Tag Archive: Crimea


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Published on Oct 18, 2015

Another certified moron bites the dust
JOHN SIMPSON, BBC: Western countries almost universally now believe that there’s a new Cold War and that you, frankly, have decided to create that. We see, almost daily, Russian aircraft taking sometimes quite dangerous manoeuvres towards western airspace. That must be done on your orders; you’re the Commander-in-Chief. It must have been your orders that sent Russian troops into the territory of a sovereign country – Crimea first, and then whatever it is that’s going on in Eastern Ukraine. Now you’ve got a big problem with the currency of Russia, and you’re going to need help and support and understanding from outside countries, particularly from the West. So can I say to you, can I ask you now, would you care to take this opportunity to say to people from the West that you have no desire to carry on with the new Cold War, and that you will do whatever you can to sort out the problems in Ukraine? Thank you!

Translation courtesy of Inessa S https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeix…
Link to the RI article http://russia-insider.com/en/2014/12/…
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Ukraine Admits It’s Losing Control in East

After storming the office, Pro-Russian activists burn uniforms outside the prosecutor’s office in the separatist-held city of Donetsk, Ukraine, May 1, 2014.

 

VOA News

Ukraine’s acting president says that the Kyiv government has effectively lost control over the situation in the country’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions where a number of government buildings have been taken over by pro-Russia separatists.

Oleksandr Turchynov says that Russia is now eyeing six more regions in the country’s east and south. A takeover by Russia of two such regions, if it were to take full control of Donetsk, would secure Russia’s land connection with Crimea, which it annexed last month.

The takeover of two more regions along the Black Sea coast would connect Russian mainland with Moldova’s Russian-speaking Transdniestria enclave.

Speaking Wednesday at a meeting of regional leaders in Kyiv, Turchynov operatives have received instructions from Moscow to destabilize, via “acts of sabotage,” the regions of Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Zaporizhzha, Mykolayiv and Odesa.

Kyiv says that many such operatives have received training and are being financed by Russia, a charge Moscow denies.

On full alert

Bracing for a possible invasion by Russian troops massed on the border, Turchynov says Ukraine’s military has been put “on full combat alert.”

Speaking at a ministerial meeting in Kyiv on Wednesday, he said there was a real threat of Russia starting a war against Ukraine’s mainland.

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard in front of armored personnel carriers at a check point near the village of Malynivka, southeast of Slovyansk, in eastern Ukraine, April 29, 2014A Ukrainian soldier stands guard in front of armored personnel carriers at a check point near the village of Malynivka, southeast of Slovyansk, in eastern Ukraine, April 29, 2014

Moscow, meanwhile, has voiced concern over Turchynov’s statement, criticizing it as “militaristic.”

“We insist that Kyiv immediately cease its militaristic rhetoric aimed at intimidating its own population,” said a Foreign Ministry statement calling on Ukrainian authorities to start a dialogue toward national reconciliation instead.

The criticism comes as pro-Russian gunmen seized yet another administrative building in eastern Ukraine. Armed insurgents took control of the local council building in Horlivka early Wednesday, a town of more than 260,000 people. Police say the pro-Russian rebels have also overtaken the town’s regional police department.

Hundreds of pro-Russian separatists overran more Ukrainian government buildings near the Russian border earlier this week, taking control of several in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The pro-Moscow rebels in Donetsk have set a referendum on secession for May 11. A similar vote last month led to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Possible reshuffle

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk threatened his government on Wednesday with a reshuffle if it failed to meet the demands of the people, venting frustration with Kyiv’s failure to restore law and order in the country’s east.

Some critics say the central government has become all but paralyzed by infighting.

“The country demands action and results. If there is such action and results that means the government is doing its job,” Yatsenyuk told a government meeting.

“If in the near future such action and results fail to materialize, that means there will be personnel changes,” said Yatsenyuk.

He said ministers would also pass to parliament a law on conducting a nationwide poll on Ukrainian unity and territorial integrity, “those issues which concern Ukraine today,” on May 25 when Ukraine is due to hold a presidential election.

 

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 The Propaganda War: Opposition Sings Kremlin Tune on Ukraine

By Christian Neef and Matthias Schepp in Moscow

Photo Gallery: A Country in Lockstep Photos
AFP

The propaganda war in the Ukraine crisis has spawned a renewal Russian nationalism, with members of the opposition and the intellectual class suddenly praising President Putin. Many in Russia are accepting the Kremlin’s official line uncritically.

