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Don’t Be Fooled: The Kremlin Isn’t Backpedaling

Don’t Be Fooled: The Kremlin Isn’t Backpedaling

What to make of Putin’s call for the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to postpone their referendum? Nothing, except perhaps that it represents a shift in tactics.

Yesterday Vladimir Putin called on the Ukrainian separatists in Donetsk to postpone their referendum on independence from Ukraine. Putin also called for dialogue between the Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian forces, and offered support for Merkel’s idea for a Ukrainian “roundtable.” What are we to make of this?

There are a few things we can say about this gesture. First, it could represent Putin’s understanding that a referendum under the barrel of a gun wasn’t going to receive much in the way of global recognition. Second, it would have increased the threat of more painful sanctions. Third, we could interpret it as a change of tactics by the Kremlin: Putin is now pursuing the Kremlin agenda in Ukraine by presenting Russia as a neutral Arbitrator between the two sides of the conflict. Moreover, Putin hopes to strike a deal with the West that would guarantee the principle that external forces (and Russia first of all, of course) have a right to influence the internal political process in Ukraine.

One thing we can safely say is that the Kremlin hasn’t given up on other means of meddling. But what to make of the fact that the Councils of the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republics” have rejected Putin’s call? Does this mean that the pro-Russian separatists in the Ukrainian East have cut the leash? Or is it the beginning of the new Kremlin intrigue: “See? We aren’t controlling them!” It remains to be seen.

But while we wait for the next development in the crisis, we need to start thinking about what this situation means for global security, the world order, and our understanding of key political principles and norms. Let’s look at the major implications of the Ukraine crisis.

1. The Kremlin is attempting to reassess the outcomes of the Cold War, which it views as unjust. This reassessment is about far more than just redrawing borders: It is about re-examining the conventional views of the Soviet Union’s collapse and the Cold War’s winners and losers. Rectifying “historical wrongs” in Crimea is but the first step on this mission. Considering Putin’s perception of Russia and Ukraine as a “single nation”, and his dismissal of the current Ukrainian leadership as a “junta”, we ought to expect him to take additional steps toward “righting historical wrongs” in Ukraine. The Russian president has probably decided to enter the textbooks as a visionary who changed the course of history. In this case, once Putin has started to restore justice, he hardly would stop in Ukraine. Putin’s conciliatory tone on May 7 and his support of the Ukrainian “dialogue” should be interpreted not as a change of his Doctrine but a change of tactics.

2. Some mistakenly believe that the Kremlin is returning to the 1945 Yalta Accords, which established spheres of influence for each of the victors of the war. Much of the world evidently hoped that placing Crimea more firmly within the Russian sphere of influence would satisfy the Kremlin. What naiveté! The Kremlin’s agenda is much more ambitious: It wants global actors to endorse Russia’s right to create and protect the “Russian World”, including ethnic Russians in other states. Essentially, this is an attempt to repeat the 1938 Munich Agreement. However, I suspect that this notion of the “Russian World” is only a pretext to pursue other goals—the actions of a leader who has begun to feel omnipotent, who has lost (or perhaps never had) an adequate understanding of dangers, threats, and limits. Putin certainly has never expressed any concern for the discrimination faced by Russians in Turkmenistan, or the safety of Russians in Chechnya. No, the “defense of the Russian-speaking population” looks more like an ideal way to turn Russia into “A Nation at War.” Tomorrow could just as easily bring a different pretext for keeping the country in this mode.

3. Many fear that Moscow craves another land grab, that its aim is territorial expansion. To be sure, Putin seems to have a healthy respect for the time-honored uses of holding onto land and flexing military muscle. But I am confident that territory is only playing a secondary role here in Putin’s calculus. The idea of “justice” is more important to the Kremlin, and justice in this case does not necessarily have to mean holding on to territory. One can only imagine what would become of the world order if it were regulated by this notion of justice.

4. Putin has laid waste to a host of international agreements. It’s not that he rejects the need for them; he just wants others to recognize that the Kremlin has the right to its own interpretation of international agreements and principles.

5. The West will have to take another look at the security challenges it is facing, particularly as they relate to the nuclear non-proliferation regime. After all, if Ukraine in 1994 had not given up its nuclear arsenal, it wouldn’t be in the spot it is today. Both Iran and North Korea have certainly taken several lessons from the Ukraine saga. The conventional forces regime after Russia’s withdrawal from the CFE treaty is also in shambles, and this allows Russia to mass its troops along any border it wishes. NATO, in response, was forced to break its 1997 pledge not to position its forces in Eastern and Central Europe. Pandora’s box has been opened…

6. This isn’t the first time the Kremlin has offered to create, with the West, a “collective” governing body (an axis) including the United States, the European Union, and Russia. This has long been a favorite proposal of Sergei Lavrov. Moscow may very well interpret the Geneva agreements of April 17, which contain demands for internal political changes in Ukraine, as a step in this direction. In fact, Moscow was able to force Washington and the European capitals to open a discussion of Ukraine’s constitutional arrangement, which amounts to collective curtailment of the country’s sovereignty. The idea is supported by quite a few Western pragmatists who have lobbied for a “collective help” solution for Ukraine that would, of course, include Russia. The German idea of “roundtable” in Ukraine fits nicely the Kremlin model of “collective leadership”, which would give Russia a role as one of the moderators in the conflict, presenting one of the sides.

7. In the course of looking for solutions for the Ukrainian crisis, leading political figures have lost much of their authority. German Chancellor Angela Merkel could become a prime example of this. After establishing herself as a key European actor during the global financial crisis and the Eurozone crisis, Merkel attempted to assume the role of a peacemaker in the Ukrainian conflict. But the Kremlin interpreted the “Merkel formula”, which was supposed to be a calibrated response that allowed Putin to save face, as a sign of weakness and an invitation to push Germany (and the West) even further. I would bet that the Kremlin believes that Germany’s “moderating” influence would prevent the West from doing anything that would risk making the Kremlin really unhappy and would allow the Kremlin to strike a new Faustian bargain with the West over Ukraine.

8. Europe’s failure to thwart Putin prompted Washington’s return to the European stage. As much as President Obama does not want to get himself entangled in the Ukrainian events, these very events, thanks to their geopolitical and civilizational component, will become a litmus test for determining how successful his foreign policy has been. But the unfortunate truth is that President Obama can’t win in the short to medium term, no matter what he does. “Sectoral sanctions” on Russia’s finance, energy, or defense industries? These all take time, and won’t be able to disrupt Putin’s plan for undermining the Ukrainian elections and “reformatting Ukraine” (although it could modify his means of pursuing his agenda). Readiness to “accommodate” the Kremlin? This would mean a defeat for the United States as a leading Western power, which would have tremendous international and civilizational consequences.

9. Russia has once again taken up the tools and principles of confrontation and “might makes right.” Postmodern Europe, with its emphasis on treaties, soft power, and negotiations, has proven utterly feckless when it comes to bringing the Kremlin to heel. It still isn’t clear whether the United States will be able to return to Europe and reinvent the Transatlantic partnership in order to check Putin’s revanchism. Will the United States be able to turn away from its policy of retrenchment? Will NATO be able to adopt a new mission? We don’t have an answer to these questions yet. One thing is clear, however: Russia’s return to militarism is certain to make the Western powers reconsider their defense budgets. We are in for a new arms race.

10. I can’t help but smile when I hear Putin called a “Russian nationalist.” It’s a sign that the speaker doesn’t really understand the Kremlin’s motives. Just like all of his predecessors, Putin supports the empire. Just like them, he probably believes that Russia can survive only as an empire rather than as a normal nation state. You may ask, “What about his pledge to defend Russian speakers?” The answer is quite simple. In order to advance his imperial agenda, Putin is trying to co-opt the nationalists, who have thus far fallen in the anti-Putin and anti-Kremlin camp. At present, he is succeeding in this task: Both the left-wing and the nationalist segments have supported his crusade, both inside and outside Russia! Who could ever have predicted that after the collapse of the Soviet Communist International, Moscow would succeed in building a Right-Wing International that supports its adventure in Ukraine.

11. The West understood how to deal with the Soviet Union, but dealing with Russia will be far more complex. Today, Russia and the West (especially Europe) are tightly interconnected. The Russian elite is plugged into the Western economy and its financial system. That is why the West is helpless when it comes to containing Russia. So far, the Western governments haven’t shown any willingness to inflict financial or other kind of pain on themselves.

12. The crisis in Ukraine has raised the issue of “fifth columns” within Russia, and elsewhere as well. By fifth columnists, I mean minorities whose interests differ from those of the state where they live. Russia’s liberal minority suffered a devastating defeat when Russia returned to its traditional matrix; this minority will also be the first victim of the Kremlin’s next crackdown.

But what will happen to the “fifth column” of Russia supporters in the West? These are the business leaders, the lawyers, the politicians, and the media personalities who serve the interests of Russia’s corrupt Western laundry machine. These figures are obviously worried; they have an interest in proving that the crisis was caused by the West, which doesn’t understand Russia. They have urged the West to give Ukraine to Moscow, to guarantee that it will never become a member of NATO or the EU. Chances are that the voices of this “fifth column” will be heard, since pragmatic Western politicians who do not cater to Russia’s corrupt elite hold similar views. They don’t want to get involved in this conflict, so they have drawn up the Western sanctions regime so as not to compromise Western business interests in Russia and not to anger Putin and close off a chance to cooperate with him. It makes sense; if the West backs down it will need to know who is dictating the rules of the game.

