Josh Kucera was kind enough to email me about my post yesterday about the aid bill to Georgia. According to Josh, the bill that passed was not HR 6911 or the STAND for Georgia Act. What passed was HR 2638, the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009. HR 2638 is an interesting piece of legislation indeed. A quick glance at the bill’s Table of Contents you will find appropriations for the FDA, FBI, the Department of Labor, US embassies, Department of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs. But tucked away under the heading Bilateral Economic Assistance, there is this paragraph:
For an additional amount for ‘Economic Support Fund’, $465,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010, of which up to $5,000,000 may be made available for administrative expenses of the United States Agency for International Development, in addition to amounts otherwise made available for such purposes: Provided, That of the funds appropriated under this heading, $365,000,000 shall be made available for assistance for Georgia and the region for humanitarian and economic relief, reconstruction, energy-related programs and democracy activities, and may be transferred to, and merged with, funds appropriated under the headings ‘Assistance for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union’ and ‘International Disaster Assistance’, of which up to $8,000,000 may be transferred to, and merged with, funds made available for ‘International Broadcasting Operations’ for broadcasting activities to Georgia, Russia and the region.
up to$8,000,000 may be transferred
As Kucera originally reported, the bill passed the House (268 to 150), the Senate (89 to 4), and signed by President Bush. Now the majority of congressmen can pat themselves on the back for paying off Saakashvili, er protecting democracy, for his little war.
So I was wrong on another point. The US Congress is perverse enough to give the Georgians $365 million as the American economy tanks. Nice. Real nice.
My sincerest apologies to Josh for the misunderstanding. I thank him for clearing it up.
You Might also like
By Sean — 4 years ago
by Uilleam Blacker
On Wednesday, February 19, following the worst violence so far of the Ukrainian protests, BBC Radio 4’s Today program, probably the leading radio news show in the UK, reported on Ukraine. The program’s correspondent Daniel Sandford warned of the danger of a bloody civil war and of the splitting of the country. On February 20, the program spoke of half of Ukraine that ‘feels more Russian’ and half that ‘feels more European’. On Wednesday, Today presenter Mishal Husain asked Robert Brinkley, former UK ambassador to Ukraine and Russia, about the prospect of war and a split, saying that after all, ‘half the country speaks Russian’. Recognizing the risk of further unrest, Brinkley nevertheless cautioned that talk of a split was exaggerated. The country’s supposed East-West split is not clean cut, he said, neither are its ethnic or linguistic divisions. Sadly, Brinkley’s differentiated understanding of Ukraine is sorely lacking in wider Western commentary on Ukraine.
Talk of sharp divisions is not limited to journalists, but is also frequently heard from specialized commentators, for whom identifying Ukraine’s ‘deep divide’ seems to the first marker of expertise on the country. Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor at Princeton and New York universities, commented thus in The Nation:
But every informed observer knows—from Ukraine’s history, geography, languages, religions, culture, recent politics and opinion surveys—that the country is deeply divided as to whether it should join Europe or remain close politically and economically to Russia. There is not one Ukraine or one “Ukrainian people” but at least two, generally situated in its Western and Eastern regions.
A similar message came from two other North American academics, Lucan Way and Keith Darden, in their blog for the Washington Post (albeit presenting a far more nuanced view than Cohen):
We should be particularly wary when “the people” referred to are the people of Ukraine. If 20 years of scholarship and surveys teach us one thing, it is that Ukraine is a country that is deeply divided on virtually every issue pertaining to relations with Russia or the West, with very deep historic divisions that continue to bear on contemporary politics.
This idea of a fatally divided state that can barely hold itself together because of political, linguistic, cultural and other differences is repeated so often that it has become a commonplace, and is widely reproduced in less specialized media coverage, as on the BBC.
Yet the BBC’s ‘received wisdom’ about Ukraine, and the statements made by Way, Darden and Cohen demand some scrutiny. Why should we be extra-careful when talking about the ‘Ukrainian people’? Why the quotation marks? Politicians and commentators the world over talk about the people of their countries and what it wants. No-one corrects them by pointing out that in fact the peoples they refer to are internally differentiated. Why is it necessary to establish overwhelming consensus in Ukraine in order to justify talking about the Ukrainian people?