Perhaps Alexander Byvshev was a little naïve. Maybe he thought his small village was somehow a safe haven from the world of global politics. But how wrong he was.

Byvshev, a German teacher in the district of Orlov, recently opened up his local newspaper, Sarya, or “the dawn,” only to find his name featured in a prominent slot. “In these troubled times, when enemies outside the country are showing their teeth and preparing to take the leap of death, you can find people who would like to undermine Russia from within,” the newspaper wrote. “People like A. Byvshev.”

How did Byvshev wind up in the newspaper? All it took was a short poem he wrote and posted on VK, Russia’s popular social network answer to Facebook. He had directed the poem at “patriot cheerleaders” who uncritically follow Moscow’s propaganda. “From a very early age, I have been accustomed to not telling lies,” Byvshev says. “If Russia stole Crimea from Ukraine, then one has to speak openly about the fact that it was theft.”

‘No Place for Patriots Like This in Russia’

It’s an openness that hasn’t done him much good recently. “There’s No Place for Patriots Like This in Russia,” blared the headline of the article about Byvshev. Acquaintances stopped greeting him, local businesses began ignoring his presence and now the local regional prosecutor is threatening to press charges against him for “incitement to hatred.” He faces two years behind bars if convicted.

It is an incident reminiscent of the 1930s, an era when the line between Communist and public enemy was a fine one. At the time, Stalin had hundreds of thousands of so-called enemies of the people shot and killed.

Today, Moscow’s territorial claims in Ukraine have unleashed a sense of nationalism so aggressive that it has silenced virtually all critical voices. Indeed, it is a singular official view that appears to have prevailed in Russia — namely that a clique in Kiev, with American support, is seeking to destroy Ukraine despite heroic efforts by millions in the eastern part of the country. And that these people need Russia’s support.

The ability to differentiate appears to have evaporated and the state propaganda machine has become as effective as it is comprehensive. The media seem to be following it in lockstep, as evidenced last week. “Ukraine Is Waging War against Its Own People” read the front page of one issue of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official Russian government newspaper, in response to the decision by the interim government early last week to send troops to the eastern part of the country. The “Kiev junta” wants to “bombard the Donbas,” commented Russia’s largest-circulation daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda, adding: “Our people are mourning the dead and injured.” “Sloviansk is covered in blood,” claimed the tabloid Tyov Den (“Your Day”). None of these reports is true.

Have Russians Become Gullible?

The problem is that people in Russia these days seem to believe almost every false report that comes out of Moscow, and few are questioning their accuracy. New channel Russia 24 unceasingly shows Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country holding machine guns and grenade launchers. But nobody in Russia bothers to ask where they are getting their arms from.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man ostensibly rushing to the aid of Russians in Ukraine, is the hero of the day. Finally, Russians seem to believe, he is paying the West back for years of humiliation. And yet the justifications Putin has provided could hardly be more cynical.

Last Wednesday, Putin declared the escalation of the crisis in eastern Ukraine to be the product of the “irresponsible and unconstitutional policies of the regime in Kiev,” which, he claimed had used the army to suppress the protests of peaceful citizens in the region. Yet to that point, there had been little activity by the army. During the Maidan square revolt, he called for the exact opposite: Putin said the military must use force to stop the protests.

Nationalist Delirium

Moscow is acting as though it were located just behind the front lines. Indeed, the pull of nationalist delirium has become so strong that even Putin’s own opponents seem no longer capable of resisting it.

Only two years ago, Sergei Udaltsov, along with blogger and opposition politician Alexei Navalny, was one of the most eloquent speakers at anti-Putin protests in Moscow. He has been under house arrest since 2013 on charges he sought to incite mass riots. Despite his situation, even Udaltsov has declared his support for Russia’s actions and its annexation of Crimea. “I am a supporter of direct democracy, and I welcome the Crimea referendum as an expression of popular government,” he recently stated.

 

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Armed men outside an administrative building in Slovyansk, Ukraine. American officials say Russian troops or pro-Russian separatists under Moscow’s influence control such buildings. Credit Genya Savilov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Russia of behaving in a “19th-century fashion” because of its annexation of Crimea.

But Western experts who have followed the success of Russian forces in carrying out President Vladimir V. Putin’s policy in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have come to a different conclusion about Russian military strategy. They see a military disparaged for its decline since the fall of the Soviet Union skillfully employing 21st-century tactics that combine cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops to seize the initiative from the West.

