Thursday, January 23, 2014

Europe's Tiananmen Must be Stopped

Some thoughts on the Ukraine crisis that I'm not hearing addressed elsewhere.

This is serious

  • The clearing of Maidan would be Europe's Tiananmen Square. Europe will bear responsibility for not preventing it.
The fall of Kiev's Lenin monument, just like the fall of Budapest's Stalin statue in 1956, may not be the harbinger of victory. The Tiananmen Square protests lasted 7 weeks, with students occupying the square as Kiev's activists do now. The appearance of military vehicles on Kiev's streets evoked memories of the man who famously blocked a tank in the protests. Tens of people died in the resulting crackdown. I don't think Europe realises that they might be about to watch something similar happening on their watch. Yanukovych has already shown he is willing to militarise the city with snipers, live bullets and combat vehicles. It's uncomfortable. We wish it weren't true, but it is. Europe regrets Yugoslavia. That conflict led to a sense of moral responsibility to bring the Western Balkans into the EU accession process, but the same moral responsibility did not extend to post Orange Revolution Ukraine. That now looks like a colossal mistake. Do we want 20 years on to create more regrets for ourselves?

Sideline the EU

  • Calling on the EU to help has exhausted itself. The focus needs to switch to governments of European countries instead.
Successive European treaties and treaty negotiations have long advocated greater powers, with Europe still haunted by its lack of capacity to act in Yugoslavia. Politicians spoke of European armies. These efforts finally culminated in the post of Foreign Policy Representative being created, the 'single telephone number' (in Ashton's case only until 8pm of course). The Ukraine crisis in fact shows that the EU had no business asking for greater competence in foreign policy at Lisbon. Although foreign policy competence of technically speaking ‘remains with member states’, even the pretention of EU foreign policy seems to be a pointless folly. In actual fact, it means people ‘calling on the EU’, which suits the interests of disinterested, toothless, or Russia-friendly governments, providing them with a screen for member states to hide behind. I'm beginning to think the EU should abandon its grand ambitions and revert to a looser trade pact (or be replaced by something else). Greater intergration seems to actually render it impotent altogether. And its not the fault of enlargement-some of the most vocal countries on the crisis are the newer members (e.g. Poland). It is only with a push from a Merkel, Hollande, or a Cameron that we might see the EU initiate sanctions, so it’s them that we should be holding to account for doing or not doing so.

Russian involvement
  • Claims of Russian Federation personnel on Kiev’s streets, if true, urgently need to be substantiated.

We seem to know very little indeed of Russia’s direct involvement in the events in Kiev. Publicly they ‘watch with concern’, and simultaneously speak to world media about the crisis whilst their own tv channels variously downplay or grossly twist the truth of what’s happening in Kiev. Knowing from the debacle in November that set this whole thing in motion that Russia-Ukraine relations are totally untransparent, and that Yanukovych is inevitably getting desperate, it’s inconceivable that Russia is not involved in it somewhere. It might be intelligence support, assistance with cyber attacks. Who knows? I am only speculating. Most worrying are suggestions that some of the ‘Berkut’ (‘special assignment’ police forces) on the streets of Kiev are in fact Russian Berkut in Ukraine uniforms. One estimate on twiiter claimed that 8000 had been counted, but that Ukraine’s total number of Berkut amounts to only around 4000. Much earlier on, observers pointed out that Russian-speaking Berkut struggled to communicate with Ukrainian-speaking activists, difficult to account for as even Russian speakers in Ukraine are exposed to Ukrainian on a daily basis. It's entirely fair to say that it's unlikely to be true. However, such reports, if true, need to be substantiated urgently, as it would have massive implications. If Euromaidan was to be cleared by 4000 in fact Russian Berkut, it’s tantamount to sending tanks into Kiev by stealth.
The Sochi Factor

  • Sochi 2014 gives Ukraine another 2 weeks’ grace
A window of opportunity exists now to solve the Ukraine crisis without direct Russian involvement, as Russia will never embark on a ‘Georgia 2008’ whilst its pet prestige project Sochi 2014, and associated global charm offensive, is taking place. It should be clear that Russia’s prisoner releases were, as Pussy Riot wasted no time in telling us, a publicity stunt. Many less high profile prisoners in Russia have been less fortunate, and perhaps the Russian authorities couldn’t quite hang on in letting on that Khodorkovsky will still need to be neutralized as a force, most likely unable to return. Once Sochi finishes, the gloves will be off once more. The last thing we want is Russian ‘peacekeepers’ in Ukraine. Time is short.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hack - as ususal, a lot of good ideas included to be mulled over. Do, please keep writing posts of your ideas and observations, as they are quite interesting. You are currently living in Kyiv?