Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ukraine - What's Putin Up To?


While the Russian military buildup on the Ukraine's borders and in the Crimea remains in place, the Russians have opened up a new strategy.

This morning, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia has no plans to intervene militarily in the Ukraine:


Moscow pledged Tuesday it would not intervene in the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine but said the country should not be forced to choose between Russia and the West.

“We confirmed our principled position of non-intervention in Ukraine’s internal affairs and expect that everyone follows similar logic,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“We are interested in Ukraine being part of the European family, in all senses of the word,” he said after talks with Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn.

But he added: “We agree that… it is dangerous and counterproductive to force Ukraine into a choice — either you are with us or against us.”

This is likely a response to President Obama moving decisively for once and sending a high level State Department official into the region, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns:

In Kiev, he will consult with key Ukrainian leaders, the business community, and civil society on U.S. support for Ukraine’s efforts to secure a stable, democratic, inclusive, prosperous future. He will also honor the memory of the victims of the tragic events of last week. He will meet with a range of political, business, and civil society representatives, including Acting President Turchynov, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, and will urge the new government to take all steps necessary for free and fair presidential elections in May. He will urge the rapid formation of a national unity government that represents the wide array of stakeholders in Ukraine’s domestic political discourse, and encourage immediate steps to undertake the critical reforms necessary to restore Ukraine’s political and economic health. The Deputy Secretary will be accompanied by representatives of the Department of the Treasury and the National Economic Council, who will work in concert with partners such as the EU and the IMF to discuss needed financial support while a new government implements the difficult steps necessary to reform the economy. The Deputy Secretary will encourage all Ukrainians to continue their efforts to write a new chapter in their history that leads to a Ukraine that is democratic, sovereign, prosperous, and free to choose its own future.

So the Russians are foregoing their usual response to this kind of thing - for now.

Ah, but what the Russians want in exchange is a return to the status quo - meaning the old pro-Russian parliament, although not necessarily deposed president Victor Yanukovich,who has now had a murder warrant issued for his arrest by the new government.

And as Lavrov and Putin know quite well, it was Yanukovich who brought the entire crisis on by refusing to ratify the agreement between the EU and Ukraine on Moscow's orders. He now has zero chance to be restored to power, so they're wisely dumping him.

The Russians are also insisting that the new government 'reinstate law and order and bring about national reconciliation'. Which means what, exactly? 'National reconciliation ' is an interesting phrase when Russian tanks and troops are sitting in the Crimea and on the Ukrainian border. Inthat context, 'national reconciliation' obviously means 'the Ukraine remembering who's really calling the shots here.'

At present of course, there is no new Ukrainian government.The Ukrainian parliament has delayed the formation of a new government for another few days, even though both the EU and US have insisted that badly needed financial aid is on hold until a government is formed.

Interim President Turchynov is apparently having a rough time getting all the various factions to cooperate..and they have a very slender window of time to get their differences and agendas ironed out.

Aside from the impending financial crisis, it isn't beyond Russia's capability to foment some kind of incident where some Ukrainians whom are native Russians are killed by Ukrainian 'terrorists', thus giving Russia the excuse to move the troops in 'to protect Russians and restore law and order'. That would be particularly convenient and easy in the Crimea, where the population is 60% native Russian, and Russia already has the troops and tanks in place to move in at their base in Sebastopol.

Lavrov has already made threats to the Ukraine about 'anti-Russian activities.'

Failing that, Russia can wait and do their best to subvert the coming May elections in their favor, something they did once before. Or they can simply issue passports to the native Russian inhabitants and then use 'protecting Russian nationals' as their excuse, as they did in Abkhazia.

The best bet for a Ukraine not under Russia's thumb is for Turchynov and his friends to get their act together quickly, form a stable temporary government, get the West invested with aid money and hope for the best.

Stay tuned...

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