“It is a significant shift in how Russian ground forces approach a problem,” said James G. Stavridis, the retired admiral and former NATO commander. “They have played their hand of cards with finesse.”

The abilities the Russian military has displayed are not only important to the high-stakes drama in Ukraine, they also have implications for the security of Moldova, Georgia, Central Asian nations and even the Central Europe nations that are members of NATO.

The dexterity with which the Russians have operated in Ukraine is a far cry from the bludgeoning artillery, airstrikes and surface-to-surface missiles used to retake Grozny, the Chechen capital, from Chechen separatists in 2000. In that conflict, the notion of avoiding collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure appeared to be alien.

Since then Russia has sought to develop more effective ways of projecting power in the “near abroad,” the non-Russian nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has tried to upgrade its military, giving priority to its special forces, airborne and naval infantry — “rapid reaction” abilities that were “road tested” in Crimea, according to Roger McDermott, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation.

The speedy success that Russia had in Crimea does not mean that the overall quality of the Russian Army, made up mainly of conscripts and no match for the high-tech American military, has been transformed.

“The operation reveals very little about the current condition of the Russian armed forces,” said Mr. McDermott. “Its real strength lay in covert action combined with sound intelligence concerning the weakness of the Kiev government and their will to respond militarily.”

Still, Russia’s operations in Ukraine have been a swift meshing of hard and soft power. The Obama administration, which once held out hope that Mr. Putin would seek an “off ramp” from the pursuit of Crimea, has repeatedly been forced to play catch-up after the Kremlin changed what was happening on the ground.

“It is much more sophisticated, and it reflects the evolution of the Russian military and of Russian training and thinking about operations and strategy over the years,” said Stephen J. Blank, a former expert on the Russian military at the United States Army War College who is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

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American Forces Press Service

 News Article

Stavridis Presses for More NATO-Russia Dialogue

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2013 – Noting increased cooperation between NATO and Russia in several key areas, the top NATO and U.S. European Command commander emphasized today the importance of working through stumbling blocks in what he called a “complicated partnership.”

In a blog post, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis cited concerted efforts by both parties since NATO’s 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, where the alliance’s 28 heads of state and government agreed on the need to pursue “a true strategic partnership” between NATO and Russia and noted in the strategic concept that they expect reciprocity from Russia.

Stavridis recognized several areas where increased cooperation has shown signs of paying off: counterpiracy; support for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, military exchanges and training exercises, counterterrorism and counternarcotics, among them.

“Overall, we enjoy cooperation and some level of partnership in a variety of important areas,” he said. “On the other hand, there are clearly challenges in the relationship.”

Stavridis noted Russia’s objections to the European phased adaptive approach for missile defense. “Russia sees the NATO missile defense system as posing a threat to their strategic intercontinental ballistic missile force,” he said. “We strongly disagree, and feel that the system is clearly designed to protect populations against Iran, Syria and other ballistic-missile-capable nations that threaten the European continent.”

NATO and Russia also disagree over Russian forces stationed in Georgia and NATO’s role in Libya, Stavridis said.

“We maintain that we operated under the U.N. Security Council mandate to establish a no-fly zone, provide an arms embargo and protect the people of Libya from attacks,” he said, calling NATO’s actions “well within the bounds of the [U.N.] mandate and the norms of international law.

“Russia sees this differently,” Stavridis continued, “and whenever I discuss this with Russian interlocutors, we find little room for agreement. This tends to create a differing set of views about the dangerous situation in Syria as well.”

Stavridis noted Russian Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko’s stated concerns that these differences — and the installation of NATO military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders — threaten to unravel progress made in their relations.

“Notwithstanding differences on particular issues, we remain convinced that the security of NATO and Russia is intertwined,” Stavridis said, quoting the NATO strategic concept agreed to in Lisbon. “A strong and constructive partnership based on mutual confidence, transparency and predictability can best serve our security,” it states.

Stavridis recognized areas in which the growing NATO-Russian relationship is bearing fruit:

— Counterpiracy: Loosely coordinated efforts by NATO and Russian ships have reduced piracy by 70 percent over the past year and caused the number of ships and mariners held hostage to plummet in what the admiral called “a very effective operation.”

— Afghanistan support: Russia contributed small arms and ammunition to the Afghan security forces and sold MI-17 helicopters and maintenance training to the Afghan air force. In addition, Russia provides logistical support, including a transit arrangement that helps to sustain NATO-led ISAF forces and redeployment efforts.

