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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.”

The post Anti-Kim Resistance Organization Declares North Korea’s ‘Government-in-exile’ appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

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 https://www.ewjus.com/index.php/ewjus/issue/archive Krytyka: Thinking Ukraine https://krytyka.com/en Journal of Ukrainian Politics and Society http://jups.krytyka.com/issues VoxUkraine https://voxukraine.org/en/ Kyiv-Mohyla Law and Politics Journal http://kmlpj.ukma.edu.ua/issue/archive The Ideology and Politics Journal https://ideopol.org/category/archive/ UA: Ukraine Analytica http://ukraine-analytica.org/archive/ Democratic Initiatives Foundation https://dif.org.ua/en/category/publications International Center for Policy Studies http://www.icps.com.ua/en/our-projects/publications/ National Security and Defence http://razumkov.org.ua/en/edition/national-security-and-defence-journal New Europe Center http://neweurope.org.ua/en/analityka/ Institute for Economic Research & Policy Consulting http://www.ier.com.ua/en/publications Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research http://www.ucipr.org.ua/index.php?lang=en The Ukraine List – Dominique Arel https://socialsciences.uottawa.ca/ukraine/publications/newsletter Current Politics in Ukraine – David Marples https://ukraineanalysis.wordpress.com Ukraine Alert – Atlantic Council, DC https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert Focus Ukraine – Wilson Center, DC http://www.kennan-focusukraine.org Forum for Ukrainian Studies – CUSP CIUS, Alberta https://ukrainian-studies.ca Ukraine in European Dialogue – Eurozine https://www.eurozine.com/focal-points/ukraine-in-european-dialogue/ Human Rights in Ukraine – Halya Coynash http://khpg.org/en/ Ukraine Democracy Initiative http://ukrainedemocracy.org Ukraine Today – European Dialogue http://www.eedialog.org/en/projects/ukraine-today/ StopFake https://www.stopfake.org/en/news/ Ukraine World – Internews, Kyiv https://ukraineworld.org Ukraine Crisis Media Center http://uacrisis.org Ukraine: Democratic Security Sector Governance https://ukrainesecuritysector.com/publication/ Chatham House Russia & Eurasia Program – London https://www.chathamhouse.org/about/structure/159/publications PONARS Eurasia Policy Memos – GWU, DC http://www.ponarseurasia.org/policy-memos/2019 Europe’s Eastern Neighborhood – Carnegie https://carnegieeurope.eu/topic/984 Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/search?text=&f%5B0%5D=obszary%3A108 ZOiS Report, Berlin https://en.zois-berlin.de/publications/zois-report/ International Centre for Defence and Security https://icds.ee/tag/ukraine/ The Jamestown Foundation – Vladimir Socor https://jamestown.org/program-name/vlads-corner/ New Eastern Europe, Krakow http://neweasterneurope.eu ECFR Wider Europe Forum https://www.ecfr.eu/wider/forum Transitions Online https://www.tol.org/client/ Ab Imperio https://abimperio.net/cgi-bin/aishow.pl 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 https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/journal-of-eurasian-studies Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society https://spps-jspps.autorenbetreuung.de/en/jspps/past-issues.html

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

The post Repurposing the Human Brain: Lessons in Russian- and our own- reality reversal appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

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

Tue, 05/03/2019 - 21:08

REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY POLITICS ENERGY) – RTXPME4

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.”

The post Is Turkey exploiting the international community in order to suppress dissent? appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

Sexual Violence and HIV/AIDS in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Thu, 21/02/2019 - 02:41
Dr. Denis Mukwege (Photo From BBC)

In October of last year, the Nobel Committee awarded Dr. Denis Mukwege with the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Mukwege is a world-renowned gynecologist from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who established the Panzi Hospital, which practices a holistic approach to providing assistance to survivors of sexual assault. Congo has been deemed by the international community as the worst place in the world to be a woman, with 1100 women raped every day. Dr. Mukwege is one of only two doctors in Congo that can perform reconstruction surgeries after a woman has been raped, and his work has fundamentally changed access to health services in the country by making them more widespread and affordable. One of the programs the Panzi Hospital executes is focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, which has been a chronic  epidemic in the DRC. Despite this progress, the actual policies that the international community have implemented in the DRC have been lacking, excluding, and often counterproductive to survivors of rape who have contracted HIV/AIDS.

Rape is often employed as a devastating weapon of war in Congo. This tactic has fostered a clear link between conflict promulgation and AIDS transmission. Human Rights Watch estimates, approximately 60% of combatants in the DRC have AIDS. The spread of AIDS has been a significant issue in Congo for decades, officially declared a public health threat in 1983. The link between sexual violence and AIDS in Congo is apparent, as “an estimated 30% of survivors of rape in Congo are infected with HIV“. Virginie Supervie at the National Institute of Health conducted a study that statistically predicts the number of HIV/AIDS victims in relation to sexual violence relates in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her results are alarming, estimating that under extreme conditions, 10,000 women and girls in Congo who are victims of sexual violence could contract HIV/AIDS each year. She further argues that in order to effectively deal with the AIDS epidemic in Congo, victims of sexual violence are critical to take into account during policy formation, as they are often left out of the discourse around AIDS prevention and treatment.

In Congo, victims of sexual violence are often ostracized by their communities, forcing them to move.  This practice creates major obstacles to providing critical medical treatments. Jack Hyyombo explains in the Central African Journal of Public Health, that the most effective way to address this issue is a more targeted approach based on province should be implemented rather than blanket policies over the entirety of Congo. Different demographics in Congo have diverse needs. Creating targeted approaches based on province would allow the Congolese government to create a more tailored approach to meet the needs of different people living in different areas. From there, the government could concentrate specifically on areas where sexual violence occurs most often.

Congo has primarily used only blanket policies to address HIV/AIDS in the country. Joseph Kabila implemented a program headed by the Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Commission. This was supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN). Similarly, to many countries in the international community, the Congolese government expressed in 2015 that they aimed to eliminate HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by the year of 2030. In 2015, only 33% of known AIDS patients were taking antiretrovirals in the DRC. The government publically stated that “by April 2017, 34000 more people were on treatment which puts the country on track to reach the June 2018 target, which would see 73% of people living with HIV on treatment”. The fact that more Congolese citizens are receiving treatment is obviously a benefit, but victims of sexual assault are often not included. For example, “only 30% of female rape cases undergo prophylactic treatment against HIV in the DRC”. This is due to a top-down, homogenous approach by the UN and WHO. Blanket statements regarding progress on AIDS treatment and prevention in the Congo have unintended consequences. The woman who are often most at risk of the disease are forgotten about because there is a false sense that everyone is benefitting from the progress that has occurred.

(Photo From
The New York Times)

At first glance, it looks as if the United Nations is taking a hardline, effective approach to combating AIDS stigmatization and sexual violence. In 2010, the first ever offensive peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, was deployed in Congo. This mission was the first of its kind, as UN peacekeepers usually have to wait until conflict comes to them, while MONUSCO can be the aggressor against the groups it is trying to eradicate in order to protect the population. There is also a designated Sexual Violence Unit in MONUSCO. However, though the United Nations says that MONUSCO is helping, there are many points of contention surrounding the mission.

The implications of MONUSCO on the debate about responses to rape victims with AIDS is substantial. The rhetoric around MONUSCO makes it seem very beneficial, while in reality, peacekeepers often exacerbate existing issues. In only the first three months of 2017, five peacekeepers had already been accused of raping Congolese women. This is not limited to peacekeepers in the DRC. The Associated Press reported that “between 2004 and 2016, the United Nations received about 2,000 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against its peacekeepers”. Over 700 of those allegations occurred in Congo and number is assumed to be much higher as victims are often silenced or discouraged from coming forward.

There are many implications of peacekeepers contributing to sexual violence. One of the main consequences is that it promotes a mistrust of foreign actors. This is detrimental when worldwide policies are being developed to address both AIDS and sexual violence. Multilateral and transregional approaches are necessary when trying to tackle epidemics that span across the world because they provide resources. Furthermore, the perpetrators of these violent acts are often not held responsible, promoting an environment in which rapists are greeted with impunity.

There is no doubt that Dr. Mukwege is an extraordinary hero well deserving of the Nobel Prize. Resources are critically required to invest in other doctors to expand medical practice in Congo as well. This is the only way rape victims who have HIV/AIDS will no longer be left out of the dialogue of progress. While Dr. Mukwege’s awarding  of the Nobel Peace Prize has brought more attention to sexual health in the DRC, international responses to treat rape victims who have contracted HIV/AIDS have been lacking and often counterproductive. Broad statements about progress, and human rights abuses committed by those who are supposed to be there to help contribute to an environment where rape victims with AIDS are left out of the discourse about access to health infrastructure. Women are essential to include in these discussions as they often experience the worst parts of conflict. Only when rape victims and AIDS patients are advocated for, will comprehensive policies be effectively implemented to benefit all citizens in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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The Absence of Justice for Syrians and Iraqis

Wed, 20/02/2019 - 17:56
Yazidis fleeing Sinjar, Iraq, in 2014 after forces loyal to the Islamic State took the town. Kurdish and Yazidi fighters retook it last fall.CreditRodi Said/Reuters

The generation that inherited the world right after the fall of Nazi Germany were in a unique position to teach future generations about how we should address justice after thousands of families lost their relatives during the war. While many former members of Hitler’s government were put on trial at Nuremberg, prosecuted and given their due sentences, many other perpetrators of genocide escaped the precedent setting trial. A case that stood out was that of Klaus Barbie, who organised the murder of thousands of Jewish people and resistance fighters from France during the war. While there was a warrant to arrest him, he was safely living in Latin America, even after he was convicted in absentia and for Crimes Against Humanity in the French legal system.

It was not an easy task to find Barbie and bring him to trial, but the Klarsfelds who spent their life seeking justice for their fallen family members and neighbours dedicated their lives to justice. Unfortunately, people who fought for those lost to genocide have left us over time, but the governments that turn a blind eye to human rights atrocities are still in place.

The current debate should be framed in what had occurred in Iraq and Syria to many minority groups living there since 2014. Over 6000 dead had been discovered buried in mass graves not long ago, and every few weeks leads to the discovery of more mass graves as survivors try to earn a place as a refugee from those atrocities. Survivors of genocide still are living in refugee camps, with no direct aid coming to them. There are still many girls and women missing and presumed dead or captured, all enslaved and all likely to be killed in the most brutal of ways, but no one speaks about them. When discussing those targeted groups in the region, no one addressed justice towards them or their murdered family members. The ones that escape are even threatened in safe countries overseas, with more incidences being revealed over time. In one instance, it was even suggested that focusing on minority groups from the region is “disgusting” and discriminatory, despite the fact that they are targeted specifically because of their race and religion to be killed, something that the French court in the Barbie case would call Crimes Against Humanity.