Regional diversity is seen as the geographical basis for warnings of divisions, splits and wars. Certainly, strong regional political differences, based in historical, ethnic and/or cultural differences, can create fault lines within states: Northern Ireland is a case in point, separated from the Republic of Ireland and having autonomous status within the UK. Scotland is about to vote to separate from the rest of the UK. If one wants to talk about deep regional differences, the UK is a much more dramatic case than Ukraine. Ukraine has no strong separatist movements. There are no political parties who include cession of any part of the country in their programmes. There are no problems with separatist terrorist organizations.
Crimea, Ukraine’s most ethnically Russian region and an important site of Russian strategic interest, is the only place where some degree of separatism is really noticeable. The region, a small part of Ukraine with a population of around 2 million, has an identity powerfully distinct from the rest of the country, and enjoys a high level of autonomy. Rumblings are often heard about the prospect of ceding to Russia, but this has never really been seriously entertained, and voters overwhelmingly support Yanukovych’s party, which wants Crimea as part of Ukraine. Any potential conflict in Crimea is likely to be caused by Russian-Ukrainian geopolitical relations, potentially similar to the conflict between Georgia and Russia in South Ossetia in 2008, but neither side is likely to risk this scenario. Ethnic tensions or separatism on the ground are not strong enough to spark major unrest.
Compared to the UK, then, with Scotland and Northern Ireland, or Spain, with the Basques and Catalans, where threats of separatism are very real, Ukraine’s territorial integrity seems to be fairly safe. Nevertheless, Western observers see supposed regional splits as deeply threatening to Ukraine’s future as a state. At the same time, even the immanent prospect of the separation of Scotland from the UK and the continued terrorist activity in Northern Ireland, while of course causes for concern for many, inspire neither domestic or foreign observers to create a doom-laden discourse of political impossibility around the future of the UK.
Division is often drawn along linguistic lines – as the question posed by the BBC’s news presenter demonstrates. ‘After all, half the country speaks Russian, doesn’t it?’ Well, not exactly. In the country as a whole, the Ukrainian language dominates as the stated native language, though research suggests that actual language use brings Ukrainian and Russian closer. There are certainly regional differences – the East is generally more Russophone – but the geographical spread of the two languages is actually quite complex. Many people speak both, or mixtures of the two. It is often hard for an individual, even in the east, to define whether they are a Russian speaker or a Ukrainian speaker, never mind for an entire region. Anyone following the protests online will have noticed a robust mixture of Ukrainian and Russian voices in the Maidan camp.
But accepting that different languages are used across the country, with regional variation, is there any link between this and potential civil war and state collapse? One thing that is important to remember here is that in Ukraine (as in many other countries) language doesn’t mark ethnicity. Only about one-sixth of the population is ethnically Russian (and here it’s important to note that making any conclusions about Russians’ political views based on ethnicity would be hasty). There are more ethnically Ukrainian Russian speakers than there are Russian ones. Ukraine is not Yugoslavia (an analogy that is often cited) – over 80 percent of its inhabitants share the same national identity, and there is no history of ethnic conflict between the inhabitants of present day Ukraine.
The Russian language is a mainstay of life in Ukraine, and can be heard in any region. Most Ukrainians consume Russian media, watch Russian movies, read Russian literature or listen to Russian music to some degree, and in this the west of the country is actually no exception. But there is little difference between this language-based affinity and that found among Irish people for British culture, or among Brits for American culture. These affinities may speak to certain overlaps in identity, attitudes, historical experience, but they are not omens of any future political union.
Linguistic diversity in Ukraine is much less of a ‘problem’ than some outsiders seem to think: in everyday life, one might meet some resistance for speaking Ukrainian in Odessa or Russian in L’viv, but most people pay little attention. Ukrainians often hold conversations across two languages without really noticing. Surveys from the early days of Yanukovych’s rule have suggested that the ‘language question’, so inflated by politicians around election time, is actually of little concern to ordinary people, worrying only around 5 percent of the population.
