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When Wings Fail and Accountability Follows

Fri, 12/04/2019 - 17:24
The Comet was one of the Worlds First Jetliners. Poor design lead to the plane coming apart mid-air.

One of the first jetliners after the Second World War was the British made Comet. It was a symbol of the post war era, and a new way of seeing the world after the Blitz and over a decade of an economy that focused purely on need as opposed to any sort of luxury. The Comet was to transform the expectations of the average person, who could save up and afford the trip of a lifetime on an aircraft that seemed like it arrived from the future. As one of the first jetliners, the Comet established much of the modern air transport industry we use today. As with the recent crashes of the 737 Max 8s however, the failure of the Comet due to the pressurized cabin creating cracks in the rectangular window frames lead to a few successive disasters. The design of the windows required a rounded design, as the edges of the passenger windows lead to the air frame eventually coming apart. The Comet was modernized and the windows changed. While it became safer however, the reputation of the Comet lead to its premature fall from grace, especially when the 1960s era Boeing planes came into their own.

Air safety became paramount and more people would take advantage of lower cost flights and faster travel. The future of the industry eventually turned to larger aircraft and lower cost as opposed to smaller planes with tremendous speed. The latter still existed as a service however with the Concorde. For most of its career, Condordes had excellent safety records until a tragic crash late in its life in Paris in 2000. What stood out at the time was the assumptions surrounding Concorde’s crash, with British officials placing an excessive amount of fault at the hands of the crew, and continuing to operate the aircraft before it had been subject to a full investigation by Air France and the French government. For a period of time, Concordes were flying out of Heathrow while it was suspected it was not safe. A mixture of money, bias and pride left their passengers in danger before any conclusive report was issued to ensure its safety. The cause for the crash eventually was released, but in the end the Concorde’s reputation and age meant that they no longer are offered as a service by either country.

The evolution of the travel industry owes a lot to the first several versions of the Boeing 737s. If you have flown on any airline, the chances are that you have been on a 737. The record of the several versions of the 737 have likely the best safety record of any aircraft flying today, and it is why when two 737 Max 8s crashed within a year of each other, the planes should be grounded and sent back for intense testing. While the 737 Max 8 and Max 9s may not ruin the reputation of the older 737 versions, it will take a toll on customer satisfaction and preceived safety for the next few years. What should be avoided are shortcuts and poor communications by the companies that produce the aircraft and use the aircraft when addressing passenger concerns. Unlike the Comet, the 737 does not come from a new technology nor are they a special case or pride of national industry like Concorde. Until the 737 Max 8s can overtly demonstrate their safety, no one should take added risks boarding that airliner.

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Foreign Policy and the Green New Deal

Wed, 03/04/2019 - 19:19

In their support of the Green New Deal, did some Democrats call for a return to American global leadership – or even endorse American Exceptionalism?

First-term Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-NY) and forty-year veteran Senator Ed Markey (D.- Mass.) put forth a dramatic re-imagining of the approach the U.S. government should take toward climate change and economic affairs, with important emphasis on social justice questions.  The announcement on Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s web site described it as “a 10-year plan to create a greenhouse gas neutral society that creates unprecedented levels of prosperity and wealth for all while ensuring economic and environmental justice and security” with a “World War II scale mobilization.”

Media attention went quickly to interpretations of some of the most curious proposals: eliminating air travel, retrofitting “all buildings,” and ensuring economic security “to all who are unable or unwilling to work.”  Supporters clarified that these items were in earlier, unfinished drafts.

When “House Resolution 109 – Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal” was formally introduced in Congress, it had lost references to banning fossil fuels, decommissioning every nuclear power plant, and the trouble of “cow emissions.”  It emphasized instead that inducing the private sector to implement small-scale climate change-fighting technologies was not sufficient.  It promised economic prosperity for all as a result of government-led shift to renewable energy and post-oil infrastructure. It focused on the importance of re-structuring the economy and the environment for the benefit of “frontline and vulnerable communities” – that is, those exposed to “systemic racial, regional, social, environmental, and economic injustices [including] indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.”

Foreign Policy Questions

What the media did not discuss, though, were the foreign policy implications in the advocacy of the Green New Deal.

Rapidly shifting away from a carbon-based economy could have obvious impacts on the oil-producing world.  Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Middle Eastern states might come to mind first, but countries as different as Nigeria, Russia, and Mexico – and many others – rely on energy exports for large parts of their GDP, export earnings, or government revenue.  Losing significant amounts of income could have destabilizing effects in even otherwise stable countries around the world.

Less predictable, perhaps, was the emphasis by Green New Deal advocates on restoring the United States’ role as a global leader, at times even seeming to invoke the ideals of American exceptionalism.

At the press conference announcing the Green New Deal, Sen. Markey talked in universal terms:  “We will save all of Creation by massive job creation.”  That is, “we” the U.S. government will save not just Europe from fascism but the whole world from global warming. Citing FDR, the New Deal, and World War II, Markey said, “We have acted on this scale before, and we must do it again.”

Markey continued by pointing out that when President Kennedy said we would go to the moon, he didn’t say how, because the methods hadn’t been invented yet. Markey left no room for modesty or half-measures: “We are reclaiming our leadership on the most important issue facing humankind,” toward a Lincoln-esque “new climate democracy: of the people, by the people, for the planet.”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was as grand: “Economic, racial, and social justice in America – that’s what this agenda is all about.”  “Climate change,” she continued. “is one of the biggest existential threats to our way of life – not just as a nation but as a world…Today is also the day that we choose to assert ourselves as a global leader in transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy and to charting that path…. We should do it because we should lead.  We should do it because that is what this nation is about.  We should do it because we are a country that is founded on ideals, on a culture that is innovative…. We should do it because we are an example to the world…. We need to save ourselves and we can save the rest of the world with us.”

In previous weeks, other Democrats had supported this kind of globalism.  In December 2018, Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) compared the scale of urgency and effort of combating climate change to fighting World War II and the Nazis.  In October 2018, climate scientist Kevin Anderson called for a “Marshall Plan.”

In response to Markey and Ocasio-Cortez, support came with the same magnitude. Obama-era Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz criticized the Trump administration for leaving the Paris climate treaty and “not exercising the global leadership that we need to bring the whole world along.”

Democratic presidential hopefuls joined the chorus.  New Jersey Senator Corey Booker introduced an environment bill in 2017 that emphasized social and economic justice; last week he adopted the Green New Deal’s World War II and Moon Landing analogies.  “When the planet has been in peril in the past, who came forward to save Earth from the scourge of Nazis and totalitarian regimes?” the Washington Post reported on Booker in Iowa, “We came forward.”  Booker elaborated: “So the question is, what’s the United States of America going to do? Is it going to lead the planet in terms of dealing with this crisis? Or is it going to pull back from global leadership when we are the biggest economy on the planet Earth? I believe that America should lead, and it should lead boldly”

California Senator Kamala Harris endorsed the Green New Deal by identifying climate change as  “an existential threat to our country, our planet, and our future” and called for urgent action “to protect ourselves and our planet.”

In January, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand used President Kennedy’s own words from his pledge to go to the Moon:  “Why not create a moonshot? Say in the next ten years we are going to create an entire economy based on our innovations, based on what we can do, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” She repeated this Kennedy language after the Markey–Ocasio-Cortez release.

A New Global Leadership – Narrow or Broad-based?

Together, these calls for American global leadership reverse much of the last two decades’ mixed commitment to lead.  As a candidate and before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush pledged to quit nation-building and to abandon the ABM treaty (US did end the ABM treaty in 2002).  The global war on terror at times lacked key allies and raised human rights questions.  Barack Obama was elected on his promise to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Later, he drew “a line in the sand” over Syria’s use of chemical weapons but then ceded the issue to Congress and Russia.  Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2016, surrendering the region’s American diplomatic and economic leadership to China.  Eventual nominee Hillary Clinton finally joined him on TPP, reversing her earlier commitments as Secretary of State.  Donald Trump has criticized NATO and other essential allies, decried and replaced NAFTA, battled China over trade, and fiercely opposed illegal and much legal immigration. These are not the leadership principles of American globalism from World War II to the 1990s “indispensable nation.”

Democratic advocates of the Green New Deal, rooted in the left-wing of the party, are drawing on America’s historic global leadership roles to justify and demand a leadership role in today’s environmental/economic/social justice questions.  The call is for a “shining progressive city on a hill” to lead the world and save the world.  American Exceptionalism language is unusual from the U.S. political left. Observers will watch carefully to see if calls like these expand to other issues.

Photo from C-SPAN


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Is ISIS terror spreading its tentacles to other parts of the world?

Tue, 02/04/2019 - 20:44

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. The offshoot of al Qaeda which has captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria has declared itself an Islamic “Caliphate” and called on factions worldwide to pledge their allegiance, a statement posted on jihadist websites said on Sunday. The group, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, has renamed itself “Islamic State” and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi as “Caliph” – the head of the state, the statement said. REUTERS/Stringer

After ISIS was forced out of Baghouz, Syria, the murderous terror group is starting to move its forces to Africa and Asia.  

After the last ISIS-held area in Syria fell in Baghouz, many people in the West are under the impression that the murderous terror group notorious for beheading Westerners, raping Yezidis and Christians en masse, and massacring minorities is now finished.  Even US President Donald Trump tweeted, “We have defeated ISIS.” However, what many people in the West fail to grasp is while the last ISIS strongholds in the Middle East may be gone, the murderous terror group has merely transformed from having a base to being a clandestine terror network, which is capable of emerging in any part of the world, terrorizing innocents across the globe.  

In a recent press release, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center, while acknowledging that ISIS no longer controls a third of Iraq and Syria, a huge mass of land that included between 5 to 6 million people and a great portion of the world’s petroleum, the murderous terror group still has “active provinces in Iraq and Syria and in countries in Asia and Africa, where the local regimes find it difficult to uproot the organization.”  Furthermore, they added, “ISIS’s charismatic leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and several other senior figures have so far managed to survive the blows and continue to lead the organization and control its various provinces, even if it is decentralized.  The ISIS brand has eroded to a certain extend but the organization and the ideology behind it continues to attract young Muslims in Iraq and Syria, in other countries in the Middle East and around the world.”

Shortly after the ISIS terror group fell in Baghouz, the New York Times reported that the ISIS flag was waving in Mindanao Island in the Philippines.  Last January, two bombs went off in a Philippines church, slaughtering 23 people.  ISIS claimed responsibility for that terror attack.   Since then, ISIS has been taunting the leadership in the country.  The Philippines government responded forcefully with airstrikes and 10,000 soldiers in Jolo.   Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, stressed that ISIS is the “most complicated, evolving problem for the Philippines today and we should not pretend that it doesn’t exist.”

Aside from the Philippines, 40 ISIS terrorists of Bangladeshi origin are seeking to return to their country of origin in the wake of the fall of the Caliphate, the World Hindu Struggle Committee reported: “They are suspected to be a threat to the Bangladeshi Security Services.  According to the sources, they are all relatives of high level officials in the country.”  Nevertheless, the head of the Counter-Terrorism Unit in the country said that all of their names have been handed over to airport officials and that they will be arrested upon arrival. 

However, Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, has emphasized that in the past the Bangladeshi government has turned a blind eye to ISIS supporters active within its borders in the name of promoting the ethnic cleansing of the Hindu, Buddhist, indigenous and Christian minorities from the country: “The local Islamists force the Hindus to convert to Islam by force.  They frequently murder innocent Hindu men and rape their women and girls. The minorities of Bangladesh are tortured daily.  The Hindus have not enjoyed the country’s independence from Pakistan.”  He stresses that these 40 ISIS terrorists returning from the Middle East have local supporters to hide amongst and that they thus could potentially manage to evade border security, thus enabling them to hide among local supporters and to build up a base in the country under a different name.

“ISIS has many supporters in Bangladesh,” Basu proclaimed. “I warned of this before. Nobody believed me. Moreover, the Sheikh Hasina government has repeatedly denied the existence of ISIS within the country. Hopefully, now the world will wake up and recognize the threat that ISIS poses to Asia.”

Furthermore, as ISIS makes inroads in Asia, the murderous terror group is doing likewise in Africa.  According to Nigerian Archbiship Ignatius Kaigama, “Boko Haram has territorial ambitions and is evolving into the Islamic State of the West Africa Province, manifesting a desire to have their own expanded Islamic country.”  Earlier this year, ISIS-backed terrorists overrun a Nigerian military base.  Towards the end of last year, they seized Baga.  In recent years, Nigeria has been overrun in many areas by Boko Horom and other Islamist groups, who are notorious for slaughtering, abducting and raping local Christians.   In the wake of the Caliphate collapsing in the Middle East, ISIS could easily claim a base in the war-torn African country.  

Nigeria is not the only concerning area in Africa.  Recently, Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga visited Washington, DC in an effort to bolster US support for his country, warning that a weakened ISIS in Iraq and Syria could lead to an increased ISIS presence in Sahel: “The United States should have the same level of engagement in Sahel as it does in the Middle East.” In 2012, al Qaeda terrorists infiltrated Mali and destroyed numerous historic treasures in Timbuktu.  Only a French intervention prevented them from overrunning the entire country.  However, parts of Mali remain a hotbed for Islamist extremists, a situation that ISIS could exploit in the wake of the fall of the Caliphate.