There are plenty more implications of the Ukrainian crisis besides these. Some are just beginning to make themselves known, and besides, the Law of Unintended Consequences is working its magic as well. Putin has unleashed a tide and nobody knows what it will bring for Russia and its leader. I’ll talk about some of these possibilities in future updates.

LILIA SHEVTSOVA Published on May 8, 2014
RUSSIA DIARY
www.the-american-interest.com/shevtsova/2014/05/08/dont-be-fooled-putin-isnt-backpedaling/

Read more: Russia’s actions in Ukraine clearly violate the Geneva Conventions
www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/russias-actions-in-ukraine-clearly-violate-the-geneva-conventions/2014/05/06/74c8fcde-d22f-11e3-937f-d3026234b51c_story.html

Neo-Nazis in Moscow’s Service
khpg.org/index.php?id=1399501345

Ruslana – Putin’s plan is to destroy Ukraine | BBC News

The Future of Europe: An Interview with George Soros

The Future of Europe: An Interview with George Soros
George Soros and Gregor Peter Schmitz APRIL 24, 2014 ISSUE
Parts of the following interview with George Soros by the Spiegel correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz appear in their book, The Tragedy of the European Union: Disintegration or Revival?, just published by PublicAffairs.

Supporters of the Russian annexation of Crimea at a rally in Red Square, Moscow, March 18, 2014

Supporters of the Russian annexation of Crimea at a rally in Red Square, Moscow, March 18, 2014


Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Supporters of the Russian annexation of Crimea at a rally in Red Square, Moscow, March 18, 2014
Gregor Peter Schmitz: The conflict in Crimea and Ukraine has changed the shape of European and world politics, and we will come to it. But let us first talk about a subject on which you’ve taken a critical position over the years: the crisis of the European Union: With regard to the euro, isn’t the worst over?

George Soros: If you mean that the euro is here to stay, you are right. That was confirmed by the German elections, where the subject was hardly discussed, and by the coalition negotiations, where it was relegated to Subcommittee 2A. Chancellor Angela Merkel is satisfied with the way she handled the crisis and so is the German public. They reelected her with an increased majority. She has always done the absolute minimum necessary to preserve the euro. This has earned her the allegiance of both the pro- Europeans and those who count on her to protect German national interests. That is no mean feat.

So the euro is here to stay, and the arrangements that evolved in response to the crisis have become established as the new order governing the eurozone. This confirms my worst fears. It’s the nightmare I’ve been talking about. I’m hopeful that the Russian invasion of Crimea may serve as a wake-up call. Germany is the only country in a position to change the prevailing order. No debtor country can challenge it; any that might try would be immediately punished by the financial markets and the European authorities.

Schmitz: If you said that to Germans, they would say: Well, we have already evolved a lot. We are more generous now and have modified our policy of austerity.

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Soros: I acknowledge that Germany has stopped pushing the debtor countries underwater. They are getting a little bit of oxygen now and are beginning to breathe. Some, particularly Italy, are still declining, but at a greatly diminished pace. This has given a lift to the financial markets because the economies are hitting bottom and that almost automatically brings about a rebound.

But the prospect of a long period of stagnation has not been removed. It’s generally agreed that the eurozone is threatened by deflation but opposition from the German Constitutional Court and its own legal departments will prevent the European Central Bank (ECB) from successfully overcoming the deflationary pressures the way other central banks, notably the Federal Reserve, have done.

The prospect of stagnation has set in motion a negative political dynamic. Anybody who finds the prevailing arrangements intolerable is pushed into an anti-European posture. This leads me to expect the process of disintegration to gather momentum. During the acute phase of the euro crisis we had one financial crisis after another. Now there should be a series of political rather than financial crises, although the latter cannot be excluded.

Schmitz: You say that current arrangements are intolerable. What exactly needs to change? What needs to be reformed?

Soros: At the height of the euro crisis, Germany agreed to a number of systemic reforms, the most important of which was a banking union. But as the financial pressures abated, Germany whittled down the concessions it had made. That led to the current arrangements, which confirm my worst fears.

Schmitz: As we speak, European finance ministers are in the process of concluding an agreement on the banking union. What do you think of it?

Soros: In the process of negotiations, the so-called banking union has been transformed into something that is almost the exact opposite: the reestablishment of national “silos,” or separately run banks. This is a victory for Orwellian newspeak.

Schmitz: What’s wrong with it?

Soros: The incestuous relationship between national authorities and bank managements. France in particular is famous for its inspecteurs de finance, who end up running its major banks. Germany has its Landesbanken and Spain its caixas, which have unhealthy connections with provincial politicians. These relationships were a major source of weakness in the European banking system and played an important part in the banking crisis that is still weighing on the eurozone. The proposed banking union should have eliminated them, but they were largely preserved, mainly at German insistence.

Schmitz: That is a pretty drastic condemnation. How do you justify it?

Soros: In effect, the banking union will leave the banking system without a lender of last resort. The proposed resolution authority is so complicated, with so many decision-making entities involved, that it is practically useless in an emergency. Even worse, the ECB is legally prohibited from undertaking actions for which it is not expressly authorized. That sets it apart from other central banks, which are expected to use their discretion in an emergency.

But Germany was determined to limit the liabilities that it could incur through the ECB. As a result, member countries remain vulnerable to financial pressures from which other developed countries are exempt. That is what I meant when I said that over-indebted members of the EU are in the position of third-world countries that are overindebted in a foreign currency. The banking union does not correct that defect. On the contrary, it perpetuates it.

Schmitz: You sound disappointed.

Soros: I am. I left no stone unturned trying to prevent this outcome, but now that it has happened, I don’t want to keep knocking my head against the wall. I accept that Germany has succeeded in imposing a new order on Europe, although I consider it unacceptable. But I still believe in the European Union and the principles of the open society that originally inspired it, and I should like to recapture that spirit. I want to arrest the process of disintegration, not accelerate it. So I am no longer advocating that Germany should “lead or leave the euro.” The window of opportunity to bring about radical change in the rules governing the euro has closed.

Schmitz: So, basically, you are giving up on Europe?

Soros: No. I am giving up on changing the financial arrangements, the creditor–debtor relationship that has now turned into a permanent system. I will continue to focus on politics, because that is where I expect dramatic developments.

Schmitz: I see. Obviously, people are concerned about the rise of populist movements in Europe. Do you see any opportunity to push for more political integration, when the trend is toward disintegration?

Soros: I do believe in finding European solutions for the problems of Europe; national solutions make matters worse.

Schmitz: It seems the pro-Europeans are often silent on important issues because they are afraid that speaking up might increase support for the extremists—for example, in the case of the many refugees from the Middle East and Africa who hoped to reach Europe and were detained on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Soros: Like it or not, migration policy will be a central issue in the elections. We must find some alternative to xenophobia.

Schmitz: What do you propose to do about it?

Soros: I have established an Open Society Initiative for Europe—OSIFE for short. One of its first initiatives is Solidarity Now, in Greece. The original idea was to generate European solidarity with the plight of the Greek population that is suffering from the euro crisis and Greek solidarity with the plight of the migrants, who experience inhuman conditions and are persecuted by the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party. It took us some time to get the project off the ground, and by the time we did, it was too late to generate European solidarity with the Greeks because other heavily indebted countries were also in need of support. So we missed that boat, but our initiative has had the useful by-product of giving us a better insight into the migration problem.

Schmitz: What have you learned?

Soros: That there is an unbridgeable conflict between North and South on the political asylum issue. The countries in the North, basically the creditors, have been generous in their treatment of asylum seekers. So all the asylum seekers want to go there, particularly to Germany. But that is more than they can absorb, so they have put in place a European agreement called Dublin III, which requires asylum seekers to register in the country where they first enter the EU. That tends to be the South, namely, Italy, Spain, and Greece. All three are heavily indebted and subject to fiscal austerity. They don’t have proper facilities for asylum seekers, and they have developed xenophobic, anti-immigrant, populist political movements.

Asylum seekers are caught in a trap. If they register in the country where they arrive, they can never ask for asylum in Germany. So, many prefer to remain illegal, hoping to make their way to Germany. They are condemned to illegality for an indefinite period. The miserable conditions in which they live feed into the anti-immigrant sentiment.

Schmitz: Looking at other European issues, aren’t your foundations also very involved in the problems of the Roma (Gypsies)?

Soros: Yes, we have been engaged in those issues for more than twenty-five years. The Roma Education Fund has developed effective methods of educating Roma children and strengthening their Roma identity at the same time. If this were done on a large-enough scale it would destroy the hostile stereotype that stands in the way of the successful integration of the Roma. As it is, educated Roma can blend into the majority because they don’t fit the stereotype but the stereotype remains intact.

This is another instance where the European Commission is having a positive effect. I look to the European Structural funds to scale up the programs that work.

Schmitz: What do you think of Vladimir Putin’s recent policies with respect to Ukraine, Crimea, and Europe?

Soros: Now you are coming to the crux of the matter. Russia is emerging as a big geopolitical player, and the European Union needs to realize that it has a resurgent rival on its east. Russia badly needs Europe as a partner, but Putin is positioning it as a rival. There are significant political forces within the Russian regime that are critical of Putin’s policy on that score.

Schmitz: Can you be more specific?

Soros: The important thing to remember is that Putin is leading from a position of weakness. He was quite popular in Russia because he restored some order out of the chaos. The new order is not all that different from the old one, but the fact that it is open to the outside world is a definite improvement, an important element in its stability. But then the prearranged switch with Dmitry Medvedev from prime minister to president deeply upset the people. Putin felt existentially threatened by the protest movement. He became repressive at home and aggressive abroad.