The resting excuse to not apply justice for those lost in Syria and Iraq is because there are no witnesses, but it has become evident in a few cases that Yazidi refugees in places like Canada and Germany have seen their ISIS torturers living in their area after they were resettled. Authorities do wish to seek justice even when they have those witnesses they claim do not exist living and being threatened as refugees in Canada and Germany. In a normal legal situation, if you commit a crime in another country or region, you are subject to the local laws of that region. So in the case where a non-Syrian or non-Iraqi would commit a murder in those countries, the local laws would be applied. We cannot simply take the murder of one person in a Western country as one individual murdering another and apply full justice to a trial, while claiming that the murder of 6000 Yazidis and Kurds is a statistic that cannot have justice applied, just because they are in Syria or Iraq. We should not set a precedent where if you kill all the lawyers and judges and burn the court to the ground while destroying a city, that you are able to simply return to your country of origin and leave Syria and Iraq with the aftermath of a genocide created by a murderer and fellow foreign nationals. Allowing citizens from a Western country to go abroad and commit genocide should have the most severe of punishments, and in some cases they are barely questioned. There should be money and funds set up to re-established a judicial system in those affected parts of Syria and Iraq, and trials should commence for all accused. It is clear that they committed Crimes Against Humanity, any justice minister and government that tries to hide that fact or shame victims are ignorant to the concept of justice themselves.

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International Implications of Ukraine’s Decentralization

Thu, 14/02/2019 - 22:27

The local governance reform that Kyiv started in 2014 will, if successful, have cross-border repercussions by way of making the Ukrainian state more resilient, compatible with the EU, and a model for other post-Soviet republics.

The currently ongoing decentralization reform in Ukraine leads to beneficial effects for the everyday life of citizens. Public administration becomes more rational, flexible, visible and interactive. State-society relations strengthen, and democratic accountability increases. As transparency of resource allocation increases, opportunities for realizing corrupt practices are gradually reduced. Economic activity in, and cross-regional rivalry of, local communities are facilitated. Cities, towns and villages can easier cooperate with each other, but also compete for direct investment, touristic visitors, project funding, qualified personnel, and public resources. Talented youth in provincial regions can better self-realize at home. Patriotic energy is redirected from mythologizing imagined to improving real communities. Civic activism is encouraged and utilized for the public good.  Grass-roots initiatives can faster transform into efficacious public policies and become templates for nation-wide innovation.

In Ukraine, these and
similar positive effects of decentralization, in general, gain additional
weight in view of the country’s significance as one of Europe’s territorially
largest nations, civilizational frontier states, crucial post-Soviet republics,
and geopolitical pivot countries. Whatever course Ukraine takes in its domestic
affairs has, because of the country’s international emanation, larger
implications. The fate of the Ukrainian transformation, not the least of the
local governance reform, will deeply affect pan-European security and stability,
post-communist socio-economic development, as well as East European
liberalization and democratization.

Decentralization
increases resilience

First and foremost,
decentralization makes Ukraine as a state and nation more resilient. Along with
other reforms, it reduces, suppresses or contains various post-Soviet
pathologies of public administration and local development. This effect, in
turn, is not only of municipal, regional or national, but also – in view of
Ukraine’s geopolitical role – of international relevance.

Ukrainian
decentralization devolves power to a level lower on, and to communities smaller
than those in, which most of the old informal networks operate. This makes
state-capture by private interest not impossible. But it complicates the
subversion of the public sphere by private interests. It is true that
decentralization sometimes simply transfers the locus of a corrupt network from
the national or regional to the local level. In certain cases, it can even
benefit clans that have been hitherto functioning within a municipal context.

On the whole, however,
decentralization in Ukraine – like everywhere else in the world – strengthens
rather than weakens democratic accountability
, and promotes economic
development. Newly empowered self-governing bodies are more exposed to public
scrutiny and responsibility by their local communities than Ukraine’s byzantine
administrative organs inherited from the Soviet system. When ambitious
entrepreneurs encounter a local – rather than regional or national – political
framework, their industriousness is more likely to turn into political and
developmental rather than informal and extractive activity. On average,
Ukraine’s novel Amalgamated Territorial Communities (ATCs) are thus less
susceptible to subversion by semi-secretive networks and rapacious rent-seeking
than the old oblast (regional) and rayon (county) administrations and councils.
The new ATCs are – more than the older, far less powerful and smaller communes
– motivated to engage in competition with other ATCs for attracting investment,
charming tourists, providing services, and gaining fame.

Decentralization thus
makes the Ukrainian state more stable, functional and effective. Ukraine’s
increased resilience and greater dynamism supports its general modernization.
Whatever makes the largely pluralistic and liberal Ukrainian state stronger –
rationalization, Europeanization, decentralization, privatization, deregulation
etc. – undermines, in turn, the legitimacy of the klepto- and autocratic orders
of other post-Soviet state. By strengthening Ukraine’s democracy and economy,
its decentralization helps – because of Ukraine’s size and role in Eastern
Europe – changing the entire post-Soviet area for the better.

Decentralization
improves cohesion

Second, in addition to
making Ukraine’s state more solid, in general, many Ukrainian politicians have
come to also see decentralization as a peculiar antidote to Russia’s hybrid
warfare, in particular. Not only does deeper involvement of ordinary Ukrainians
in governmental affairs via decentralization support the national cohesion of
Ukraine’s population and civic spirit of her citizenry. The currently ongoing
devolution of power to the local level in Ukraine deprives Russia’s various
hybrid warriors of customary institutional frames and critical entry points for
seditious action. A decentralization that is not a federalization complicates
the targeting and planning of irredentist operations similar to those in
Simferopol, Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014. As regional capitals and governments
gradually lose political relevance, it becomes more difficult for the Kremlin
to clearly delineate territories where it may want to support a secession
or/and prepare an annexation.

These anti-separatist
effects of Ukraine’s decentralization have, in turn, not only a national, but
also an international dimension. To the degree that local governance reforms –
along with other ongoing transformations, in Ukraine – help to support Kyiv’s
independence and to stabilize the Ukrainian state, they undermine Russian
revanchism. The stronger Ukraine, the less plausible looks Moscow’s
neo-imperial project and the Kremlin’s hegemonic pretense in the former Tsarist
or Soviet space. As Zbigniew Brzezinski quipped famously in 1997, “without
Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”

Decentralization
supports Europeanization

A third geopolitical
aspect of Ukraine’s decentralization is that it supports Ukraine’s ongoing
integration into the EU’s political and legal space in connection with the
Eastern Partnership program started in 2009, and Association Agreement signed
in 2014. Decentralization helps preparing Kyiv’s forthcoming application for,
and eventual acquisition of, full membership in the Union. In a certain way,
Ukraine’s decentralization is a more fundamental aspect of Ukraine’s gradual
Europeanization than other dimensions of this process partially influenced from
outside.

Being a Ukrainian project
inspired by, but not modelled on any one foreign example, and not following any
pre-defined Western recipe, decentralization is in two ways significant. First,
it is a visible manifestation of Ukraine’s turn-away from the Tsarist and
Soviet centralist traditions of its past, within the former Russian empire. The
very idea and start of the Ukrainian decentralization reforms documents the
“European” character of Ukraine. It is practical proof of the civil, pluralist
and open character of Ukraine’s political tradition and culture.

Second, the ongoing
transition’s accumulating results are making Ukraine more and more compatible
with the Union. The member countries of the EU are, in general, more or less
decentralized. To one degree or another, many continue to further decentralize.  They, moreover, follow the well-known
subsidiarity principle in their relations with both Brussels and their own
regions as well as municipalities. The more deconcentrated and subsidiary
Ukraine becomes, the more similar it will thus look to other European nations,
and the better she will later be prepared for full accession to the EU.

The national origins and
Europeanizing effects of Ukraine’s decentralization are not only important in
terms of the spread of Western values and principles. They have also a larger
geopolitical dimension. In as far as Kyiv’s local governance reform expresses
and advances the “European” character of Ukraine, it demonstrates her belonging
to the Western normative and cultural hemisphere. That, in turn, makes
Ukraine’s ambition to enter the EU and NATO a more natural affair than it may
have otherwise been.

Decentralization
provides a model

A final – and, so far,
speculative – geopolitical aspect of the ongoing transformation of Ukrainian
self-governance concerns its cross-national diffusion potential.
Decentralization in Ukraine can, in the future, provide policy directions and
institutional templates ready for use by other, so far, highly centralized
post-Soviet states in their forthcoming reform efforts. This concerns not only,
but above all Russia herself for which a decentralization along the Ukrainian
localist rather than the older Russian federalist paradigm may one day become
relevant.

As time goes by, each of
the post-Soviet republics will become affected by gradual social modernization,
cross-national norm dispersion, democratizing intra-elite divisions as well as
international economic integration. These processes will more and more change
all, so far, politically underdeveloped and culturally regressive post-communist
countries. When governmental crises, competitive disadvantages, and general
backwardness create sufficient pressure for deep reform in Russia, Belarus,
Armenia, Azerbaijan or/and Central Asian, their nations will be looking for
ideas and experiences that may help them to reconstitute their immobile
societies and remake their inefficient states.

The possibility or even
intention of cross-border diffusion is, of course, something im- or explicitly
entailed in many reform concepts and efforts around the world. The Ukrainian
local governance reform may, however, be of an even larger geopolitical
salience because of its above-mentioned nation-building and anti-secessionist
effects. The Ukrainian type of decentralization is not only an instrument for improving
state-society relations. It can also function as a tool to stabilize regionally
divided states threatened by separatist tendencies. In the same way that
devolving power to local and municipal levels helps Ukraine to hold its
territory together, an application of her decentralization model may one day
also support other post-Soviet states to remain unified. This concerns not the
least Russia whose sheer size and multi-ethnic character make her especially
vulnerable to autonomism and secessionism.

Decentralization
as an under-estimated reform agenda

The above list does not mean that local governance reform is a panacea for Ukraine and other post-Soviet states. Yet, its Europeanizing, anti-separatist and diffusion potential makes it an especially salient, interesting and consequential aspect of Ukraine’s ongoing socio-political transformation. Within the context of some specifically post-Soviet political challenges, the empire-subverting and state-supporting dimension of decentralization bestow this particular reform in Ukraine with a larger meaning than other substantively similar processes of devolution of power from the national and regional to the municipal and local levels have in other parts of the world. Neither the overcoming of the Tsarist-Communist empire nor the formation of new nation states are yet finished businesses, in the post-Soviet area. Decentralization may do the trick or, at least, be one of the main instruments to effectively meet both of these daunting challenges.