The time has come for the American public to focus on how ISIS is spreading its tentacles in Africa and Asia.  Americans must stop living under the false illusion that ISIS is entirely defeated.  In the eyes of the murderous terror organization, they did lose a battle in Iraq and Syria but they have not yet lost the war.  If Americans give up on fighting ISIS now, the terror group can reemerge and everything that we gained in Iraq and Syria can be lost.  For this reason, Americans must start paying attention to how ISIS is reemerging itself in Africa and Asia, and to start investing resources in fighting against ISIS there.  At the same time, we must not close our eyes to the fact that ISIS can still remerge in the Middle East at any moment and can undo all of the gains that the International Coalition against ISIS made.  America must pay attention to what is happening in the world.  Isolationism is a failed policy, which always leads to more intense bloodshed at a later date.  

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Call for manuscripts for the new book series “Ukrainian Voices” published by ibidem-Verlag & distributed by Columbia University Press

Sat, 30/03/2019 - 17:17

The book series “Ukrainian Voices” publishes English- and German-language monographs, edited volumes, document collections and anthologies of articles authored and composed by Ukrainian politicians, intellectuals, activists, officials, researchers, entrepreneurs, artists, and diplomats. The series’ aim is to introduce Western and other audiences to Ukrainian explorations and interpretations of historic and current domestic as well as international affairs. The purpose of these books is to make non-Ukrainian readers familiar with how some prominent Ukrainians approach, research and assess their country’s development and position in the world.

The series was founded in 2019, and the volumes are collected by Andreas Umland, Dr. phil. (FU Berlin), Ph. D. (Cambridge), Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Сooperation in Kyiv.

Please, send your inquiries and proposals to:

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So You’ve Been Fined Again by the EU

Thu, 28/03/2019 - 17:24

It is remarkable that large corporations do not employ many people in their organisations that have the foresight to warn their Directors that what they might be doing will not only subject them to record breaking fines by the EU, but will also cost them billions. I had time to ponder this while going through several evasive security checks the other day at a bank that was one of the past winners of an EU fine. The EU not only sets a fine on large corporations for violations of competition and anti-trust, they also will target fines on violations of GDPR to anyone worldwide who does not respect the privacy rights of a European citizen or company connected in some way to the EU. Fines have a set standard but could be more or less broad, often involving a certain percentage of the company’s global value. Because the EU will go after profits the company obtained outside of the EU, it makes these fines very large, and theoretically acts as an effective deterrent against the problematic actions taken by the company. This week, Google received its third penalty from the EU and was fined 1.5 billion Euros for abusing its market dominance by restricting third-party rivals from displaying search ads between 2006 and 2016.

While the EU is known for setting strict fines, and the US anti-trust authorities often target the same violations and add fines independently themselves. It is not as if EU penalties are a new phenomenon, as record breaking fines by the EU have been placed over ten years ago on companies like Microsoft. With the GDPR it becomes even more interesting. In theory, someone who was born in Germany over forty years ago but lived abroad the entire time might be able to file a complaint against the country they immigrated to for violating their privacy rights via a foreign non-EU bank operating in that third country. An evasive non-European government policy that affects someone connected to the EU may produce a right for the EU to penalise the other government if they violate the privacy rights of an EU citizen. Theoretically, if a foreign government allowed a large corporation to violate the GDPR of one of its citizens abroad, with support of the foreign government, it could allow the EU to punish corrupt foreign practices via a privacy rights violation. This would be a very broad and unlikely application of the GDPR or the role of the EU Commission itself, but companies should assume the risk in any case.

Sanctions as well as penalties are often justified in order to limit financing of organsations that create harm to individuals and groups. Effective application of these acts and pieces of legislation promote open and transparent governments, even when those same governments block access to duly owed information or act in the interests of a private company over the interests of people and their democracy. It is hard to justify that the actions of a large company or a government bending the rules to support that company benefits citizens. Even if the action was done in the past, the damage to their competitors and consumers was done. Even if done in the past, damage to a democratic system has taken hold, and if a large fine is the best or only method to challenge such power, it should be that companies take responsibility for their own actions, and pay when they violate everyone else’s rights.

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Will Ukraine’s Far Right Parties Fail Again in 2019?

Wed, 27/03/2019 - 17:31
The flag of the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” (Freedom).

Ever since the beginning of its armed struggle against Moscow during World War II, the Ukrainian far right has been used by the Kremlin as a bogeyman. The political radicalism, war-time mass crimes, fascist leanings, and manifest militancy of historic Ukrainian ultra-nationalism has been employed by Soviet and post-Soviet Russian agitation among Russian and Western publics, otherwise largely ignorant about Ukrainian matters. The Banderite label, derived from the surname of the one-time leader of Ukrainian nationalism’s most radical wing, was and is being used to stigmatize Ukrainians from Galicia and Volynia, Ukrainian patriots, in general, or even merely self-ascribed Ukrainians, as universally xenophobic, antisemitic and genocidal.

As a result of decades of relentless
campaigning, the term “Banderite” (banderivets,
) eventually become defiantly adopted, as a self-description, by
many Ukrainians. This is in spite of the fact that most of today Ukraine’s self-ascribed
“Banderites” share little to nothing with historic Stepan Bandera’s political aims,
beyond their common goal of Ukrainian independence. Parts of the Western public,
nevertheless, continue to see little difference between, on the one side, liberationist
as well as emancipatory, and, on the other side, extremist and ethno-centrist, impulses
of Ukrainian nationalism and their related diverging political permutations, in
the past and present.

The Rise and Fall of
the Freedom Party

The entry, in 2012, of the radical nationalist
and explicitly anti-Russian All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” (Freedom) into
Ukraine’s parliament, with 10.44% in the proportional part of the elections,
and appearance, in 2014, of new extra-parliamentary far right groups, like the
Right Sector and Azov battalion, provided new fodder for Moscow’s campaign.
Especially, the first leader of the Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh, was singled
out, by Kremlin-controlled mass media, as allegedly posing, in spite of his
origins in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk oblast, a deadly threat to Russophones in
Ukraine. Russian TV’s frantic propaganda crusade against him made Yarosh – an
actually minor figure in Ukrainian politics – a celebrity of sorts, in Ukraine
and beyond.

Yet, the surprisingly weak performance of
Yarosh in the May 2014 presidential elections (0.7%) and of his Right Sector
party in the October 2014 parliamentary elections (1.8%) took the steam out of
the Kremlin’s defamation campaign. Even more astonishing (and, perhaps, for the
Kremlin also curiously disappointing) were the only somewhat less meagre
results of Svoboda and its head Oleh Tyahnybok in the presidential and
parliamentary elections – 1.16% and 4.71% respectively. The latter result was below
the parliament’s 5% entry barrier and has thus led to the disappearance of the far
right’s short-lived faction in the Verkhovna Rada which has since only contained
some individual ultra-nationalists who do not cooperate much with each other, within
the legislature.

Svoboda’s decline, if compared to its 2012
result, was even more surprising in view of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the
ongoing war in the Donbas, and its repercussions in Ukrainian society. In spite
of heightening patriotism, rising irregular armed groups, and spreading Russophobia
(fear of Russia) within Ukraine’s population, Svoboda lost percentagewise more
than half of its popular support, in October 2014. In fact, it lost actually overall
even more because voters on Crimea and in much of the Donbas – i.e. those parts
of the Ukrainian electorate with especially little sympathy for Svoboda – did
not take part in the elections. The frustration among the far right may have
been especially high in view of the fact that Svoboda and the Right Sector had,
in sum, received more than 5% in the parliamentary elections. Had they formed a
united list, they might have been able to jointly pass the entry barrier and to
thereby preserve a far-right faction in parliament.

Towards a United
Ultra-Nationalist Front

In March 2017, so it seemed, Ukraine’s radical
nationalists had finally learned their lesson, and adopted a joint so-called National
Manifesto. The heads of the three main parties, Svoboda’s Oleh Tyahnibok, the
Right Sector’s Andriy Tarasenko and the National Corps’s Andriy Biletskii,
signed – in a solemn ceremony, at Kyiv’s House of Teachers – a common
programmatic document. It demanded, among others, creating a Baltic-Black Sea
Alliance of East European countries, as well as reestablishing Ukraine as a
nuclear-weapons-state. The novel coalition now explicitly united the two
parties that had run separately, in the two 2014 national elections.

Until recently, this alliance also included the
National Corps, a dynamic new party that had grown out of the Azov movement and
is continuing the tradition of the pre-Euromaidan racist groupuscules “Patriot
of Ukraine” and Social-National Assembly also once headed by Biletskiy. The new
tripartite alliance was  joined by three additional
minor far right groups – the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, Organization
of Ukrainian Nationalists, as well as C14, a notorious neo-Nazi grouplet. Conspicuously
though, another notable nationalist group, the so-called Statesman Initiative
of Yarosh, a split-off from the Right Sector, was absent at the March 2017 unification
meeting, and did not sign the joint Manifesto. Yarosh’s demonstrative
non-engagement turned out be a harbinger of things to come.

Throughout 2018, the far right’s leaders and
activists were discussing a joint strategy for the 2019 presidential and
parliamentary elections. Much of their public rhetoric was about the ultra-nationalist
groups’ need to campaign jointly and run united. A major issue though remained
who of their two most popular leaders, Tyahnybok or Biletskiy, would be the far
right’s single presidential candidate. Tyahnybok (b. 1968) is a veteran
Ukrainian politician from Galicia who had prominently participated in the 1990,
2004 and 2014 Revolutions on the Granite, in Orange and of Dignity. He also had
10 years of experience as a Rada deputy until 2014. Biletskiy (b. 1979), in
contrast, is from Kharkiv, did not participate in high politics until after the
Euromaidan, and acquired his fame only in 2014 as commander of the Azov
volunteer battalion, as a result of which he won a single-member district in
Kyiv’s Obolon district, in that year’s Rada elections. While Biletskiy has little
political experience, he apparently pretends to play a role equal or superior to
Tyahnybok, within the united ultra-nationalist camp.

At first it seemed that the far right had found
a solution to the thorny of selecting only one joint presidential candidate. It
nominated by, in November 2018, neither Tyahnybok nor Biletskiy, but a third
prominent politician, Ruslan Koshulynskyi (b. 1969), as its candidate for
President of Ukraine. Like Tyahnybok, a Galician Svoboda leader, Koshulynskyi
had been Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada in 2012-2014. He had acquired
national recognition and a good reputation in that function and as a volunteer soldier
in the Donbas.

Koshulynskyi thus seemed like a good choice.
Yet, it became soon apparent that Koshulynskyi’s nomination by the signatory
organizations of the far right’s 2017 National Manifesto had, for one reason or
another, either not at all or insufficiently been agreed with Biletskiy’s
National Corps. Svoboda and its allies, on the one side, and the National
Corps, on the other, have since accused each other of sabotaging the
coordination process before Koshulynskyi’s nomination.

In any way, for the presidential elections,
neither the apparent break of the 2017 coalition nor Dmytro Yarosh’s public
support for Koshulynskyi candidacy since are of much political importance. In
fact, Koshulynskyi’s possibly weak performance in the upcoming elections could turn
into a public relations disaster for the far right. In an opinion poll released by the reputed
Razumkov Center on 20 February 2019
, Koshulynskyi had the support of only 0.9% of
those intending to vote in presidential elections. With such a result,
Koshulynskyi would remain even below the already embarrassing result of 1.16% that
his party colleague Tyahnybok had obtained during the 2014 presidential
elections. It would be stunning, if Koshulynskyi will indeed receive so little
support although he, unlike Tyahnybok who in 2014 competed with Yarosh, does
not have a competitor on the far-right flank. Neither Biletskyi nor Yarosh or
any other prominent ultra-nationalists decided to also run, in the presidential

The by far most important aspect of the current
tensions between the National Corps, on the one side, and the other
ultra-nationalist groups, on the other, is thus that it could mean that they
run separately in the parliamentary elections, in October 2019. Such a division
of their vote could repeat the far right’s fiasco of 2014. In fact, it is not
entirely clear that even a fully united far right list would be able to pass
the 5% threshold.

That is because, in the words of prominent Kyiv
political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko, “Petro Poroshenko’s broad campaign
is build on militant patriotic rhetoric as well as on support for the candidacy
of Ukraine’s incumbent President by some influential nationalists [which]
greatly diminishes Koshulynskyi’s chances, in the presidential elections, and
the chances of Svoboda, not to mention other nationalist parties, in the
parliamentary elections.”

In the words of the Vienna political scientist
Anton Shekhovtsov too, the far right has now “low chances to get into the Rada
because, above all, the political system of Ukraine is again extremely
polarized (as was the case in the 1990s and early 2000s). The conflict in the political center
is currently so intense that there is, for all peripheral parties, little hope
to join this confrontation within the center and thereby enter the national
debate. In some way, the situation of ‘Svoboda’ and the National Corps is
similar to that of small liberal parties like the Democratic Alliance or ‘Power
of the People.’ They too have no chance – and not so much because they do not
unite, but because the current system’s center is battle field of much stronger
political players. Moreover, it is important to remember that ‘Svoboda’ managed
to enter the Rada in 2012 because it was helped by the President Viktor
Yanukovych. Today, nobody needs the right-wing radicals apart from certain
business projects that require their services for raiding attacks or similar

The Ambitious National

As of February 2019, the summary support of
those intending to vote in parliamentary elections for Svoboda (1.4%), the
National Corps (0.2%), the Statesman Initiative of Yarosh (0.1%), and the Right
Sector (0.0%) was, in the mentioned Razumkov Center poll, altogether just 1.7%.
To be sure, Ukraine’s far right has sometimes performed much better in real elections
than in pre-electoral surveys. Yet, the currently measured support for the far
right would have to triple during the actual voting, in order for a united
list, to pass the 5% threshold.