— Military exchanges and exercises: Russian service members are participating in more of these engagements with the United States and NATO. These exchanges, including port calls in Russia, have been well-received by both militaries, Stavridis noted.

— Arctic cooperation: Russia is collaborating with other members of the Arctic Council, including the United States, Norway, Denmark, Canada and Iceland, to ensure the Arctic remains a zone of cooperation.

— Counterterrorism: In the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, NATO is offering assistance and information-sharing via a variety of channels, Stavridis reported.

— Counternarcotics: NATO and Russia are working together to stem the flow of heroin from Afghanistan, a high priority for Russia.

Expressing hopes that NATO and Russia can continue to build on this cooperation, Stavridis said areas of tensions and disagreements need to be addressed.

“No one wants to stumble backwards toward the Cold War, so the best course for the future is open discussion, frank airing of disagreements, and hopefully seeking to build the ‘true strategic partnership’ set out in the NATO strategic concept,” he said. “Clearly, we have some work to do.”

 

Contact Author

Biographies:
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force
U.S. European Command
Special Report: U.S. European Command

 

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Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Putin Pledges To Protect All Ethnic Russians Anywhere. So, Where Are They?

Russian enough?

Russian enough?

By Robert Coalson
In recent weeks, the Russian government has articulated what might be called the Putin Doctrine, a blanket assertion that Moscow has the right and the obligation to protect Russians anywhere in the world.

Speaking on Russian television last month, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said that “Russia is the country on which the Russian world is based” and that Putin “is probably the main guarantor of the safety of the Russian world.”

The ebbing and flowing of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union over recent centuries have left millions of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers outside the borders of today’s Russian Federation.

Many of them — from Moldova’s Transdniester to eastern Ukraine and elsewhere — have responded to the Putin Doctrine with calls for Russian “protection.”

A banner outside a government building in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk that is occupied by pro-Russian separatists reads: “Russia! Save us from slavery.”

‘New Russia’ And Ukraine

The Kremlin’s new position has come into sharp focus in recent weeks in the Ukrainian region of Crimea — annexed by Russia last month — and in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine. Russian nationalists such as the Eurasianist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin refer to this region by the historical name “Novorossiya,” or “New Russia,” which also encompasses several southern regions of Russia including Rostov Oblast and Stavropol and Krasnodar krais.

The area was added to the Russian Empire over the 18th and early 19th centuries by military conquests over the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire. Beginning with Catherine the Great, the fertile region was handed out to Russian nobility who enserfed the local population. Although Catherine notably invited foreigners from Europe to settle in the region, Russification of the region was official policy.

Click to open interactive infographic in new windowClick to open interactive infographic in new window

Today there are more than 5 million ethnic Russians in the Ukrainian parts of Novorossiya, making up a significant plurality in most of the regions. Russians compose a majority in Crimea because of energetic Russification there and the 1944 mass deportation of Crimean Tatars, who are only now approaching their pre-deportation population levels on the peninsula.

Deportations In Moldova

On the edge of historical Novorossiya is the Moldovan region of Transdniester, which today is home to at least 150,000 Russian passport holders. The region was brought into the Russian Empire in the 1790s and its capital, Tiraspol, was founded as a border outpost by the legendary General Aleksandr Suvorov.

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So far, the West’s reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea has been rather chivalrous. Freeze a few assets here, travel restrictions for a dozen people there, and of course have Visa and MasterCard stop providing services for a few Russian banks.

Putin then said Russia will explore launching its own credit cards, similar to Japan’s JCB and China’s UnionPay. Nice try. While these two companies have pretty good traction in their home market, they are dwarfed by American plastic.

According to research by Nilson, MasterCard processed more than $8 trillion of the world’s credit card transactions in 2011. Visa came second at around $3 trillion and UnionPay third with a little more than $2 trillion. The reason: MasterCard and Visa are accepted everywhere in the world, where the other two are pretty much local only.

Either way, banning a few Russian banks from processing Visa or Master for a while or Russia launching its own alternatives won’t change a lot in the grand scheme of things. However, the direction where this conflict is going is interesting.

The Nuclear Option
International payments between banks are processed via the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a little known member-owned cooperative based in Belgium.

If you have ever sent an international wire transfer, you will likely have entered a so-called Business Identifier Code, or BIC in short. It is part of SWIFT’s system for processing payments.