——————————————————————————

A longer version of this article is forthcoming, and has benefited from advice by Dr. Valentyna Romanova (National Institute for Strategic Studies, Kyiv). Responsibility for remaining imprecision lies, however, solely with the author

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De-bunking Russian Language Myths About Ukraine and the Baltics

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 15:33
Soviet Great Patriotic War memorial, Riga

Since conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine in early 2014, regional observers have worried that Russia could instigate a similar incursion in the Baltics to ‘protect ethnic Russians.’ Seemingly – goes the narrative – the ethnic Russians are identified as those who speak Russian. The reality in these countries, however, is far from that clear-cut distinction.

Let’s start in eastern Ukraine. Russian is the
primary language spoken in the pro-Russia / separatist provinces of Luhansk and
Donetsk, as well as the other three neighboring Ukrainian provinces (Kharkov, Dnipropetrovsk,
and Zaporozhiya). There are scattered villages that speak Ukrainian, but
Russian is the regional lingua franca.
Somewhat complicating the demographics, to outside observers, is that all those
provinces are also over 50% ethnic Ukrainian. The
Russian-language dominance, and general political alignment with Moscow, came
about from ethnic Russian labor migration to the region to support
industrialization beginning in the 1930s. In this corner of Ukraine, language
is not a divider, it’s a common tongue. Moreover, many ethnic Ukrainians fight
on the separatist side of the current conflict, another sign that the conflict
is more one of regional identity than ethnicity or language.       

Some 700 km and a 10-hour drive to the northwest,
the residents of Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, speak Russian widely. I spent four days
here in July, checking in to my hotel, ordering food, and re-buffing street peddlers,
all in Russian. I would hear Ukrainian at times, though rarely. This is all the
more remarkable given that a 2015 survey by the International
Republican Institute found 94% of Kiev residents to be ethnically Ukrainian. On
the other hand, I found government signage, public transportation, and
advertising to be overwhelmingly in Ukrainian. “Yes,” responded an office
worker whom I had just met (who in conversation often used a Ukrainian ‘h’
sound in place of a Russian ‘g’ sound). “That started happening after the
Crimea take-over.”                 

Another phenomenon has been Russian-speaking
migrants to the capital. Rather than stay in a war zone, eastern Ukraine
residents have joined families in Kiev and other cities. Additionally, after
the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution, young social and legal reformers from other former
Soviet nations, especially Georgia, moved to Kiev to ‘carry on the torch’ of
greater independence from Russia and reducing corruption. Some learned
Ukrainian, notably Georgia’s former president Saakashvili, but as a backstop,
all can rely on Russian.

As the former Soviet capital, and an important
center of government and commerce, widespread use of Russian in the city is understandable.
Ivan Patrulak, a historian in Kiev, distinguished last year between
bilingualism and ‘diglossia,’ describing a situation when native speakers use
different tongues under different circumstances. “In Kiev,” he said, ”Russian language
is still considered to be prestigious.”  
 

Aboard a five-hour bus ride directly south to the
port of Odessa, when one traveler suffered a minor seizure, all conversation
about helping her was in Russian, as the default tongue and (still) common
currency. While enjoying summer nights in that storied city, all my conversation,
and that at nearby tables, was in Russian. Odessa, admittedly, is a linguistic
exception, sharing many socio-historical traits with Crimea – a historically majority
ethnic Russian population, and a major Black Sea port that has figured in
Russian literature and military exploits. That same 2015 IRI poll however
showed 68% of residents to be ethnically Ukrainian, and only 25% Russian.

Odessa, August 2018 – note the advertisements in Russian (in Kiev ads are in Ukrainian)

Latvia’s ethno-linguistic breakdown is similarly complex. In the capital, Riga, for a few days in August in this regional hub and sprawling metropolis, I ordered food and asked directions in Russian. Sitting at a bar watching a sports event, I heard the staff alternating among Latvian, Russian, and English. Per demographics, it is no surprise that Russian is so widely spoken. The city (and Latvia as a whole) barely had an ethnic Latvian majority during the Soviet era, a trend that has roughly continued. The 40ish mayor is an ethnic Russian who in 2011 proposed making Russian the 2nd official language and enjoys the support of most ethnic Russians.  

The population of the second-largest city
Daugavpils, in Latvia’s south-east corner, is overwhelmingly Russian. Russians
make up significant populations in the two smaller eastern cities. Riga is in
the center of the country and sits on the Baltic Sea. While portrayed in
various foreign policy press as ‘one of the countries where Putin could act militarily
to protect ethnic Russian speakers,’ that would be a difficult loaf to slice,
unless they take half the country.

Estonia’s linguistic geography is more clearly delineated.
While 25% of the country’s population are ethnic Russians,
they are in two areas: in and around Tallinn, the capital, where ethnic
Estonians make up 60% and ethnic Russians 31% of the population, and in and
around Narva, on the north-east border with Russia, where ethnic Russians number
just over 70%.

With Tallinn’s refurbished Old City as a UNESCO
World Heritage site, and the country’s investment in IT infrastructure and
start-ups, the country has won international praise for its planning insight
and economic growth. Largely shut out of these developments, however, has been the
ethnic Russian population.

After independence in 1991, there seemed to be two
Estonias: the central and western regions, and Narva. Narva’s industry was soon
privatized, tossing thousands out of work. A further burden has been a
citizenship law requiring ethnic Russians to achieve a passing ability in
Estonian language, which many (mostly older residents) have refused to do. As
‘non-citizens,’ they carry a grey passport, reinforcing their undetermined
status. In recent years the narrative of a poor, rights-bereft population of
ethnic Russians in Estonia’s east, who only watch Russian TV, has made its way from
foreign correspondents’ notebooks into the plots of television dramas.

Historic standoff: Narva (near side), Ivangorod Fortress (Russia, far side)

After eastern Ukraine erupted in 2014, Tallinn officials
shared the fears of others: a Kremlin-backed incursion to re-claim ethnic
Russians as their own. Since then, various efforts have sought to spur
investment in Narva and reach out to the local population, to emphasize inclusion.
In one effort, creative directors from Tallinn are staging dramatic and musical
productions with cross-over themes in a local factory space that was once the
largest cotton mill in the Soviet Union. The University of Tartu (Estonia) has
opened a campus in Narva to give locals the opportunity to earn advanced
degrees. Language teachers are volunteering time to hold coffees where Russians
can practice Estonian language. And in a sign of government buy-in, Estonia’s President
Kaljulaid has put her weight behind these initiatives, intending to propose Narva as a
European Capital of Culture when Estonia receives the mantel in 2024.   

With sizable Russian minorities in several of these countries, Kremlin-backed media outlets continue to promote the idea of simmering ethnic conflict and culture wars, at its least to promote internal chaos, or at most to encourage separatist activity. Ukraine is at war over regional identity, a separate issue from language; Latvia, at least in urban areas, appears to have integrated rather than separate ethnic populations; and Estonia is taking steps to integrate its ethnic Russian population in the east.

After exploring each of these cases, and given their unique dynamics, there is little suggestion that ethnic Russians in these countries are clamoring for their own separatist state, or encouraging incursion of Russian troops. While mandatory language laws can complicate integration and raise tensions between ethnic groups, minority groups should understand that such steps are taken in defense of the primary language and culture. Both Estonia and Latvia, each with under 2 million residents, need a mechanism to safeguard their language, with 145 million Russian-speakers living next door. Russian state media campaigns emphasizing ethnic discord in these nations certainly gain traction when ethnic Russians’ rights and economic opportunities are compromised. However, with continued engagement of the ethnic Russian communities, especially in Estonia’s Narva, greater ethnic integration should greatly reduce the risk of separatism.

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Op-ed: Rapid increase in violence within Bangladesh post-election

Tue, 22/01/2019 - 16:50

In the wake of reports of massive voter fraud in Bangladesh, when according to numerous opposition activists, the election was essentially robbed from the people by the Sheikh Hasina government, Shipan Kumer Basu, the President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, reported that there is now a rapid increase in violence targeting both oppositions activities minority communities within the Asian country. According to him, post-election, there have been a series of attacks, assaults, murders and gang rapes in Bangladesh, which have occurred merely in order to suppress the Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and other minorities, as well as dissidents and members of the opposition, so that they will be compelled to flee the country.

For example, he noted that in Noakhali, Awami League members entered a home and tied up the hands of the husband while raping the man’s wife, a mother of four children. According to reliable sources, Basu reported that Parul Begum, a Muslim who voted for Paddy Shauf and the mother of 4 who was gang-raped, was badly injured in the incident and was hospitalized. He proclaimed that although Awami League leader Md. Sohel, the main man accused of implementing the gang rape, was arrested alongside two others, the other six accused in the case have not been arrested. According to locals in the area, the rapists can be released at any moment due to their affiliation with the governing party.

In another incident post-election, Basu noted that Bangladeshi MP Nixon Chowdhury, who was an Awami League member that ran in the election as an independent, was attacked as hundreds of local Hindus were in his home in Upazila of Faridpur district. According to him, his home fell victim to an arson attack and was vandalized. Basu reported that they also looted the valuables inside of the home. According to the report, Chowdhury was not the only victim. Locals reported that over 50 homes belonging to BNP supporters were plundered and vandalized as well in the Bangla Bazar Union of Doabarbaza Upazila.

Furthermore, according to Basu, a group of 30-35 people, including Former Chairman Fazlul Haque Bepari, looted, vandalized and ransacked the house of Rameezuddin at Dadpur village of Laxmipur Union in Kalkini upazila of Madaripur district. Ramijuddin’s wife Fazilah Khatun, his sons’ wife Toma who is pregnant and his sister’s daughter Hasina were seriously injured.
In addition, according to the World Hindu Struggle Committee, the home of Hindu Pashi Dasi was burnt to the ground, there was a rape attempt of a Hindu girl in Dinajpur and a Hindu couple disappeared from Brahmanburia and has not been heard from since. It is believed that they were probably abducted. According to them, there has also been anti-Hindu incitement reported in the Bangladeshi mosques post-election. It should be noted that the incidents listed above are only a small sample of the anti-opposition and anti-minority violence that has occurred within Bangladesh post-election.

As a result of these violent incidents, which followed a massive voter fraud that was accompanied by the arrest of tens of thousands of opposition activists and the killing of many others including members of minority groups within the Asian country, Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, stressed that he will be submitting a report to the UN Human Rights Council and he is presently drafting a petition against the Sheikh Hasina government, which will be sent to the International Criminal Court at the Hague: “We plan to submit a petition that will punish this criminal government.”