In spite of the sobering polling results,
Biletskyi seems to be currently still planning a separate list of his party in
the upcoming parliamentary elections. A representative of the National Corps
reportedly asserted, in November 2018, that his organization’s “potential and human resources are
much larger than those of all the other [signatory organizations of the far
right’s 2017 National Manifesto] combined.”
A competition between the National Corps, on
the one hand, and a united list of the remaining parties, on the other, could
become significant, if Poroshenko is not reelected in April 2019 and a less
militantly patriotic candidate becomes President. In such a case, nationalist
voters currently attracted to the incumbent President could decide to support
the ultra-nationalists in subsequent elections. This could provide the far
right with an opportunity to regain a faction, in the next parliament. However,
if, in such favorable conditions, Biletskyi’s National Corps runs an effective
parallel campaign, Svoboda’s list – the currently most likely and most
prospective option – could, in October 2019, again miss the 5% barrier, as it
did in October 2014.    

Much of this is, so far, however, speculation.
Ukrainian party politics and national elections are notoriously unpredictable
matters. The first two months of 2019 and meteoric rise of Volodymyr Zelenskiy,
within only a few weeks, have shown how fast and radical, the “correlation of
forces,” as a prime term of Soviet political analysis goes, can change, in
post-Soviet Ukrainian domestic affairs. Moreover, it is likely that Moscow
will, in one way or another, try to leave its imprint on, at least, the
parliamentary elections in October. Such attempts may not necessarily be
successful, in terms of the Kremlin’s interest. Yet, they could change public
opinion and the party-political constellation – perhaps, even to the advantage
of the far right. As of late February 2019, notwithstanding, it looks as if Ukraine’s
far right may perform calamitously in both, the spring presidential and autumn
parliamentary elections.

The post Will Ukraine’s Far Right Parties Fail Again in 2019? appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

Ukraine’s 2019 Presidential Elections: The Yuri Tymoshenko Risk

Tue, 26/03/2019 - 19:30

In a worst-case
scenario, political-technological trickery could, after the first round of
Ukraine’s upcoming presidential elections, unsettle social stability in Ukraine.
Cynical puppet masters are prepared to risk the outbreak of a major domestic
civil conflict for the sake of securing re-election of Ukraine’s incumbent

The relatively pluralistic political competition
that emerged after the collapse of the USSR has seen the emergence of new political
manipulation strategies outlined in Andrew Wilson’s seminal monograph Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in
Post-Soviet World
(Yale UP, 2005). This type of distinctly cynical usage of
various deception and falsification tricks for the sake of achieving an electoral
victory has become known under the label “political technology” – a major
vocation for thousands of alumni of post-Soviet “politology” departments. The
roots of “political technology” go back to tactics of the KGB for promoting disarray,
mistrust and factionalism among anti-Soviet dissidents and emigres. While the prime
social function of traditional political science is to help making democracy
work, the purpose of post-Soviet political technology is to prevent democracy
from working as it is supposed to do.

What Is in a Name?

A major instrument of “political technologists’”
ruses, over the last thirty years, has been to subvert fair political
competition via purposefully misleading voters, via word games, about the
choices they are making on election day. Post-Soviet politics has a rich
history of the creation of pseudo-parties associated with names and programs specifically
chosen to confuse electorates about the identities and ideologies of real competitors
in elections. The, perhaps, most infamous such example is Vladimir Zhirinovskii’s
ultra-nationalist “Liberal-Democratic Party” that the Soviet ancien regime invented in 1990, initially
as a mere instrument, to discredit and obscure the real liberal-democratic
movement emerging, in the late USSR, at that time. Since then, there have been hundreds
of examples of elections, in the post-Soviet space, muddled by the appearance
of so-called “technical” parties and candidates the names or/and programs of
which sounded similar to those of some genuine political force whose electoral
support they were designed to dilute.

One would have hoped that Ukraine has overcome
this pathology, at least on the national level, after almost 30 years of
independence, and its three pro-democratic upheavals since then, the so-called Revolution
on Granit of 1990, Orange Revolution of 2004, and Revolution of Dignity of
2013-2014. Alas, this year’s presidential election sees a surprisingly egregious
revival of dirty political deceit strategies, among them the use of, at least,
two especially “technical” candidates. The 2019 presidential candidacies of the
two political nobodies Yuri Tymoshenko, a volunteer soldier, and Yuliya Lytvynenko,
a TV journalist, have clearly the purpose to confuse the voters on election day.
Every Ukrainian citizen has, of course, the right to propose her or his candidacy,
in the elections. Yet, these two candidates are such marginal political
personalities that they are not even mentioned in most opinion polls published
in the run-up to the elections.

The appearance of these two names on the ballot
sheet that voters will be filing in, on 31 March 2019, is a plain attempt to mislead
some of those who would like to elect Yuliya Tymoshenko. A certain amount of voters
will probably make their marks on the wrong line, in the list of presidential
candidates, and mark not Yuliya Tymoshenko, but the minions Yuri Tymoshenko or
Yuliya Lytvynenko. To be sure, both of them have biographies that do not make
them entirely inapt participants of Ukrainian politics. Yet, most Ukrainians
would not be able to identify these two persons who have neither sharp public
profiles nor a political organization or campaign, behind them.

The False Tymoshenko

The re-appearance of such dirty electoral manipulation
strategies could be seen as a minor incident. But the phenomenon is noteworthy
for, at least, three reasons. First, the successful registration, as
presidential candidates, of Yuri Tymoshenko and Yuliya Lytvynenko would not
have been possible without the silent approval from the very state that
currently benefits from large-scale Western support. Ukraine’s president, parliament,
government, general procuracy and electoral commission are permitting or even advancing
this and other trickery, in the run-up to the presidential elections, in spite
of their loud adherence to “Western standards” and “European values,” as well
as pompous claim for soon accession to the EU and NATO. That this and other “political-technological”
deceit is still being actively used in a country with a ratified and especially
far-reaching Association Agreement with Brussels and a Strategic Partnership
Charter with Washington should give Kyiv’s Western partners reason for pause.

Second, during the last two months, the manipulative
candidacies of Yuri Tymoshenko and Yuliya Lytvynenko have, in view of changing
opinion polling results, acquired a potential importance they had not had
before. As a result of the sudden rise of the recent presidential candidate
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the competition for the second place during the presidential
elections’ first round on 31 March has transformed into the major issue of this
vote. According to surveys, Zelenskiy will most probably win in the first round.
But, so far, it is an open question whether incumbent President Petro
Poroshenko or challenger Yuliya Tymoshenko will take the second position – and thus
also advance to the election’s second round on 21 April. Only the first two
candidates in the March round have a chance to become elected president in the April
final vote.

During the last weeks, opinion polls are
producing contradictory results on who will come second in the first round. In
some polls, Poroshenko is ahead of Yuliya Tymoshenko. In others, she takes
second place after Zelenskiy while Poroshenko falls to the third position. The
latter would mean that the incumbent does not make it to the second round and will
have no chance for re-election. Poroshenko’s and Yuliya Tymoshenko’s shares of
support in most polls, regarding the first round, are close or even very close
to each other.

In such a situation, the hitherto irrelevant “technical”
candidacies of Yuri Tymoshenko and Yuliya Lytvynenko have become politically explosive.
That is because a scenario has become possible in which Yuliya Tymoshenko could
come third in the elections’ first round, but may not be ready to accept such a
result in view of the impact of the two “technical” candidates. An
uncompromising stance by Yuliya Tymoshenko would gain legitimacy in the case
that the difference between her voters’ support and Poroshenko’s winning result
would be approximately similar or even smaller than the percentages acquired by
the political nobodies Yuri Tymoshenko and/or Yuliya Lytvynenko. The problematic
aspect of such an outcome would be especially grave, if Poroshenko would then
go on to win, in the second round, against Zelenskiy. In such a case, it would
become plausible to argue that Yuri Tymoshenko and/or Yuliya Lytvynenko stole Yuliya
Tymoshenko’s presidency.

To be sure, Ukraine has its way to deal with such
a situation. In autumn 2004, the Ukrainian elite and population did not accept
the results of the second round of the presidential elections fraudulently won
by Viktor Yanukovych. What followed was a two-months electoral uprising that
became known as the Orange Revolution – which was, by the way, principally led by
Yuliya Tymoshenko. The second round of the elections was repeated on 26
December 2004, after which Petro Poroshenko’s then patron Viktor Yushchenko was
duly inaugurated as President of Ukraine, on 23 January 2005.

Against the background of this and other Ukrainian
uprisings, it is not unlikely that, in case of a dubiously obtained electoral
advantage for Poroshenko, Ukraine could see new mass protests by disenchanted
Tymoshenko voters. If the difference between Poroshenko and Yuliya Tymoshenko
will be smaller than the share of voters for Yuri Tymoshenko or/and Yuliya
Lytvynenko, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across Ukraine could start demanding
a repetition of the elections’ first round. A crucial difference of such a new uprising
from that of 2004 would not only be that, given the enormous amount of fire weapons
nowadays circulating among Ukrainians, it could easily turn violent.

After Me the Deluge

A third and the major worrisome aspect of the
candidacies of Yuri Tymoshenko and Yuliya Lytvynenko is that such potentially explosive
political manipulation happens at a time when Ukraine is in a war for survival.
To be sure, the probability of the above scenario is low. Most likely,
Poroshenko will either come third. Or he comes second and the margin of his
lead, compared to Yuliya Tymoshenko’s result, will be sufficiently significant to
avoid fundamental questions. In such a case, Yuliya Tymoshenko could – at
least, in that regard – not plausibly claim that the voters were deceived and
the elections stolen via this particular “political technology.” An ambivalent
situation would only emerge, if Poroshenko overtakes Yuliya Tymoshenko with a very
small margin – a constellation that will hopefully not emerge.

Yet, the likelihood of this outcome, in the
first round, does not equal zero. While the odds of such a scenario are certainly
small, the stakes are massive. A major conflict inside Ukraine between
pro-Western forces, who may even end up using firearms, would lead to ecstatic celebration
in Moscow, and deep frustration in the West. Worse, large civil unrest in
Ukraine could provide the Kremlin with a window of opportunity to snatch
another chunk of Ukrainian territory, or even crush the Ukrainian state in its
entirety. Again, this is not likely to happen, but cannot be fully excluded, in
the case of an obviously illegitimate loss by Tymoshenko, as a result of dirty “political

The fact that the current power-holders are
ready to run such an – even if only improbable, yet – enormous risk in order to
preserve their power is not encouraging. It a stark illustration of the
continuing rapaciousness, immorality and pseudo-patriotism of the loudly pro-Ukrainian
incumbent clan nowadays dominating, in Kyiv. Most Western observers hope for a
continuation of Poroshenko’s presidency after April 2019. Their expectations of
his possible second term should, in view of the dangerous tools Poroshenko’s “political
technologists” have been employing to achieve it, not be high.

The post Ukraine’s 2019 Presidential Elections: The Yuri Tymoshenko Risk appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

The Dangers of a Future Mission

Thu, 21/03/2019 - 21:38
Russian-made S-400 air defense systems. (Photo: Sergey Malgavko/Sputnik)

A few short weeks ago, a shipment of S-400 missiles from Russia to China were lost at sea. While the shipment was replaced and likely covered by some type of insurance, the notable issue should be that S-400 missiles are now being exported outside of Russia. The export of the older S-300 system was always an issue in the West with regards many countries, including Iran. The S-300 was held from being exported from Russia to Iran due to sanctions against Iran for many years. The S-300 were only placed in Syria recently for political reasons following an incident where a Russian IL-20 crew was lost to an S-200 missile because of a misidentification by Syrian forces. While the S-300 is seen as a significant threat to opposing aircraft and missiles, the S-400 was considered a system that would likely only be encountered within Russian territory and is state of the art.

It will likely be the case that the S-400 will become more common in countries that may not share American or European policy approaches. It has even been ordered by NATO allies like Turkey who would normally choose Western equipment, and India that possesses a defense approach with systems from the West and from Russia. Missions like those that could possibly be proposed against Venezuela may not be able to take shape without some expected losses to the S-400 systems. With the S-500 covertly being used in Russia, it is now the case that systems considered part of a future defense structure will be a current threat in the active modern battlefield.

While technology is eventually
defeated, modern air forces must consider scenarios now with the
S-400 challenging their soldiers in the air for many years to come
before an effective solution is developed. Using older equipment will
likely make any pilot an initial target for the S-400 and make any
action against an S-400 protected target extremely dangerous.
Missions may need to be cancelled if an air arm does not possess the
right equipment to keep their pilots safe, and pilots themselves may
choose to refuse orders if a country does not equip them with
reasonably effective airplanes for future missions. Surface to Air
missiles often change the politics around an issue, with the S-400,
politics will have to adapt to future aggressors and conflicts.

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Op-Ed: Do Hindus in Bangladesh, Kashmir and Pakistan have a future?

Fri, 15/03/2019 - 19:24

Following the recent terror in Kashmir, will Hindus be forced out of every area in the Indian subcontinent that presently has a Muslim majority?  

Last week, a grenade blew up in Kashmir, injuring 18 people.  This incident occurred after a Pakistani Islamist terror group murdered 40 Indian soldiers in the disputed region, which both Pakistan and India have fought over for decades.  Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistani Islamist terror group, took responsibility for both attacks.  In the wake of these two incidents, what is one of the most picturesque and colorful regions of India is now suffering gravely.  However, this beautiful region of India was not always so bloody. 