And yet again, Western observers often pick up on these differences as evidence of a flawed society that is heading for catastrophe, despite the fact that linguistic diversity is in fact the norm in many countries, and is something that is openly promoted by the EU as desirable and important.
In both articles mentioned above, and in numerous others, observers point out that support for the EU is another point that splits Ukraine. It is true that support is not uniform across the country, and there is no clear majority support for the EU: Way and Darden cite a survey that shows that 43 percent supports EU membership, and 32 percent membership of the Customs Union (the survey doesn’t ask about the actual proposition of the EU trade agreement that was rejected by Yanukovych; it also suggests that of those willing to actually vote in potential referenda, 58 percent would favour the EU and 42 the Customs Union). But should the reluctance of a significant proportion of the country’s population to commit to supporting EU integration be seen as yet another fatal divide in the country? The situation in fact makes Ukraine typically European: Euroscepticism has become very strong in many European states. The UK may well hold a referendum on its membership. Polls suggest that support for EU membership in the UK is significantly lower than it is in Ukraine (only around 30 percent support for membership according to 2012 polls). Yet while this is fairly standard for some actual EU members, in Ukraine, where disapproval of the EU is lower and enthusiasm certainly more visible, division on the issue is seen as an insurmountable problem for closer ties with Europe.
All of this smacks of the most condescending kind of Western double standards. While political, linguistic, and cultural diversity seem to be desirable traits, signs of ‘normal’, tolerant, democratic European societies, in the Ukrainian case these traits are seen as signs of deeply threatening divisions in society. What’s okay for the rich nations of the West – regional, cultural, linguistic diversity that is reflected in a varied political landscape – is not okay for poor, chaotic Ukraine. The present unrest is seen as proof of this.
Yet it should be obvious to any observer that the unrest in Ukraine is not a result of any kind of ethnic, regional, linguistic or other split, nor does it foresee any territorial split or civil war: it is the result of the disastrous rule of a corrupt and brutal government that represents the interests of small elite that is determined to hang on to its wealth and power at any cost. Any future violence will not be between different ethnic, regional or linguistic groups: it will be between the state and its opponents. That opposition may be stronger in some parts of the country than in others, but those who are less willing to protest are unlikely to take arms against Maidan supporters. No-one is willing to fight for Yanukovych, other than the thugs he pays to do so.
One wonders what the ideal scenario would be for Ukraine, according to those who lament its lack of unity. Putin managed to achieve an impressive level of political unity and stability in the country for much of his time in power (with some notable exceptions to the rule, such as the bloody secessionist war in Chechnia). Is this kind of unity a desirable scenario for Ukraine? Perhaps it’s time to recognize that Ukraine’s perceived divisions are in fact simply typical signs of diversity; they are not a liability, but a sign of cultural richness, and can, if harnessed and embraced, provide the foundations for the emergence of a vibrant and differentiated democracy.
Uilleam Blacker is Postdoctoral Fellow, St Antony’s College, Oxford
Image: Washington PostPost Views: 736
By Sean — 2 years ago
By Sean — 7 years ago
Putin and Medvedev disagree on the NATO air strikes on Libya! Sound the alarms! The tandem is collapsing! Oh, the horror! The horror!
Yesterday Putin caused a media storm when he likened the military intervention into the Libyan civil war to “a medieval call for a crusade.” A few hours later, Medvedev shot back with “Under no circumstances is it acceptable to use expressions that essentially lead to a clash of civilizations — such as ‘crusade’ and so on.” Without mentioning Putin’s name directly, he then called the “crusade” reference “unacceptable” and voiced his moral support for the UN no-fly zone, and by extension Western notions of humanitarian interventionism. But what else could Medvedev say? He’s responsible for foreign policy, and Russia’s abstention in the UN Security Council was a de-facto voice of support without commitment. To backtrack now would, like Sergei Lavrov’s concern about civilian casualties, make Russia look silly. They knew what was on the table when they decided to keep quiet.
Moreover, to not respond to Putin, whose word everyone inside and outside Russia hangs on, would reaffirm that Medvedev is exactly what most think he already is: Putin’s lap dog. He’s been in office three years now, and his days sulking in Putin’s shadow are long over. It’s just that most of us have yet to accept the truth that Putin’s and Medvedev’s “differences in style” can indeed be reconciled into a Hegelian whole, and Russian politics can be, ahem, normal.