Written by Rachel Avraham, who is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East (under formation) and is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. She is also a fellow at the Haym Salomon Center, a news and public policy group. For over 6 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media,” a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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Ukraine’s Upcoming Presidential Elections: The Ambivalence of the Zelens’kyy Candidacy

Fri, 18/01/2019 - 00:42

Most political experts in and outside Ukraine have reacted negatively or very negatively to the announcement, on New Year’s eve, of Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelens’kyy that he will become a candidate in Ukraine’s presidential elections scheduled for 31 March (first round) and 21 April 2019 (second round of the two front-runners). Indeed, Zelens’kyy’s submission is – see below – in various ways problematic. Probably, his candidacy is an even more ambivalent enterprise than those of the other two top contenders, opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko and incumbent president Petro Poroshenko. Still, for all the apt skepticism, there is also – as in the case of certain positive aspects of Tymoshenko’s and Poroshenko’s runs – a bright side to the announcement of Zelens’kyy. One can identify, at least, three major risky or negative, but also three relatively encouraging dimension’s of Zelens’kyy’s entry into the race.

The first and foremost problem with Zelens’kyy is
that he would be a politically and diplomatically unexperienced president. He
has not held any governmental or any other public sector office before. His two
main competitors Poroshenko and Tymoshenko, in contrast, have each held, over
many years, parliamentary seats, party chairpersonships as well as high
executive posts. They are also well-connected internationally, for instance,
via the European People’s Party, while Zelens’kyy seems to have no foreign
affairs exposure.

In peaceful times and under stable conditions,
Zelens’skyy’s assumption of power would, perhaps, be an experiment worth
trying. Yet, as Ukraine’s current geopolitical situation is extremely complicated,
a Zelens’kyy presidency would be a chancy development. His partially naïve
statements on Ukraine’s international relations so far, and announced recruitment
of an explicitly non-political team indicate that there would have to be a
transition period before a Zelens’kyy administration becomes more or less
functional. Ukraine and her various foreign challenges may not have time for
such an interregnum, after the presidential elections.

Second, it remains unclear how truly novel a
Zelens’kyy presidency would eventually be, in terms of its approach to the old semi-criminal
patronage networks – the main cancer of Ukrainian politics. To be sure, Zelens’skyy
is justified emphasizing his clean hands, and non-involvement in the shadowy
schemes of Ukraine’s post-Soviet oligarchic rule. He is rich and made his money
on everybody’s watch, as a popular television star and producer of successful
entertainment programs.

Yet, there is much suspicion in Kyiv about his
links to Ihor Kolomoys’kyy, a notorious oligarch and owner of the influential TV
channel 1+1 that airs most of Zelens’kyy’s programs. A major reason for
Zelens’kyy’s popularity is his brilliantly played role as the non-corruptible
and oligarchy-slaying Ukrainian president Vasyl’ Holoborod’ko in the popular TV
sitcom “Servant of the People.” But many Ukrainian experts do not believe that
a real president Zelens’kyy would be as effective as the fictional president
Holoborod’ko, in curbing the impact of private business interests on Ukraine’s
governmental affairs.

Third, the political-satirical aspects of
Zelens’kyy’s comedy work and of his major TV show “Vechernyi kvartal” (Evening
Block) have acquired a strange aftertaste, following Zelens’kyy’s entry of the
race. His “95-yy kvartal” (95th Block) team has numerous times made
fun of various presidential candidates including Poroshenko and Tymoshenko. In
several sketches, Zelens’kyy has personally played Poroshenko as well Radical
Party leader Oleh Liashko, another likely presidential candidate.

While Zelens’kyy’s and his team’s political satire
was and is often extremely sharp, topical and funny, it now starts looking odd.
The well-written and -played video parodies, still widely watched on TV,
Youtube and other outlets, have recently gained a second meaning as support for
Zelens’kyy’s presidential bid. They now seem to be parts of an unconventional
negative electoral campaign by Zelens’kyy ridiculing his political opponents.

Yet, there are also some arguably bright aspects
of Zelens’kyy’s entry into politics, and especially so, if it goes beyond his –
likely unsuccessful – presidential bid in spring. Zelens’kyy’s mere
participation in the campaign is stirring up Ukrainian political debates on the
elections, and public interest for different visions of Ukraine’s future. Until
31 December 2018, it looked as if the 2019 contest will be largely between incumbent
Poroshenko, his Solidarity party as well as his allies, on the one side, and veteran
challenger Tymoshenko, her Fatherland party and her allies, on the other. Both
of these politicians have been active in Ukrainian politics for more than 20
years. Although Poroshenko and Tymoshenko have become irreconcilable enemies
over the last fifteen years, many Ukrainians perceive them as being of a
similar generation, type and quality.

There are also other alternative Ukrainian third
forces, on the right and left as well as in the political center. But Zelens’kyy
arrival has an especially high potential to break old templates of party
competition, political technology and oligarchic bickering. Many analysts in
Kyiv suspect, to be sure, that Zelens’skyy is merely a novel instrument of
manipulation in the hands of behind-the-scenes patrons, and especially of
unpopular Kolomois’kyy. Yet, even if Zelens’skyy may be obliged to one or more
oligarchs, it will be not easy for him to repay his possible debts.

Given his self-styled image as a non-nonsense
corruption fighter and new type of politician, it would be especially damaging
for Zelens’kyy, if he becomes perceived as being just another medium for
infiltration of private interests into governmental affairs. This constraint
may be even more important for his possible future faction in parliament than
for Zelens’kyy himself. While the unexperienced politician and his team might
be unsuitable for taking over the presidential administration, they could form
a useful Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council) group.

To be sure, Zelens’skyy and his entourage will
be as much a target of seductive corruption schemes as other political parties
and individual deputies. Yet, the followers of Zelens’kyy-Holoborod’ko will –
given his public image as a new and clean politician – be especially vulnerable
to any disclosures of bribe-taking, kick-backs, nepotism etc. Chances are that
Zelens’kyy’s faction will thus become a relatively alien element in Ukraine’s
corruption-ridden parliament. Whatever shakes the old structures of post-Soviet
political advancement, procedure and decision-making is arguably good for
Ukraine’s legislatures and executives on the national, regional and local
levels.

A second positive aspect of Zelens’kyy’s possible
rise are his roots in South-Eastern Ukraine, and his special appeal to
Russophone Ukrainians. Zelens’kyy is less demonstratively and outspokenly
pro-Western than Poroshenko and Tymoshenko. Yet, he presents himself as a
Ukrainian patriot, has taken a clear position in the Russian-Ukrainian
conflict, apparently knows English well, and seems to be intuitively liberal.
That makes him for many nationalistically inclined Ukrainian journalists and
experts still insufficiently trustworthy.

Yet, even these commentators might agree that a
Zelens’skyy party would be preferable as a representation of Russophone Eastern
and Southern Ukraine, within the Verkhovna Rada and local parliaments, than the
various successor organizations of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions with their
continuing ties to Moscow. If Zelens’skyy creates a real party that becomes
popular, electable and successful in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, he might be
able to make a substantial contribution to Ukrainian nation-building.

A final, in Ukraine, largely ignored positive (especially
foreign) political aspect of Zelens’kyy’s possible rise is his partly Jewish
family background. To be sure, many Ukrainians know of, or/and easily
recognize, Zelens’skyy’s Jewish roots. But – remarkably – this fact is not, or,
at least, has not yet become a topic of wider public debate, much in the same
way in which Prime-Minister Viktor Hroysman’s Jewish origins are only rarely
mentioned in Ukraine. Such private biographic aspects of various politicians
are in Ukrainian politics and media – as it should be – largely non-issues.

Yet, Hroysman’s, Zelens’skyy’s and other
Ukrainian politicians’ ethnically non-Ukrainian roots have considerable weight within
the skewed international informational sphere and political communication
regarding post-Euromaidan Ukraine. Lingering Soviet-era propaganda memes,
post-Soviet Russian defamation campaigns, radically left-wing anti-American alarmism,
and dilletante post-modern commentaries on Ukrainian politics in the West
continue to reproduce an imbalanced image of Ukraine as infected with
ethno-nationalism to an allegedly extraordinary degree. To be sure, Ukraine has
various problems related to its radical right-wing parties, internationally
offensive memory policies, violent ultra-nationalist war veterans, as well as
popular chauvinism directed, above all, against Roma, colored immigrants, and
sexual minorities.

Yet, with the partial exception of its
extra-academic official historical discourse since 2014, there is nothing
special about Ukraine’s various issues with ethno-nationalism – a phenomenon nowadays
widely spread across Europe and the world as a whole. In fact, the relatively
weak electoral performance and low parliamentary representation of the Ukrainian
far right during the last quarter of a century makes post-Soviet Ukraine, if
seen in a comparative perspective, somewhat unusual. The party-political and
electoral marginality of Ukrainian ultra-nationalism has recently become even
more surprising, in view of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, bloody war in
Eastern Ukraine, and deep economic downturn in 2014.

The rise of Zelens’kyy will be yet another source of cognitive dissonance within the continuing international reproduction of the stereotype about Ukraine as a hotbed of xenophobia. Whereas this geopolitical aspect of Zelens’skyy’s rise may look irrelevant or bizarre to many Ukrainians, it will be a real factor in the formation of Ukraine’s foreign image. In sum, while Zelens’skyy may not (yet) be a suitable president for Ukraine, his forthcoming engagement in Ukrainian party politics, parliamentary affairs, public discourse, foreign relations, and, possibly, a governmental coalition may not be that bad. 

    

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The Life Cycle of Populist Leaders

Wed, 16/01/2019 - 21:01
Juan and Eva Peron, the World’s most well known Populists

In my city, we had one of the first internationally known populist leaders in our city government. He won because his main challenger was seen as a part of a corrupt regional government that were far from allergic to scandals. His personal life was complicated and tragic, with the man himself succumbing to cancer after a few bouts at rehab for his drug and alcohol addictions. His funeral seemed to be one fitting a fallen President or Prime Minister, even though he was the mayor of a city for only a few short years. People either despised him or saw him as a voice of the average person. He was given the image of someone who challenged the former elite running the government in my city. Since he has passed, there are many that have been elected that fit a similar profile worldwide. They are often called Populists.

The years since my city had its populist experiment, the electorate chose someone who was often called a severe character by his opponents. The truth is, despite negative press on the current mayor before his election, he was a centrist and people had grown tired of a populist left in constant battle with a populist right. They elected someone that was too passive to be successfully labelled anything extreme. It seems as if the microcosm of my city, where populism gained international fame for some time, was the first to experiment with it and was also the first to balance itself politically for the time being. People do not like an elite cabal running their lives into the ground, and will choose the one who will challenge them effectively. In this case however, most people really seemed to want peace and tranquility in their political leadership in the long term. People just want to trust their leaders and know that someone will keep them safe and be honest with them it seems. Populists gain momentum because there are no other alternatives that offer solutions in their perspective. Populists often do not resolve many issues either, but its often the case of bad vs worse in conjunction with someone who commits to listening to their public.