In the past, there were no radical Islamism in Kashmir and Hindus were the majority in the area.  At that time, Kashmir was peaceful.  But since the beginning of the first millennium, radical Islam started to dominate in the region.  With the rise of radical Islam in Kashmir, Hindus were raped, murdered and forcefully converted to Islam.  Due to this reality, only 1.84% of Kashmir is Hindu today.  In light of this, one must ponder, do Hindus have a future in any of the Muslim lands in the Indian subcontinent following the rise of radical Islam in the area? 

Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, proclaimed: “No one is paying attention to the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh.  The torture of Hindus there began in the early 20th century.  Under the British, thousands of Hindus were murdered in a riot in Dhaka.  10,000 Hindus were massacred in 1946 in Noakhali.  Numerous Hindu women were raped as well while others were forcefully converted to Islam.  At that time, Hindus started to flee the area for India.”

“Later on, during the Liberation War in 1971, Pakistani soldiers massacred Hindus and raped their women en masse,” he added.  “More and more Hindus proceeded to flee to India.  Since then, the Hindus of Bangladesh continue to flee for the murder, rape and forceful conversion of Hindus never came to an end.”  In fact, within the past year, 107 Hindus were murdered, 25 Hindu women were raped and 235 Hindu temples were vandalized in Bangladesh. 

The persecution of Hindus does not occur in a vacuum.  The oppression experienced by the Hindu minority begins with incitement in the educational system.  In a school textbook titled “Islamic Religion and Ethics,” which was issued by the Bangladeshi government, Hindus are portrayed as liars, property embezzlers, and even worse than animals.  According to Basu, over the past few years, Hefazat-e-Islam has been demanding that the government remove all stories, poems, essays and plays written by Hindus and other non-Muslim writers from the school curriculum.  He noted that subsequently, such writings were partially removed from secondary school books. 

Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, proclaimed: “This approach displays more than anything the radical Islam of Sheikh Hasina’s government, a policy which encourages and fosters early childhood terror.  This is the kind of terrorism that the international community needs to untie and fight against, an ideology that begins in the schools and mosques of radical governments like Bangladesh.”    Safadi’s statement is backed up by the head of the Workers Party, Rashed Khan Menon, who noted that Sheikh Hasina has sown the seeds of fundamentalism by partnering together with Hefazat e-Islam.    

The plight of Hindus in Pakistan is even worse.   Recently, Pakistan’s Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan described Hindus as “cow urine drinking people.” It is true that Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan did sack that minister over his remarks.  Furthermore, he did order a probe into an attack upon a Hindu temple within the country.   However, at the same time, he also continues to support the Blasphemy Law, which is often used as a weapon against Hindus, Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. 

For example, in one case sited by the Pakistan Christian Post, a 14-year-old minority girl was raped, abducted and forcefully converted to Islam.  She was forced to marry one of her captors as well.  Her father fought hard to get her back and managed to do so.  However, under the Pakistani legal system, in retaliation, he could face blasphemy charges if his daughter ever chose to return to the religion of her ancestors.   Under Pakistani law, one must have four male witnesses to prove any crime.  This law permits the rape, robbery and murder of minorities within Pakistan with impunity.  And should India be forced entirely from the Kashmir region, these are the kind of atrocities that the Hindus remaining in Kashmir can expect. 

And sadly, under the Sheikh Hasina government, Bangladesh is heading in that direction of Pakistan too.  As Safadi noted, “Every time, we see more crimes against minorities, restrictions on freedom, etc.”  He insists that this must happen or else Bangladesh will become just another Pakistan or Kashmir, a place where Hindus won’t be granted the right to live. 

And as Hindus are forced out of more and more Muslim majority countries in the Indian subcontinent, the radical Muslims become emboldened to take even more.  According to the Indian media, there are plans by the Indian Muslim Congress Party to have Muslim only hospitals and to have free electricity for mosques and churches but not Hindu and Sikh places of worship.  There are also reports that they have a manifesto which seeks to give preference to Muslims over Hindus for employment and educational opportunities.  In fact, they reportedly give financial incentives to Muslim students only.

Safadi noted that for a hospital to give medical treatment to Muslims but not Hindus, Christians and Sikhs is a clear example of apartheid: “We have passed on this data to the EU Parliament and the US Congress.  Now is the time for the world to unite against the seeds of terror planted by the Bangladeshi government and to impose economic sanctions against the Sheikh Hasina government.”

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How to Make Eastern Europe’s Gray Zone less Gray?

Thu, 14/03/2019 - 18:38

The US’s Baltic and Adriatic Charters could become templates for embedding Ukraine and Georgia as well as, perhaps, Moldova and Azerbaijan into a provisional multilateral security structure.


By Iryna Vereshchuk and Andreas Umland

It is remarkable how strongly some international organizations’ coverage of the East-Central European and South Caucasian post-Soviet space has come to correlate with the region’s states’ territorial integrity. Two large blocs are confronting each other in Eastern Europe: NATO as well as the EU, on the side, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as well as Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), both Moscow-dominated, on the other. Today, exactly those four countries – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova (GUAM) – which are not members of either of these two coalitions do not fully control their territories. In contrast, such NATO and EU members with large Russian minorities and restrictive citizenship laws, as Estonia and Latvia, on the one side, or such, by themselves, economically weak CSTO and EEU member countries, as Belarus and Armenia, on the other, have fully preserved their internationally recognized borders.

In Azerbaijan’s Nagorno Karabakh, Moldova’s Transnistria, Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well as Ukraine’s Donets Basin (Donbas), on the contrary, six unrecognized pseudo-states were created, with direct or, in the case of Karabakh, indirect support from the Kremlin. Crimea has been simply annexed by Russia. In Moscow’s reading, the Ukrainian peninsula has, since March 2014, become an ordinary region within the Russian Federation. This interpretation has since been rejected in, among other international statements, several documents of the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe – organizations of which Russia or/and the Soviet Union have been full members for many years.

The Many Inconsequential Alliances of Eastern Europe

The prospects of a soon further eastern enlargement of the EU and NATO are dim. The UN, OSCE and Council of Europe have, despite clear statements in support of Ukraine and Georgia, demonstrated their unsuitability for resolving the East European gray zone’s fundamental security problem. This indicates that the GUAM region will remain a source of instability for years to come.

That is in spite of the fact that there have been various multilateral frameworks specifically designed to increase cooperation and stability, in East-Central Europe and the Southern Caucasus, during the last two decades. Among them are the:

Yet, these fora or structures where either, as in the case of GUAM, CDC or BSS, too weak or short-lived to make the region substantively more secure. Or they are relatively dynamic and strong, yet do not include, as in the case of the B9 and 3SI, any of the most vulnerable gray zone countries. In fact, the latter two projects deliberately excluded, from the outset, the four GUAM states.   

The EU’s Eastern Partnership led to the conclusion of impressive Association Agreements with three of the four gray zone countries, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, in 2014. These exceptionally large treaties, moreover, include articles addressing issues of security and defense. Yet, the EU – with the partial exception of its members Poland, Great Britain and Lithuania – did not follow up on filling these formulations with any notable substance beyond general financial and technical support. Since the three Agreements’ full ratification by all of the Union’s member states and by the European Parliament in 2014, Tbilisi, Kyiv and Chisinau have benefitted from only very limited military support from Brussels.

Worse, several EU member states have started to slowly rebuild, in one way or another, their economic and diplomatic relations with Moscow, after the introduction of sanctions in reaction to Russia’s attack on Ukraine since 2014. The most egregious such attempt is the currently build so-called Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline via the Baltic Sea. The Kremlin designed this project specifically to eliminate Moscow’s remaining partial dependence on the Ukrainian gas transportation system, and to thereby free its hands for future escalation.

The US as Eastern Europe’s Indispensable Nation

The embarrassing story of both trans- and East European institution-building over the last quarter of a century illustrate the need for the US to get finally involved. Not only for West but also East European political stability, an engagement of Washington was and remains crucial. This has been amply illustrated by the Baltic and Adriatic Charters signed by the United States with various post-communist countries in 1998 and 2003 respectively, and designed to prepare them for future NATO membership. After their allying with the US within the Baltic Charter, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia successfully entered NATO in 2004.

In the Western Balkans too, the United States’ Adriatic Charter has done – what would have been regarded twenty years ago as – wonders. In 2009, Croatia, a state that had not existed two decades earlier, and Albania, which had once been one of Europe’s most gruesome communist dictatorships, became NATO members. In 2017, Montenegro – which had been bombed by NATO war planes, less than twenty years before – became NATO’s 29th member country. Currently, Macedonia’s as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession to NATO is being prepared. Serbia, to be sure, is only a candidate for membership in the EU, and not a full signatory but only observer of the Adriatic Charter. Yet, it appears not unlikely that Serbia too will eventually apply for NATO membership, once it has entered the EU, and all other Balkan states have become full members of the alliance.

Already in 2008, Georgia and Ukraine officially applied for starting NATO’s Membership Action Plan. While these applications were rejected, in their Bucharest Summit Declaration of April 3rd, 2008, the then 26 member countries welcomed “Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.” The ambivalent status of Georgia and Ukraine as official future members of NATO, yet without roadmaps for entering the Alliance, was among the determinants of Moscow’s occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008 as well as of Crimea and the eastern Donbas in 2014. Russia’s expansions, in turn, have increased wariness within the Alliance about further enlargement, and created an accession deadlock for Ukraine and Georgia. The lesson from the various stories of post-communist states is that political ambiguity and institutional indetermination breed instability and stalemate while resolute engagement and organizational structuring increase security and foster progress.

Towards a US Charter with the GUAM Group

The US, partly, learned its lesson from its earlier successes, and from the disaster of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war. It signed bilateral Strategic Partnership Charters with Ukraine in December 2008, and with Georgia in January 2009. The two Charters announced that the parties will support the integration of Ukraine and Georgia into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, security cooperation, and preparing these countries for candidacy for NATO membership. The two new documents, however, did not send much of a signal to Russia. They remained largely unknown within even the publics of the three signatory states.

What is, against such a background, needed is an expansion of Washington’s current two bilateral Charters into a larger quasi-alliance. A new multilateral Charter should link the US demonstratively with the EU’s three associated Eastern partners Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as, perhaps, with Azerbaijan. This provisional semi-coalition could become a consequential upgrade for the GUAM group formed in 2001. It could be modelled on, or even go beyond, the Baltic and Adriatic Charters.

Ideas like that have been voiced before a number of times. For instance, at the 2009 meeting of foreign ministers of the Adriatic and Baltic countries as well as US in Riga, the Lithuanian MFA’s head Vygaudas Ušackas called for continuing NATO enlargement. Ušackas suggested to invite to such meetings of Balkan, Baltic and US department heads and ministers also representatives of Ukraine and Georgia. Ušackas noted that “Ukraine and Georgia that aspire NATO membership could make use of our experience in the conduct of military, political and economic reforms.”

A new multilateral US Charter for Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus will, to be sure, not offer nearly as much protection to GUAM, as Article 5 of the Washington Treaty provides for NATO’s members. The US’s assurances in such a document would, most probably, even remain significantly below those given to such countries as South Korea or Israel. Still, a US-GUAM Charter could provide elementary organizational structure to Eastern Europe’s gray zone during the interregnum, until these countries eventually become members of the EU, NATO or/and other relevant international institutions that embed them properly in the international system. Even a very cautiously formulated American Charter for the GUAM countries would have considerable symbolic power, increase East European security, and raise the stakes of further escalation in the current post-Soviet gray zone for Moscow.

Three caveats apply. First, the US would hardly and should not agree to promise helping the four countries to reconquer their lost territories. The eventual recovery of the separatist regions are major topics in Ukrainian, Moldovan, Georgian and Azeri domestic discourse, and subjects of constant patriotic outbidding. Thus, Washington should make clear, from the outset, that a return of the altogether seven seceded territories under GUAM’s control is not the Charter’s function. In arguing so, reference could be made, for instance, to Washington’s close pre-2008 cooperation with Tbilisi, yet eventual inability and unwillingness to interfere militarily in the five-day August war between Russia and Georgia.

Second, Azerbaijan has no announced ambition to join NATO or the EU while Moldova has, in its currently valid 1994 Constitution, defined itself as a permanently bloc-free country. Thus, the Charter should leave the question of a future entry of its signatory states into NATO and EU open – or even entirely ignore the issue. Oddly, exactly Moldova and Azerbaijan have both exceptionally close political, economic and ethno-linguistic links to a large NATO member country – Romania and Turkey respectively. Georgia and Ukraine, in contrast, have no comparably close relations to any Western country (Poland’s once close relations to Ukraine have deteriorated during the last years because of historical memory issues). Azerbaijan, moreover, has since 2010 a mutual aid treaty with Turkey that, at least formally, provides Baku with far-going security assurances, by a NATO member country.

Finally, Azerbaijan has – unlike Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova – not only no large Association Agreement with the EU. It is also, unlike the other three, not even an electoral democracy, but clearly an autocracy. The Charter would thus have to be careful in formulating its political standards. Support for Azerbaijan could be seen as contradicting the US’s general foreign policy goals. Yet, one should not forget that such inconsistencies are not unusual in Western geopolitical engagement. For instance, Azerbaijan is fully included into the EU’s Eastern Partnership program since 2009, and benefits from Brussels’s financial support. The NATO member countries Poland, Hungary and, especially, Turkey have recently suffered from significant setbacks in their political development which put into question their classification as proper liberal democracies.

