Ukraine summit.

Will Putin Finally Wake Up Europe?


© photocredit

The Crimean parliament : to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation


Secretary General assures Ukrainian Prime Minister that NATO stands by Ukraine

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arsenii Yatseniuk on Thursday (6 March 2014) that “in these difficult moments, NATO stands by Ukraine. NATO stands by the right of every nation to decide its own future. NATO stands by Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and by the fundamental principles of international law”.

The Secretary General and the Prime Minister discussed the grave developments in Ukraine and how NATO and Ukraine can strengthen their partnership. The Secretary General said the crisis in Ukraine “presents serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area as a whole.” He added that the crisis is the gravest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.

Mr. Fogh Rasmussen stressed that the Alliance intends to step up its partnership cooperation through the NATO-Ukraine Commission to support democratic reforms. This will include bolstering ties with Ukraine’s political and military leadership, strengthening efforts to build the capacity of the Ukrainian military and more joint training and exercises. NATO will also do more to include Ukraine in its multinational projects to develop capabilities.
The NATO Secretary General commended the people of Ukraine for their determination and courage and for the restraint shown by the Ukraine armed forces, and reiterated that a political solution is the only way out of the crisis.
“Above all, we call on Russia to honour its international commitments and halt the military escalation in Crimea. We call on Russia to withdraw its forces to their bases, and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine. There should be no attempt to draw new lines on the map of Europe in the 21st century”, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen concluded.


President Putin’s Fiction : 10 False Claims about Ukraine

As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, “The formula ‘two plus two equals five’ is not without its attractions.”
Below are 10 of President Vladimir Putin’s recent claims justifying Russian aggression in the Ukraine, followed by the facts that his assertions ignore or distort.

1. Mr. Putin says: Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets. It is “citizens’ defense groups,” not Russian forces, who have seized infrastructure and military facilities in Crimea.

The Facts: Strong evidence suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea. While these units wear uniforms without insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians.

2. Mr. Putin says: Russia’s actions fall within the scope of the 1997 Friendship Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

The Facts: The 1997 agreement requires Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which have given them operational control of Crimea, are in clear violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

3. Mr. Putin says: The opposition failed to implement the February 21 agreement with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The Facts: The February 21 agreement laid out a plan in which the Rada, or Parliament, would pass a bill to return Ukraine to its 2004 Constitution, thus returning the country to a constitutional system centered around its parliament. Under the terms of the agreement, Yanukovych was to sign the enacting legislation within 24 hours and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion. Yanukovych refused to keep his end of the bargain. Instead, he packed up his home and fled, leaving behind evidence of wide-scale corruption.

4. Mr. Putin says: Ukraine’s government is illegitimate. Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine.

The Facts: On March 4, President Putin himself acknowledged the reality that Yanukovych “has no political future.” After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, even his own Party of Regions turned against him, voting to confirm his withdrawal from office and to support the new government. Ukraine’s new government was approved by the democratically elected Ukrainian Parliament, with 371 votes – more than an 82% majority. The interim government of Ukraine is a government of the people, which will shepherd the country toward democratic elections on May 25th – elections that will allow all Ukrainians to have a voice in the future of their country.

5. Mr. Putin says: There is a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands are fleeing Ukraine to Russia and seeking asylum.

The Facts: To date, there is absolutely no evidence of a humanitarian crisis. Nor is there evidence of a flood of asylum-seekers fleeing Ukraine for Russia. International organizations on the ground have investigated by talking with Ukrainian border guards, who also refuted these claims. Independent journalists observing the border have also reported no such flood of refugees.

6. Mr. Putin says: Ethnic Russians are under threat.

The Facts: Outside of Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat. The new Ukrainian government placed a priority on peace and reconciliation from the outset. President Oleksandr Turchynov refused to sign legislation limiting the use of the Russian language at regional level. Ethnic Russians and Russian speakers have filed petitions attesting that their communities have not experienced threats. Furthermore, since the new government was established, calm has returned to Kyiv. There has been no surge in crime, no looting, and no retribution against political opponents.

7. Mr. Putin says: Russian bases are under threat.

The Facts: Russian military facilities were and remain secure, and the new Ukrainian government has pledged to abide by all existing international agreements, including those covering Russian bases. It is Ukrainian bases in Crimea that are under threat from Russian military action.