Brazil has recently elected a populist President after years of every mainstream political party being indited in a large corruption scandal. While the mainstream parties were not populist, they burned away much of their credibility when Brazil’s judiciary sought to purge Brazil of corrupt party politics, dragging many of Brazil’s leadership with it in the process. The reality in Brazil is that very conservative politics are often feared due to the dictatorial governments of the past that were harsh and violent and seen as coming from the right. Politics coming from the left are also out of favour, as much of the scandals came out of left of centre parties in power over the last twenty years, mixed with fears that more extreme leftist parties might mirror Chavismo currently tearing apart Venezuela. In the end Brazilians elected their outsider, newly elected President Bolsonaro came into power being extremely hated or extremely liked by most partisans in Brazil. At this point, he has not been indited in the national corruption scandal but has created a vacuum of news around his new Presidency.

A new populist in Brazil might draw from populist movements in Europe and the US. The mid term populists seem to gain support when challenging issues that affect many people and are seen as ignored by elites. French President Macron in his election was able to separate himself from the mainstream parties and politicians, but was unable to maintain his position as an outsider as his policies did not reflect the needs of the average French citizen, according to many yellow vest protestors. President Trump may gain success in the long term if he retires himself but is able to encourage someone apart from the two main parties to push for his policy goals but is less of an obvious orange target. The argument that populism will take the place of current elite fuelled politics did not survive the life cycle in the case of the first real modern populist in my city, but the movement behind it may enshrine itself into the political system of these countries as Peronismo existed for generations in Argentina. While Peronismo adopted left and right positions over the years, it was often a party that fought internally for its mainstream identity as much as it did with opposing parties. As long as there is an elite that is seen as self serving and overbearing, Populismo will likely have a home in modern political discussions.

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Russia, Ukraine, and the Sea of Azov

Tue, 15/01/2019 - 17:31
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a polling station during a parliamentary election in Moscow, Russia, September 18, 2016. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor – RTSO8SI

On November 25, three Ukrainian naval vessels, two 54-ton gunboats (technically, Gyurza-M-class armored artillery cutters) and a tug, were traveling from Odessa around the Crimean Peninsula and toward the Sea of Azov, en route to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. As they approached the Kerch Strait, the access route from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, vessels of the Russian Coast Guard, which is part of the Federal Security Service (FSB), ambushed them and blocked their passage. The Russian cutter Don rammed the tug and apparently attempted to ram the gunboats, which outmaneuvered it. Later, as the Ukrainian vessels attempted to escape, the Russians opened fire on them, injuring six sailors, and then detained all three vessels and their crews. The strait remained blocked to vessels seeking passage to or from the Ukrainian ports. Cargo ships hauling grain were allowed through only on December 4, but the Russians continued slow-walking the process. Three days later, Ukraine noted that 140 civilian ships were backed up on either side of the strait, waiting to be inspected and cleared for passage. The costs associated with the delays—$15,000–$20,000 a day—began to discourage shipping companies from serving the port of Mariupol. Shipments of metal out of Mariupol fell by 40 percent following the Kerch Strait incident. Russia has rejected a German proposal that OSCE monitors be deployed to supervise shipping in the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait.

Russia
annexed the Crimean Peninsula in a bloodless maneuver in 2014. Since then,
intermittent fighting has occurred between government forces and Russian-backed
rebels in portions of the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk (Donets’k
and Luhans’k in Ukrainian) in which more than 10,300 people have died. Tensions
have been building up at sea in recent months. After Ukraine seized a Russian
fishing vessel, Russia began harassing, delaying, and detaining ships from
Ukraine and other states in the Sea of Azov. Moscow unilaterally introduced
advanced-notice requirements and an inspection regime at the Kerch Strait.
Russia and Ukraine moved ships into the Sea of Azov, and Ukraine built up its onshore
coastal-defense forces.

This latest episode was unusual in that it involved live fire by undisguised, official Russian units. The two sides have blamed each other for causing it. The Russian press has depicted the episode as a Ukrainian provocation instigated by the “deep state” in Washington, which was seeking undermine President Trump’s efforts to improve relations with Russia. Ukraine responded the incident by declaring martial law for 30 days in ten provinces bordering Russia or Russian-controlled territory. Many people saw this declaration as a first step toward postponing the presidential election scheduled for March 31, 2019 (elections are not permitted during states of emergency), but martial law was lifted on schedule on December 26, although a ban on the entry of military-age Russian males was continued.

The
Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait

The
most recent dispute between Russia and Ukraine concerns the Sea of Azov, a
shallow extension of the Black Sea that lies northeast of the Crimean Peninsula
and northwest of Russia’s Taman Peninsula. The Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and
Berdyansk are situated on its northern shore. These ports, especially Mariupol,
are the principal outlets for eastern Ukraine’s steel, coal, and grain. Mariupol
has been a target of Russian-supported insurgents, but both ports remain in government
hands.

The
Sea of Azov is connected at its southern end to the main body of the Black Sea
through the Kerch Strait. Since Ukrainian territory (not to mention active
combat operations) separated Crimea from Russia proper, Russia began construction
of an 11.2-mile (18.1 kilometer) double-span bridge connecting the Crimean and
Taman peninsulas across the Kerch Strait following the 2014 annexation of
Crimea. (Presidents Medvedev and Yanukovych agreed in 2010 to build the bridge,
but there was little follow-through, not even a feasibility study, until 2014.)
The highway span was opened in May of this year. Construction continues on the
railroad span.

Construction of a bridge across the strait had the potential to restrict access to the Sea of Azov. Russia and Ukraine have disputed the bridge’s impact on navigation. In practical terms, however, the level of restriction appears to be limited. To be sure, the largest cargo ships cannot pass under the bridge. Ships of Panamax size, for instance, may be up to 190 feet (57 meters) high, while clearance under the bridge is only 115 feet (35 meters). Ukraine has drawn attention to this. On the other hand, a Panamax ship draws up to 39.5 feet (12 meters) of water, and the Kerch Strait is only 26 feet (8 meters) deep. Thus few ships of that size try to traverse it, and certainly not if they are fully loaded. Most of the ships that traveled regularly from the Black Sea to Mariupol should still be able to do so, and smaller ones could be substituted for those that cannot. The ongoing war, which has reduced shipping out of Mariupol, is a far more serious deterrent to commerce in the area. The recent episode showed, however, that a single tanker anchored under the bridge’s main arch can block access to the strait’s main shipping channel.

Legal
Aspects

Two aspects of the Law of the Sea come into play here, those regarding straits and enclosed or semi-enclosed seas. Article 38 of the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS III) of 1982 provides with regard to straits used for international navigation that “all ships and aircraft enjoy the right of transit passage, which shall not be impeded.” Thus ships minding their own business have the right to use the strait to pass from one larger body of water to another, especially if that strait is the only connection. In some cases, longstanding treaties have been grandfathered in, such as the 1936 Montreux Convention regarding the Turkish Straits, but UNCLOS III applies to the case at hand.

UNCLOS III, in Article 123, is less precise with regard to enclosed or semi-enclosed seas, saying only that the countries bordering them should cooperate with each other in the exercise of their rights and the performance of their duties, but in this case they have done so. Russia and Ukraine signed a treaty on this subject in December 2003, which came into force the following April. This states explicitly in Article 2, Paragraph 1, that commercial vessels and warships and also other state vessels under the flag of the Russian Federation or Ukraine being used for noncommercial purposes enjoy freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. Disputes regarding the treaty’s interpretation and application, according to Article 4, are to be resolved by consultations, negotiations, or other peaceful means chosen by the two sides.

Legally,
the treaty is still in effect, even though Moscow claims both sides of the
Kerch Strait as Russian territory since the annexation of Crimea. The Kerch
Strait is still an international strait connecting two seas. Russia’s view of the
situation has evidently changed, however, despite the lack of any announcement
to that effect. The sailors on board the Ukrainian vessels have been put on
trial in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, under Russian domestic law, for
violating the Russian border.

Navies

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s deep-sea surface fleet—what U.S. sailors would call the “blue water” navy—has deteriorated. (In October, Russia’s one floating dry dock capable of serving capital ships short-circuited, overloaded its ballast tanks, and sank while carrying Russia’s only aircraft carrier.)* In the interim, however, Russia has built up its force of coastal, or “littoral,” vessels—sometimes called the “brown water” navy owing to the discoloration of shallow coastal waters from runoff—and defending Russia’s maritime approaches and littorals is one of the surface fleet’s primary functions.

The Ukrainian navy was never large, and most of it was lost in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. The navy subsequently concentrated on building up its marine corps, so that actual sailors constitute only 6 percent of naval personnel. Ukraine’s fleet currently relies mostly on three–five combat ships, the largest of which is a frigate, and various patrol boats. Only the Gyurza-class gunboats are less than a quarter-century old. It too is primarily a brown-water navy.

Small ships are not without their advantages. The advent of cruise missiles has increased the lethality of small, less-than-sturdy vessels; operating close to land permits supporting them with shore-based missile and artillery batteries; and their size allows for innovative logistical solutions. In the course of 2018, Russia reinforced its naval presence in the area by transferring ships from the landlocked Caspian Sea up the Volga River, across the Volga-Don Canal, and down the Don River directly into the Sea of Azov. Likewise, Ukraine successfully established its first naval base on the Sea of Azov at Berdyansk by transferring two gunboats over inland waterways. The vessels involved in the November 25 incident were being transferred from Odessa to that base via the maritime route.

The nature of the naval forces in question is well adapted to the conditions of the Sea of Azov. Moreover, the incident suggests that coastal-defense forces might be better suited to some offensive operations than people have imagined. (Also, in 2015, Russia used its Caspian Sea flotilla to launch cruise missiles at targets 920 miles away in Syria, overflying Iranian and Iraqi territory.)

What
Next?

The big question hanging over all of this is a simple one: What is going to happen next? For many, the more specific question is: Will Russia use this incident as a prelude to an open attack on Ukraine? It is true, statistically speaking, that maritime disputes connected to disputes over territorial and identity issues, as we have between Russia and Ukraine, can generate a high risk of war. Some have speculated that Russia could use its domination of the Sea of Azov to bombard Ukrainian onshore positions from ships at sea or to launch an amphibious assault against Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ukraine’s President Poroshenko has claimed that Russian troops are massing on the border. Andrei Illarionov, a former Putin adviser (albeit an economic adviser who fell out with the president 13 years ago and now lives in the United States), has predicted that Russian forces based in Crimea will move across the border to seize a Ukrainian canal that, before the annexation, was a vital source of freshwater for the peninsula.