In spite of caveats like these, a US-GUAM Charter following the examples of the Baltic and Adriatic Charters would be a small, but symbolically significant step forward in making Eastern Europe more secure. It would usefully parallel and demonstratively support Brussels’s European Neighborhood Policy, in general, and the Eastern Partnership initiative, in particular. While not providing yet a comprehensive solution to the fragile security situation in East-Central Europe and the Southern Caucasus, it would help making gradually Europe’s post-Soviet gray zone less gray.    


The article appeared first in the “Harvard International Review,” 2019, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 38-41.

IRYNA VERESHCHUK is President of Kyiv’s International Centre for Black Sea-Baltic Studies and Consensus Practices which unites several former heads of state and government from various European post-communist countries.

ANDREAS UMLAND is Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Institute of International Relations at Prague, Principal Researcher of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation at Kyiv, and General Editor of the ibidem­-Verlag book series “Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society” distributed by Columbia University Press.

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Anti-Kim Resistance Organization Declares North Korea’s ‘Government-in-exile’

Wed, 13/03/2019 - 18:36
An anonymous young woman representing Free Joseon read the declaration with adamant ‘self-determination’ on the 100th anniversary of the March 1st anti-colonial resistance movement(Photo Credit: YunHap).

On the 100th annual anniversary of the Koreas’ March 1st anti-colonial resistance movement, a North Korean underground resistance organization called Free Joseon (formally known as Cheollima Civil Defense [CCD]) declared the country’s provisional “government-in-exile” with their adamant self-determination to “dedicate themselves to abolish the ‘Great Evil.’”

An anonymous young woman wearing Hanbok solemnly read aloud the declaration in the venue, alleged to be Topkol park: “We declare on this day the establishment of Free Joseon, a provisional government preparing the foundations for a future nation built upon respect for principles of human rights and humanitarianism, holding sacred a manifest dignity for every woman, man, and child.” A century ago, it was Seoul’s epicenter of the March 1st movement during which tens of thousands of Korean youths dauntlessly shouted ‘Manse (Korea Forever)’ in protest against the Japanese colonial rule under the principle of non-violent civil disobedience. Free Joseon’s choice of venue resonates with the impression that their declaration is the zeitgeist sublimation of the March 1st movement’s resistance spirit that once solidarized marginalized Pan-Korean voices for the purpose of obliterating Japan’s, then, imperial and oppressive disciplinary power. The March 1st movement was partly inspired by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s “self-determination” doctrine under the 14-point statement. On a global scale, this contributed to kindling the global wave of national resistance against the Fascist top-down, realpolitik collusion for totalitarian oppression.

Carrying the torch of the March 1st spirit, the woman attested to the Kim dynasty’s “Great Evil.” “On this very day, tens of millions of our fellow Koreans remain enslaved by a depraved power, ruled by a corrupt few, made wealthy by the toils of many.” She then, in the name of the organization, indicted the actual crimes conducted by the Kim dynasty; they include, but are not limited to, “the devastating starvation of millions to government-sponsored murder, torture, and imprisonment, ” “overwhelming surveillance and thought-control”, “systemic rape, enslavement, and forced abortions, ” “political assassinations and acts of terror around the world, ” “the forced labor and stifled potential of our children,” “the enforced poverty of body, mind, and opportunity,” and “the development and distribution of modern weapons of great destruction, shared and sold to others who would also use them towards cruel ends.”

The “thaw” spectacles of the already year-long inter-Korean rapprochement have so far flash-blinded the global civil society of these miserable realities of the North Korean people. Nevertheless, South Korean pro-Kim apologists have adulterated these truths through their baroque dramatization of the country’s hegemony of ethnic nationalism. Such fabrication, which myopically conceptualizes the Pan-Korean diaspora, narrowly based on their subconscious cultural elitism and selective bias, have, consequently, silenced the agonies of the North Korean people. Frustrated by the South Korean Pan-Korean leaderships’ political unwillingness to fulfill the diasporic responsibility of emancipation, civil organizations, formed by North Korean defectors and refugees such as New Joseon, now resort to the principle of self-determination to help themselves. “We gazed at incredible feats of prosperity and developments to the south, hoping that, with their rising strength, they would remember their sisters and brothers left behind by history. But liberation did not come.” This declaration points out the political unwillingness.

New Joseon first appeared on the news using its former name, CCD, when the group posted a YouTube clip claiming that they were protecting Kim Han-sol, after his father and Kim Jung-un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, was assassinated in the XY nerve agent attack in 2017.

New Joseon is the North Korean version of the national liberation front organization that has been conducting secretive activities to realize their mission goals, “If you want to escape or share information, we will protect you. This would be possible no matter what country you are in. We will safely escort you to wherever you want. We, who have already helped several North Koreans, do not expect any payment.” At the apex of the 2017 presidential race in South Korea, for instance, CCD posted on their website an open letter questioning presidential candidates, “Will you embrace and defend each and every defector who is looking for shelter?”

One of the alleged episodes regarding the CCD’s plan for government-in-exile dates back to decades ago. CCD once contacted Hwang Jang-yeop (a high-rank party secretary and the father of Juche ideology who defected to South Korea in 1998 and passed away in 2010) to nominate him for the first premier of the provisional government. However, Hwang refused the offer to keep his faith in the rule-based democracy, saying “My homeland is now South Korea and the coexistence of two governments is unconstitutional in the country.”

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Secondary literature list for my seminar “Ukraine between the European and Eurasian Unions” @UniJena, in April-June 2019 (books, journals, websites)

Wed, 13/03/2019 - 18:35

“Ukraine between the European and Eurasian Unions: Revolution, War, Reform”

The seminar aims to introduce Master-students into one of Europe’s critical conflicts today, and to illustrate, using the example of Ukraine, inter-relation between Europeanization, post-Soviet transformation and security politics. We will touch upon general themes of European studies, like democracy promotion, neighborhood policies, transposition of norms and conditionality, as well specific geopolitical problems of Ukraine in its identity and territorial conflict with Russia. We will discuss Ukraine’s post-communist systemic change within the context of European integration, Atlantic cooperation and Russian revanchism from 1990 until today.

Relevant English-language collected volumes and monographs, published during the last 20 years until today, in chronological order of their appearance and divided by year of publication:

Paul D’anieri, Robert S. Kravchuk and Taras Kuzio, Politics and Society in Ukraine (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 1999);

Gary K. Bertsch and William C. Potter (eds.), Dangerous Weapons, Desperate States: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 1999);

Anders Aslund and Georges De Menil, Economic Reform in Ukraine: The Unfinished Agenda (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2000);

Roman Solchanyk, Ukraine and Russia: The Post-Soviet Transition (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000);

Kataryna Wolczuk, The Moulding of Ukraine: The Constitutional Politics of State Formation (Budapest: CEU Press, 2001);

Bohdan Harasymiw, Post-Communist Ukraine (Edmonton: CIUS, 2002);

Roman Wolczuk, Ukraine’s Foreign and Security Policy 1991-2000 (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2002);

Margarita M. Balmaceda (eds.), On the Edge: Ukrainian—Central European—Russian Security Triangle (Budapest: CEU Press, 2001);

Kataryna Wolczuk and Roman Wolczuk, Poland and Ukraine: A Strategic Partnership in a Changing Europe? (London: Chatham House, 2003);

Ann Lewis (ed.), EU and Ukraine: Neighbours, Friends, Partners? (London: The Federal Trust, 2005);

Dominique Arel and Blair A. Ruble (eds.), Rebounding Identities: The Politics of Identity in Russia and Ukraine (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2006);

Ivan Katchanovski, Cleft Countries: Regional Political Divisions and Cultures in Post-Soviet Ukraine and Moldova (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2006);

Michael McFaul and Anders Aslund (eds.), Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2006);

Andrew Wilson, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006);

Geir Flikke and Sergiy Kisselyov (eds.), Beyond Recognition? Ukraine and Europe after the Orange Revolution (Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, 2006);

Michael Emerson et al., The Prospect of Deep Free Trade between the European Union and Ukraine (Brussels: CEPS, 2006);

Serhy Yekelchyk, Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007);

Taras Kuzio, Ukraine—Crimea—Russia: Triangle of Conflict (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2007);

Stephen Velychenko (ed.), Ukraine, The EU and Russia: History, Culture and International Relations (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007);

Taras Kuzio, Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives on Nationalism: New Directions in Cross-Cultural and Post-Communist Studies (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2007);

Andrey A. Meleshevich, Party Systems in Post-Soviet Countries: A Comparative Study of Political Institutionalization in the Baltic States, Russia, and Ukraine (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007);

Paul D’Anieri and Taras Kuzio (eds.), Aspects of the Orange Revolution I: Democratization and Elections in Post-Communist Ukraine (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2007);

Bohdan Harasymiw and Oleh S. Ilnytzkyj (eds.), Aspects of the Orange Revolution II: Information and Manipulation Strategies in the 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Elections (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2007);

Ingmar Bredies, Andreas Umland and Valentin Yakushik (eds.), Aspects of the Orange Revolution III: The Context and Dynamics of the 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Elections (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2007);

Ingmar Bredies, Andreas Umland and Valentin Yakushik (eds.), Aspects of the Orange Revolution IV: Foreign Assistance and Civic Action in the 2004 Presidential Elections (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2007);

Ingmar Bredies, Andreas Umland and Valentin Yakushik (eds.), Aspects of the Orange Revolution V: Institutional Observation Reports on the 2004 Presidential Elections (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2007);

Taras Kuzio (ed.), Aspects of the Orange Revolution VI: Post-Communist Democratic Revolutions in Comparative Perspective (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2007);

Jessica Allina-Pisano, The Post-Soviet Potemkin Village: Politics and Property Rights in the Black Earth (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007);

Daniel S. Hamilton and Gerhard Mangott (eds.), The New Eastern Europe: Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova (Washington, DC: CTR, 2007);

Andrej N. Lushnycky and Mykola Riabchuk (eds.), Ukraine on Its Meandering Path Between East and West (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009);

Nathaniel Copsey, Public Opinion and the Making of Foreign Policy in the ‘New Europe’: A Comparative Study of Poland and Ukraine (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2009);

Anders Aslund, How Ukraine Became a Market Economy and Democracy (Washington, DC: Peterson Institute, 2009);

Juliane Besters-Dilger (ed.), Ukraine on its Way to Europe: Interim Results of the Orange Revolution (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009);

Tatiana Zhurzhenko, Borderlands into Bordered Lands: Geopolitics of Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2010);

Paul J. D’Anieri (ed.), Orange Revolution and Aftermath: Mobilization, Apathy, and the State in Ukraine (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010);

Max Bader, Against All Odds: Aiding Political Parties in Georgia and Ukraine (Amsterdam: UvA, 2010);

V.P. Horbulin, O.F. Byelov, O.V. Lytvynenko, Ukraine’s National Security: An Agenda for the Security Sector (Munster: LIT, 2010);

Taras Kuzio and Daniel Hamilton (eds.), Open Ukraine: Changing Course towards a European Future (Washington, DC: Center for Transatlantic Relations, 2011);

Sarah Whitmore, State Building in Ukraine: The Ukrainian Parliament, 1990-2003 (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2012);

Nadia M. Diuk, The Next Generation in Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan: Youth, Politics, Identity, and Change (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012);

Maria Popova, Politicized Justice in Emerging Democracies: A Study of Courts in Russia and Ukraine (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012);

Margarita M. Balmaceda, Energy Dependency, Politics and Corruption in the Former Soviet Union: Russia’s Power, Oligarchs’ Profits and Ukraine’s Missing Energy Policy, 1995-2006 (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2012);

Marta Dyczok, Ukraine: Movement without Change, Change without Movement (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2000);

Michael Moser, Language Policy and Discourse on Languages in Ukraine Under President Viktor Yanukovych (25 February 2010–28 October 2012) (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2013);

Taras Kuzio (eds.), Democratic Revolution in Ukraine: From Kuchmagate to Orange Revolution (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2013);

Rosa Balfour, Human Rights and Democracy in EU Foreign Policy: The Cases of Ukraine and Egypt (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2014);

Elena Korosteleva, The European Union and its Eastern Neighbours: Towards a More Ambitious Partnership? (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2014);

Paul D’Anieri, Understanding Ukrainian Politics: Power, Politics, and Institutional Design (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2014);

Andrew Wilson, Ukraine Crisis: What It Means for the West (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014);

Richard Sakwa, Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014);

Stephen White and Valentina Feklyunina, Identities and Foreign Policies in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus: The Other Europes (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014);

Olha Onuch, Mapping Mass Mobilization: Understanding Revolutionary Moments in Argentina and Ukraine (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014);

Igor Lyubashenko and Klaus Bachmann (eds.), The Maidan Uprising, Separatism and Foreign Intervention: Ukraine’s Complex Transition (Bern: Peter Lang, 2014);

Oxana Shevel, Migration, Refugee Policy, and State Building in Postcommunist Europe (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014);

Gwendolyn Sasse, The Crimea Question: Identity, Transition, and Conflict (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014);

Henry Hale, Patronal Politics: Eurasian Regime Dynamics in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015);

Margarita M. Balmaceda, Politics of Energy Dependency: Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania between Domestic Oligarchs and Russian Pressure (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015);

Anders Aslund, Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It (Washington, DC: Peterson Institute, 2015);

David R. Marples and Frederick V. Mills (eds.), Ukraine’s Euromaidan: Analyses of a Civil Revolution (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2015);

Viktor Stepanenko and Yaroslav Pylynskyi (eds.), Ukraine after the Euromaidan: Challenges and Hopes (Bern: Peter Lang, 2015);