This of course isn’t the first time Medvedev and Putin have disagreed. As Kommersant helpfully reminds us, they butted heads in June 2009 over entering the WTO as part of the customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, or go it alone. In September 2010, they disagreed over grain exports and then that December over the second Khodorkovsky trial and the nature of the USSR. Most recently, they had differing statements about the investigation of the terrorist bombings in Domodedovo. All of them were much to do about nothin’. Much to the disappointment of pretty much everyone, the sky did not fall.
Still, the difference in opinion has produced a lot of chatter and speculation. There is good reason for this. First, unlike the above incidents, there is no grey area when it comes to foreign policy. This is exclusively the President’s turf. Second, and perhaps because it’s his turf, Medvedev’s rebuke was quick, clear, and forceful. Medvedev’s message: Back in your yard, big dog.
That said, the reaction to two alpha-dogs pissing around their territory speaks to the larger issue of how disagreements within the tandem are interpreted. I’m not sure if the repeated hoopla is based in real substance, a desire to see tandem collapse, or a strange assumption that Russian politics can’t sustain difference. I tend to think it is the latter. Many assume that Russian politics is monolithic and monochromatic, and any sign of cracks will inevitably lead to the utter collapse of the entire edifice. However, while this view is based in historical-cultural assumptions about how Russia is ruled, it is also one facilitated by the powers that be themselves. The fact that political disagreements among the big boys are rarely aired in public, and when they are, quickly retreated behind closed doors, gives the impression that they are part of one uni-mind or can’t sustain difference because their collective leadership is based on a fragile coalition of players.
And because of they are rarely public, disagreements in the tandem have great signaling power. Putin may be coy about running for President in 2012, but his supporters are going to get increasingly impatient especially since it is clearer and clearer that Medvedev is going seek a second term. So while these public moments might not have any real meaning to Medvedev and Putin beyond a simple difference of opinion, the factions that support them might blow them out of proportion. As insider Gleb Pavlovsky told Interfax, “Putin’s statement created an occasion for people who are searching for a split in the tandem. He unwittingly sent a conflicting signal to those who are searching for the possibility to unite against Medvedev and his policies. Such a signal was a mistake by the Prime Minister because it was not only seized by opponents of Medvedev but also opponents of Putin, and everyone who wants a split in the tandem to destabilize the entire political situation.” He went on to add, “This signal is really unusual. We see and hear how the chorus of Medvedev opponents, including opponents in the government apparatus, and also in the executive and legislative branches, who are afraid up until now to speak publicly, can now exclaim “Let Putin be our leader and political chieftain!”
Politics however is mainly about appearance and interpretation, especially in our soundbite ridden decontextualized world. Therefore while the differences between Medvedev and Putin might be “stylistic,” their unleashing into the similacrum might, in Pavlovsky’s words, become “dangerous.” This is why I think that there has been a concerted effort to downplay any real difference between the two, even when it’s meaningless. And it is especially imperative to do so in this case. The bombing of Libya ignites the passions of Russians who, like Putin, remember the bombing of Serbia and hold deep justifiable suspicions of NATO and the projection of Western power. So it is no surprise that Putin declared that his statement was his personal opinion, and his spokesman Dmitrii Peskov reiterated this fact to the press. Nor is it astonishing that other experts have been quick to say that there is no fundamental break between the two. Plus, as Stas Kucher wrote on his blog, the suggestion that there is any real split between these “blood brothers” is naive. No matter how many different cords the two strum, the song remains the same.
Perhaps this public moment will finally convince people that these disagreements between Medvedev and Putin are a good thing. First, they show that there can be coexistence with difference. And given that in my opinion the Russian state is haunted by an enduring sense of fragility, this will add a bit to its confidence. Second, these tiffs, if you can really even call them that, at the very least open the possibility for political pluralism and open public discourse. If this incident sends any signal, it should be that. The more the political elite sees that every ripple in the tandem’s armor isn’t reason to go to the mattresses is to the benefit of everyone, especially themselves.
Image: Свободная прессаPost Views: 976