Several of these claims should be addressed with skepticism. As Michael Kofman of the CNA Corporation (a defense-oriented think tank) has pointed out, Poroshenko’s evidence of a troop buildup consisted of photos of stockpiled T-62 tanks. The Russians stopped making T-62 tanks 45 years ago and no longer use them, having subsequently developed the T-64, the T-72, the T-80, the T-90, and most recently the T-14. They do still sell old T-62s to places like Syria, however, and the photos are more likely to represent a warehouse for deliveries to foreign clients than a preparation for invasion (which would require additional preparations beyond that). Likewise, there has been little evident preparation for a thrust through Crimea.

The possibility of an overt invasion cannot be completely excluded, of course, but it would mark a significant break from Russia’s recent behavior. If Russia is going to attack, it prefers to arrange a situation in which it can blame the victim of that attack. More often, Russia operates by deception, denial, and faits accomplis. The seizure of Crimea, for instance, came in a rapid move by disguised troops for which Ukraine was not prepared. Having created a new status quo, a fait accompli, Russia then dared Ukraine or others to undo it. Equating an attack on Crimea with an attack on Russia itself, the Russian foreign minister even made a veiled threat of nuclear retaliation if anyone tried (which is easy to do if you do not expect to have to follow through). Having annexed Crimea, Russia had used up the element of surprise and could not expect to carry out an unresisted move in eastern Ukraine, so there it relied on proxy forces—locally recruited militias—bolstering them when necessary with disguised Russian troops whose presence it denied.

The
Kerch Strait incident, carried out as it was by official Russian Coast Guard
vessels, was a more blatant aggressive move, but the level of violence was kept
low enough that it did not demand immediate retaliation. (Indeed, the incident
began with attempts to ram ships, something that might be blamed on the other
side or written off as an accident, and the Russians resorted to gunfire only
when that failed.) If the Kerch Strait incident was intended to provoke Ukraine
into making an openly violent move, justifying a larger Russian response, then
Ukraine did not fall into the trap.

While Russia may attempt to push the envelope further, it is more likely that it has already achieved its goal by creating a new fait accompli. It effectively controls access to the Sea of Azov and can, at will, strangle the economically important ports on that sea. While the Ukrainian president has called on NATO to deploy warships to the Sea of Azov as a sign of solidarity, that is highly unlikely to happen. Even under the 2003 treaty, warships from third countries may visit a port only at the invitation of one country and with the agreement of the other. As a practical matter, Russia’s proven ability to close the Kerch Strait by anchoring a ship under the bridge means it could close off access to any ship unwilling to commit an act of war to force its way in.

The most likely next move for Russia is simply to do nothing overt. It will quietly solidify its control over the Sea of Azov, threatening others who attempt to violate its “sovereignty” there but engaging in no provocation large enough to demand an immediate response from Ukraine or anyone else. It will try to outwait the West’s economic sanctions, hoping that the United States and Europe eventually tire of the issue and in the meantime striving to divide them or at least undermine their solidarity with regard to Ukraine and Russian sanctions.

Each
side has accused the other of planning a diversionary war to distract attention
from its domestic problems, but diversionary wars are more common in people’s
imaginations than in actual occurrence. If further fighting comes, it’s more
likely to result from one side’s reaction (or overreaction) to an unexpected
probe by the other—at a time of heightened tensions and frustration—than to
result from a planned attack. That is the contingency to watch out for.

*This
does not apply to the Russian submarine fleet, which is sophisticated and
capable.

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Op-ed: It’s not a bug, it’s a feature: Why Trump is gutting American Diplomacy

Mon, 14/01/2019 - 22:22

In the 2019 edition of Great decisions, Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns outlines the impoverished state of American diplomacy in the
Trump era, as well as the severe cuts and reductions endured by the State
Department. The diplomatic corp of the United States, Burns argues, is not able
to fully carry out its vital functions in protecting the citizens of the United
States and furthering America’s international interests due to a stark lack of
interest in the very concept of diplomacy. Despite already being a catastrophe
or two behind, as is often the case when writing about Donald Trump’s erosion
of American institutions, Burns’ argument that the State Department is being
undercut has clear applications to the current budget and wall crisis we are
currently witnessing. The disenfranchisement of the professional bureaucracy is
a danger to the United States, as a people and a functioning democracy. It is
by all means, a fantastic article written by one of the best minds and staunchest defenders of
multilateralism in foreign affairs today.

But why is this happening?

The root cause can be found in the shutdown
crisis over a political promise that was never more than rallying cry (full disclosure: this post was written prior to the President’s
speech scheduled for January 8th). It can be found when the President throws up
his hands and says “You know what, it’s yours, I’m leaving,” and abandons an entire region of people to the hands of tyrants
and butchers. It’s also why National Security Advisor John Bolton, who in rare
form has broken with Trump to try and slow the surrender of Syria and protect
the Kurdish militias in the region, can’t seem to get a meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan.

The root of these problems is that they are the
results of a leader who rules on whims, not the product of the tireless civil
servants described by Burns. And this centralization of authority is present in
every action taken by the Trump administration on foreign policy. It’s why we
are here, now, in this interminable dilemma, and thousands of hard working
federal employees have not been paid since the holidays.

Carefully laid policy can and often does go
awry; miscommunications exist in every hierarchical structure. However, clear
channels of communication, and department wide coordination accomplishes what
individual actors cannot. To refer back to Burns’ examples, the Marshall plan
and the creation of NATO were massive successes for the United States that
brought prosperity and security for decades. They were also the result of
countless hours spent by thousands of members of the American foreign service,
tirelessly working to create the intricate system that helped prevent another
great power military conflict for decades.

Trump is not interested. The wall, a reactive
and regressive idea if there ever was one, would not be such a legislative
impossibility if arguments for its existence were clearer. If it was a
carefully formulated plan worked on by analysts, engineers, and experts, the
administration could point to things like a definite cost estimate, or a way to
fund construction of the wall, or even fact-based benefits of having a wall in
the first place. But no, the only ones to workshop this idea are supporters who
 attend Trump rallies. To the public at large and not the red-hatted
converts, the only math shown for why the wall should exist is done on an
applause-o-meter. Campaign advisors Roger Stone and Sam Nunberg have already said as much.

In regards to trade and economics, the situation
is roughly the same.  Peter Navarro, who is the trade advisor to the White
House, told Bloomberg early last March:  “My function, really, as an economist is to try to
provide the underlying analytics that confirm [President Trump’s] intuition,”
 Ripples of this approach were felt in the stock market in
late December 2018 when Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve increased
interests rates against the vocal protestations of the President. When it
appeared that Powell’s job was at risk, market volatility created the Dow
Jones’ worst week for markets since 2008. Laissez-faire capitalism and banking independence, two drums
long beat by Republican legislators, seemed to be in the same danger as the
State Department. Volatility only decreased when the White had reassured the
public that Powell and the independence of the Fed was safe, but the overall
impression remains clear: If the President wants to do something else, he will
try to force his way, and there is not much that can dissuade him.  

By allowing this accumulation of executive power
to continue, be it in foreign policy or the economic sector, the members of the
U.S. government become less effective. Well, the ones who are still employed,
anyway. For example, why would Erdogan bother negotiating with an advisor when Trump is already willing to give Turkey everything they
want for free?
Kim Jong Un has also
realized that dealing with underlings like Mike Pompeo is unnecessary because what the current Secretary of State is offering and
demanding don’t necessarily reflect what Trump wants, and may ultimately be
pointless when North Korea can get so much more with a military parade and a
weekend of schmoozing. And this does not even begin to approach the difficulty
of enacting consistent policy against Russia and China, two powerful global
rivals whose dealings with Trump have become more opaque and complicated with
every intimation of collusion and favor-trading. Every snub weakens the Foreign Service, every sudden pivot
strengthens Trump and his ever-shrinking circle of power, and authoritarians
who would strain against the international code of conduct gets a free pass.
For every Jamal Khashoggi, there is an equal and opposite Jared Kushner.

R. Nicholas Burns is optimistic that change will come soon, that bipartisan defense of our institutions will come, and eventually the State Department can be restored. Americans should consider themselves fortunate that someone as astute and experienced as Burns has found reason to be hopeful in the face of such intentional sabotage. In tumultuous times, one thing is certain: Change will eventually come, one way or another.

Written by Adam J. Camiolo, who is the Director of Membership for the Foreign Policy Association. He currently oversees the FPA Associates program, as well as numerous lectures, conferences, and events in New York City. He also works on building strategic partnerships, various task forces, and research conducted by the FPA.

Mr. Camiolo has a Master’s
degree in Public Administration with a concentration in International Economic
Policy and Management/International Politics from the School of International
and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, as well as a BA in History
from SUNY Geneseo.

The post Op-ed: It’s not a bug, it’s a feature: Why Trump is gutting American Diplomacy appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

Op-ed: America’s Addiction to Cheap Manufacturing Is Coming Back to Haunt It

Wed, 09/01/2019 - 14:43

America’s ongoing trade war with China has underscored the contentious business practices the Asian power has instituted over the years. Many of these have resulted from the United States’ over-reliance on external manufacturing, particularly for the technology sector. This over reliance has exposed the nation’s supply chain to vulnerabilities that have jeopardized the corporate and government sectors and that threaten economic prosperity and national security. To address this growing repertoire of technology supply chain-related threats, the US government and the American private sector need to forge a more strategic and collaborative partnership. This will ensure that American technology supply chains are comprehensively secured going forward and could also position the United States as a leader in the push for global technology supply chain security.

A July 2018 US
intelligence report found that supply chain attacks — attacks
which target software and hardware manufacturers and distributors, rather than
users —
are on the rise. To no surprise, these attacks have especially impacted the
American technology sector. An analysis of seven major US-based
technology companies — HP, IBM, Dell, Cisco, Unisys, Microsoft and Intel —  found that over half of the products the
companies and their suppliers used came from China. Microsoft’s reliance on
these products was particularly staggering, with the company sourcing 73% of
its products from China between 2012 and 2017.

