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Showing posts from March, 2014

Why Crimea is not like Kosova.. at all

There have been quite a few comments in the blogosphere and in the press along the lines of The West is being hypocritical about Crimea because they supported the separation of Kosovo from Serbia.

Let's just rewind for a moment, shall we.

In Kosovo, Slobodan Milosevic launched a war against his Albanian fellow citizens. He unleashed not merely paramilitary forces but his entire army. Massacres were taking place and virtually the entire population was set to flee across the border to escape the Serbian forces. The result was a Western (and Russian) intervention which stopped the violence and allowed the population to return. The war ended on June 11th 1999. Milosevic was only overthrown in early 2001. It was wholly unreasonable to expect the Kosovars to remain in a state where Milosevic remained in power, thus the province was initially ruled by NATO and then in 2008 the civilian and democratic authorities declared independence.

In Ukraine, the initially democratically elected Viktor …

Russian aggression continues

Vladimir Putin is not de-escalating or looking for the off-ramp. As he reinforces his occupation of Crimea with a rigged "vote", he is now upping the rhetoric re: Eastern Ukraine. His supporters have killed Maidan supporters in Kharkiv, but apparently this instability- which has been created solely at his instigation- will justify further Russian military intervention.
It seems clear that he does not believe that the West can or will do very much to stop him.
After his abrogation of the Budapest memorandum, through his invasion of Crimea, he has now essentially abrogated the conventional forces treaties that govern the movement of troops in Europe. He has also said that he know longer feels bound by the nuclear limitations of either the strategic arms reduction treaties or the intermediate weapons treaties. He has essentially repudiated several of the key arms control and confidence building measures that the Russian Federation has signed up to in the course of the past 20 yea…

Clear-eyed realism now needed re: Russia

There is a lot of hot air being blown about by people who have only just noticed what the implications of Russian policy in the Crimea actually are. Some of it is along the lines of "making a stand", as if forcing oligarchs wives out of Harvey Nicks will have a material effect on Putin's decision making. Some of it, by contrast is hand wringing at the impotence of the West. I do not -yet- believe- the Putin=Hitler narrative, but there are now some very uncomfortable parallels, and it does not take a Nazi level of evil to cause a major war.

The reality is inevitably more nuanced and far more difficult to manage. Let us consider a few facts.
Firstly, we should remember that the fall of Soviet Communism was an act of political and economic liberation for the vast majority of the people the former Empire. The creation of full democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and the massive increase in living standards associated with this has been an inspiring achievement. Even in th…

The West must look to its values if it seeks to confront Putin

It is easy for me to say "I told you so". For years this blog has warned about the aggressive despotism of Vladimir Putin. For years, the use of violence and money to corrupt and weaken the West has eroded our ability to work against one of the most vile regimes ever seen. For years these warnings, and those of people like Edward Lucas, have been ignored.

Now we are paying the bitter price of our greed and hypocrisy in our dealings with the Kremlin.

The fact is that democracy is not all about creating the best economic standards for its citizens- although that tends to be the result of good democratic governance. At the heart of democracy is a core of moral values which have little to do with money. An open society: the rights to free opinions, freedom of assembly and the right of every citizen to not just debate but to decide and control what is best for them, both individually and collectively, is a just cause. 

After a serious of pin pricks- the Iraq war, expenses scandals o…