8. Mr. Putin says: There have been mass attacks on churches and synagogues in southern and eastern Ukraine.

The Facts: Religious leaders in the country and international religious freedom advocates active in Ukraine have said there have been no incidents of attacks on churches. All of Ukraine’s church leaders, including representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, have expressed support for the new political leadership, calling for national unity and a period of healing. Jewish groups in southern and eastern Ukraine report that they have not seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

9. Mr. Putin says: Kyiv is trying to destabilize Crimea.

The Facts: Ukraine’s interim government has acted with restraint and sought dialogue. Russian troops, on the other hand, have moved beyond their bases to seize political objectives and infrastructure in Crimea. The government in Kyiv immediately sent the former Chief of Defense to defuse the situation. Petro Poroshenko, the latest government emissary to pursue dialogue in Crimea, was prevented from entering the Crimean Rada.

10. Mr. Putin says: The Rada is under the influence of extremists or terrorists.

The Facts: The Rada is the most representative institution in Ukraine. Recent legislation has passed with large majorities, including from representatives of eastern Ukraine. Far-right wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan protests, are not represented in the Rada. There is no indication that the Ukrainian government would pursue discriminatory policies; on the contrary, they have publicly stated exactly the opposite. Source.


Personal Envoy Guldimann says situation in Crimea calm but very tense

KYIV, 6 March 2014 – The Personal Envoy of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ambassador Tim Guldimann, briefing media in Kyiv today, commended the Ukrainian authorities for their efforts to de-escalate the situation on Crimea, adding that “the situation is calm, but very tense.”
Guldimann, together with the High Commissioner of National Minorities, Astrid Thors, visited Crimea over the last two days and had the opportunity to meet with various stakeholders.
“It is a miracle that there has been no blood-shed yet,” he said.
Guldimann deplored the fact that, while in Crimea, he was not able to secure a meeting with Sergey Aksyonov and the commander of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation. He and Thors, however, had extensive talks with representatives from the Crimean Parliament as well as from public administration and civil society, including from the community of the Crimean Tatars. He also met with the representative of the acting Ukrainian President in Crimea.
Guldimann’s visit to Crimea, as well as various meetings with officials in Kyiv during his trip, were an essential step for preparations of further OSCE activities to assist Ukraine to overcome the crisis.


Developing situation in Crimea alarming

KYIV, 6 March 2014 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors is alarmed about the situation in Crimea.
On her return to Kyiv today, she said: “I am alarmed about the risk of violent conflict on the Crimean peninsula and the effects this could have on all communities, particularly the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar groups.”
Thors said the situation remains precarious. “Rash decisions on the future status of Crimea are a major source of tension and expose divisions between the peninsula’s communities that have been left unaddressed for decades. Like the Ukrainian community, Crimean Tatars have taken a different position to the majority population, which increases their vulnerability. Relations between ethnic groups on the peninsula are characterized by a growing climate of fear,” she said.
“I remind the authorities in effective control of the Crimean peninsula that they are obliged to ensure security and respect for human rights, including minority rights, for all those present on the territory, regardless of whether they are of Russian, Ukrainian or Crimean Tatar or other origin.”
“There is a real risk of bloodshed. All decisions on essential issues, such as the status of Crimea, language policy or national minority policy, must be taken in dialogue with all parties and be consistent with international law,” said Thors. During her visit to Kyiv and Crimea, the High Commissioner found no evidence of violations or threats to the rights of Russian speakers.


Why has Russia intervened in Crimea?

by JAMES SHERR – The Kremlin believes there is a direct connection between the fate of the post-Soviet order in Ukraine and that of Russia itself.

Russia is in shock. Having stated as recently as December 2013 that “Ukraine is now ours,” Moscow suddenly finds itself with no influence in Kiev at all.

To defend its vital interests, the Kremlin is prepared to accept high risks and temporary losses—both financial and political. It believes that is a major advantage in any contest with the West. Moscow fears EU integration, has little respect for EU leaders, and believes that European business interests will trump geopolitical ones.

What are Moscow’s objectives?

Russia’s objective is Ukraine as a whole, not just Crimea, whose importance is only instrumental.