That is when Russia started shipping armaments to the Assad regime in Syria on a massive scale and helped turn the tide against the rebels. The gamble paid off because of the preoccupation of the Western powers—the United States and the EU—with their internal problems. Barack Obama wanted to retaliate against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. He asked for congressional approval and was about to be rebuffed when Putin came to the rescue and persuaded Assad to voluntarily surrender his chemical weapons.

That was a resounding diplomatic victory for him. Yet the spontaneous uprising of the Ukrainian people must have taught Putin that his dream of reconstituting what is left of the Russian Empire is unattainable. He is now facing a choice between persevering or changing course and becoming more cooperative abroad and less repressive at home. His current course has already proved to be self-defeating, but he appears to be persevering.

Schmitz: Is Russia a credible threat to Europe if its economy is as weak as you say?

Soros: The oligarchs who control much of the Russian economy don’t have any confidence in the regime. They send their children and money abroad. That is what makes the economy so weak. Even with oil over $100 a barrel, which is the minimum Russia needs to balance its budget, it is not growing. Putin turned aggressive out of weakness. He is acting in self-defense. He has no scruples, he can be ruthless, but he is a judo expert, not a sadist—so the economic weakness and the aggressive behavior are entirely self-consistent.

Schmitz: How should Europe respond to it?

Soros: It needs to be more united, especially in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Putin prides himself on being a geopolitical realist. He respects strength and is emboldened by weakness. Yet there is no need to be permanently adversarial. Notwithstanding the current situation in Ukraine, the European Union and Russia are in many ways complementary; they both need each other. There is plenty of room for Russia to play a constructive role in the world, exactly because both Europe and the United States are so preoccupied with their internal problems.

Schmitz: How does that translate into practice, particularly in the Middle East?

Soros: It has totally transformed the geopolitical situation. I have some specific ideas on this subject, but it is very complicated. I can’t possibly explain it in full because there are too many countries involved and they are all interconnected.

Schmitz: Give it a try.

Soros: I should start with a general observation. There are a growing number of unresolved political crises in the world. That is a symptom of a breakdown in global governance. We have a very rudimentary system in place. Basically, there is only one international institution of hard power: the UN Security Council. If the five permanent members agree, they can impose their will on any part of the world. But there are many sovereign states with armies; and there are failed states that are unable to protect their monopoly over the use of lethal force or hard power.

The cold war was a stable system. The two superpowers were stalemated by the threat of mutually assured destruction, and they had to restrain their satellites. So wars were fought mainly at the edges. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a brief moment when the United States emerged as the undisputed leader of the world. But it abused its power. Under the influence of the neocons, who argued that the United States should use its power to impose its will on the world, President George W. Bush declared “war on terror” and invaded Iraq under false pretenses.

That was a tragic misinterpretation of the proper role of hegemonic sorosmerkel It is the power of attraction—soft power—that ensures the stability of empires. Hard power may be needed for conquest and self-protection, but the hegemon must look after the interests of those who depend on it in order to secure their allegiance instead of promoting only its own interests. The United States did that very well after World War II, when it established the United Nations and embarked on the Marshall Plan. But President Bush forgot that lesson and destroyed American supremacy in no time. The neocons’ dream of a “new American century” lasted less than ten years. President Obama then brought American policy back to reality. His record in foreign policy is better than generally recognized. He accepted the tremendous loss of power and influence and tried to “lead from behind.” In any case, he is more preoccupied with domestic than foreign policy. In that respect America is in the same position as Europe, although for different reasons. People are inward-looking and tired of war. This has created a power vacuum, which has allowed conflicts to fester unresolved all over the world.

Recently, Russia has moved into this power vacuum, trying to reassert itself as a geopolitical player. That was a bold maneuver, inspired by Putin’s internal weakness, and it has paid off in Syria because of the weakness of the West. Russia could do what the Western powers couldn’t: persuade Assad to “voluntarily” surrender his chemical weapons. That has radically changed the geopolitical landscape. Suddenly, the prospect of a solution has emerged for the three major unresolved conflicts in the Middle East—Palestine, Iran, and Syria—when one would have least expected it.

The Syrian crisis is by far the worst, especially in humanitarian consequences. Russia’s entry as a major supplier of arms, coupled with Hezbollah’s entry as a supplier of troops, has turned the tables in favor of Assad. The fighting can be brought to an end only by a political settlement imposed and guaranteed by the international community. Without it, the two sides will continue to fight indefinitely with the help of their outside supporters. But a political settlement will take months or years to negotiate. In the meantime, Assad is following a deliberate policy of denying food and destroying the medical system as a way of subduing the civilian population. “Starve or surrender” is his motto.

This raises the specter of a human catastrophe. Unless humanitarian assistance can be delivered across battle lines, more people will have died from illness and starvation during the winter than from actual fighting.

Schmitz: What about Iran?

Soros: There has been an actual breakthrough in the Iranian crisis in the form of a temporary agreement on nuclear weapons with the new president Hassan Rouhani. The sanctions imposed by the Western powers have been very effective. The Iranian revolution itself advanced to the point where it fell into the hands of a narrow clique, the Revolutionary Guard; the mullahs were largely pushed out of power. As head of the mullahs, the Supreme Leader could not have been pleased. He must also be aware that the large majority of the population has been profoundly dissatisfied with the regime. In contrast with previous attempts at negotiations, he seems to be in favor of reaching an accommodation with the United States. That improves the prospects for a final agreement. We must take into account, as Vali Nasr recently wrote, that Iran has, after Russia, the world’s second-largest reserves of natural gas; and it potentially might compete with Russia in supplying gas to Europe.

Schmitz: That leaves the longest-lasting crisis, Palestine.

Soros: Recent developments in Egypt have improved the chances of progress in the long-festering Palestinian crisis. The army, with the active support of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, has removed the legally elected president and is engaged in the brutal suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood. This otherwise disturbing development has a potentially benign side effect: it raises the possibility of a peace settlement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, to the exclusion of Hamas. This would have been inconceivable a few months ago. Secretary of State John Kerry became engaged in the Palestinian negotiations well before this window of opportunity opened, so he is ahead of the game. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is very suspicious but, for all his intransigence, cannot openly oppose negotiations because, having openly supported Mitt Romney in the American elections, he holds a relatively weak hand. Negotiations are making progress, but very slowly indeed.

If all three crises were resolved, a new order would emerge in the Middle East. There is a long way to go because the various conflicts are interconnected, and the potential losers in one conflict may act as spoilers in another. Netanyahu, for instance, is dead set against a deal with Iran because peace with Palestine would end his political career in Israel. Nevertheless, the broad outlines of a potential new order can already be discerned, although we cannot know the effects of the current crisis in Ukraine. Russia could become more influential, relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States may become strained, and Iran may emerge as America’s closest ally, second only to Israel. But the situation remains fluid and may change from one day to the next.

Schmitz: Recently the crisis in Ukraine has overshadowed all the others.

Soros: Indeed. Ukraine and in particular Crimea are of much greater interest to Russia than anything in the Middle East. Putin woefully misjudged the situation. Last autumn he had no difficulty in outmaneuvering the European Union, which was hamstrung by its internal political and financial problems. Under German leadership it offered too little and demanded too much. Putin could easily offer a better deal to Ukrainian President Yanukovych. But the Ukrainian people rebelled, upsetting the calculations of both sides.

The rebellion wounded Putin in his Achilles heel. The idea of a spontaneous rebellion simply did not enter into his calculations. In his view the world is ruled by power and those in power can easily manipulate public opinion. Failure to control the people is a sign of weakness.

Accordingly, he made it a condition of his assistance that Yanukovych should repress the rebellion. But the use of force aroused the public and eventually Yanukovych was forced to capitulate. This could have resulted in a stalemate and the preservation of the status quo with Ukraine precariously balanced between Russia and Europe, and a corrupt and inept government pitted against civil society. It would have been an inferior equilibrium with the costs exceeding the benefits for all parties concerned.

But Putin persisted in his counterproductive approach. Yanukovych was first hospitalized and then sent to Sochi to be dressed down by Putin. Putin’s instructions brought the confrontation to a climax. Contrary to all rational expectations, a group of citizens armed with not much more than sticks and shields made of cardboard boxes and metal garbage can lids overwhelmed a police force firing live ammunition. There were many casualties, but the citizens prevailed. It was a veritable miracle.

Schmitz: How could such a thing happen? How do you explain it?

Soros: It fits right into my human uncertainty principle, but it also reveals a remarkable similarity between human affairs and quantum physics of which I was previously unaware. According to Max Planck, among others, subatomic phenomena have a dual character: they can manifest themselves as particles or waves. Something similar applies to human beings: they are partly freestanding individuals or particles and partly components of larger entities that behave like waves. The impact they make on reality depends on which alternative dominates their behavior. There are potential tipping points from one alternative to the other but it is uncertain when they will occur and the uncertainty can be resolved only in retrospect.

On February 20 a tipping point was reached when the people on Maidan Square were so determined to defend Ukraine that they forgot about their individual mortality. What gave their suicidal stand historic significance is that it succeeded. A deeply divided society was moved from the verge of civil war to an unprecedented unity. Revolutions usually fail. The Orange Revolution of 2004 deteriorated into a squabble between its leaders. It would be a mistake to conclude that this revolution is doomed to suffer the same fate. Indeed the parties participating in the interim government are determined to avoid it. In retrospect the resistance of Maidan may turn out to be the birth of a nation. This promising domestic development was a direct response to foreign oppression. Unfortunately it is liable to provoke further pressure from abroad because successful resistance by Ukraine would present an existential threat to Putin’s continued dominance in Russia.