 

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Ukraine’s secret unit of spy DOLPHINS that can plant bombs and attack divers with guns have defected to Russia

  • The Ukraine Army has been using dolphins and seals since the 70s
  • After the fall of the USSR, the ‘dolphin spies’ remained in the Ukraine
  • The dolphins have been trained to hunt for mines and plant bombs
  • They can also attack divers with knives or pistols attached to their heads
  • Now, military dolphins in Crimea will be transferred to the Russian Navy

By Will Stewart

 

 

The Army has been using the underwater mammals since the 70s, and they remained under Ukrainian command after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The bottlenose dolphins are trained to hunt for mines, plant bombs on hostile ships or attack enemy divers with special knives or pistols fixed to their heads.

 

Defecting: The Ukrainian army's dolphins, trained to hunt for mines, plant bombs and attack enemy divers, will be transferred to the Russian Navy

Defecting: The Ukrainian army’s dolphins, trained to hunt for mines, plant bombs and attack enemy divers, will be transferred to the Russian Navy

Loyal: The army has been using the underwater mammals since the 70s, and they remained under Ukrainian command after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Loyal: The army has been using the underwater mammals since the 70s, and they remained under Ukrainian command after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 

 

The use of bottlenose dolphins as naval assets was begun during the Cold War in Sevastopol by the Soviet Union in 1973. With the collapse of the USSR, they were enlisted in the Ukrainian navy.

Now after the Russian repossession of the Crimean peninsula this month, it was revealed today that the combat dolphins are now back under Kremlin control along with all 193 military units in the region.

 ‘The military dolphins serving in Crimea will be transferred to the Russian Navy,’ reported state-owned Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

In fact, Ukraine announced last month it was preparing to cease naval training with the mammals, so the Russian annexation of the Black Sea region has probably saved the unique underwater force.

‘Engineers are developing new equipment for new programmes so that the dolphins can be used more effectively in underwater operations,’ a source said today.

 

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How alike are Crimea and Kosovo?

AP

Vladimir Putin’s key argument justifying Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia following Sunday’s referendum is the West’s acceptance of Kosovo’s declaration of statehood in 2008.

With the strong support of the United States, the ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo seceded from Serbia despite Serbia’s strong objections. At the time, Russia argued that the Kosovo declaration was a serious breach of international law.

Here’s a look at Crimea and Kosovo:

How are Crimea and Kosovo similar?

Both Kosovo and Crimea have a majority who belong to an ethnic minority. Just as Kosovo Albanians feared Serbian repression during the autocratic rule of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Russians living in Crimea feared the Ukrainian nationalists who came to power in Kiev in February.

Both the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and the ethnic Russians in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession, while the Serbian minority in Kosovo and the Ukrainian and Tatar minorities in Crimea mostly boycotted the votes.

There was foreign military intervention in both regions with NATO intervening in Kosovo and pro-Russian troops seizing control of Crimea ahead of the vote.

What are their main differences?

NATO intervened in Kosovo in 1999 only after significant evidence of Serbian abuses against ethnic Albanians, including mass killings and deportations. Pro-Russian forces intervened in Crimea with no major abuses or violence reported against ethnic Russians.

The West didn’t annex Kosovo after driving Milosevic’s forces out of the former Serbian province, but sent in peacekeepers. Russian troops, meanwhile, took control of Crimea before its referendum was held.

 

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‘Crimea is now part of Russia, the West has to come to terms with that’

Published time: March 20, 2014 11:57

Workers put up a new sign at the local parliament building in Simferopol March 19, 2014.Workers put up a new sign at the local parliament building in Simferopol March 19, 2014.(Reuters / Thomas Peter )

Workers put up a new sign at the local parliament building in Simferopol March 19, 2014.Workers put up a new sign at the local parliament building in Simferopol March 19, 2014.(Reuters / Thomas Peter )

Claiming that Crimea is part of Ukraine is the same as Serbia arguing that Kosovo is not really separated from it, Gregory Copley, editor of Defense & Foreign Affairs, told RT.

“Crimea is now part of Russia, the West will come to terms with that, the question is how much longer they’ll perpetuate the crisis in the rest of Ukraine and whether they will escalate the problem, which I think will be unwise for the US and Western European interests,” Copley said.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, goes further, saying that as long as Crimea belongs to Russia, Ukraine should be made a buffer zone between the West and Russia.