Thomas D. Grant, Aggression against Ukraine: Territory, Responsibility, and International Law (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan 2015);

Andrew Wilson, The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015);

Serhy Yekelchyk, The Conflict in Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015);

Rilka Dragneva and Kataryna Wolczuk, Ukraine Between the EU and Russia: The Integration Challenge (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015);

Taras Kuzio, Ukraine: Democratization, Corruption, and the New Russian Imperialism (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2015);

NATO, Russia, Poland, and Ukraine: Perspectives on the Ukraine Candidacy for NATO Membership (Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School, 2015);

Lucan Way, Pluralism by Default: Weak Autocrats and the Rise of Competitive Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016);

Olga Bertelsen (ed.), Revolution and War in Contemporary Ukraine: The Challenge of Change (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2016);

Elizabeth A. Wood et al., Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine (Washington, DC, & New York, NY: Woodrow Wilson Center Press & Columbia University Press, 2016);

Gerard Toal, Near Abroad: Putin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2016);

Henry Hale and Robert W. Orttung (eds.), Beyond the Euromaidan: Comparative Perspectives on Advancing Reform in Ukraine (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016);

Duncan Leitch, Assisting Reform in Post-Communist Ukraine, 2000–2012: The Illusions of Donors and the Disillusion of Beneficiaries (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2016);

Daniel S. Hamilton and Stefan Meister (eds.), The Eastern Question: Russia, the West and Europe’s Gey Zone (Washington, DC: CTR/DGAP, 2016);

Samuel Charap and Timothy J. Colton, Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2016);

Janne Haaland Matlary and Tormod Heier (eds.), Ukraine and Beyond: Russia’s Strategic Security Challenge to Europe (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Andrey Makarychev, Alexandra Yatsyk (eds.), Vocabularies of International Relations after the Crisis in Ukraine (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2016);

Taras Kuzio, Ukraine: State and Nation Building (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2016);

Christopher A. Hartwell, Two Roads Diverge: The Transition Experience of Poland and Ukraine (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016);

Abel Polese, Limits of a Post-Soviet State: How Informality Replaces, Renegotiates, and Reshapes Governance in Contemporary Ukraine (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2016);

Marta Dyczok, Ukraine’s Euromaidan: Broadcasting through Information Wars with Hromadske Radio (E-International Relations, 2016);

Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud (eds.), The New Russian Nationalism: Imperialism, Ethnicity and Authoritarianism 2000-15 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016);

Charles Clover, Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016);

Agnia Grigas, Beyond Crimea: The New Russian Empire (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016);

David R. Marples, Ukraine in Conflict: An Analytical Chronicle (E-International Relations, 2017);

Scott A. Jones, Whither Ukraine? Weapons, State Building and International Cooperation (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017);

Maciej Olchawa, Mission Ukraine: The 2012-2013 Diplomatic Effort to Secure Ties with Europe (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017);

Natalya Ryabinska, Ukraine’s Post-Communist Mass Media: Between Capture and Commercialization (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2017);

Gregory Simons, Mykola Kapitonenko, Viktor Lavrenyuk, Erik Vlaeminck, The Politics and Complexities of Crisis Management in Ukraine: A Historical Perspective (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017);

Richard Youngs, Europe’s Eastern Crisis: The Geopolitics of Asymmetry (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017);

J.L. Black, Michael Johns (ed.), The Return of the Cold War: Ukraine, the West and Russia (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017);

Timm Beichelt and Susann Worschech (eds.), Transnational Ukraine? Networks and Ties that Influence(d) Contemporary Ukraine (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2017);

Martin Åberg and Mikael Sandberg, Social Capital and Democratisation: Roots of Trust in Post-Communist Poland and Ukraine (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017);

Taras Kuzio, Putin’s War Against Ukraine: Revolution, Nationalism, and Crime (Amazon, 2017);

Anastasia S. Loginova and Irina V. Mikheeva, The Impact of WTO Membership: A Comparative Analysis of China, Russia, and Ukraine (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017);

Constantine Pleshakov, The Crimean Nexus: Putin’s War and the Clash of Civilizations (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017);

Julia Langbein, Transnationalization and Regulatory Change in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood: Ukraine between Brussels and Moscow (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017);

Maria Shagina, Joining a Prestigious Club: Cooperation with Europarties and Its Impact on Party Development in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine 2004–2015 (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2017);

Steven Pifer, The Eagle and the Trident: U.S.-Ukraine Relations in Turbulent Times (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2017);

Michael Emerson and Veronika Movchan (eds.), Deepening EU-Ukrainian Relations: What, Why and How? (London: CEPS, 2018);

Anton Oleinik, Building Ukraine from Within: A Sociological, Institutional, and Economic Analysis of a Nation-State in the Making (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2018);

Sophie Falsini, The Euromaidan’s Effect on Civil Society: Why and How Ukrainian Social Capital Increased after the Revolution of Dignity (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2018);

Oliver Boyd-Barrett (ed.), Western Mainstream Media and the Ukraine Crisis: A Study in Conflict Propaganda (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018);

Vasile Rotaru, Russia, the EU, and the Eastern Partnership: Building Bridges or Digging Trenches? (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2018);

Gerhard Besier, Katarzyna Stoklosa (eds.), Neighbourhood Perceptions of the Ukraine Crisis: From the Soviet Union into Eurasia? (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018);

Olga Burlyuk and Natalia Shapovalova (eds.), Civil Society in Post-Euromaidan Ukraine: From Revolution to Consolidation (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2018);

Felix Jaitner, Tina Olteanu and Tobias Spöri (ed.), Crises in the Post‐Soviet Space: From the Dissolution of the Soviet Union to the Conflict in Ukraine (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018);

Mikhail Minakov, Development and Dystopia: Studies in Post-Soviet Ukraine and Eastern Europe (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2018);

Tetyana Malyarenko and Stefan Wolff, The Dynamics of Emerging De-Facto States: Eastern Ukraine in the Post-Soviet Space (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018);

George Soroka and Tomasz Stepniewski (eds.), Ukraine after Maidan: Revisiting Domestic and Regional Security (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2018);

Taras Kuzio and Paul D’Anieri, The Sources of Russia’s Great Power Politics: Ukraine and the Challenge to the European Order (E-International Relations, 2018);

Christine Emeran, New Generation Political Activism in Ukraine 2000–2014 (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018);

Ryhor Nizhnikau, EU Induced Institutional Change in Post-Soviet Space: Promoting Reforms in Moldova and Ukraine (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018);

Jussi Laine, Ilkka Liikanen and James W. Scott (eds.), Post-Cold War Borders: Reframing Political Space in Eastern Europe  (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018);

James J. Coyle, Russia’s Border Wars and Frozen Conflicts (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018);

Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud (eds.), Russia Before and After Crimea: Nationalism and Identity, 2010-17 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018);

Igor Torbakov, After Empire: Nationalist Imagination and Symbolic Politics in Russia and Eurasia in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2018);

Ostap Kushnir, Ukraine and Russian Neo-Imperialism: The Divergent Break (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2018);

Serhii Plokhy, Lost Kingdom: A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin (London: Penguin, 2018);

Elias Götz (eds.), Russia, the West, and the Ukraine Crisis (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019);

Thomas D. Grant, International Law and the Post-Soviet Space II: Essays on Ukraine, Intervention, and Non-Proliferation (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2019);

Boris Kagarlitsky, Radhika Desai and Alan Freeman (eds.), Russia, Ukraine and Contemporary Imperialism (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019);

Alla Leukavets, The Integration Policies of Belarus and Ukraine vis-à-vis the EU and Russia: A Comparative Case Study Through the Prism of a Two-Level Game Approach (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2019);

Nicolai Petro (eds.), Ukraine in Crisis (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019);

Derek Averre and Kataryna Wolczuk (eds.), The Ukraine Conflict: Security, Identity and Politics in the Wider Europe (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019);

Mychailo Wynnyckij, Ukraine’s Maidan, Russia’s War: A Chronicle and Analysis of the Revolution of Dignity (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2019);

Andreas Umland (ed.), Ukraine’s Decentralization: Challenges and Implications of the Local Governance Reform after the Euromaidan Revolution (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2019).

Relevant periodicals and web resources in English language:

East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies Krytyka: Thinking Ukraine Journal of Ukrainian Politics and Society VoxUkraine Kyiv-Mohyla Law and Politics Journal The Ideology and Politics Journal UA: Ukraine Analytica Democratic Initiatives Foundation International Center for Policy Studies National Security and Defence New Europe Center Institute for Economic Research & Policy Consulting Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research The Ukraine List – Dominique Arel Current Politics in Ukraine – David Marples Ukraine Alert – Atlantic Council, DC Focus Ukraine – Wilson Center, DC Forum for Ukrainian Studies – CUSP CIUS, Alberta Ukraine in European Dialogue – Eurozine Human Rights in Ukraine – Halya Coynash Ukraine Democracy Initiative Ukraine Today – European Dialogue StopFake Ukraine World – Internews, Kyiv Ukraine Crisis Media Center Ukraine: Democratic Security Sector Governance Chatham House Russia & Eurasia Program – London PONARS Eurasia Policy Memos – GWU, DC Europe’s Eastern Neighborhood – Carnegie Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw ZOiS Report, Berlin International Centre for Defence and Security The Jamestown Foundation – Vladimir Socor New Eastern Europe, Krakow ECFR Wider Europe Forum Transitions Online Ab Imperio Demokratizatsiya JSTOR Nationalities Papers JSTOR Problems of Post-Communism JSTOR Communist and Post-Communist Studies JSTOR Europe-Asia Studies JSTOR East European Politics JSTOR Communist and Post-Communist Studies JSTOR Post-Soviet Affairs JSTOR Slavic Review JSTOR East European Politics and Societies JSTOR Eurasian Geography and Economics JSTOR Journal of Eurasian Studies Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society

PS: I was thinking about including such high-quality English-language journalistic outlets as the “Kyiv Post,” “The Ukrainian Weekly,” “Ukraine Business Journal,” “The Day” (Kyiv), “The Ukrainian Week,” “Business Ukraine Magazine,” etc. into this list, but eventually decided against this.

The post Secondary literature list for my seminar “Ukraine between the European and Eurasian Unions” @UniJena, in April-June 2019 (books, journals, websites) appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

Venezuela’s Dilemma And Where Energy Fits

Fri, 08/03/2019 - 21:22

Image Source: Getty Images

The economy of Venezuela, home to the largest proved oil reserves in the world, has collapsed. The nation continues in political and humanitarian turmoil, with more than three million Venezuelans having fled in recent years for other countries, according to the U.N., and internally displaced people on the move. President Nicolás Maduro is defiantly pushing back on international pressure to vacate his office to the self-declared president and opposition leader, Juan Guaidó. The 35-year old Guaidó was not well-known outside of Venezuela, where he was the National Assembly leader, prior to January 23 when he invoked a constitutional provision, Article 233, to declare himself interim president.


After the declaration in front of thousands of supporters in Caracas, the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Argentina, European nations and dozens of nations across the globe gave their backing to Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, via Twitter, that the “U.S. will conduct diplomatic relations with Venezuela through the government of interim President Guaidó. U.S. does not recognize the Maduro regime.”


Guaidó’s action was spurred on by the economic collapse, humanitarian despair and rampant violence Venezuelans have faced the past few years in the oil-rich nation. In 2018, GDP shrunk by double digits for a third consecutive year. Hyperinflation reached 80,000% in 2018, according to Forbes, conflicting with the IMF’s forecast of 1,000,000%. Anyway you cut it, inflation has made the currency, the Venezuelan bolívar, virtually worthless and nearly impossible for families to afford the dwindling choices of food, medicine and other staples in a nation where nearly 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. Violent deaths have become frequent and are widespread. Couple this with tons of humanitarian aid from the international community being blocked at the border with Colombia, the conflict does not appear to have a near-term end in sight.


The state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA), which controls the vast reserves and, funds are designed to meet its mission to support social and development programs throughout the country. However, decreasing capital inflows, underinvestment in upstream projects and mismanagement, among a host of other issues, has stymied PdVSA to effectively achieve this mission cutting to the heart of the national problems.


The U.S. enacted sanctions January 28 on PdVSA in the boldest attempt to force Maduro out. Maduro, however, claims these are “illegal, criminal and immoral” and has continuously claimed food and other shortages are results of U.S. interference.


Energy Sector in Disrepair

Perhaps not widely known, Venezuela holds more proved oil reserves (303 billion barrels) than Saudi Arabia (266 billion barrels), according to OPEC. However, the collapse of the national economy, technical experts being fired and leaving PdVSA and the price of crude oil dropping from mid-2014, has led to what analysts have referred to as a production “freefall.” Estimates range within the wide band of about 3 million barrels per day (bpd) being produced in 2010 to cratering as low as 1 .5 million bpd today, a 30-year low. In its low case scenario, Rystad Energy, a consultancy, estimates production could drop as low as 777,000 bpd by 2020.


It is necessary to note the price to produce a barrel of oil in Venezuela is costlier compared to other top producers partly due to its heavy crude composition, but far from the sole reason for the tremendous production drop.


Despite the top reserves, Venezuela is outside of the top 10 producers globally. In 2017, in middle of the freefall, the country ranked 12th globally in production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The United States is now the top global producer tallying over 15 million bpd. International oil companies such as Total, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil have been active in the oil region known as the Orinoco Belt but dynamics have changed.