Schmitz: You are referring to the Russian invasion of Crimea. How do you see it playing out?

Soros: If it is confined to Crimea it will serve as a further impetus to greater national cohesion in Ukraine. Crimea is not an integral part of Ukraine. Khrushchev transferred Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 by an administrative decree. The majority of its population is Russian and it is the base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. That is exactly why Putin is liable to put military and economic pressure on Ukraine directly and they are not in a position to resist it on their own. They need the support of the Western powers. So Ukraine’s future depends on how the Western powers, particularly Germany, respond.

Schmitz: What should the Western powers do?

Soros: They should focus on strengthening Ukraine rather than on punishing Russia. They cannot prevent or reverse the annexation of Crimea. They are bound to protest it of course because it violates the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 that guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, but they are not in a position to oppose it by military means. Even sanctions ought to be used sparingly in order to preserve them as a deterrent against the real danger, namely of direct military or economic assault on Ukraine. Russian forces have already occupied a gas plant in Ukraine supplying Crimea and may take more territory unless they are stopped.

Fortunately economic sanctions would be a potent deterrent provided they are used judiciously. Freezing the foreign assets of Russian oligarchs is the opposite of smart sanctions. Oligarchs sending their profits and their children abroad weaken the Russian economy. Until now capital flight was more or less offset by foreign direct investment. Effective sanctions would discourage the inflow of funds, whether in the form of direct investments or bank loans. Moreover, the US could release oil from its strategic reserve and allow its sale abroad. That could put the Russian economy into deficit. The Russian economy is fragile enough to be vulnerable to smart sanctions.

Schmitz: Wouldn’t that be cutting off your nose to spite your face? Germany has a lot of investments in Russia, which are equally vulnerable.

Soros: Effective sanctions against Russia should be threatened at first only as a deterrent. If the threat is effective, they wouldn’t be applied. But Chancellor Merkel faces a fundamental choice: should Germany be guided by its narrow national self-interests or should it assert its leadership position within the European Union and forge a unified European response? On her choice hinges not only the fate of Ukraine but also the future of the European Union. Her passionate speech to the German Parliament on March 13 gives me hope that she is going to make the right choice.

Schmitz: What is your idea of the right choice?

Soros: A large-scale technical and financial assistance program for Ukraine. The EU and the US, under the leadership of the International Monetary Fund, are putting together a multibillion-dollar rescue package that will save the country from financial collapse. But that is not enough: Ukraine also needs outside assistance that only the EU can provide: management expertise and access to markets.

Ukraine is a potentially attractive investment destination. But realizing this potential requires improving the business climate by addressing the endemic corruption and weak rule of law. The new regime in Ukraine is eager to confront that task. But only the EU can open up its domestic market and provide political risk insurance for investing in Ukraine. Ukraine in turn would encourage its companies to improve their management by finding European partners. Thus Ukraine would become increasingly integrated in the European common market. That could also provide a much-needed fiscal stimulus for the European economy and, even more importantly, help to recapture the spirit that originally inspired the European Union.

www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/apr/24/future-europe-interview-george-soros/

Crimea is as part of Ukraine as Ukraine is part of Europe. Crimea is Ukrainian Land.

Read more: Vox Populi with Oksana Mamchenkova: Will Ukraine ever get Crimea back from Russia?
www.kyivpost.com/opinion/vox-populi/vox-populi-with-oksana-mamchenkova-will-ukraine-ever-get-crimea-back-from-russia-339895.html

UN Approves Resolution Calling Russia’s Crimea Annexation Illegal
www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/27/un-resolution-russia-crimea_n_5043126.html

Here’s What the West Can Do to Stop Russia

Here’s What the West Can Do to Stop Russia

What can the West actually do?

Russia has shattered the presumption that we can take European security for granted. In the past two weeks, President Vladimir Putin has committed outright acts of war by invading Crimea and threatening to invade eastern Ukraine. It now appears that Russia will annex Crimea and perhaps go further unless confronted with a stronger resolve than visible so far from the United States and Europe.

Clearly, Russia has acted because its leaders believe that the Obama administration and Western allies are irresolute, weak and need Russia more than it needs them. While economic sanctions are essential, stronger measures, including military ones, are also necessary if we are to preserve European peace and security – and they need to take place in concert with more concrete steps by NATO.

A regular NATO fleet should be maintained in the Black Sea and recently announced military exercises extended and increased.
These drills include a U.S.-Bulgarian-Romanian naval exercise in the Black Sea and a joint U.S.-Polish air exercise involving F-16s. Likewise, we could resume construction of missile defenses in Poland and the Baltic states. On the naval side, assets deployed into the Black Sea should be given adequate air cover and air defenses. Beyond these immediate steps, additional Partnership for Peace exercises with Ukraine and Georgia should be scheduled, and military contacts between Ukraine and NATO increased.

Concurrently, as President Barack Obama and U.S. national security leaders have stated, the new Ukrainian government should reinforce its international image as sole legitimate authority by reaffirming the protection of minorities and reiterating its adherence to all existing treaties—including the 2010 Russo-Ukrainian agreement providing Russia with long-term naval basing at Sevastopol. It should also finish its application to the IMF and EU for immediate relief and launch urgently needed economic reforms to strengthen the country’s rickety economy, ending energy subsidies while providing relief for the poor, recovering assets stolen by former President Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies, ending corruption in government contracts, and establishing transparency in the energy distribution sector (and in government contracts generally).

Such actions would preserve peace, communicate NATO and the EU’s unified resolve, encourage a Russian withdrawal of troops and deter a descent into violence.
But they would be just the start. Beyond Ukraine, Washington and NATO must realize that Putin’s Russia will not be integrated into Europe, and readjust their policies accordingly [such as the Pentagon’s three year-old wish that Russia would turn its missile defenses away from Europe and toward Tehran in a joint NATO radar net against the Iranian missile threat]. Ukraine may now be in the eye of the Russian hurricane, but a failure to defend Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty only invites further Russian assaults on sovereignty throughout Eurasia.

Military measures are obviously not the only answer. Though they are urgent, the real payoff will come from long-lasting measures to invigorate Ukraine’s domestic structures. The West needs to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to govern itself in a truly democratic manner, as well as to reform its economy. Apart from the immediate “bridge” funding necessary to stave off crisis, the EU should tell Ukraine that if it follows the long-term course of reforms required by every member it will, in time, surely qualify for membership. This would surely be an enormous boost to the Ukrainian government, and would galvanize domestic reform efforts while strengthening the economy against Russian efforts to subvert, corrupt, and undermine it.

Today, the West’s capabilities far outstrip those of Russia. But it must find the will and intelligence to deploy them successfully. Putin, by his recklessness and arrogance, has placed both European and Russian security at risk. This point must be hammered home in a way that deters violence and further Russian adventurism. At the core of Western policy should be a simple concept: Ukrainian integrity and sovereignty are not negotiable, because European security is now indivisible. The sooner we hammer that message home to Moscow, the quicker we will secure peace in Eastern Europe—and beyond.

Stephen Blank March 14, 2014

Stephen Blank is Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C

Stephen Blank is Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C

www.defenseone.com/ideas/2014/03/heres-what-west-can-do-stop-russia/80581/#.UyUbWyrzTWg.facebook

The West must do everything possible to maintain the world order providing security for Europe along with Ukraine against Russian imperialistic aggression.

Garry Kasparov: Cut Off the Russian Oligarchs and They’ll Dump Putin

Garry Kasparov: Cut Off the Russian Oligarchs and They’ll Dump Putin
Target their assets abroad, their mansions and IPOs in London, their yachts. Use banks, not tanks.

Russian soldiers in the village of Zemo Nikozi. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Russian soldiers in the village of Zemo Nikozi. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

By
Garry Kasparov

For the second time in six years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops across an internationally recognized border to occupy territory. This fact must be stated plainly before any discussion of motives or consequences. Russian troops have taken Crimea and they are not leaving, despite the Ukrainian government’s protests. Five hundred kilometers southeast across the Black Sea, Russian soldiers still occupy parts of Georgia—South Ossetia and Abkhazia—where they have been since Mr. Putin’s 2008 invasion and de facto annexation.

Mr. Putin belongs to an exclusive club, along with Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Miloševic, as one of the very few leaders to invade a neighboring nation in the nuclear age. Such raw expansionist aggression has been out of fashion since the time of Adolf Hitler, who eventually failed, and Joseph Stalin, who succeeded. Stalin’s Red Army had its share of battlefield glory, but his real triumph came at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, three months before the end of the war in Europe. There Stalin bullied a feeble Franklin Roosevelt and a powerless Winston Churchill, redrawing the Polish borders and promising elections in Poland when he knew that the Communist government the Soviets were installing was there to stay.

Although it is a poignant coincidence, there is more to this look back to World War II than the fact that Yalta is located in Crimea. Mr. Putin’s tactics are easily, and accurately, compared to those of the Austrian Anschluss and the Nazi occupation and annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in 1938. There is the same rhetoric about protecting a threatened population, the same propaganda filled with lies, justifications, and accusations. Most of the Kremlin’s statements about Crimea could have been translated from German, with “Fatherland” replaced by “Motherland.” Mr. Putin is also following the Stalin model on Poland in Yalta: First invade, then negotiate. Crimea will be forced to hold a referendum on joining Russia in just 10 days, a vote on the Kremlin’s preferred terms, at the point of a gun.