“This is a serious situation that will be alleviated with recognition that Russia and Crimea are going to be together, a recognition that the Ukraine should be a buffer state between let it say NATO, the West, and Russia, and a recognition on the Russian side that that’s the case and Ukraine is left alone, and the same thing on the Western side,” Wilkerson argued.

He blames the US for the creation of the artificial crisis, which resulted in downgrading relations between great world powers whereas their cooperation in other spheres is so needed.

 

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (C), Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantionov (L) and Sevastopol’s new de facto mayor Alexei Chaly sign a treaty on the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula becoming part of Russia in the Kremlin on March 18, 2014 (AFP, Kirill Kudryavtsev)

 

Russia’s brazen annexation of Crimea presents a vexing foreign policy crisis for the Western powers. How can these actions be denounced without pointing a finger back upon their own forays and interventions? Indeed, President Putin said as much in his recent addressin the Kremlin, chiding the West for its condemnations of Russia’s actions and stating that “it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.” Putin reinforced this view by citing the “Kosovo precedent” – which he takes as “a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities.”

Without validating Russia’s motives and the ways in which such arguments provide rhetorical cover for its own imperial aspirations, there is a salient point here that coheres with arguments often cited by progressive voices in the West. In particular, as to the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other interventions, there are echoes of anti-war perspectives to be found in the Russian President’s deflection of Western criticisms: “Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle ‘If you are not with us, you are against us.’”

“As many pointed out at the time, the invasion of Iraq in particular foretold a world wracked by disregard for international norms and defined by the mercenary pursuits of national self-interest.”

The fact that Russia is now explicitly validating these misguided principles seems to be of no moment to President Putin. A stronger argument, to be sure, would be to refuse to participate in exceptionalism-oriented policies, perhaps instead arguing for Crimean autonomy rather than its annexation. Certainly the presence of Russian troops there during an electoral referendum gives the appearance of coercion rather than liberation. If the US and its allies are to be critiqued for hypocritically advocating “democracy” through “the rule of the gun,” then it is difficult to see how Russia’s invocation of similar principles to justify its behavior represents more than mere cynicism and an elaborate rationalization for its own ambitions in the region.

We can thus perceive in all of this a sense of foreign policy blowback from the US-led wars and interventions of recent years. By citing Kosovo as well as Iraq and Afghanistan (among other instances, such as Libya), Putin connects the policies of the last three US Presidential Administrations, essentially constituting the period since the dissipation of the former Soviet Union. Further, by reaching back into Crimea’s status as part of Russia’s “common historical legacy” and its longstanding cultural importance to Russia, an attempt is being made to turn back the clock to the halcyon days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. (No mention was made, of course, of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, which helped form the basis for a world in which aggressive interventions – and eventual blowback – would soon define a “new normal” for international affairs.) While perhaps not quite (yet) representing a reassembly of the Iron Curtain, the annexation of Crimea clearly presents numerous strategic implications for the balance of power both regionally and globally.

To wit, Putin specifically notes the strategic importance of Crimea as the “main base of the Black Sea Fleet” and as a potential bulwark against NATO incursions eastward. Reinforcing this mindset, Putin observes that Sevastopol (in southwestern Crimea) is a “fortress” and that Crimea’s deep connections to the homeland symbolize “Russian military glory.” Not explicitly cited in Putin’s speech is the centrality of Crimea as a locus for oil and gas production, which as Businessweek notes has already drawn the interest of Big Oil. Others have observed the importance of the region for agricultural distribution and production, and the pipelining of gasacross the continent. There has been relatively little analysis of the situation in Ukraine as a “resource conflict,” but in the present state of geopolitics such implications are always at hand.

“In abdicating their already-tenuous hold on moral legitimacy in international affairs, the US and its allies have eroded one of the last potential bastions against the imminent realization of a world dominated by strategic resource acquisition as a function of security.”

In this light, we can read the Crimean crisis as a form of comeuppance for policies set in motion and continually reinforced by nations in general and the US in particular, bent on promoting a form of “security” that devolves upon control of resources and a penchant for unilateralism in achieving this end. In fact, President Obama unabashedly affirmed such policies in his speech to the UN in September 2013: “The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region…. We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.” As such, President Obama was not so much announcing a new policy as validating an ongoing one: the legacy of the Bush Doctrine based on unilateral action and calculated intervention. Once these terms of engagement have been set, it becomes difficult to condemn others taking up the mantle for their own purposes.

