Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Latest On The Ukraine...

The pro-Western forces in the Ukraine are solidifying their hold on the country, at least so far.

The Ukraine's new opposition-led parliament appointed a pro-Western interim leader, Oleksandr Turchynov, the former Speaker as interim president, with the job of forming a new government to rule the country until May 25, when new elections are to be held. The new government also fired the Ukraine's Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, the federal police chief and prosecutor general, and they appear to be in control of most of the country 's basic services, especially in Kiev.

Deposed pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych is still raving about this as a 'coup' but his authority was dealt another blow when his own Regions Party condemned him for issuing "criminal orders" that led to the deaths of 100 protesters.

The country has also taken steps to seek the vital economic aid it needs from the EU and US and appears to be meeting with some success so far.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told a G20 meeting in Sydney, Australia that America now "stands ready to assist Ukraine as it implements reforms". At the same time EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will fly to Kiev on Monday for a two-day visit that her office said will aim to work out "measures to stabilise the economic situation" in the Ukraine.

As far as Russia goes, Turchynov said that the country’s new leadership was ready for dialogue with Russia but relations had to be on a “new, equal and good-neighborly footing that takes into account Ukraine’s European choice.”

The US and EU also backed up the new government with some fairly blunt and surprising language.

Today on NBC’s “Meet the Press",President Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice warned Russia about sending its military into the Ukraine, saying, “That would be a grave mistake.”

“It’s not in the interests of the Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or of the United States to see the country split. It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate.”

Asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin might see the volatility in Ukraine in a Cold War context–in which East and West battle for influence–Ms. Rice said: “He may, but if he does, that’s a pretty dated perspective that doesn’t reflect where the people of Ukraine are coming from.

“This is not about the U.S. and Russia. This is about whether the people of Ukraine have the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations and be democratic and be part of Europe, which they choose to be.”

Sorry Ms. Rice, but that is exactly how Putin sees it.

Meanwhile British foreign Secretary William Hague was far less aggressive in his language, but at least
tried to sound bold, saying that "any external duress on Ukraine any more than we've seen in recent weeks... it really would not be in the interests of Russia to do any such thing."

Of course, when he was asked what Britain might do if Putin ordered tanks into Ukraine, he waffled and said: "We don't know, of course, what Russia's next reaction will be."

How much steel there is behind this language from America and the EU and what might have been said behind the scenes to Putin, we have no way of knowing.

The remarks Rice made about a split in the Ukraine are interesting. Apparently she and I were thinking along the same lines, with Russia putting together a breakaway zone in the Eastern Ukraine under Yanukovych the way Russia did with South Ossetia and subverting the new government from there. It's certainly a possible scenario, and there are a number of Russian backed militias like Oplot, (“Stronghold”) in places like Kharkiv and Donetsk who back Yanukovych to make it a real possibility, especially with Russian arms and assistance.

Stay tuned...

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