Mr. Putin’s move in Crimea came just hours after now-former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych scrambled up his puppet strings from Kiev to his master’s hand in Russia. He left behind thousands of papers and a few palaces, evidence of the vast scale of his personal and political corruption. His ejection, bought in blood by the courageous people of Ukraine, made Mr. Putin look weak. Like any schoolyard bully or crime boss, he immediately found a way to look and feel tough again. The historically pivotal Crimean peninsula, with its large Russia-leaning population and geographic vulnerability (and a Russian naval base), was the obvious choice.

As I have said for years, it is a waste of time to attempt to discern deep strategy in Mr. Putin’s actions. There are no complex national interests in a dictator’s calculations. There are only personal interests, the interests of those close to him who keep him in power, and how best to consolidate that power. Without real elections or a free media, the only way a dictator can communicate with his subjects is through propaganda, and the only way he can validate his power is with regular shows of force.

Inside Russia, that force comes with repression against dissidents and civil rights that only accelerated during the distraction of the Sochi Olympics. Abroad, force in the form of military action, trade sanctions or natural-gas extortion is applied wherever Mr. Putin thinks he can get away with it.

On Monday, the markets plummeted in response to the news that Russia had invaded a European nation.
Just a few days later, as cautious statements emanated from the White House and the European Union, most markets had rebounded fully. This was due to an illusion of a resolution, as if it matters little to the fate of the global economy that a huge nuclear power can casually snap off a piece of a neighboring country.

Thanks to their unfettered access to Western markets, Mr. Putin and his gang have exploited Western engagement with Russia in a way that the Soviet Union’s leaders never dreamed of. But this also means that they are vulnerable in a way the Soviets were not. If the West punishes Russia with sanctions and a trade war, that might be effective eventually, but it would also be cruel to the 140 million Russians who live under Mr. Putin’s rule. And it would be unnecessary. Instead, sanction the 140 oligarchs who would dump Mr. Putin in the trash tomorrow if he cannot protect their assets abroad. Target their visas, their mansions and IPOs in London, their yachts and Swiss bank accounts. Use banks, not tanks. Thursday, the U.S. announced such sanctions, but they must be matched by the European Union to be truly effective. Otherwise, Wall Street’s loss is London’s gain, and Mr. Putin’s divide-and-conquer tactics work again.

If Mr. Putin succeeds—and if there is no united Western response, he will have succeeded regardless of whether or not Russian troops stay in Crimea—the world, or at least the world order, as we know it will have ended. The post-1945 universe of territorial integrity has been ripped asunder and it will have a far-reaching impact no matter what the markets and pundits say over the next few days.

For those who ask what the consequences will be of inaction by the free world over Ukraine, I say you are looking at it. This is the price for inaction in Georgia, for inaction in Syria. It means the same thing happening again and again until finally it cannot be ignored. The price of inaction against a dictator’s aggression is always having a next time. And in this market, the longer you wait, the higher that price gets.

Mr. Kasparov is chairman of the Human Rights Foundation in New York.

m.us.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303824204579422971651210180?mobile=y

To stop Putin’s aggression onto Ukraine agree wholeheartedly this is where the beef and the money is: Target t he Russian oligarch’s assets abroad, their mansions and IPOs in London, their yachts. Use banks, not tanks.

Fact-Checking The Ukrainian Revolution

Fact-Checking The Ukrainian Revolution
Feb. 27, 2014 By Andrea Chalupa


Amy Goodman via YouTube

In 2008, while covering the Republican Convention, I bumped into Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow!, and I was star struck. When Russia Today announced that Julian Assange would get his own show, I thought that was brilliant and couldn’t wait to watch it. One of my more interesting email newsletter subscriptions comes from CounterPunch, a political website in Portland, Oregon—that lovable hipster Narnia. But now that my mainstays in alternative media are covering the revolution in Ukraine—a part of the world I have lived in and researched extensively for years—it’s left me heartbroken, and wondering: If Russia Today, DemocracyNow!, and Counter Punch are spreading misinformation about Ukraine, what else have they been wrong about? By sharing their articles in the past, have I helped them blur the truth?

Ukraine has a history of being the victim of media conspiracy. In 1933, the Western mainstream media deliberately covered-up Stalin’s genocide famine in Ukraine that starved to death many millions. Stalin, a great statistician himself, cited 10 million dead. Eugene Lyons, a reporter for UPI in Moscow, confessed to the cover-up in his tell-all memoir Assignment in Utopia. It was reviewed by Orwell and helped inspire ideas for 1984, namely the slogan: 2+2=5.

Before reading this article, had you heard of the famine? There’s a reason why most people still don’t know that many millions of Ukrainians were starved to death by their government in a single year; the Western media, confined to Moscow, was successful in ignoring “the rumors.” In one notorious instance some of the world’s most influential foreign reporters ganged up on a brave, young, independent journalist named Gareth Jones, by publishing articles full of lies that contradicted Jones’ fearless eye-witness reporting. The media’s silence or flat-out denials helped the Kremlin keep the truth of the famine locked behind the Iron Curtain. It eventually became reserved to the world of academia, where it was debated for generations.

Today the alternative media is the Kremlin’s little helper. Many Americans are infuriated with our government’s NSA spying and wars-for-profit, and obviously rightfully so. But their anger toward American neocons seems projected onto a revolution that would inspire free thinkers and freedom fighters. If only they could forgive The New York Times for Judith Miller, they would trust the incredible reporting the paper is doing on the ground in Ukraine. Yes, corporate media is fiercely generic and prefers covering shiny celebrity objects; but its ability to afford fact-checkers and travel budgets can lead to some damn good reporting.

Here’s what you need to be aware of as the situation in Ukraine develops:

Any article that links to Russia Today (RT) to cite a “fact” was written by a lazy journalist. It’s well-known that Russia Today was started by the Russian government, which has a history of imprisoning and killing investigative journalists
.

Russia Today has led the charge that Ukraine’s protest movement was a fascist, neo-Nazi take-over of the country. Luckily, the jaw-dropping photos of President Yanukovych’s Versailles McMansion, built with stolen tax-payer money on privatized national park land, clearly communicated to the world why Ukrainians were fighting. They had enough of their government’s sociopathic corruption: an estimated $70 billion was stolen from the budget since Yanukovych became president in 2010. Yes, he was democratically elected (and he lied to get elected), but he delegitimized his power when he violated the Ukrainian constitution by mass-murdering his own people.

In fact, many Jewish intellectuals across Ukraine were protest organizers, according to Tablet Magazine. A former Israeli soldier taught self-defense on Maidan—Kyiv’s Independence Square. Unfortunately, Haaretz and David Firestone, a columnist for The New York Times, were duped by an erroneous story that quoted a Kremlin ally who urgently called for Jews to leave Ukraine for their own safety. (Ukraine has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, according to Haaretz.) Haaretz has since issued a correction; Firestone has not and seemed to attribute a recent attack on two Jews to the protesters. Jewish-Ukrainian historian Vitaliy Nakhmanovich released a statement that those attacks were a provocation by government forces—a statement I tweeted to Firestone just after he re-tweeted something else I posted, but I have not received a response.

It’s safer to be Jewish in Ukraine than black in Florida. Anti-Semitism is not on the rise in Ukraine. Vadim Rabinovich, president of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress (VEK), co-founder of the European Jewish Parliament (EJP), issued this statement:

“Thus, I categorically refute the statements appearing in a number of foreign media outlets of facts of massive anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine that do not correspond to reality! The whipping up of the situation around this issue is of a provocative nature and does not contribute to a calm life for the Jewish community of Ukraine. Together with the entire people of Ukraine, the Jewish community will actively participate in the building of a democratic state and promote the renewal and prosperity of the country.

Another common fallacy is that the “Russian half” of Ukraine supports and wants to be aligned with Russia. First of all, how do you think half of Ukraine became Russian in the first place? After Stalin wiped out millions of Ukrainians in the genocide-famine, he replaced them with Russians; the borders of Ukraine then only extended around what is now eastern Ukraine; that is why western Ukraine, then under Poland, is still so very Ukrainian—they did not experience the famine. Mind blowing, eh?

Ukrainian protesters are not fascists: the movement was started by a dark-skinned Afghani-Ukrainian, the first victims were Armenian and Belarusian, and many of the killed protesters were native Russian speakers. Even some Russians are inspired by what Ukraine has done; this incredible footage from a hockey game in Russia shows young Russians chanting: “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!” Yes, there are far-right elements–there’s a shadow side to every movement and human-being; Jewish-French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy breaks down that issue wonderfully here.

The anti-corruption movement is diverse. Leaders and victims came from all over the country. Ukraine does not want to be partitioned, and symbolically expressed its unity on Wednesday when Lviv agreed to speak Russian, and Donetsk agreed to speak Ukrainian for a day. My father is from Lviv, and my mother is from Donetsk; if they can stay married for 45+ years, Ukraine can stay united. The only threat is Russian meddling which will either take the form of its usual Soviet-style subterfuge or a Russian military invasion of Crimea. During this critical time, Western leaders and especially media must stay vigilant and not serve the Kremlin by spreading its propaganda.