And this, in the end, may well be the lingering retribution for the US-led wars of recent years. As many pointed out at the time, the invasion of Iraq in particular foretold a world wracked by disregard for international norms and defined by the mercenary pursuits of national self-interest. In setting a template for the policy engagements to follow, this archetype of adventurism ushered in an era in which exceptionalism has become the norm, where the cavalier disregard of domestic and/or global objections is considered politically acceptable, and where powerful nations can exercise a free hand in determining the future of less powerful ones when strategic interests are involved. It would be hard to conceive of a more pointed version of realpolitik, and the term is doubly poignant in light of the outcomes we are seeing today.

Russia’s rhetorical reliance on misguided Western policies does little more than render concrete that which has already been known and deployed by powerful interests for decades, if not longer. But the invocation of recent US-led forays and the specific use of the word “exceptionalism” in Russian discourse add a dimension that is deeply troubling for the future prospects of peace. By making realpolitik more, well, real, the annexation of Crimea is less likely to draw a military response from the West than it is to elicit wider forms of emulation. In abdicating their already-tenuous hold on moral legitimacy in international affairs, the US and its allies have eroded one of the last potential bastions against the imminent realization of a world dominated by strategic resource acquisition as a function of security.

Again, none of this should be surprising by now, although we might take a moment to lament its further instantiation as the dominant modus operandi of powerful interests across the globe. Such a state of affairs asks us to revisit the past and reassess our narrowing options for the future.

Randall Amster

Randall Amster, JD, PhD, is Director of the Program on Justice and Peace at Georgetown University, and serves as Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. His forthcoming book Peace Ecology is due out in May from Paradigm Publishers. Previous books include Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness, and the co-edited volume Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action.

 

 

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Sanctions expand: Obama goes after more wealthy Russians and a ‘crony bank,’ freezes assets and denies US access in response to Ukraine crisis

  • President signed new executive order authorizing the U.S. to sanction ‘a whole slew’ of wealthy Russians and a bank that holds their assets
  • New move freezes assets of new targets and prohibits them from doing business in the United States
  • The bank will be denied access to U.S. dollars
  • Additional sanctions would also go into place if Vladimir Putin invades more of Ukraine or other nations
  • White House aims to cripple Russian economy including financial services, energy, metals and mining, defense and related material, and engineering

By David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor

President Barack Obama has signed a new executive order that authorizes his administration ‘to impose sanctions not just on individuals but on key sectors of the Russian economy,’ he said Thursday morning.

Speaking on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One en route to Florida, he also announced a new raft of anti-Moscow choke-holds that the White House is attempting immediately to ‘impose additional costs on Russia.’

‘We’re imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government … [and] other individuals who provide material support’ to them, Obama said in a brief statement.

He also announced new sanctions on Bank Rossiya, which he said ‘provides material support to these individuals.’

 

President Barack Obama addresses the Ukraine crisis at the White House Thursday, announcing new sanctions against Russian officials and a bank that holds their assets, and an executive order authorizing the government to make more moves

President Barack Obama addresses the Ukraine crisis at the White House Thursday, announcing new sanctions against Russian officials and a bank that holds their assets, and an executive order authorizing the government to make more moves

Showman: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) spoke Tuesday at a rally celebrating his annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol after what the U.S> and other governments called an 'illegal referendum'

Showman: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) spoke Tuesday at a rally celebrating his annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol after what the U.S> and other governments called an ‘illegal referendum’

Obama spoke for just a few minutes before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, en route to Florida for an economic speech and a Democratic Party fundraiser

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control listed the new targets on its website as Obama spoke.

‘We’ve continued to be deeply concerned’ about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions, he said.

‘We’ve seen an illegal referendum in Crimea [and] an illegitimate move by the Russians to annex Crimea.’

Putin’s moves, he said, ‘have been rejected by the international community and by the government of Ukraine.’

 

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US sanctions list against Russian officials is unacceptable – Kremlin

Published time: March 20, 2014 19:47
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Washington’s sanctions list against Russia is unacceptable, the Kremlin stated on Thursday. It comes after US President Barack Obama announced a new executive order slamming sanctions on top Russian officials in response to Crimea joining Russia.

“Finding some of the names on this list causes nothing but an extreme embarrassment, but no matter what the names are, finding any lists is unacceptable for us,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Thursday.

He added that Russia’s retaliation to the new sanctions will not take long.

“In any case, Russia’s reaction to these lists will be based on a reciprocity principle and will not be long in coming.”