Although a globalized supply chain is not in itself a bad concept (these supply
chains, for example, enable consumers to enjoy cheaper prices when buying
electronics), the consequences of vulnerabilities in the supply chain for the
private sector are significant. Such extensive supply chain vulnerabilities
open these tech giants up to major financial losses, often in the form of
intellectual property (IP) theft. China is the world’s primary IP infringer and
Chinese theft of American IP costs between $225 to $600 billion annually
through avenues such as espionage, forced
technology transfers and mandatory joint ventures for companies trying to
operate in China. This was most recently demonstrated in a Bloomberg
Businessweek report which found that a group
specializing in hardware attacks within China’s infamous People’s Liberation
Army (PLA) had implanted microchips into the motherboards of servers produced
by Taiwanese-American information technology company SuperMicro. These
compromised servers were then operationalized by major American technology
companies such as Apple and Amazon, enabling the PLA to spy on their internal
networks and steal valuable intellectual property. Both Apple and Amazon have rejected the claims in this report
as false, but many contend that the hack was one of the most deleterious
breaches of supply chain security in the American technology sector to date.

The growth of such attacks is particularly concerning considering that most American corporations seem unprepared to respond to and defend against them. Two-thirds of respondents in a survey commissioned by computer security firm CrowdStrike said their organizations had experienced a supply-chain attack in the past year, and 90% of these attacks resulted in financial losses. Despite this, only one-third of respondents said they vetted their suppliers and even fewer organizations expressed confidence in being able to effectively mitigate and defend against a supply chain attack or breach.

Supply chain vulnerabilities have also had a significant impact on US national security. Recent supply chain vulnerabilities that have targeted the US government have done so with the intention of jeopardizing the nation’s security. Many of the compromised SuperMicro servers were used by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense and even US Navy warships, demonstrating a significant breach of key intelligence agencies and their networks by Chinese agents. Similarly, Chinese telecom firms such as ZTE and Huawei have come under heavy fire for using their products to spy on US government employees and contractors on behalf of the Chinese government. This is a relatively common practice, one that is employed even by the United States. However, many were shocked to learn about the extent of ZTE and Huawei’s spying operations in the United States. In response, Congress recently enacteda ban that prohibits US government officials and contractors from using either company’s technologies. These companies have faced similar bans in countries such asIndia, Australia and the UnitedKingdom over national security concerns. In the US, however, this ban doesn’t prevent the companies from engaging with US infrastructure outside of the government sector and it will only come into effect gradually over the next two years.

As the United States invests heavily in developing 5G wireless networks that increasingly promote the use of interconnected devices, and in instituting many of the federal government’s IT modernization initiatives, the security of the technology supply chain is a serious concern. The consequences of the country’s over-reliance on external manufacturing are visible here too, as Chinese businesses are consistently able to underbid US companies on subcontracting opportunities, therefore positioning themselves as cost-effective partners, despite the national security risks posed.

The vulnerability of technology supply chains is an issue of economic and national security that will continue to grow in the US. The government has taken some strides toward addressing this issue. In early November 2018 the US Department of Justice (DOJ) establishedthe China Initiative which aims to combat the Chinese government’s national security threats, including supply chain related threats. However, in order for the American supply chain to be comprehensively secured against actors such as China as well as the growing range of supply chain vulnerabilities, there needs to be greater and more strategic collaboration between the public and private sectors. If such partnerships can effectively be formed, scaled and operated, this could position the United States as a leading figure in the push for global supply chain security. This is an important role the United States should seek to play, especially as China and other foreign adversaries ramp up their supply chain attacks on the United States and its allies.

Submitted by, Spandana Singh, the Cyber Security Fellow for the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. She is currently serving as a Millennial Public Policy Fellow at New America’s Open Technology Institute where she works on issues of privacy, surveillance, cybersecurity and countering violent extremism. Spandana is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and has previously worked at organizations such as the East West Institute, Twitter, the World Bank Group and UNICEF.

The post Op-ed: America’s Addiction to Cheap Manufacturing Is Coming Back to Haunt It appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

Why Warsaw Should Go Soft on Kyiv

Tue, 08/01/2019 - 12:19

The recently intensifying memory conflict around the interpretation of some World War II events, between Ukraine and Poland, is distracting the two intertwined nations from their main international challenges and some critical tasks today. An increase of Ukrainian national security is in the core interests not only of Kyiv, but also of Warsaw.

An odd turn in Ukraine’s foreign affairs after the Euromaidan has been
its increasing estrangement from the country the relations with which should
have benefited most from Kyiv’s resolute turn westwards since 2014 – Poland.
Post-Soviet Ukrainian-Polish relations had been constantly deepening since the
break-up of the USSR in 1991. Especially after the Orange Revolution of 2004,
Poland became for many Ukrainians a prime model case the recent development of
which their own state should emulate with regard to both domestic affairs, such
as economic and public administration reform, and international relations, such
as accession to the EU and NATO. In addition, both nations harbor deep
grievances towards the currently revanchist Kremlin leadership in connection
with centuries-long Russian imperialism and the Tsarist as well as Soviet
regime’s repression of Polish as well as Ukrainian cultural life and political independence.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and covert intervention in the Donets Basin, in
spring 2014, have further increased Ukrainian and Polish perceptions of their
nations’ community of fate. Last but not least, hundreds of thousands of
Ukrainian migrants – including refugees from Crimea and the Donets Basin – have
settled in Poland during the last years, in search for well-paid jobs, decent
education, and a better life.

Why Poles and Ukrainians are quarrelling

Given these as well as an array of other historic and contemporary determinants, the partnership between Kyiv and Warsaw should have significantly strengthened after Ukraine’s successful Revolution of Dignity three years ago. And indeed, public opinion polls in both Ukraine and Poland document a high degree of mutual sympathy among ordinary people. Nevertheless, in many fields of cooperation and in the political atmosphere between the two nations, the exact opposite has happened over the last years. Worse, not only governmental, but also some people-to-people relations have deteriorated since 2014, with increasingly frequent verbal and, sometimes, even physical clashes mostly caused by radicals of the two neighboring peoples.

The major – though not only – reason for this unfortunate development is
a public international quarrel between the two neighbors around the
interpretation and evaluation of the saddest episode in recent Polish-Ukrainian
affairs – the so-called Volhynia Massacre (Ukr.: Volyns’ka riznia) that may have led to, according to different estimates,
between approximately 50,000 to 90,000 unnatural deaths in today’s Western
Ukraine. This 1943-1944 Ukrainian ethnic cleansing of Poles, which Poland now
officially classifies as a “genocide,” extended also to Eastern Galicia, and
went in parallel with a OUN-UPA cleansing campaign against the few remaining
Jews who had survived the Holocaust. It was an attempt by radicalized war-time
Ukrainian ultra-nationalists to prepare Volhynia and, to some degree, Galicia
to become ethnically cleansed parts of a future Ukrainian state designed
primarily for ethnic Ukrainians.

To be sure, Ukraine has formally acknowledged that this mass killing did
happen, and official Kyiv has asked Poland for forgiveness numerous times. In
2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko kneeled down at the monument
commemorating the victims of the Volhynia Massacre. Polish and Ukrainian
institutions, organizations and groups have issued joined statements on this
difficult episode. Moreover, some of the documents acknowledged that, before
and after the massacre, there were also Polish killings of Ukrainian civilians (mainly in the Chelm area) – though on a
smaller scale. In a certain sense, there is thus actually little disagreement
between the two nations on the factualness, salience and tragedy of these
events.

The problem rather arises from the fact that, at the same time,
Ukrainian official memory policies have, on both the national and regional
levels, been officially heroizing, since 2006 and especially since 2014,
leading representatives of the two organizations – the OUN(B) and UPA – bearing
the brunt of responsibility for these mass-killings. Stepan Bandera’s
(1909-1959) radical wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN)
dominated the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukraїns’ka Povstans’ka Armiia – UPA) – an armed mass
resistance movement that emerged in 1943. The so-called Banderites provided
Ukraine’s major anti-Soviet volunteer army with a fascist-like ideology that
motivated and justified the UPA’s soldiers’ bloody ethnic cleansing of Western
Ukraine. To be sure, even this connection between the OUN-UPA and the mass
killing of Poles of 1943-1944 is questioned by only a few particularly escapist
Ukrainian memory activists today.

What instead constitutes the main issue in contemporary Polish-Ukrainian
relations is that the leaders and members of the war-time OUN-UPA are today
promoted – by Ukrainian governmental institutions, major political commentators,
and certain civil organizations – as impeccable “fighters for liberation.” It
is true that the OUN-UPA was, during much of World War II and even after,
engaged in an epic battle for the Ukrainian nation’s independence from Moscow’s
ruthless and mass-murderous rule. In fact, most of the ordinary soldiers of the
UPA were not guilty of any war crimes during their largely heroic resistance
against Soviet as well as, occasionally, German troops.

Moreover, the vast majority of those nationalist partisans who did not
manage to emigrate to the West were killed, tortured, imprisoned, deported or/and
repressed in other ways by the USSR’s security organs, once the Red Army had
reconquered Western Ukraine. Some had already perished under the Nazis’ killing
machine, or been, at least, imprisoned by the Germans during World War II. Even
a few of those Ukrainian nationalists who, after the war, lived in the West –
most spectacularly the movement’s most prominent and radical leader Bandera – were
assassinated by Soviet agents.

The issue today is that most of Ukraine’s memory politicians remain in a
state of cognitive dissonance regarding certain difficult aspects of the
history of Ukrainian nationalism. They dissociate the OUN-UPA’s fight for independence
from the organizations’ crimes against humanity during World War II. This
concerns not only Ukraine’s today ultra-nationalists, like those of the infamous
Freedom (Svoboda) Party, but also numerous pro-Western and otherwise liberal Ukrainian
politicians and intellectuals. Typically, they make a deliberate distinction
between the, on the one side, heroic as well as tragic aspects, and, on the
other side, “dark side” of the OUN-UPA’s battle against foreign rule. In
support of this imagination, a large array of Ukrainian historical publicists
formulates various apologies, justifications and moderations for the Ukrainian
war-time ultra-nationalists’ crimes against civilians.

The many dimensions of current Ukrainian
nationalism

Recalling practices of selective national remembrance in other countries
around the world, many Ukrainians today tend to ignore, relativize or downplay Ukraine’s
war-time ultra-nationalists’ fascistoid ideas, as well as their partly genocidal
practices. Ukrainians who consider themselves “nationally aware” prefer instead
to focus on the exceptional and indeed real courage, patriotism and sad fate of
the majority of the UPA’s soldiers and their extraordinary anti-Moscow
insurgency. Recently, this way of commemoration has, moreover, become heavily
informed by Moscow’s ongoing war against Ukraine since 2014.