Venezuela has historically been an important source for the United States to import oil. in Fall 2018, the nation supplied the fourth largest volume following Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico (which has had its own struggles). The U.S. has also been importing refined products, according to EIA. With increasing U.S. domestic oil production and sanctions imposed on PdVSA, Venezuela has been forced to look for new customers.


With vast sums of debt owed to China and Russia, oil sales to those nations will not result in needed cash inflows, rather only reducing its debt burden. India recently has partially stepped into the void with its imports of Venezuelan oil increasing 66% in the first half of February to 620,000 bpd. Venezuela’s oil revenues account for about 98% of export earnings, leaving it extremely vulnerable to unpredictable market price swings, and as seen currently, exposed to geopolitics and consumer demand.


Impact on Refineries

Analysts have predicted that U.S. refiners will be among the biggest losers from the PdVSA and Venezuelan sanctions. The EIA does not see it that way, however, despite eliminating its imports. EIA’s conclusion is based on falling imports for years and that refiners have gradually been replacing Venezuelan crude oil.


Citgo, wholly owned by PdVSA and based in Houston, has been front and center. The company operates three U.S. refineries located in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Corpus Christie, Texas; and Lemont, Illinois with a capacity of about 758,000 bpd. It has been directed by the Trump administration to send payments to a U.S. bank account to ensure the funds are diverted from the embattled Maduro regime. It is believed that Guaidó will have access to the account and be able to appoint members to Citgo’s board.


Maduro has declared U.S. sanctions “intend to rob the CITGO company from Venezuelans” and cautions “we will announce necessary and forceful measures to protect the interests of the nation”.


International Cooperation

In addition to the U.S., Bulgarian officials blocked a bank account as part of a money-laundering investigation after a forewarning from U.S. authorities about millions of euros transferred to PdVSA.


Furthermore, and perhaps surprising, Russian firm Gazprombank froze the accounts of PdVSA and ceased transactions, which can be viewed as reducing the potential it would become subject to U.S. sanctions in the future. The specific instance with Gazpromobank proves interesting as the Russian government is a strong ally of the Maduro regime and opposes Guaidó’s actions.


The Power Sector Feels the Pinch

The economic struggles have impacted the power sector with lack of funds to maintain infrastructure, yet another problem for citizens to cope with. The country’s grid is well connected via transmission and distribution lines with population access rates about 100%. Nevertheless, power shortages and losses from inefficiencies and crumbling infrastructure or plants not able to operate to capacity due to the inability to provide sufficient maintenance, has left the National Electric Company (CORPOLEC), which oversees for the entire sector, to ration power – including to the state of Zulia, once thought of as the center of the oil industry.


The electricity sector portfolio consists of hydroelectric (60%), natural gas (24%) and oil (16%) in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). There is policy for renewable energy and growth, but solar and wind are still in their infancy in the country. A successful small-scale renewable program for remote and indigenous communities is Sowing Light. It has provided 2.5 megawatts of electricity to 270,000 people through solar photovoltaic and hybrid systems. In the right economic climate and geographic location, small-scale systems can be an alternative to relying on the centralized infrastructure. It appears, though, all investment in the electricity sector nationwide has stopped in the midst of the ongoing economic collapse.


What Happens Next?

Mr. Maduro, who has been in office since 2013, is not ceding his office without a fight. He has the support of the military and international support from Russia and China. In May 2018, Maduro secured reelection in a race that the United States and other countries stated were plagued with problems. The U.S. sanctions, including on PdVSA, may influence Maduro, but finding other international customers, like India, for PdVSA can slightly counter the measure. There is plenty of speculation but if Maduro loses the support of the military, it seems it will force his hand and Guaidó will assume full presidential power and gain responsibility of the largest oil reserves in the world.


The post Venezuela’s Dilemma And Where Energy Fits appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

Ukraine’s South as a New Geopolitical Flashpoint

Thu, 07/03/2019 - 21:20


Four factors make further tensions between Russia and Ukraine along the shores of the Crimean peninsula and Azov Sea probable.


On 25 November 2018, at the Kerch Strait, Russia attacked as well as captured three Ukrainian navy vessels, and arrested their 24 sailors. The maritime clash indicates that the focal point of the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict may, in 2019, gradually switch from the Donets Basin to the Azov Sea. According to Vitaliy Kravchuk, senior researcher at the Institute of Economic Research and Policy Consulting in Kyiv, “if there are further marine incidents, it could mean the closure of the Azov ports for shipping.”

Such a development would have grave economic repercussions not only for the large cities of Mariupol (ca. 455,000 inhabitants) and Berdyansk (ca. 115,000 inhabitants). These two ports have hitherto been handling ca. 5% of Ukraine’s foreign trade, above all, in steel, chemicals and agricultural products. Ukraine has only limited or/and decrepit alternative transport infrastructure to redirect trade flows that have until now gone through the Mariupol and Berdyansk seaports. An escalation at the Azov Sea will above all threaten social stability, in south-eastern mainland Ukraine. It can also lead to a significant reduction or even curtailment of Ukrainian economic growth in 2019 and beyond.

Absent Western material reactions and international organizations

In spite of these potentially grave consequences, such a scenario is not unlikely. There are several simultaneously working and mutually aggravating catalysts for rising tensions along the Azov and Black Sea coast lines. They include (a) the reaction of the West vis-à-vis different Russian escalation scheme, (b) the degree of involvement of international organizations in the Azov Sea, (c) the stability and functionality of the Kerch Strait Bridge, and (d) the unresolved issue of sustainable fresh water supply to occupied Crimea.

A major factor currently enabling escalation in the Azov is the West’s reaction or lack thereof to the recent naval confrontation near the Kerch Strait Bridge. The West, so far, follows – what one could call – the Crimea Modus (and not Donbas Modus) of response to rising tension between Moscow and Kyiv. The EU has not reacted materially, as it did after the shooting of MH17 in July 2014, to the capture of Ukrainian sailors last year.

Instead, it has so far – reminiscent of its behavior in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 – been sending verbal and symbolic signals to Moscow. The West’s, until now, non-material signaling may encourage the Kremlin to switch Russian military and other anti-Ukrainian activities from the Donbas to the Azov Sea. To Moscow, the latter may appear as an – above all, economically – less risky hybrid war theater than the Donbas.

A second determinant is the involvement of international organizations or lack thereof, in the two different regions. It is worth remembering that Putin, in 2017, suggested an increase of such organizations’ presence in the Donbas. He proposed to add a small, armed UN protection contingent to the relatively large, unarmed OSCE observation mission. To be sure, this proposal did not satisfy Ukraine and the West back then, and was thus not implemented.

Still, Putin has, with regard to the Donbas, been far more lenient regarding the presence of international organizations than with regard to the Azov Sea and Crimea region. Here, the Kremlin is demonstratively blocking even a minor presence of unarmed OSCE or other observers, not to mention an armed UN mission. The absence of any international organizations in the Azov Sea and on Crimea makes Russian actions against Ukraine there less risky and more likely.

Unclear Future of Kerch Strait Bridge and Water-Supply on Crimea

A third factor potentially motivating the Kremlin to behave more adventurously between the Azov and Black Seas would be technical malfunctioning or economic ineffectiveness of the new Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Russia and Crimea. This prestige object has a high symbolic political meaning for the legitimization of the Putin regime vis-à-vis the Russian population. The bridge could – for one or another reason – not reach its supposed aim to provide a push to Crimea’s social development and integration into the Russian economy. In such a case, the Kremlin may start searching for apologies for such failure, and try to stage an escalation that can be spun to explain a partial or full dysfunctionality of the bridge.

This would, in particular, be the case, if the bridge starts crumbling. In Ukrainian media, there have, since the opening of the so-called “Crimean Bridge” in May 2018, been repeatedly reports about engineering issues with, and geological challenges of, the long conduit. A possible closure or even collapse of the bridge would be a catastrophic blow to the Putin regime’s post-annexation public self-image, and make deceptive maneuvers – including military ones – by the Kremlin more probable. Even if the controversial construction holds, the question remains how far the bridge will go to fulfil its purpose of pushing Crimea’s economy and assimilating it into Russia’s. Should the expensive connection not meet these geoeconomic tasks, this too will increase the likelihood of a distracting anti-Ukrainian escalation designed to obscure a strategic blunder by the Kremlin.

A final urgent problem for the Kremlin is the precarious situation with fresh water supply, on Crimea. In 2014, Kyiv stopped delivery of water from the Dnipro river through the North Crimean Channel, via the Isthmus of Perekop, to the peninsula. Constantly declining aquatic reserves, in combination with continuing dearth of energy supply, are a virtual time bomb with potentially far-reaching economic and social consequences for Crimea’s inhabitants. In a surprising geoeconomic gaffe, Moscow has done little to resolve this issue since 2014. Russia has not built, for instance, a noteworthy desalination facility and respective energy infrastructure that could ease Crimea’s growing fresh water issue.

Should there be no principal solution to this problem soon via, for instance, erection a large desalination plant, Crimeans will experience ever more sharply repercussions of insufficient water supply, for their economy and, eventually, daily lives. A rise of social tensions on the peninsula may provide yet another potential trigger for escalation between Russia and Ukraine. Moscow may try to capture the closed channel between Crimea and the Dnipro river. This would lead Russian regular troops deep into Ukraine’s southern mainland, and start a second as well as now regular inter-state war between the two countries.

The above scenarios factors and scenarios constitute only some of the possible determinants for escalation between Russia and Ukraine. Yet, give that these four conditions combine in Crimea, the Kerch Strait and Azov Sea, they make continuing or even rising tensions in this area likely. The Azov Sea ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk will be operating, if at all, under various limitations and risks. Will the Ukraine and its Western partners be able and willing to provide some plausible stability guarantees and security mechanisms to the various economic actors engaged in the region? If not, the Ukrainian state as well as various national and foreign companies should start preparing themselves for a gradual decline of Mariupol and Berdyansk as well as the grave social and political consequences this will have.

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Repurposing the Human Brain: Lessons in Russian- and our own- reality reversal

Wed, 06/03/2019 - 21:19

     At the “Valdai Discussion Club” in February 2012, Putin accused the West of employing “a matrix of tools and methods to reach foreign policy goals without the use of arms but by exerting information and other levers of influence . . . to develop and provoke extremist, separatist and nationalistic attitudes, to manipulate the public.”  He was inventorying his own toolbox,  summarizing his work product last year in The World Order–2018: “The American system is demonstrating its inefficiency and cannibalizing itself.”

     What does any of this have to do with the arrest of a Ukrainian villager on November 7, 1937?  

     I’m holding the victim’s arrest and interrogation file. Fifty five documents and 92 pages, laborious in their repetitive detail.  Why the documents?  Why a faux trial?  Why wasn’t the victim simply shot on the doorstep? Millions were. The NKVD (read, “KGB”) couldn’t arrest anyone without a warrant first signed by the prosecutor, and then within a deadline.  But each NKVD agent had a pad of blank, pre-signed, undated warrant forms. Why the charade?

     The victim is tortured, not to confess to the truth but to confess to a mind-bending lie, such as, “Yes, I’m from Mars.”  The File doesn’t detail the torture methodology–rubber aprons were issued to the interrogators for a reason. Too often after the confession the victim was shot anyway. Why the charade if the confession has a life of 30 minutes? If the purpose is to reprogram the mind of the persecutor, how can it be unyoked from the manifest, empirical reality imposed by that very persecutor? 

    I ask and simultaneously answer my own questions. This was not mere reality denial, or even alternative reality.  It was hyperbolic reality reversal, a 24/7 war against a person’s cognitive senses.    It was Stalin’s infamous “We live happily today and will be even happier tomorrow.”  It was the billboard greeting the output end of the corkscrew feeder into the Gulag –“Lead Humanity to Happiness.” Orwellian doublespeak carried to transcendental heights. It was everywhere, every day.  And it worked.

     Such has been Moscovy’s anthropology as it expanded into the largest empire in history.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky was clear enough: “All people should become Russian and Russian above all else, because the Russian national idea is universal.”  How do you re-spool other nations’ DNA? Collapse them from within by shattering the sequence of fact–information–knowledge–understanding–judgement–decision–action/inaction. The tools: provokatsia, kompromat, dezinformatsia, agitatsia, maskirovka.  The rules: deny, dismiss, distort, distract, dismay, divide, demoralize, disorient, incapacitate. Above all, accuse and attack.  The result: an altered consciousness and consequent surrender of reality control. The task would seem to be a grandiose fatuity when targeting individuals. But the superbity is anchored in a perversely brilliant history of having subverted entire nations, occupying their psychosphere as much as their territory, and then maintaining that control . . . for centuries.

     With 85 percent of KGB resources dedicated to “active measures”, it was easy for the USSR to exploit its genome against the West. “Ban the Bomb” was reality reversal when the Kremlin diverted attention from its own openly declared intentions and welded global angst onto a uranium stuffed steel drum,  with America targeted as the real threat to world peace.

     It was reality reversal when Moscow erased its own genocide of the Muslim nations of the Caucasus and Central Asia while incubating “Arab nationalism” in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and then releasing it against the U.S.  It was a remarkable success–for an atheistic state, no less.

     It was also reality reversal when “detente” enraptured Western capitals, allowing Moscow to lasso almost a dozen nations between 1974 and 1980. And yet again, when Moscow sold itself as the vanguard of anti-colonialism, a marketing campaign championed by so many (still unrepentant) in the West.  And reality reversal ruled–and rules–in Putin’s vituperation of the truthtellers as “Nazis,” Moscow having marched with Hitler in triggering WWII.

