I found a rather strange article on Eurasianet.org on how the US House and Senate passed the HR: 6911, the Stability and Democracy for Georgia Act of 2008, or STAND for Georgia, as it is also called. (Get it? STA for “stability,” N for “and,” and D for “democracy”. Rep. Howard Berman [D-CA] is so clever!) The bill which, according to section 6 of the bill will allocate $1 billion to Georgia for “urgent humanitarian needs,” “reconstruction,” “economic development,” and “governance.” The bill authorizes $470 million for the 2008 fiscal year alone.
One would think that Congress doling out $1 billion to Georgia at the same time its desperately trying to plug the capitalist bleed with $700 billion tourniquet is a bit perverse. Especially since if today’s markets are any indication, the US government’s upward redistribution of wealth doesn’t seem to be working. Perhaps the fact that one stop measure here only produces a leak elsewhere is a sure sign that capital has no center.
Thankfully, perhaps Congress isn’t that perverse. Despite Joshua Kucera’s claims that “the large spending bill that included the aid to Georgia passed the House of Representatives on September 23 and the Senate passed it four days later,” I can’t seem to find any official entry on the Congressional record to confirm it. According to govtrack.us, the bill hasn’t seen any action since September 16 when it was introduced.
The only evidence Kucera provides to the bill’s passage is a few quotes from a nameless Congressional staff member. He might want to go back and ask Nameless what s/he’s talking about.
If this bill has passed, and it’s only a question of when, I would certainly like to know if Congress is awarding Georgia for starting a war.
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- By Sean — 5 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.
- By Sean — 4 years ago
The media is abuzz with claims that Russia has sent three T-64 tanks over the border in Ukraine. Reports the Wall Street Journal:
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization provided satellite imagery Saturday that appeared to reinforce Ukrainian and U.S. claims that Russian tanks had crossed into Ukraine in recent days.
On Thursday, senior Ukrainian officials, including President Petro Poroshenko,accused Russia of allowing tanks and heavy artillery to cross into Ukraine in what could be a significant escalation of the conflict.
. . .
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Thursday that a “column” of armored vehicles had crossed from Russia through border-control points controlled by separatists near the village of Dyakove in eastern Ukraine. He said three tanks went to the town of Snizhne, about 25 miles from Dyakove, one vehicle stayed at the border and two headed toward Horlivka.
The newly released images, which come from open sources including commercial satellite contractor DigitalGlobe Inc and from videos posted on YouTube, were provided by a NATO military official. Most of the images are grainy and it is difficult to independently verify the details provided by the official.
Did Russia really send three tanks? Mark Galeotti has a good post questioning the whole incident, but concludes with uncertainty. I’m with him on that. But to further cast doubt on the appearance of Russian tanks, here’s a news item from Svobodnaya pressa from June 10 that claims that separatists in Lugansk seized three T-64s from the Ukrainian military:
In Lugansk three T-64 tanks were seized from Ukrainian forces. One of them successfully crossed the border at the crossing “Dolzhansk” on the border with Russia . . . The permission to cross the border into the Lugansk People’s Republic was given by representatives of the local police, who surrendered to the separatists.”
Another report from June 9 states:
According to Russian and Ukrainian media, citing reports from representatives from the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, three T-64 Ukrainian tanks have fallen under their control.
It was reported that as a result of a drawn out battle in Lugansk, which lasted a day, Ukrainian forces were forced to retreat and abandon some heavy equipment and weapons, including three T-64 tanks.
Could these be the tanks everyone is talking about? Could be.
- By Sean — 14 years ago
Democracy or something like it rules in the Ukraine. The tenacious efforts of hundreds of thousands Viktor Yushchenko supporters have paid off in another runoff presidential election scheduled for December 26. In an unprecedented ruling the Ukrainian Supreme Court nullified the election that named Viktor Yanukovich the winner by a mere 3 percentage points and by about 800,000 votes. The standoff sparked an international tug of war between Washington and Moscow over the legitimacy of the elections. Putin, who favored Yanukovich, quickly sent his congratulations, while outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly declared the results “unacceptable.” President Bush gave a more moderated statement that his administration was watching the process closely. In all, for about two weeks Ukraine, a state of about 80 million, about the size of Texas, and has only been independent from the Russian yoke for 13 years, was on the world stage.
