despite the cooling relations between Russia and the US, Bush and Putin’s personal relationship seems to go a long way. According to news reports, the two presidents were able to come to some understanding during their hour long talks in the German Baltic resort town of Heiligendamm. Reports RIA Novosti:
The discussions lasted around one hour, and also involved White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. After the talks, Bush did not give a specific response to Putin’s proposal, but said his Russian counterpart had made some “interesting suggestions.” However, Hadley went a step further, saying Washington was willing to study the offer.
The Russian leader said: “We have thoroughly studied the U.S. [missile defense] proposals. We have our own ideas and I have explained them to the U.S. president.”
“The first idea is to jointly use a radar that Russia leases from Azerbaijan in Gabala,” he said, adding that the joint use of the Gabala radar would allow Russia to avoid aiming its missiles at Europe.
One wonders if anyone bothered to ask the Azeris about what they think of the idea. Given that the site Putin proposes is on a Russian base, I doubt there was or is much consulting to do.
The White House has yet to make any formal response to Putin’s suggestions, but it seems that Bush’s people took Putin’s statements that he would drop objections to the missile shield if radar systems were put in Azerbaijan as a “welcome surprise.” Given the intransigence on both sides, I have to say that I share that surprise.
As of now, I guess we will have to wait and see if the US overtures about US-Russian cooperation will bare any fruit.Post Views: 329
By Sean — 4 years ago
Thus far I’ve been silent on the Russian military occupation of Crimea. I’ve found the deluge of media on the crisis quite overwhelming. I do have a stance: Russia has violated Ukrainian sovereignty, an irony considering Moscow’s often paeans to sovereign integrity. I agree with Mark Adomanis that Russia has made a grave mistake that will cost their economy and international standing. And like him, I don’t support invasions of countries on principle so there’s no reason why I would support Russia on this. I’m not sure if taking Crimea amounts to “a blunder of historic proportions,” however. It’s too soon to assess the final fallout. It’s clear to me that Putin has the upper hand here. The West has little leverage—targeted economic sanctions and visa bans just don’t rattle Putin very much. Ending trade talks, G8 preparations, and other agreements under negotiation will do little. The US and EU just have nothing Putin wants or cares enough about. The Russian president clearly believes he can weather any storm western powers conjure over him. The only measure I think that will put pressure on Putin is if Russia’s elite is targeted. By one calculation 20 of Russia’s richest lost $9.5 billion when the Russian market crashed last Monday. Continued economic dips could mobilize Russia’s elite against their president. The question is when Russia’s elite have enough collective wherewithal, strength and gumption to challenge him.
Putin is going to take Crimea. The question is in what form: as part of Russia or as a protectorate. And to do it, he’s going use the next week’s referendum as the excuse. Basically, he’s going to claim that the Crimeans voted to join Russia. He will assert to no end that it was done “democratically” and “by the law.” Both houses of Russia’s Duma are ready to accept Crimea. Few outside of Russia will recognize the vote, of course. It’s not even legal under the Ukrainian constitution which stipulates any attempt at succession must be put to a national referendum. Whatever happens, Crimea will become a contested sovereign space like other “frozen conflicts” in the region.
This move could also open up a can of worms for Putin. If he’s ready to accept Crimea’s referendum on leaving Ukraine, will he welcome other republics in the Russian Federation to hold votes on succession? Probably not. Still, it’s a potentially dangerous precedent.
Crimea joining Russia is inevitable if only because the referendum ballot is rigged. The ballot asks voters two questions. 1) Do you support joining Crimea with the Russian Federation as a subject of Russian Federation? and 2) Do you support restoration of 1992 Crimean Constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine? There’s a box next to each question indicating a “Yes” vote. There isn’t a place to mark “No.” Further the ballot states, “Ballots left unmarked or marked with both answers will be disqualified.” As Volodymyr Yavorkiy, a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, told the Kyiv Post, “There is no option for ‘no,’ they are not counting the number of votes, but rather which one of the options gets more votes. Moreover, the first question is about Crimea joining Russia, the second – about it declaring independence and joining Russia. In other words, there is no difference.” Indeed, as Halya Coynash put it: “There is no possibility of voting for the status quo.”
This vote will be a farce for many reasons. There is little time to properly organize or propagate it let alone educate voters on its implications. Plus monitors have to quickly organize and make sure the vote is run without machinations. Schemes might already be in the works. As the Kyiv Post noted, 2.5 million votes have been printed even though there are only 1.5 million voters. The situation is ripe for ballot stuffing. Crimean Tatar leaders are calling for a boycott. But it won’t matter. It’s likely that a small minority of Crimeans will decide the majority’s fate since there’s no minimum hurtle for passage. So on March 16 Crimeans are left with a non-choice: Russia or a protectorate of Russia. There just isn’t any room for no.