   Yet the West, too, creates chimeras, but for Russia’s advantage and use against the West. The springboard was our reverse engineering of the multi-national empire into a unitary state: the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” was equated with  “Russia”.  Not even Stalin made that leap. The self-imposed equivalence monopolized the West since the 1920’s–in politics, academe, media, business, sports.  It also was strategic aphasia. Astonishingly, a generation after the disintegration of the USSR, too many Western cognoscenti perpetuate that same Russia/Soviet Union equation.At the end, we feed Putin’s drive to reconstitute “Russia.”  In his message to the Federal Assembly last March: “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, which in the Soviet era was called the Soviet Union – that’s what it was called abroad – Soviet Russia – if we talk about our national borders, lost 23.8 percent of the territory . . . . ”  He made a similar point even earlier: In 1991, Russia voluntarily abandoned part of its territories.”

     The conclusions then flow inexorably. Reality was that Russians colonized the fourteen non-Russian Soviet Republics as both executioners and beneficiaries of Moscow’s ethnic cleansing. However, with the implosion of the USSR, Putin complains that they are now “stranded”. In Ukraine, they, their progeny and fellow-travellers are “separatists, “rebels” who Russia only supports in a “civil war”. Russian “led” is scarcely better, as it subsumes a necessary dichotomy between Russia and its fifth column, diluting notions of control. At the end, a nebulous  “conflict,” a curio, but not an invasion, annexation and occupation shattering the world order. Putin assures in his 2017 Oliver Stone interviews“We have to stick to certain rules. Otherwise international relations cannot be built.” 

     At times our reality reversal is short of 180 degrees, but effective nonetheless because of its subtlety.  At a conference in Washington last Fall, Kurt Volker, U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine, described having been shown a map of Ukraine before his first departure, with “NGCA” (“Non-Government Controlled Area”) designating Crimea and other Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia.  “Why”, Ambassador Volker asked the obvious question, “do we shirk calling it as it is–‘Russian Controlled Area'”?  Consider the thought process of the person who had settled on “NGCA”, and multiply that by thousands of instances and thousands of people– and that’s on our side.

     A variation of our own obfuscation is, “both sides are at fault”.  After a day in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently concluded about Russia’s invasion, “All sides must contribute to the de-escalation of the conflict.”  Not an obligation that would have been thrust upon Germany’s victims in WWII. 

     Even more unpardonable is when such an august publication as Foreign Affairs lends its imprimatur for an article by a Konstantin Skorkin, identified as “a freelance journalist based in Russia”: “Unfortunately, both Moscow and Kiev [sic] have pursued policies since 2014 that have encouraged each public to blame the opposite side for all sins. Until the two countries reconcile, they will continue to find sources of conflict all around them, whether in elections to parliament or in the Sea of Azov.”  Subtle, subliminal.

     Whether the issue is Ukraine, NATO, Nord Stream 2, Syria, nuclear disarmament or, now, Venezuela, we too often catatonically repeat (read legitimize) Russia’s drumbeat of “security concerns”, “hurt pride,” “disorientation,” “needing a buffer”, “legitimate interests”, “historic claims”, or “fear of encirclement.” Our substitution of victim and perpetrator for one another is the very acme of reality reversal, proximately undercutting our own security, globally  It’s the victims who have security concerns,  legitimate interests and need a buffer.  In outsourcing Orwell’s “reality control” to Moscow, we prove Yurij Andropov right. The former KGB (then Communist Party) head lectured years ago, “Disinformation is like cocaine–sniff once or twice, it may not change our life. If you use it every day though, it will make you an addict–a different man.”  

     There is no excuse for our denial of Russia’s predatory DNA. The denial erases lessons we should have long absorbed about the Kremlin’s attendant weaponization of information, leveraged by Western naivete. And there should be no doubt of the sturdiness of both denial and naivete.

     President Roosevelt was certain: “[Stalin] won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”

     Astonishingly, so was George Kennan, author of our “containment” policy adopted precisely because FDR’s certainty was fatuously wrong.  He wrote in his Pulitzer Prize winning Memoirs, “The Russians don’t want to invade anyone. It’s not in their tradition.” That was in 1967, the year before Moscow’s second invasion of Czechoslovakia.  At the time, British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewartwas also categorical:“The Russians will not invade Czechoslovakia.  They have changed too much since Hungary in 1956.”

    Eleven years later, on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a State Department cable concluded: “A Soviet invasion would probably redound to the  disadvantage of global strategic interests. It would deal a severe blow to detente with the West.” In a White House briefing for members of Congress, President Carter was puzzled:  “It’s difficult to understand why the Soviets took this action [invade Afghanistan]. I think they probably underestimated the adverse reaction from around the world.”

     Twenty four years later, following a meeting called by Putin with Western journalists and think tank representatives, Fiona Hill, today’s Russia expert on the National Security Council, wrote in a September 4, 2004 New York Times Op-Ed, “Stop Blaming Putin and Start Helping Him”. (This was  already seven years into the blueprint for Russia’s assault against America.)

     After Putin invaded Georgia in August 2008, another Russia expert, Condoleezza Rice, in a December 12, 2008 New York Times interview assured:  “Everybody is now questioning Russia’s worthiness as a partner. They’ve come out of this badly. And I think it could help deter them from trying something like that again.”  In February, 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine.

     On January 17, 2017, Samantha Power (President Obama’s UN Ambassador) though criticizing Russia nonetheless lauded Russia’s “proud history of standing up to imperialist powers.”

     The tenacity of our denial, erasing awareness of Russia’s attendant prowess in rewiring the synapses of a nation’s brain, has come home. Catalyzed by Western fecklessness in Ukraine, Russia’s accelerated war against Western society was preordained.  With the KGB apparat today controlling Russia as it never controlled the USSR, its full frontal assault against cognitive, empirical reality penetrates ever deeper into our senses.  The 19th century Russian writer Alexander Herzen feared a “Genghis Khan with a telegraph.”  Today, social media means big data mining and advertising  . . . for us.  For Putin, it’s private sector espionage and mind control.  A highway to a hologram supplanting reality is a bargain for the toll that Moscow paid to Facebook ten years ago.

     Putin advisor, Vladislav Surkov, wrote this February that American‘s should forget about Russia’s election  interference and understand that democratic choice on how they’re governed is an illusion. Further, “Foreign politicians ascribe to Russia interference in elections and referendums across the globe. In fact, the matter is even more serious – Russia interferes in their brains, and they do not know what to do with their own altered consciousness. . . European and American experts begin to err in their forecasts more and more often. . . . Everyone, including the Americans themselves, is dissatisfied with America.” 

     This is not admission, but jubilation. Not arrogance, but febrile contempt. Confidence rockets to conviction, perception of risk shrivels, and caution is defenestrated. We’re feeding a looming catastrophe. Thomas Hobbes was right–“Hell is truth seen too late.”

   *                                         *                                         *

     I set the File aside for the moment, and focus on the faded photograph on the wall. The young man, in his late 20’s, returns my gaze. I visualize the rubber apron. It’s not a long arc from the moment of my grandfather’s murder to Moscovy’s slaughter of the Western mind today. It’s a straight line.

Victor Rud

Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs,

Ukrainian American Bar Association

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Is Turkey exploiting the international community in order to suppress dissent?

Tue, 05/03/2019 - 21:08


According to Turkish journalist Uzay Bulut, Erdogan throws around charges of being a Gulenist or associated with Jews or a member of a terror group in the framework of spreading “conspiracy theories” against his opponents.  According to Turkish journalist Rafael Sadi, “Erdogan’s government is very scared and is looking everywhere for Gulenists.  They are suspicious of everyone.  No one feels free to talk or write.”  In fact, according to recent reports, Erdogan has even gone to the level of exploiting the international community in order to suppress dissent.   

For example, Akgun Bilgin, an advisor of the Turkish government, told Foreign Policy Blogs in an exclusive interview that a Turkish court sentenced UN Judge Ayden Sefa Akay to 7.5 years in prison for being a Gulenist in 2017.  He was subsequently released but barred from traveling abroad.   According to an interview Foreign Policy Blogs conducted with Turkish journalist Yavuz Ultin, he was released after serving 7 months in prison.  At the time, Bilgin claimed that Akay said that because he was a UN judge at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, he had diplomatic immunity and his arrest by a Turkish court violated international law.  

Following that, Bilgin noted that Turkey filed a criminal complaint to the ICC about Akay’s immunity.  After that, he noted that the representatives of 101 countries voted to dismiss Akay due to his trial.  Bilgin added that now since his diplomatic immunity has been removed, Akay will be jailed again to serve his sentence if the matter is approved by Turkey’s Supreme Court.  However, some members of the international community were greatly disturbed by this.   According to Time Magazine, Judge Christoph Flügge recently resigned from his position in protest over the fact that Turkey used its veto in order to end the tenure of Akay, who was likely innocent of the charges brought against him. 

Bulut told Foreign Policy Blogs that Akay says that he is a member of a Freemason lodge but was never a Gulenist: “Akay denies that he or his family ever had anything to do with Gulen.”  Sadi told Foreign Policy Blogs that to be a Freemason in Turkey is not a criminal offense.  However, Bulut noted that to be a Freemason in Turkey has many negative connotations and that a Turkish Islamist website claims the following about Freemasons: “Masonry is an organization that’s mostly based on Judaism and that aims to distort national and spiritual values.” 

As Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil noted in an interview with Foreign Policy Blogs regarding Akay’s plight, “This is another case demonstrating Turkey’s widening democratic deficit.”  According to the Gatestone Institute, other incidents include the detention of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala, who was described as working for the “famous Hungarian Jew George Soros,” and a lawsuit being filed against Turkish journalist Esra Solin Dal, who was charged with “doing journalism against the state” and being “a member of a terror group” merely for writing for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency.  

Nor are Akay, Dal and Kavala the only victims.  Feminist journalist Ayse Duzken was sentenced to 18 months in prison because she acted as editor-in-chief of Ozgur Gudem in an act of solidarity with the newspaper, a pro-Kurdish daily which was shut down by the government.  According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative for Reporters without Borders (RSF), Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic and columnist for the leftist daily Evrensel, and Ahmet Nesin, a writer and columnist for the leftist news website Artı Gerçek, were also charged with participating in the campaign.  They are charged with “making propaganda for a terror organization.”  

Journalist Nedim Turfent was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison for covering Turkey’s military operations against the Kurds in the south-eastern part of the country for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency and was charged with being a “member of a terror group” merely because of his journalistic reports.   Idris Sayilgrin, a reporter for the same publication, was sentenced to 8 years and 3 months in prison on similar charges.  To date, Turkey remains the number one jailer of journalists in the world.  According to Human Rights Watch, more than 175 journalists and media workers are imprisoned in Turkey. 

Dr. Aykin Erdemir, a former MP in the Turkish Parliament who is now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Ahval: “Both Turkish officials and Turkey’s pro-government media have systematically propagated conspiracy theories to smear and criminalize dissident journalists, academics, and politicians in the country. The ongoing character assassination campaign is coordinated with Turkey’s highly-politicized courts, and aims at not only silencing and discrediting vocal dissidents but also intimidating the rest of the society.”

Yavuz Altun, editor of the Turkish Minute, concurred, adding in an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy Blogs: “Jailing journalists with terrorism charges has two functions: 1) Intimidating the media sphere and hence implanting Erdogan’s own narrative points about his enemies or his main agenda, 2) Devaluation of the ideas opposing him.”  He noted that over the years, more and more journalists are quitting their jobs and many other media outlets were closed down by the government.  He warned that in 10 years, there may no longer be any home for dissident media outlets in Turkey.

According to Altun, Erdogan is able to get away with suppressing dissent: “Those who are jailed unfairly or subjected to ill-treatment or government oppression apply to international institutions such as UN or ECtHR, for their rights, and as Turkey is part of several international agreements, they are entitled to do it. In Brussels, from time to time, I hear that the Turkish officials put pressure on international bodies to avoid such cases. One of the important topics in diplomats’ agenda is to remind European decision-makers of Turkey’s “concerns” about “terrorists” (Gülenists and Kurdish opposition) constantly, even if they’re untrue or baseless. And still, the Turkish government maintains good relations with the executives of the European Council. I think, Erdoğan basically knows that such behavior costs him very little in diplomacy because the Western countries need Erdoğan (or Turkey) more than he needs them.”

Erdemir concurred, proclaiming that Erdogan utilizes the UN in order to further suppress dissent: “In June 2016, 230 NGOs from around the world penned an open letter to ECOSOC to criticize the politicization of the work of the United Nations’ Committee on NGOs. Over the years, Turkey has received criticism for its use of procedural tactics to block the granting of consultative status to NGOs as well as the withdrawal of that status as a form of reprisal. Both the United States and the European Union have expressed their concern for the number of deferred applicants and called for an end to arbitrary questioning of NGOs at the committee. In February 2018, the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch has condemned the election of Turkey as the vice chair of the committee that accredits and oversees the work of human rights groups at the world body.”

In conclusion, Altun proclaimed: “Jailing journalists and other dissidents has no real cost for Erdoğan in his business with the Western countries. A European Parliament member told me that European leaders want to work with him, unless a better alternative arises. Therefore, as long as he clings to power inside Turkey, namely as long as he convinces the majority inside the country, nothing can really harm him.” He claimed that journalists especially are easy targets because the Turkish public cares very little about the function of the media in society.  For this reason, Altun noted that Erdogan can get away with accusing journalists of being a PKK supporter or Gulenist for “Erdogan’s reach to the public is far greater than any information hub.”

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