Already Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” is getting top billing as one of the most significant developments in the former Soviet Union over the last decade. And in retrospect, there is no doubt Russian specialists in the United States will place it within the pantheon of other “colored,” that is peaceful, “democratic”, pro-free market, and most importantly, pro-Western, revolutions of Eastern and Central Europe. The way many Western commentators are narrating the events of the Ukraine, you would think the Cold War was won all over again. Take for example, the weekend edition of the Moscow Times (an free English language newspaper here in Moscow), where a columnist from Agence France Presse likened Putin’s opposition as stamping “the big paw of Russia’s authority and influence in the former Soviet Republic.” The NY Times, for example, wrote that a resolution to Ukraine’s crisis was “especially incumbent on President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who, apparently forgetting that he’s no longer in the K.G.B., has been trying to ram last month’s fraudulent election results down the country’s throat.” I wish they would write something this forceful about Bush. Other headlines called Putin’s support for the pro-Russian Yanukovich his “biggest blunder” and his “Ukrainian dilemma.” Longtime Washington Post correspondent Michael McFaul wrote a long piece in the Weekly Standard, the neo-con equivalent of Bolshevik Party’s Pravda, declaring that Putin gambled and lost big and that his position on Ukraine should give Bush second thoughts on his relationship with Pootty-poot. It is hard not to read too much bravado in such swill. All I can say is, hey Condi, if you’re listening, Michael McFaul is looking for a job in the State Department. Such analyses could also be nostalgia on the part of the McFauls of the world for an enemy that you could locate on a map instead of the amorphous international terrorist network.
Whether the triumph of Yushchenko will actually mean a blow to Putin’s political capital is mere speculation. The reality is that whoever leads Ukraine cannot exactly ignore its Slavic big brother to the east. If anything, the situation in the Ukraine should make Putin more apprehensive and hard-line in reinforcing Russia’s sphere of influence. It should make him question his relationship with Bush. After all, it’s not Putin who is placing Russian military bases in and wooing America’s neighbors into a military alliance. Nor was it Putin who suggested the Bush Administration negotiate with Al-Qaeda after September 11, though the Bush Administration made such suggestions after Beslan. I can only imagine how the Bush Administration would act if such a situation happened in Mexico, and say the Chinese government made similar statements that Colin Powell made. What’s clear, is that many politicians, diplomats, pundits and experts still see the world as a bi-polar struggle between East and West. Despite the Bush Administration’s attempts to recast this global binary in religious-ethnic terms under the euphemistic “War on Terrorism,” Russia still remains that ambiguous midpoint that cannot be fully trusted. Russia continues to be almost Western, but not quite.
This is no defense on my part of Putin’s actions or policies. It is just to suggest how the narrative of the “Orange Revolution” is being written in the West. Nor is it to suggest that the situation in the Ukraine was not a triumph for Ukrainian democracy. It was, but not because Yushchenko will be any better than Yanukovich, but because the Ukrainian people stood up and stood firm against clear election violations. And election fraud there was. The Moscow Times reported on December 1 that the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission reported that there was a 9.1% voter surge in regions that supported Yanukovich. In Donetsk, one of the regions that threatened to succeed, voter turnout was up 18.6% to remarkable 96.7%! To think 96.2% of them voted for Yanukovich (Did they think that the 0.5% was going to be convincing?). An estimated total of 1.7 million votes were added by Yanukovich’s people. And Kathleen Harris and Jeb Bush thought they were good at rigging elections.
No, this was certainly a great victory for the Ukrainian people, though to call it a “revolution” is to engage in all sorts of Western hyperbole and self righteousness. As most level headed experts have noted, the difference between Yushchenko and Yanukovich is about as big as between Bush and Kerry. There is no indication that there will be any sweeping changes to the Ukrainian system. Nor is there any real indication that Yushchenko will risk poor relations for Russia in exchange for EU or NATO membership. Given the corrupt bastard that Yushchenko apparently is, there is no indication that anything will change. That is unless, of course, the protests in Kiev have really reinvigorated, if not revolutionized democracy from below. The people now have a sense of their power. As Misha Kolodiy, a brightly, orange haired Ukrainian 20-year-old, put it to the Associated Press, “It’s very cool to be Ukrainian now.” Yep, cooler than Jesus. Its seems there is a possibility that the forces Yushchenko unleashed to catapult him into power might force him make some compromise to the masses, who, it seems supported him because he isn’t Yanukovich.
