Monday, June 02, 2014

It is not yet over in Ukraine

The election of a new president in Ukraine is not the end of the crisis, but it does mark a point of change, and hopefully of improvement. The seizure of Crimea by Russia- in contravention of all international law and all promises given- has jolted the security position of NATO as almost nothing else could. Russia now insists that anywhere where the Russian or Soviet flag once flew may be a legitimate claim for Moscow. That in principle could mean Germany or Alaska. In practice it is still a threat to NATO, since the Kremlin claims thee right of intervention, whether or not any local Russian population survives, and regardless of that population supporting Russian intervention or not. Certainly it seems pretty clear that the Russian speaking population of the Donbass does not support the attempt by paramilitaries to transfer their home to Russian control. Nevertheless the Kremlin continues to seek a way to either control the Donbass directly or render it so unstable as to be beyond the control of the democratic government in Kyiv. 

Of course it is said that as Russian troops are withdrawn from the border, that they are seeking to deescalate the crisis. That, however remains to be seen, and the large number of mercenaries that are crossing the border to take up positions in Luhansk and Donetsk suggests simply a change of tactics, not a change of approach. The fact is that almost every public position taken by the Kremlin has ended up being denied by the facts. The credibility of Russia has been totally undermined by the simple lies told by their President.

In the end we have to note that Putin also cheated his way to the Presidency of his own country- with clear evidence of widespread voter fraud. He has led the "party of thieves and crooks" to vast ill gotten wealth- on a scale to make even Yanukovych blush. The regime does not even obey its own laws and the rights of individual citizens mean nothing compared to the rights of those connected to the regime. The rule of Vladimir Putin has ended free speech and on virtually every objective measure Russia can not be called a free country. The contempt for international law is simply another facet of the nature of the regime.

The point is that a democratic Ukraine is very clearly not in the interests of undemocratic Russia, and the seizure of Crimea and the attempted seizure of the Donbass is a pure play of Russian chauvinism. Some, especially those in London or Zurich who benefit from Russian funds flow or Paris, who benefit from Russian arms purchases will try either to downplay the actions of the Kremlin or to baldly state there is little that we can do. In fact such self interested twaddle is dangerous: the risks involved in not confronting the Russian threat until it is too late is much higher than recognizing and responding to the criminal regime in Moscow now. So unless the Russia takes actions to cool the situation in the Donbass immediately, then sanctions should not be abandoned in any way. In fact they should be increased. 

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