The second round of sanctions imposed on Thursday singles out 20 top Russian political figures and businessman, among whom is Sergey Ivanov, head of the Kremlin administration.

Ivanov reacted to the news with humor, Peskov said, adding that this is not the first time that a Western country has barred him from entering.

“While I cannot say anything about the reaction of others, but as far as Sergey Ivanov, he reacted with humor. In his earlier professional life, during more than 20 years of service in the first headquarters of the KGB, and then Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, as a result of operational activity he has already been denied entry to most Western countries, so he is no stranger to this,” said Peskov.

 

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The G8 is dead declares Merkel as Europe prepares to ramp up EU sanctions against Russia

  • EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels to discuss developments in Ukraine
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel says EU will impose more sanctions on Russia after its troops seized majority control of Crimea
  • She also told the German parliament the G8 forum is suspended indefinitely

By Suzannah Hills

The European Union is set to impose further sanctions on Russia following its decision to annex Crimea as German Chancellor Angela Merkel today declared the G8 ‘is dead’.

EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels today to discuss how to deal with the developments in Crimea after Russian troops seized majority control of the peninsula.

In an address to the German Parliament in Berlin this morning, Merkel said the EU was readying further sanctions and that the G8 forum of leading economies has been suspended indefinitely.

Russia holds the presidency of the G8 and President Vladimir Putin was due to host his counterparts, including President Barack Obama, at a summit in Sochi in June.

But Merkel today declared the G8 will not meet again until the situation in Ukraine has been resolved.

 

Response: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the EU will impose further sanctions on Russia

Response: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the EU will impose further sanctions on Russia

The G8 is dead': German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells the lower house of parliament in Berlin the G8 forum has been suspended indefinitely

The G8 is dead’: German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells the lower house of parliament in Berlin the G8 forum has been suspended indefinitely

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses lawmakers at the lower house of parliament in Bundestag, Berlin, on Thursday ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses lawmakers at the lower house of parliament in Bundestag, Berlin, on Thursday ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels

Merkel: G8 does not exist at present

‘So long as there aren’t the political circumstances, like now, for an important format like the G8, then there is no G8,’ Merkel said. ‘Neither the summit, nor the format.’

Earlier this week, the EU and the United States slapped sanctions on certain individuals that were involved in what they say was the unlawful referendum in Crimea over joining Russia.

Cancelled: Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to host the G8 summit in Sochi in June

Cancelled: Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to host the G8 summit in Sochi in June

 

 Moscow formally annexed Crimea earlier this week in the wake of the poll. The Black Sea peninsula had been part of Russia for centuries until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine.

Russian forces effectively took control of Crimea some two weeks ago in the wake of the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych, after months of protests and sporadic violence.

The crisis erupted late last year after Yanukovych backed out of an association deal with the EU in favor of a promised $15 billion bailout from Russia. That angered Ukrainians from pro-European central and western regions.

 

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Sanctions tit-for-tat: Moscow strikes back against US officials

Published time: March 20, 2014 15:37
Edited time: March 20, 2014 17:40

RIA Novosti / Alexander Vilf

RIA Novosti / Alexander Vilf

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has published a reciprocal sanctions list of US citizens, consisting of 10 names, including: House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Senator J. McCain; and advisers to President Obama D. Pfeiffer and C. Atkinson.

THE LIST OF OFFICIALS AND LAWMAKERS

These officials, along with another five named by the Foreign Ministry, are banned from entering the country.

The move comes in response to US sanctions imposed against Russian officials after the March-16 referendum in Crimea, which Washington considered “illegitimate.”

“In response to sanctions imposed by the US Administration on 17 March against a number of Russian officials and deputies of the Federal Assembly as a “punishment” for support of the referendum in Crimea, the Russian foreign Ministry announces the introduction of reciprocal sanctions against a similar number of US officials and lawmakers,” reads the statement published on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

The Ministry reiterates that Russia has “repeatedly” stressed using sanctions is a “double-edged thing” and it will have a “boomerang” effect against the US itself.

“Treating our country in such way, as Washington could have already ascertained, is inappropriate and counterproductive,” the statement said.

The statement continued: “Nevertheless, it looks like the American side continues to blindly believe in the effectiveness of such methods, taken from the arsenal of the past, and does not want to face the obvious: the people of Crimea, in a democratic way in full accordance with international law and UN regulations, voted to join Russia, which respects and accepts this choice. You may like this decision or not, but we are talking about a reality, which needs to be taken into consideration.”

 

Read More Here

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