The power of the Ukrainian protests seems to have been forgotten in the effort to narrate the “Orange Revolution” as yet another triumph for the Western values, as grave mistake on Putin’s part, and as the Cold War reborn. This is even true, and somewhat surprising, among the American Left. One would think that the successful protests in the Ukraine would be a shining example of the global power of slogans like “Power to the People!” and “Who’s streets! Our streets!” And perhaps there was some of this, but it was overshadowed by a mourning of the death of democracy in America. This is seen in the fact that most left commentators framed the Ukraine as the United States’ democratic Other onto which they could project all their hopes and dreams for a popular movement to raise similar questions about our recent Presidential election. The similarities of which, I noted a few blogs ago. Unfortunately, when the American Left held up the Ukrainian mirror and struggled to see their reflection cast in a Ukrainian key, all they got back was an atrophied visage, withering further despite recent calls against despair and for organizing and struggle. Perhaps the real blow came to the American left, when they realized that last week marked five years since the glorious Battle in Seattle, where anti-globalization activists facilitated the collapse of World Trade Organization talks. Yet this deeper irony, that five years after Seattle the American Left seems weaker than ever before, seems to have escaped many.
Instead, the Ukrainian elections and protests were harnessed as yet another opportunity to damn Bush. While I don’t disagree with this in principle—such incidents of Bush’s hypocrisy are just too good to pass up—the effort to cast US involvement in Ukraine as some sort of omnipotent force misses the fact that hundreds of thousands of people were on the streets longer and in worse conditions than any American Leftist, perhaps even including your humble writer, would ever spend. Many Leftists jumped on the article in the London Guardian that noted the presence of groups such as the Soros Foundation (hey didn’t he also bankroll MoveOn.org?), the National Endowment for Democracy, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Freedom House in Yushchenko’s camp after he got the United States’ public support. The masses in the streets were frequently portrayed as completely manipulated by the mystical powers of advertising, campaign spin, focus groups, and other nefarious American electoral mainstays. Ironically, the Left analysis sounded a lot like Putin’s camp, except they never made the connection between Yushchenko’s wife and her service in the Reagan Administration. Hell, even my khoziaka, Natasha, came home from work one evening and accused the US of being a hibernating snake. When you get it close to your warm body, it suddenly awakens and bites you.
Yet again the Left analysis was narrated in terms of two dueling states, the US and Russia, for little young Ukraine’s affection. US neo-imperialism with all its arms sales, IMF loans, WTO membership, and World Bank projects, seeped into the scene only to manipulate the poor Ukrainians who are too inexperienced to understand democracy. For example, Gary Leupp’s article, “Poll Results Aren’t the Real Issue: Ukraine and Inter-Imperialist Rivalry” on Counterpunch.org portrayed the Ukrainian crisis as imperialist rivalry and that the Ukraine was part of the US larger campaign to get control of Central Asian oil. A Yushchenko victory would open the possibility of Ukraine opening oil deals with its Caucausian neighbors to bypass Russia. Leupp then went on to place Ukrainian “democracy” in a Cold War context with a reference to Henry Kissenger’s statement about “irresponsible democracy” in Chile after that nation elected the soft Marxist Salvador Allende in 1973. Now I don’t disagree with the gist of Leupp’s article. However, there is no need to overdetermine US power. Plus all of this is predicated upon Yushchenko doing the bidding of his western masters at the risk of pissing off Putin. Overall, the narcissism of the American Left analysis where all roads go through Washington is almost too much to bare. It seems that according to the Leftist view, Ukrainians are almost democratic, but not quite.
I would suggest that even if Yushchenko was bankrolled by the West, his victory is a good thing. Not because he will be in power, but because of the means he came to power. The fact that hundreds of thousands of people were on the streets for days to challenge the electoral system, and not leaving until something was done, is a positive development. We don’t know how much this really galvanized the political grassroots of Ukrainian society, partially because no one has bothered to report on it. Moreover it is one of the few times mass protest actually worked. If American Leftists want to learn something, perhaps they should take a gander at how their Ukrainian comrades did it. What was it about this election that made some many people get personally involved? How were these protests organized and sustained? How much pressure did they put on the Ukrainian government? What was the binding ideology? Was it Yushchenko or something else? How did it sustain its peacefulness? What happened to the police?
Perhaps more important is not what Western organizations came to Yushchenko’s aid, but how and why? Would this have occurred if they didn’t? What exactly was their role? Is this really an inter-imperialist rivalry or the Cold War revisited as the pundits would have us believe or is this how democratic “revolutions” now occur? What exactly is the local context of the Ukraine and how it tied to the global?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. But I certainly will be looking for them in the coming weeks and months.