Know that Ketchum PR represents Russia, and has placed Russian-friendly content in The Huffington Post. Conservative bloggers have been paid to write pro-Kremlin pieces, as this bombshell investigation explains. You will continue to see a retired university professor named Stephen F. Cohen defend Russia and demonize the Ukrainian anti-corruption movement onThe Nation. This is because Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and part owner of The Nation, is his wife. So his perverse defense of Vladimir Putin will likely always have a home there. It is strange how Cohen can overlook Putin’s human rights record. Historically, communists and other liberals have associated the Soviet Union with the socialist struggle. The Soviet Union never achieved the dream of socialism that Denmark, for instance, has. It was a terror regime that seduced liberal movements and leading intellectuals in the West. When he was a newly arrived immigrant in the Lower East Side, my uncle saw his American high school teacher crying on the day “Uncle Joe” Stalin died. For him, it’s a memory as strong as witnessing the fiery clashes of Hitler and Stalin’s armies in east Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The West did not orchestrate the Ukrainian protests—they started from a Facebook post by Afghani-Ukrainian journalist Mustafa Nayem. When the State Department’s Victoria Nuland was caught in the leaked phone call saying “fuck the EU,” it was obvious that this would color the movement as a “Western conspiracy.” But many Ukrainians also had to agree with her: the EU seemed to do nothing but issue statements of moral support. I feared it would soon run out of combination of words that all said the same thing. Their tone-deaf moral support is perfectly called-out in this video from protesters. In the end,Ukrainians rejected a Western-brokered “peace deal” and threatened to storm the president if he didn’t leave town the next day; he fled. Ukrainians won their freedom despite the West, not because of it.

Another fun-fake-fact is that the protesters were paid. Such a cliché deserves a cliché: that’s like saying Santa Clause is real. People gave their lives fighting for their freedom—a sentiment honored in the Ukrainian national anthem.

If you think that’s romanticism, then maybe we in the West need to get romantic, and fast. We, the American people, on the left and the right, have a common enemy in corporate-bought politicians. If anything should unite our country and draw us out into the streets it’s America’s desperate need for campaign finance reform. But who among us would be willing to take a sniper bullet for that? TC mark
image – Russia Today – YouTube

Andrea Chalupa
Andrea is a Brooklyn, New York–based journalist and author of Orwell and The Refugees: The Untold Story of Animal Farm. She studied at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. In January, she and thousands of others around the world launched DigitalMaidan.

thoughtcatalog.com/andrea-chalupa/2014/02/fact-checking-the-ukrainian-revolution/

When will Russia’s/Kremlin/Putin distortions of Ukraine STOP.
“What ethnic Russian, Russian citizen, or Russian speaker in ANY part of Ukraine, specifically Crimea, has had ANY of his or her rights abridged by the central government in Kyiv? And in what manner? Evidence, please!

What evils is Putin’s occupation preventing from occurring? Show a SINGLE instance of such a xenophobic act AGAINST a Russian.
I’ve seen plenty perpetrated BY Russians!”

US stakes in Ukraine tied to location, location

US stakes in Ukraine tied to location, location

BY NANCY BENAC
Associated Press
Wednesday February 26, 2014, 4:46 PM

WASHINGTON — Ukraine isn’t typically a U.S. foreign policy priority, experts say. President Barack Obama is more occupied with Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and more. His administration rejects the notion that the situation in Ukraine represents some kind of epic East vs. West power struggle.

Still, there are reasons why Americans should care about what’s happening there, starting with location, location, location.

1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Sure, it would be nice for Ukraine to have a stable, democratic government simply because that’s a good thing, and no one wants to see more bloodshed. But the U.S. is more concerned about Ukraine because of its location, perched between Russia and the rest of Europe, where the U.S. has lots of friends. “The U.S. has an interest in a wider, stable, secure Europe,” says Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who’s now at the Brookings Institution. “If Ukraine goes into chaos, that’s likely to pull those European countries in — and we may get involved later on, too.

2. BIG QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MARCH OF DEMOCRACY. The overthrow of Kiev’s democratically elected (but corrupt and repressive) government by protesters seeking a more just Ukraine raises unsettling questions. “Ukraine doesn’t fit this ideal model of how democratic change progresses,” says Olga Oliker, associate director of RAND Corp.’s international security and defense policy center. “What does it mean to try to create more democratic systems in nondemocratic ways?”

3. LOOKING OUT FOR A FRIEND. Ukraine’s actually been a good friend to the U.S. since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It was once home to the world’s third-largest nuclear weapons arsenal, and voluntarily surrendered the stockpile to Russia. It sent troops to help out in Iraq in 2003-05 and dispatched peacekeepers to Kosovo and Lebanon. It agreed to cancel a planned $45 million nuclear deal with Iran in 1992. “On a lot of foreign policy issues, they’ve been fairly helpful, and I would argue that that is one reason why we ought to care about what is going on,” Pifer says.

4. RUSSIA. The unrest in Ukraine could complicate U.S.-Russian relations. The Obama administration dismisses the idea of competing spheres of influence as wildly outmoded and deliberately has tried not to insert itself too deeply in the situation. But Russian President Vladimir Putin very much want,”s to tilt Ukraine his direction. “The U.S.-Russian relationship has been very combative lately and scratchy” says Andrew Weiss, a Clinton administration expert on Ukraine and Russia who’s now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Ukraine adds one more layer on top of the problems that already exist.”

5. PEOPLE. BUSINESS. MONEY. People: There’s obvious concern among the estimated 1 million to 1.5 million people of Ukrainian descent in the U.S., with large concentrations in Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Sacramento, Calif., and the New York City area. Business: Ukraine, an economic mess, is not a big U.S. trading partner. But there’s plenty of commercial potential in a country of 46 million people. Money: Ukraine is in dire need of billions of dollars in financial assistance. The main lender is likely to be the International Monetary Fund. But Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday the U.S. plans to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and will consider additional direct assistance.
– See more at: www.northjersey.com/news/US_stakes_in_Ukraine_tied_to_location_location.html#sthash.BqIvXjDw.dpuf

A democratic and Free Ukraine will influence the democratization of Russia- a Russia without Putin. The West needs a free and democratic Russia for economic development and for geopolitical balance towards China and global militant Islamism.

Decoding Ukraine

Decoding Ukraine
A lexicon of the smears, stereotypes, and clichés used to describe the battle for the country’s future.
By Anne Applebaum

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Independence Square on Feb. 19, 2014, in Kiev, Ukraine.

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Independence Square on Feb. 19, 2014, in Kiev, Ukraine.


Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

WARSAW, Poland—For those who are new to the subject—indeed, for those who have been following it for many years—the Ukrainian crisis can seem murky. The Ukrainians have a president, Viktor Yanukovych, who granted himself dictatorial powers and then repealed some of them, announced a truce and then broke it, and claims to enforce the law but employs thugs who haul journalists out of cars and shoot them. The Ukrainian opposition, meanwhile, has three separate leaders who may or may not actually control the Ukrainian protest movement at any given moment.

The opacity helps to explain why Ukraine, after years of stability, has suddenly become violent and unpredictable. It also helps to explain why so many inside and outside the country use historical clichés to describe the situation. Often, those clichés are intended to serve the interests of those who use them. Sometimes they are just bad simplifications. Either way, what follows is a handy guide to the terms, words, and phrases to treat with deep skepticism:

Fraternal assistance
This is a Soviet expression, once used to justify the Soviet invasions of Prague in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. Fraternal assistance was intended to prevent Soviet puppet states from being overthrown, whether violently or peacefully. In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Ukraine a “fraternal” country, hinting that he sees it as a puppet state. This week, a senior Russian parliamentarian declared that he and his colleagues are “prepared to give all the necessary assistance should the fraternal Ukrainian people ask for it.” This may well be the cue for pro-Russian organizations inside Ukraine to ask for intervention.

Anti-terrorist operation

This is a Putin-era expression used to justify the Russian invasion of Chechnya in 1999. An anti-terrorist operation, in this particular context, means that anything is permitted: The term granted Russian soldiers carte blanche to destroy Grozny, the Chechen capital. This is why so many reacted with horror earlier this week when the Ukrainian defense ministry warned that the army “might be used in anti-terrorist operations on the territory of Ukraine.”

Coup d’etat
This more universal expression has been used since November by both the Ukrainian government and Russian commentators to describe street protests in Kiev and elsewhere. It can mean anything from “peaceful protests that we don’t like” to “protesters using violence against police,” but either way, it is a term being used to justify the deployment of an “anti-terrorist operation” and not necessarily to describe an actual coup d’etat.

Nazi or fascist
These loaded historical terms have been used by both Russian and Ukrainian officials for many months to describe a wide range of opposition leaders and groups. Fake photographs of nonexistent Hitler posters in Kiev have been circulating online; recently, the Russian foreign minister lectured his German colleagues for, he said, supporting people who salute Hitler. Of course there is a Ukrainian far right, though it is much smaller than the far right in France, Austria, or Holland, and its members have indeed become more violent under the pressure of police clubs, bullets, and attacks.

At the same time, those who throw these terms around should remember that the strongest anti-Semitic, homophobic, and xenophobic rhetoric in this region is not coming from the Ukrainian far right but from the Russian press and ultimately the Russian regime. As historian Tim Snyder has written, “The Ukrainian government is telling itself that its opponents are Jews and us that its opponents are Nazis.” The smears do stick. Romano Prodi, the former president of the European Commission, just wrote an otherwise anodyne article ticking off Ukrainian “far-right nationalist groups” as if they were the main problem, proving that even Western statesmen aren’t immune.