Image: BBCPost Views: 1,004
By Sean — 4 years ago
By William Risch
Last week in Kyiv, I saw that the Maidan had changed. The heart of Ukraine’s protest movement that overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych, it looked like a war zone. The Trade Unions Building was a burned-out shell. Entire sections of pavement were gone, the stones used as weapons against riot police the previous month. Piles of tires lined barricades. Boxes of bottles kept for Molotov cocktails were stowed away near tents. Unlike January, the students were gone. Nearly everyone was gone. Only a few dozen people mingled around the Maidan, mostly the elderly, curious tourists, and “revolutionaries” spinning doubtful, though anguished, tales.
Men in green camouflage uniforms also roamed the Maidan and the Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main boulevard. Among them were members of Right Sector, a radical right organization that had helped fight street battles with the Yanukovych regime. Wearing insignia, armbands, or scarves with trademark colors of the far right (red and black), they guarded buildings Right Sector had seized, including the Hotel Dnipro on European Square and three stores on the Khreshchatyk. One afternoon I saw a guard briefly pop out of one store with a rifle and then quickly return inside.
It was a frightening scene. One colleague made it even more frightening when he reported seeing such paramilitary types on the Khreshchatyk beat up a man with metal bars until he bled.
Yet all week, as I traveled back and forth in the rest of the city, Kyiv was just like it always was. Police patrolled the streets. People went to work and did their shopping. Even trains were running to Simferopol and Sevastopol, which by the week’s end had wound up in Russia.
What I’d seen in Kyiv last week epitomized the dubious power of Ukraine’s “far right,” as defined by Western and Russian media. While making quite a show in downtown Kyiv, neither Right Sector nor the Freedom (Svoboda) Party have much potential electoral support or real political power. While appearing to threaten the new government, these forces look like they are on the verge of dying out.
After Oleksandr Muzychko (Sashko Bilyi), Right Sector’s coordinator for western Ukraine, was killed in a gun battle with Sokil special forces near Rivne on March 25, Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh called for the immediate resignation of Acting Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov and the arrest of Sokil’s commander and Sokil agents responsible for Muzychko’s death. It looked like the new government was about to battle Right Sector as well as Russian forces across the eastern border.
However, the next day, March 26, a set of opinion polls suggested the far right was not much of a threat. A mere 2.5 percent of likely voters indicated that they would support Oleh Tiahnybok, leader of Svoboda, in May 25 presidential elections, and only 1.4 percent Dmytro Yarosh, leader of Right Sector. The same polling agencies – SOCIS, Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, Reitinh, and the Razumkov Center – polled Ukrainians on their opinions about early parliamentary elections, which have not yet been scheduled. A total of 5.2 percent of likely voters expressed a desire to support Svoboda, and only 2.7 percent Right Sector. On March 27, Right Sector rallied in front of the Supreme Rada, demanding that Avakov be fired and that former Acting Minister of Defense Ihor Teniukh face justice (presumably for his handling of the Crimean crisis). They brought tires to the entrance and broke some of its windows. Some activists forced their way inside. The drama soon ended here. After some debating, Right Sector decided not to storm the building, and by 10 p.m., Right Sector members had left the Supreme Rada’s premises.
The far right has strong symbolic presence on the Maidan and on the Khreshchatyk. They can voice popular grievances with police forces still perceived to be just like they were under the old regime. Svoboda members are in such government positions as General Prosecutor of Ukraine (Oleh Makhnits’kyi), Deputy Prime Minister (Oleksandr Sych), Environment Minister (Andriy Mokhnyk), and Agriculture Minister (Ihor Shvaika). While the General Prosecutor is a crucial position, Svoboda has only three posts in the Cabinet of Ministers, while the rest of the interim government is made up of members of the Fatherland (Bat’kivshchyna) Party, which is not on the far right, and independents. Given the overwhelming support for early parliamentary elections (65.8 percent, according to Ukrains’ka Pravda) and low polling numbers for Svoboda and Right Sector, it is doubtful the far right will have a serious presence in Ukraine’s state in the near future. Ineffective government, the threat of economic collapse, and Russia’s invasion of Crimea endanger Ukraine’s fragile revolution much more than Right Sector’s men standing guard in downtown Kyiv.
William Risch is an Associate Professor of History of Georgia College and author of The Ukrainian West: Culture and the Fate of Empire in Soviet Lviv (Harvard University Press, 2011)Post Views: 910