Moscow’s political goals are threefold. First, to make Ukraine ungovernable by undermining the executive and by depriving outside stakeholders such as the EU and IMF of predictability and confidence. Second, to impose on Ukraine a Western-sanctioned constitutional “solution” based on federalization (which, under current conditions, means disintegration) and a special status for Crimea. Third, to show Kiev, Brussels, and Washington that nothing can be achieved in Ukraine without Moscow’s consent. In sum, Russia wants to reduce Ukraine to subservience—or chaos.

Russia’s military goals are evolving. Moscow’s tactics are based on the principle of razvedka boem, or employing military means to assess an adversary’s strength and willpower. Full Q&A


Western Responses to Ukraine Crisis: Policy Options

Chatham House yesterday convened an expert roundtable to discuss Moscow’s objectives in Ukraine and the policy options available to the West. The meeting, which drew together diplomats and leading experts on Ukraine, Russia and the EU, is summarised in a new paper, Western Responses to the Ukraine Crisis: Policy Options.

The expert panel make a number of recommendations, including that:
The most effective near-term pressure that can be exerted on Russia will be financial and economic. Much of President Vladimir Putin’s power is predicated upon Russia’s financial stability. Russia is also far more integrated into the world economy now than it was at the time of the escalation over Georgia in 2008. Its growth had already faltered prior to this crisis, and the markets immediately exerted their pressure on Russia as a result of its actions.
Freezing the assets of and denying visas to elite Russians suspected of money laundering or involved in the actions against Ukraine are likely to be measures that will influence Russian thinking and, possibly, the government’s behaviour. While retaliatory Russian measures are possible, more Russians need to travel to the West than those in the West need to travel to Russia.
The West should immediately ramp up its counter-narrative to the Russian propaganda operation. Statements by President Putin and other Russian leaders, and reporting by much of the Russian media, about Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Russia, violence in eastern Ukraine and there being no Russian troops in Crimea can easily be exposed as lies. This should be done publicly, forcefully and immediately.
The EU must not go back on its commitment to the Association Agreement with Ukraine. Conclusion of the agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with a newly elected government is essential for Ukraine’s future political as well as economic health.
The EU should convey the message to Russian energy companies that ‘business as usual’ is not an option while intervention in Ukraine continues. The West should also bear in mind that it is more energy-resilient today than in the last decade. Its process of diversifying its energy imports away from an over-reliance on Russia continues, leading to a more inter-dependent than dependent relationship. Read full paper online>>


Will Putin Finally Wake Up Europe?

by JUDY DEMPSEY – If Russian President Vladimir Putin’s provocative territorial grab in Ukraine is to be reversed, more than Europe will have wake up. The transatlantic community as a whole will have to demonstrate the commitment necessary to make Russian forces return to their barracks.
NATO, U.S., and EU leaders have warned of grave consequences for Russia should it continue its incursion into Ukraine. Some have suggested economic and political sanctions, including Russia’s expulsion from the G8 group of industrialized nations, suspension of trade negotiations, and the freezing of Russian corporate assets. (…)

Since the end of the Cold War, Europe has imposed on Russia German unification, NATO enlargement, and Partnership for Peace agreements, a series of accords between NATO and former Soviet states. In 1999, NATO fought the Kosovo war against Russia’s ally Serbia. Ten years later, Poland and Sweden initiated the EU’s Eastern Partnership with post-Soviet states of “strategic importance.” Geopolitical objectives (read the weakening and isolation of Russia) have played an important role in most EU foreign policy decisions.
Humiliation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, together with the weakening of the West, explains the current behavior of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Postmodern Europe thought that geopolitics would be something of the past. Even U.S. President Barack Obama said that Putin’s actions in Ukraine put him on the wrong side of history. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia of “nineteenth-century” behavior. (…)

The Ukrainian crisis was foreseeable once the country’s successive post-Soviet presidents and ruling elites failed to take a serious grip on the drive to constitutional liberal democracy or to combat corruption. The last straw was when the Ukrainian parliament voted on February 23 to repeal a law on regional languages (including Russian), making Ukrainian the sole state language. It was no wonder that Putin, high on the success of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, was enraged enough to make a grab for Crimea. (…)