In 1959, above-mentioned Bandera was killed by a KGB agent, Bogdan
Stashinski, in Munich. Today a former KGB agent in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin,
is trying to destroy the Ukrainian state. During the current Russian-Ukrainian
war, Putin’s regime has killed, tortured, evicted etc. hundreds of thousands of
Ukrainians in the Donets Basin. During and after World War II, the Soviet
regime had killed, tortured, deported etc. hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian
patriots. That is the simple, but powerful connection that many Ukrainians make
between the historic OUN-UPA’s and their own current fight against Russian
imperialism.

To Warsaw, Tel Aviv as well as many Russophone Ukrainians, however, this
is an untenable state of affairs. As the number of Polish OUN-UPA victims
exceeds the number of Ukrainians killed by Poles, there is little willingness among
Poland’s politicians and intellectuals to respect Kyiv’s claim for historical
sovereignty. The tens of thousands of killed Polish civilians in Volhynia and
Galicia are not only a matter of Ukraine’s history, as some Ukrainian
politicians and intellectuals like to have it. Not only the OUN-UPA’s massacre
of the Poles itself, but also the ethnic cleansing’s Ukrainian ideologists,
instigators, perpetrators and justifiers are matters of Poland’s and not only
Ukraine’s national history. The same argument applies to Ukrainian
antisemitism, and its integral role for Jewish and not only Ukraine’s national history.

The Polish role in the radicalization of
Ukrainian nationalism

On the other side though, as historians of Eastern Europe know all too
well, the connection between Poland’s national history and the Ukrainian
ultra-nationalists’ massacre of Poles is deeper than some Polish politicians
and intellectuals might be keen to acknowledge. There happened a fundamental
transmutation of Ukraine’s originally emancipatory, inclusive and leftish nationalism
of the early 20th century into a more and more integral,
ethno-centrist and ultimately fascist-like ideology, during the inter-war
period. This transmutation happened not the least as a result of Polish anti-Ukrainian
policies in Eastern Galicia – from where most of the radical leaders of the OUN
came, among them Bandera himself.

To be sure, the Polish Second Republic’s repressive policies regarding
Ukrainians’ striving for autonomy, cultural life and political participation as
well as later Polish regressions against Ukrainians cannot serve as a
justification. They cannot diminish Ukrainian responsibility for the Volhynian
massacre, as some Ukrainian “patriotic” commentators argue. Still, the
inter-war Polish state’s manifold repressions of Ukrainians under its control,
between the two world wars, were among crucial historic preconditions for the
eventually genocidal turn of Ukrainian ethnic nationalism, in the early 1940s.

This means also that the origins of this Ukrainian radicalization, in
the inter-war period, were rather different from the sources and nature of the simultaneous
escalation of German nationalism. The latter became radicalized within the more
or less sovereign nation-states of Germany and Austria. In contrast, the parallel
emergence of an extremist form Ukrainian ethno-centrism was mainly determined
by a continuing lack of a state as well as Polish and Soviet political repression
of most forms of Ukrainian patriotism (as well as by historical learning from German
and Italian fascism). While the ideology of Bandera’s OUN eventually displayed certain
semblances with that of the Nazis, the historical conditions of the rises and the
eventual political aims of Ukrainian and German ultra-nationalism after World
War I remained more dissimilar than alike. In particular, Ukrainian
ultra-nationalist ideology still had as its main aim political independence. Though,
as turned out in 1943, it was also eventually mass-murderous, the OUN’s agenda lacked
the ruthless eliminationism, strident chauvinism and megalomaniac imperialism
of the Nazi doctrine.

In another way, Polish politicians and intellectuals may also take a
second look at their disagreements with Ukraine’s current memory policies. Poland’s
and many other countries’ view of their national histories is, as indicated, often
also selective. Without any doubt, for instance, the fight for independence of
the famous Polish “doomed soldiers” (Żołnierze
wyklęci) of 1944-1963
was a highly tragic and often heroic one. Curiously, it was partly reminiscent
of the UPA’s fighters’ battle, fate and suffering.

This Polish history of resistance has, however, also some “dark pages”
which are only reluctantly co-remembered by many nationally engaged
commentators in Poland. The heated Polish discussion around the Jedwabne
massacre of July 1941 should illustrate to Poles why it is so difficult for
Ukrainians today to modify their traditional view of themselves as exclusively
innocent victims of Stalinism as well as Nazism. Polish politicians should be
better than others able to understand why and how it is so difficult for Ukrainians
to acknowledge themselves as a nation that also included organized perpetrators
of mass crimes who were following a perverted idea of the Ukrainian national
good.

As Ukrainians are eager to point out, there were Polish crimes against
Ukrainian civilians too, before and after the Volhynian massacre. Such “whataboutism”
can, of course, not diminish the significance and responsibility of Ukrainians’
numerically larger killing of Polish civilians. Yet, the instances to which the
apologists of the Volhyhnian massacre refer are often real and numerous.

According to a leading Canadian expert on Ukrainian nationalism Myroslav
Shkandrij, “ethnic cleansing in one way or another was
practiced by the Poles throughout the interwar period, and the Polish
government in exile and underground was preparing to reclaim all of Western
Ukraine for post-war Poland. Moreover, ethnic cleansing of Ukrainians was
conducted on a massive scale by the Polish government at the end of the war and
in the postwar period.” Not only
Kyiv, but Warsaw too is insufficiently active in adapting its official memory
policies so as to adequately commemorate Polish anti-Ukrainian crimes and publicly
name their perpetrators. Warsaw too could be today, on a smaller scale, accused
of those omissions and commissions that many Poles detect in current Ukrainian
behavior.

Academic
history versus politicized remembrance

Finally, Poles may want to distinguish between, on the one hand,
dilettante memory activists, and, on the other hand, those Ukrainian academic
historians that are internationally published. The latter include, among
others, well-known older historians, like Yaroslav Hrytsak and Oleksandr
Zaitsev from Western Ukraine, or younger recognized experts, like Andriy
Portnov or Yuri Radchenko from Eastern Ukraine. Some of the most pertinent,
critical and original recent interpretations of war-time Ukrainian
ultra-nationalism and the pathologies of Kyiv’s post-Soviet memory policies
have come from Ukrainian female researchers at established Western universities
including Olesya Khromeychuk (Newton, England), Olena Petrenko (Bochum,
Germany), Yuliya Yurchuk (Stockholm) and Oksana Myshlovska (Geneva). Prominent
senior Ukrainian diaspora scholars in Canada – among them, John-Paul Himka (University
of Alberta) and Myroslav Shkandrij (University of Manitoba) – have over the
last years published a number of critical accounts of the OUN and its current
remembrance in Ukraine. Most of those serious Ukrainian scholarly researchers of
war-time Ukrainian ultra-nationalism, and its commemoration today who have
published in peer-reviewed high-impact journals and book series present interpretations
that are closer to the Polish academic mainstream’s opinion on the OUN(B)’s
responsibility for the Volhynia massacre than to recently whipped-up Ukrainian
historic patriotism.

In addition, there are publicly and academically prominent non-Ukrainian
scholars who have published or/and are continuing to publish influential
critical accounts of the OUN(B) and its leaders. To name only some examples from
two important Western countries, they include, in the United States, Omer
Bartov (Brown University), Jared McBride (UCLA) and Timothy D. Snyder (Yale
University), or, in Germany, Frank Golczewski (University of Hamburg), Grzegorz
Rossolinski-Liebe (Free University of Berlin) and Kai Struve (University of
Halle-Wittenberg). Against this background, the current aberrations in Ukrainian
memory policies may constitute temporary phenomena that should not be taken –
neither by Warsaw nor by Tel Aviv, Brussels, Berlin, Washington etc. – to
signify more than they actually do.

Towards a Polish-Ukrainian alliance

The current trends in official Ukrainian memory policies are unpleasant
for many Poles, and encounter sever criticism from the international –
including parts of the Ukrainian – scholarly community. Yet, they are not that
unusual for a young nation state with, moreover, gravely underdeveloped
academia, as demonstrated by the low places or plain absence of Ukrainian
universities, in international higher education rankings. One hopes that these
aberrations are temporary teething troubles in the building of an extremely troubled
nation which has only recently achieved proper independence within its own
state, for the first time in modern history.

Ukraine is under existential threat from Putin’s Kremlin which obviously
wants the Euromaidan project to fail as spectacularly as possible. In a
worst-case scenario, a collapse of the Ukrainian state – as a result of a
continuing Russian hybrid war or even further military advances into
rump-Ukraine – could destabilize the whole of Eastern Europe. A downfall of
Ukraine will have not only catastrophic consequences for the Ukrainian people.
The repercussions of such an apocalyptic, yet entirely possible development
would also touch upon the core national interests of Ukraine’s immediate
neighbors – above all, of Poland.

Against this background, Warsaw should abstract its assessment of Ukrainian
domestic affairs, and the formulation of its policies towards Kyiv from the apologetic
discourses of controversial Ukrainian memory activists. This concerns above all
the current staff of the Ukrainian Institute for National Remembrance which pursues
a foreign political line distinct from that of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign
Affairs. Instead, Warsaw’s policies towards Kyiv should prioritize and follow long-term
Polish strategic interests.

Warsaw can apply various instruments at Polish disposal to help making
the current grey zone in Europe – i.e. the post-Soviet countries that are
neither in NATO nor in Moscow’s so-called Collective Security Treaty Organization
– more secure. There is an array of potential opportunities for supporting the
stability and development of the Ukrainian state. They range from lobbying Ukrainian
interests in the EU to support for Ukrainian energy independence and to the
design of specifically East European responses to the continuing Russian
threat.

The latter’s direction most prominent tool could be a revival of the Polish concept of an Intermarium coalition of the countries between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas. This abortive inter-war project can today be used as a reference point for closer East European political and military cooperation to better protect the former Tsarist and Soviet colonies from Putin’s irredentist Russia. Such a security alliance existed, for example, for a brief moment in 1920 when Poland’s and Ukraine’s leaders Józef Piłsudski and Symon Petlyura concluded a defense pact against the Red Army. One hopes that Polish politicians, diplomats and intellectuals will be able to see the bigger picture in these stormy times, and not miss their chance to help Ukraine passing through her currently complicated phase of state-building.

===============================================================

Dr. Łukasz Adamski (Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding, Warsaw), Prof. Yaroslav Hrytsak (Ukrainian Catholic University, L’viv), Prof. Myroslav Shkandrij (University of Manitoba) and Dr. Per Anders Rudling (Lund University) made useful comments on an earlier draft of this text. A shorter version of this article was printed, in spring 2018, in the “Harvard International Review” (vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 53-57). Unfortunately, that printed version contains a number of unauthorized editorial changes that partly changed its contents, and, in one case, led to a manifestly absurd sentence. Please, do thus not refer to this unapproved printed article, but to the above text when quoting from it.

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