Ethno-linguistic divisions or Yugoslav situation

These are more loaded terms, used in both the West and Russia, to show that the conflict in Ukraine is atavistic, inexplicable, and born of deep ethnic hatred. In fact, this is not an ethnic conflict at all. It is a political conflict and—despite the current opacity—at base not that hard to understand. It pits Ukrainians (both Russian and Ukrainian-speaking) who want to live in a “European” democracy with human rights and rule of law against Ukrainians (also both Russian and Ukrainian-speaking) who support an undemocratic, oligarchic capitalist regime that is politically and economically dependent on Russia. Some of the regime’s supporters may well believe they are fighting fascists and militant European homosexuals; others may simply fear that deep reforms will cost them their paychecks.

Either way, this is not a fight over which language to speak or which church to attend. It is a deep, fundamental disagreement about the nature of the state, the country’s international allegiances, its legal system, its economy, its future. Given how much Ukrainians have at stake, the least we outsiders can do is avoid foolish stereotypes when discussing their fate.

www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/02/ukraine_s_opaque_politics_the_smears_and_clich_s_used_to_describe_the_fight.html

The Ukrianophobic Media and Press must stop the pathological lying about the Ukrainian people! Its time for fair and balanced reporting. Truth is on the Ukrainian people side along with their Revolution of Dignity. Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom as said by Thomas Jefferson.

Who are the protesters in Ukraine?

Who are the protesters in Ukraine?

By Keith Darden and Lucan Way
February 12 at 3:28 pm

Ukraine Protests

Joshua Tucker: The following is a guest post from political scientists Keith Darden (American University) and Lucan Way (University of Toronto) addressing the question of who is protesting in Ukraine, and how much support do the protesters actually have. Their conclusion: Ukraine’s protests may not be driven by the far right, but they are not supported by a clear majority of Ukrainians … and neither is a turn toward Europe. You can find links to previous posts from The Monkey Cage on the ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine at the end of the post.

*****

For over two months, anti-government protesters have camped out in the center of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Coverage in the media has presented vastly different images of who these protesters are and what they represent. Recently, some commentators have depicted the protests as emblematic of a Europe-wide resurgence of chauvinistic nationalism. They point to the presence of the Right Wing among the protest movement and the prominence of “ultra-nationalist” groups in the recent violence.

In stark contrast, others have seen the protesters as fighters for democracy expressing the views and interests of the broad Ukrainian public to join Europe and rid themselves of Russian subjugation. Along these lines, the conflict in Ukraine has been viewed from a geopolitical perspective as a battle for and against efforts by the Kremlin to seize Ukraine, with critics of the protests seen as abetting such efforts or potentially even being on the Russian payroll. Asserting that “the movement as a whole merely reflects the entire Ukrainian population, young and old,” influential supporters of the Maidan in the academy have concluded that nationalist forces represent a “minor segment” of the protests and therefore a focus on such radicals is “unwarranted and misleading.”

What then do the protesters represent? What is the role of the far right in the protests in Ukraine? To what extent does the movement “reflect the entire Ukrainian population,” and how would we know?

Available research on the protesters and public opinion data from Ukraine suggest a reality that is more complicated than either of these competing narratives. First, there is no evidence that the majority of protesters over the past two months have been motivated primarily by radical nationalism or chauvinism. Surveys of the protest participants conducted in early December and again at the end of January suggest that the main driver of the protests has been anger at President Viktor Yanukovych as well as a desire for Ukraine to enter the European Union (see also Olga Onuch’s prior post on The Monkey Cage). Notably, the most unifying factor seems to be opposition to Yanukovych’s efforts to crack down on protesters. This is consistent with the ebb and flow in the size of the protest movement over the past months. Initially quite small, the protests exploded after a violent crackdown on them at the end of November and then again in mid January after Yanukovych pushed through a series of draconian laws to limit protest and dissent. None of the protest demands reflect an obvious chauvinist or nationalist agenda.

Yet, in Ukraine today, it is equally misleading to state that the nationalist right represents a “minor segment” of the current protests. The protest leadership (to the extent that it exists) consists of three opposition parties in parliament – one of which, the Svoboda party, is clearly on the far right. Svoboda, which captured 38 seats and 10 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary elections, until 2004 called itself the Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine and employed neo-Nazi and SS symbols. While the party changed its name and symbols in 2004, Svoboda’s leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, continued to argue that the opposition should fight the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia running Ukraine” and praised the Ukrainian Insurgency Army (UPA) in World War II for fighting “against the Moskali [Muscovites], Germans, Zhydy [Jews] and other scum, who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state.” The party does not hide its glorification of the interwar fascist movement, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). In December they held a torchlight rally on the Maidan to honor the OUN leader, Stepan Bandera, and they regularly fly the red and black flag of the OUN, which has been banned as a racist symbol at soccer matches by FIFA.

The explicit harkening back to the songs, slogans, and symbols of the nationalist movement of the 1930s and 1940s — with its aspiration to achieve an ethnically pure Ukrainian nation-state free of Russians, Jews, and Poles — has been one of the most significant differences between these protests and the Orange Revolution of 2004. The right-wing groups have been particularly active among the organization of the protest movement on the ground, particularly as the number of protesters has dwindled over time and revealed a resilient right-wing core. Svoboda’s deputies control the opposition-occupied Kiev city administration building, its flag is widely visible and a portrait of Bandera hangs in the central hall.

And Svoboda is just one of many signs of a strong far right presence in the organization and mobilization of the Maidan. Andriy Parubiy, the “commandant” of the Maidan and the leader of the “self-defense” forces that guard the protest camp in the center of Kiev, was a co-founder of the Social Nationalist Party with Oleh Tyahnybok. In recent weeks, the coalition of smaller right-wing organizations called “Right Sector” spearheaded the violent turn in the protests – using stones, Molotov cocktails, pipes, and siege weaponry against police. While this group has not been welcomed into the protest leadership, it is clearly an important player on the ground and has reportedly been arming itself in the event that talks fail to achieve Yanukovych’s resignation. More generally, nationalist activists from Svoboda and these other groups have provided the opposition with its most “fearsome demonstrators” who according to the New York Times “led some of the more provocative efforts to occupy buildings and block government offices.”

Despite the strong right-wing presence, are the protests nonetheless pro-democracy? The answer to this might seem obviously yes – given that they are directed against authoritarian behavior and an autocratic president. Yet recent work on mass mobilization has suggested that we need to be careful about assuming that politicians’ and analysts’ master narratives about “democratic revolutions” reflect the actual motivations of those on the street. Princeton University Professor Mark Beissinger has shown that Ukrainian protesters in late 2004 had a “weak commitment to democratic ends” – despite the fact that the protests were sparked by electoral fraud. More recently, a December survey of the current protesters in Ukraine cited above shows that less than 20 percent were driven to protest by “violations of democracy or the threat of dictatorship.” More broadly, it is important not to assume that opposition to a non-democratic regime is the same as support for democracy. History is littered with examples of opposition movements that governed in an authoritarian manner after they took power – from the opponents of the Shah in Iran in 1978/1979 to the anti-Soviet nationalist movement in Armenia, which harassed opposition, and engaged in serious electoral fraud after taking power in 1990-1991; to the dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who started off as an opposition parliamentarian in Belarus in the early 1990s.

Moreover, the protests themselves are not particularly representative of the views of a broader Ukrainian polity. The claims that “the movement as a whole merely reflects the entire Ukrainian population, young and old,” find very little support. In this, as in virtually every area of political opinion, Ukrainians are pretty clearly divided. Surveys taken in the past two months in the country as a whole range both in quality and in results, but none show a significant majority of the population supporting the protest movement and several show a majority opposed. Recent surveys provide suggestive findings that quite large majorities oppose the takeover of regional governments by the opposition. The most reliable and most recent survey shows the population almost perfectly divided in its support for the protest: 48 percent in favor, 46 percent opposed.

The protesters’ inability to garner greater support is surprising given the fact that Yanukovych’s popularity is far below 50 percent (although he is still apparently the most popular political figure in the country). One reason for this failure is that anti-Russian rhetoric and the iconography of western Ukrainian nationalism does not play well among the Ukrainian majority. Almost half of Ukraine’s population resides in the South and East of the country, what was once called “New Russia” when it was settled in the 19th century by a very diverse population of migrants from within the Russian empire. It is an area that has, for over 200 years, identified strongly with Russia, and nearly all of these Ukrainian citizens are alienated by anti-Russian rhetoric and symbols. The anti-Russian forms of Ukrainian nationalism expressed on the Maidan are certainly not representative of the general view of Ukrainians. Electoral support for these views and for the political parties who espouse them has always been limited. Their presence and influence in the protest movement far outstrip their role in Ukrainian politics and their support barely extends geographically beyond a few Western provinces.

Relatedly, there is little evidence that a clear majority of Ukrainians support integration into the European Union — despite the fact that the turn away from the European Union sparked the initial protests. While different polls show varying levels of support for European integration (e.g. this recent one from SOCIS), most show around 40-45 percent support for European integration as compared to about 30 to 40 percent support for the Customs Union – a plurality for Europe but hardly a clear mandate.

In conclusion, we should always be very wary of claims that protests speak “for the people.” 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.