In short, Ukraine is a failure for the EU and its European Neighborhood Policy. A new state has de facto appeared on the map, but no one dares to talk about it explicitly. And it is hard to believe that the EU can act decisively enough now to stop the spillover of Yanukovych’s removal.
A diplomatic crisis is not what the EU needs—not on the eve of European Parliament elections, at least. Populism is on the rise in the EU’s periphery. To contain Euroskeptic political parties, the EU must show that it can live up to people’s expectations and dreams.(…)

Russia has certainly given the EU a jolt, but I’m not sure it’s woken it up. Rather, Europe risks becoming Vladimir Putin’s creature. With armchair warriors wheeling themselves out of retirement, it’s not just that the EU seems to have undergone a collective brain transplant. Europeans are also dancing to the Kremlin’s tune, unwittingly confirming Moscow’s assumptions about the West.(…)

The EU was born in the cozy safety of the Cold War, protected by U.S. muscle. The union was enlarged in the naive years after the fall of Communism, when well-intentioned economists flocked to Moscow, trying to teach Russians what to do with their derelict rubles and kopecks. Then Putin came along, and the atmosphere returned to the bloody days of 1918–1919, when Kiev was torn between Russians, Ukrainians, Bolsheviks, Germans, nationalists, and Cossacks. (…)

If, however, you would like to see the EU do more to focus on the safety and prosperity of its immediate neighborhood—perhaps in the form of a collection of like-minded allies—there are reasons to be encouraged. In recent weeks, a handful of EU member states, especially Poland, have shown remarkable leadership in addressing Russian aggression, assisting the new Ukrainian government, and reassuring neighboring countries. (…)

They were wrong. Putin has succeeded in reconstituting his ability to project Russian power into the heart of Europe. More seaworthy Russian ships now patrol the Arctic and Baltic Seas, where they were once absent. More capable Russian forces are now concentrated on NATO’s Baltic border. More accurate Russian missiles now target Poland and Romania. More lethal fighter aircraft routinely violate Swedish and Finnish airspace. And Russia more often exercises land invasions of Europe.
Under Putin, Russia has been hard at work to reverse the outcome of the Cold War. He has played a zero-sum game even as the West has insisted it is not. Russian forces now occupy territory in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Coercion has produced feigned fealty in Belarus, Armenia, and part of Central Asia.(…) Full opinions.


Ukraine summit

EU leaders gather in Brussels today for an emergency summit on Ukraine. In light of recent events, this is an opportunity for the EU finally to show unity of action on Ukraine. It is crucial to make it clear to Russia what the costs are of intervening militarily in another country and threaten to increase them if the situation deteriorates further – for example, if Russia takes action in Eastern Ukraine.

Read ‘How can the EU impose costs on Russia’, where we set out some short and very concrete actions the EU could take towards Ukraine and Russia. Listen to yesterday’s edition of ‘the World in 30 minutes’ which was dedicated to the Crimea crisis, and then go through Andrew Wilson’s list of ’10 things you should know about Crimea’ for more background on the peninsula. Complement this with Mark Leonard’s column on how to help the Ukraine help itself and Jana Kobzova’s analysis of Ukraine’s U-turn. For a more in-depth discussion of what’s next for the EU and Ukraine, consult Andrew Wilson’s memo on supporting the Ukrainian revolution.

ECFR experts :

Andrew Wilson: “The situation in Ukraine now is totally unlike the Russian war in Georgia in 2008. Then, by most accounts, the Georgians were provoked into firing first. Only one Russian citizen has died in the current crisis, and he was shot by snipers in Kyiv. Russia has gambled that Europe would not challenge their move in the short-term and that gamble seems to have paid off”.

Kadri Liik: “The key challenge for the West is to deter any possible Russian action in Eastern Ukraine. Russia does not feel threatened because it does not believe that there will be any immediate, tangible consequences. Unless the EU and the US demonstrate what the “costs” of Russia’s invasion of Crimea are, Ukraine will remain under threat of further de-stabilisation and its territorial integrity will be in jeopardy”.

Stefan Meister: “The EU should internationalise the conflict over Crimea; this means having international observers on the spot with an impartial view of the situation which could stop further increase in Russian troops. This would help the Ukrainian government to feel less alone and less likely to fall for a Russian provocation. Brussels should show Moscow that sanctions are on the table if it escalates the conflict. The EU should also stabilise the Ukrainian government through direct financial assistance and help in the preparation of early elections”. Read more.


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