Ukrainians are, however, quite unified in the desire to be governed better than they have been for the past 20 years. The mass protests were primarily a response to efforts by President Yanukovych to impose a more repressive regime. Those on the square are not, on the whole, motivated by an affiliation for the far right or its agenda for Ukraine. Yet the heavy symbolic and organizational presence of the far right in the protests has surely limited the extent to which the protests can find majority support in the country and undermined their effectiveness in producing a better government for Ukraine’s citizens. A clear majority of Ukrainians could certainly be persuaded to abandon support for Yanukovych in an election, but the lack of majority support for the protests suggest that they might not take that option if it is presented to them wrapped in the violent anti-Russian rhetoric of the nationalist right.

www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/02/12/who-are-the-protesters-in-ukraine/

CapnTrips13
10:01 PM EST
Posting this on behalf of Mychailo Wynnyckyj Ph.D.
Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
“Who are the protesters in Ukraine?” – a response from someone who has actually been (t)here.
Part 1 of 5

Just as I was beginning to believe that the western press may have finally understood that Ukraine’s current street protests have little to do with so-called “radical-right-nationalism”, on 12 Feb. 2014, the Washington Post published an “authoritative” answer to the question “Who are the protesters in Ukraine” by two North American academics, Keith Darden and Lucan Way (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp… Not surprisingly, given that their standpoint is 5000 miles away from Kyiv, the answer Darden and Way give to their own question is (mostly) wrong. The authors are careful to veil their skepticism of the real democratic substance of Ukraine’s protest movement with academically appropriate genuflects towards those who present evidence that contradicts their conclusions, but they nevertheless advance the following highly controversial points:

a) Right-wing politicians are (apparently) disproportionately represented in the Ukrainian protest movement’s leadership. Specifically, the authors note the prominence of the Svoboda party on Maidan, and cite its use of (apparently) xenophobic and racist symbolism as reflecting the party’s (supposed) aspiration to achieve an ethnically pure Ukrainian state.

b) It is unclear (in fact, doubtful, according to the authors) whether the EuroMaidan movement truly represents the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people, and whether average Ukrainians really support the protest movement. The fact that the “radical right” is apparently now leading the protest movement is cause for concern (for the authors) because history is littered with examples of revolutions whose leaders become dictators after gaining power, having previously called for greater democratization.

(continued)
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Mychailo Wynnyckyj
9:43 PM EST
Several observers have wondered if a targeted campaign aimed at discrediting the EuroMaidan movement may not be afoot, but more likely, the propagation of disinformation is not purposeful. In an effort to fit the uniqueness that is the EuroMaidan into inadequate accepted social science paradigms, and at the same time to remain nominally impartial, both academics and western journalists have grasped on the “nationalist” stereotype as one that is easily understood by uninformed readers.

A similar phenomenon occurred during the Cold War when left-wing sympathizers and apologists of the Soviet regime in the West came to be referred to as “useful idiots” by opponents of state socialism. Although this term was often (incorrectly) attributed to V. Lenin, its sense seems to provide a particularly salient description of proponents of the “nationalism-on-Maidan” hype: “useful idiot is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.” (Wikipedia)

Mychailo Wynnyckyj Ph.D.
Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
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Mychailo Wynnyckyj
9:42 PM EST
If the leadership of the protest movement is in fact xenophobic, and the demonstrators are in fact proponents of an exclusively ethnic conception of Ukraine, it is unclear why there are as many Russian speakers in evidence on Kyiv’s Independence Square as Ukrainian speakers (personal observation, supported by survey data). Furthermore, the ecumenical service held every Sunday on the stage of EuroMaidan during the mass rally (viche) regularly includes both Muslim and Jewish clerics. The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress has repeatedly denounced false reports of anti-Semitism supposedly emanating from the EuroMaidan movement, instead blaming the Yanukovych regime for inflaming inter-confessional tensions – including staged attacks on synagogues by government-sponsored thugs. The Maidan Self-Defense force recently announced the formation of a Jewish Regiment in addition to the already existent Crimean Tatar (Muslim) regiment; their participants stand side-by-side with Right Sector fighters on the barricades. All of this seems to bely the portrayal of the Maidan as promoting an integral nationalist/extremist program for post-revolutionary Ukraine.

However, the fact that Ukraine’s protesters demonstrate tolerance and inclusiveness now, may not reflect their true intentions. According to Darden and Way, history is riddled with examples of movements that are supposedly built on a democratic foundation, that then resort to authoritarianism after they succeed in gaining power. Such corrosion of revolutionary principles is usually triggered by the need to consolidate power, and suppress any potential counter-revolution. In Ukraine’s case, inherent regional, confessional, linguistic, and economic cleavages, increase the risk of such a degenerative non-democratic scenario. Certainly, the promise of European integration is insufficient as an incentive to maintain inclusive democracy given the inadequate level of support for Ukraine’s eventual EU membership currently in evidence.
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Mychailo Wynnyckyj
9:42 PM EST
If the leadership of the protest movement is in fact xenophobic, and the demonstrators are in fact proponents of an exclusively ethnic conception of Ukraine, it is unclear why there are as many Russian speakers in evidence on Kyiv’s Independence Square as Ukrainian speakers (personal observation, supported by survey data). Furthermore, the ecumenical service held every Sunday on the stage of EuroMaidan during the mass rally (viche) regularly includes both Muslim and Jewish clerics. The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress has repeatedly denounced false reports of anti-Semitism supposedly emanating from the EuroMaidan movement, instead blaming the Yanukovych regime for inflaming inter-confessional tensions – including staged attacks on synagogues by government-sponsored thugs. The Maidan Self-Defense force recently announced the formation of a Jewish Regiment in addition to the already existent Crimean Tatar (Muslim) regiment; their participants stand side-by-side with Right Sector fighters on the barricades. All of this seems to bely the portrayal of the Maidan as promoting an integral nationalist/extremist program for post-revolutionary Ukraine.

However, the fact that Ukraine’s protesters demonstrate tolerance and inclusiveness now, may not reflect their true intentions. According to Darden and Way, history is riddled with examples of movements that are supposedly built on a democratic foundation, that then resort to authoritarianism after they succeed in gaining power. Such corrosion of revolutionary principles is usually triggered by the need to consolidate power, and suppress any potential counter-revolution. In Ukraine’s case, inherent regional, confessional, linguistic, and economic cleavages, increase the risk of such a degenerative non-democratic scenario. Certainly, the promise of European integration is insufficient as an incentive to maintain inclusive democracy given the inadequate level of support for Ukraine’s eventual EU membership currently in evidence.
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Mychailo Wynnyckyj
9:40 PM EST
c) It is unclear (again, for the authors – doubtful) that a majority of Ukrainians support integration with the European Union – particularly in the southern and eastern regions of the country where affinity with Russia has strong historical roots. According to the authors, Ukraine’s social cleavages are so deep that unified protest, even against a thoroughly corrupt, and incompetent authoritarian regime, such as that of Yanukovych, could not possibly coalesce: Maidan therefore represents only the western and central EU-supporting regions of the country. By implication, such a regionally skewed movement does not deserve the support of western governments.

The above theses certainly lend support to the portrayal of those who are protesting in Ukraine as radical right extremists. As a sociologist who spends much of his time speaking to demonstrators in Kyiv’s city center, I can say with some authority: Darden and Way’s portrayal of Ukraine’s protesters is wrong. It is certainly true that Svoboda party supporters are active on the Maidan, and that nationalists/patriots (what one calls them immediately indicates one’s political preferences – such is reality in a revolutionary situation) were, and continue to be active, among those who condone the use of violence against the Yanukovych regime. Furthermore, it is a fact that the original name of Svoboda was the “Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine”, but Darden and Way’s sweeping claims that this political movement “employed neo-Nazi and SS symbols” and that “the party does not hide its glorification of the interwar fascist movement” ought to have been corroborated with at least some evidence.

Given that the Darden and Way article appeared as a blog on the Washington Post website, I feel it may be appropriate to frame my rebuttal in terms an American reader will readily understand. The authors have assumed that anyone ascribing to the following phrase should be unequivocally branded an extremist:
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Mychailo Wynnyckyj
9:39 PM EST
Just as I was beginning to believe that the western press may have finally understood that Ukraine’s current street protests have little to do with so-called “radical-right-nationalism”, on 12 Feb. 2014, the Washington Post published an “authoritative” answer to the question “Who are the protesters in Ukraine” by two North American academics, Keith Darden and Lucan Way. Not surprisingly, given that their standpoint is 5000 miles away from Kyiv, the answer Darden and Way give to their own question is (mostly) wrong. The authors are careful to veil their skepticism of the real democratic substance of Ukraine’s protest movement with academically appropriate genuflects towards those who present evidence that contradicts their conclusions, but they nevertheless advance the following highly controversial points:

a) Right-wing politicians are (apparently) disproportionately represented in the Ukrainian protest movement’s leadership. Specifically, the authors note the prominence of the Svoboda party on Maidan, and cite its use of (apparently) xenophobic and racist symbolism as reflecting the party’s (supposed) aspiration to achieve an ethnically pure Ukrainian state.

b) It is unclear (in fact, doubtful, according to the authors) whether the EuroMaidan movement truly represents the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people, and whether average Ukrainians really support the protest movement. The fact that the “radical right” is apparently now leading the protest movement is cause for concern (for the authors) because history is littered with examples of revolutions whose leaders become dictators after gaining power, having previously called for greater democratization.

I agree 100% with Professor Mychailo Wynnyckyj’s comprehensive response. This article is an example of Ukrainophobic and Russophile reporting instep with Kremlin ideology to taint the truth and deceive…..

Maybe hope of a solution????

PeaceUkieMapAccording to USA Today, the European Union was sending a top representative to Ukraine on Tuesday as lawmakers here readied to meet and find a solution to days of violent protests and building seizures.Anti-government protests spread into mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine on Monday while the country’s government warned (to read the rest of article, please click here)