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Ukraine prepares for war

Posted by Rattana_S On March - 29 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Editor’s note: Alexander J. Motyl is professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark. He was associate director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University from 1992 through 1998. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet Union, Motyl is the author of six academic books and several novels, including “The Jew Who Was Ukrainian,” “My Orchidia” and “Sweet Snow.” He writes a weekly blog on “Ukraine’s Orange Blues” for World Affairs Journal.

(CNN) — When Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu stated that the Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders were only conducting “training exercises” and have no “intention to cross Ukraine’s borders or to engage in any aggressive actions,” Ukrainians rolled their eyes.

And when President Vladimir Putin told Ukrainians “Don’t believe those who terrify you with Russia, who shout that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want Ukraine’s division. … We want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign, and self-sufficient state,” Ukrainians shrugged.

The problem is, even if Putin and Shoigu were being sincere, Moscow has lost all credibility among most Ukrainians and the international community. After three weeks of aggressive Russian behavior and the possibility of existential annihilation, Ukrainians, like Israelis, prefer to think in terms of worst-case scenarios. After all, they blithely assumed Russia would never attack — and then Russia seized Crimea.

They never imagined that Russian officials would treat their country as an object of abject scorn. They never suspected that thousands of Russians would chant anti-Ukrainian war slogans in the streets of Moscow. In each instance, Ukrainians’ working assumption of a friendly Russia proved dead wrong.

They also never imagined that the Yanukovych regime had so thoroughly permitted Ukraine’s defensive capacity to deteriorate, by sacrificing Ukrainian security on the altar of the Yanukovych family’s untrammeled accumulation of power and embezzlement of state funds.

A political scientist at Kiev’s elite Mohyla University has stated that he is not “not optimistic about Ukraine maintaining the integrity of even its mainland territorial borders” until the end of March and has evacuated his family from the capital.

A friend in Lviv tells me that “an invasion and war are unavoidable.” An American businessman in Kiev writes: “I believe we are closer to World War III than we have ever been.” In many parts of the country, Ukrainians have taken to preparing little suitcases with all the necessities — just in case they have to flee at a moment’s notice.

Ukrainians’ jitters are perfectly understandable. Ukrainian officials say that 80,000 Russian troops and heavy armor are amassed on Ukraine’s borders. Putin claims to have the right to intervene anywhere in Ukraine if and when he deems that Russian citizens are being threatened.

He and myriad Russian policymakers routinely insist that Ukrainians are really Russians and that Ukraine is an artificial entity. Thus far, Moscow refuses to recognize the democratic government in Kiev and claims that it is no longer bound by the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.

Because of Russia’s occupation of Crimea and Putin’s militarist rhetoric, many Ukrainians are certain that war is inevitable. Prime Minister Arsenii Yatseniuk warned Moscow on March 20 that Ukraine’s response to a Russian invasion would be vigorous.

Kiev has already begun improving its defensive capabilities. On March 17, the Ukrainian Parliament allocated 6.9 billion hryvnia — about $684 million — to defense. In the last few weeks, Ukrainian armed forces, tanks and other defensive weapons have been deployed along the country’s border with Russia. The number of border guards along Ukraine’s southeastern borders has also increased. Kherson province is planning to build a 20-kilometer long ditch along its border with Crimea.

A National Guard has been formed, and its ranks are to consist of 20,000 troops. The Ukrainian Security Service appears also to have become more active in Ukraine’s vulnerable southeastern provinces. No less important, the population is determined to resist and sales of guns have far outstripped supply.

Thinking in more long-term categories, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Volodymyr Ohryzko has even suggested that Ukraine exit the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and initiate the “process of uranium enrichment.” American provision of non-lethal military equipment and advisers would also go a long way to improving Ukraine’s deterrent capacity.

Kiev’s defensive efforts may or may not be enough to stop a possible Russian attack, but they would certainly make it far more difficult, risky, and bloody — which may be enough to deter Moscow. Alternatively, these efforts may just induce Russia to seek less frontal modes of undermining Ukraine. After all, any potential Russian assault on mainland Ukraine would rest on three pillars: an invasion by the army, the agitation by pro-Putin “fifth columns” within Ukraine, and the diversionary activities of Russian secret agents and special forces tasked with sowing panic, sabotaging transportation and communications, and attacking military bases and arms depots.

Although Ukraine appears to have the capacity to neutralize internal threats, a concerted long-term Russian effort at stoking instability could lay the groundwork for a later invasion or, at the very least, divert Kiev’s attention from the pressing cause of economic and political reform.

While Ukraine’s security may or may not be enhanced by most of these measures, the irony is that Russia’s definitely will not be — at least in the medium to long term. Putin’s seizure of Crimea may have provided him with the opportunity to beat his chest before adoring Russian crowds, but it will eventually undermine Russian security.

Ukraine is and will remain too weak to be a threat. And on its own, no country in Russia’s “near abroad” can pose a threat. Even taken together, the non-Russians will be weaker than Russia. But Putin’s land grab will make all of them inclined to regard Russia as a potentially land-grabbing foe and to promote their own security independently of Russia and outside of any Russian-led blocs or unions. Expect the Central Asians and Azerbaijanis to turn increasingly to China and Turkey, and the Georgians, Moldovans, Ukrainians, and even the Belarusians to head for the West. Also expect the Russian Federation’s non-Russian autonomous republics and regions to press for greater autonomy from Moscow.

If Putin could just put aside his hypernationalist neo-imperialism and think straight about what’s good for Russia, he’d try to nip the problem in the bud. A sober Russia would then withdraw all the forces that are engaged in “exercises” along Ukraine’s borders and agree to a significant force reduction in Crimea.

A sober Russia would also explicitly state that it recognizes the Budapest Memorandum and the current Ukrainian government. That last point is essential. As long as the Kremlin insists that the Kiev government is illegitimate, it will always be able to claim that its behavior toward Ukraine’s Russian minority is also illegitimate and, hence, liable to correction by means of Russian intervention.

Seen in this light, annexing Crimea has to be one of Putin’s worst strategic blunders. Had the province become “independent,” there would still have been a theoretical possibility of finding some accommodation with Kiev. After annexation, any dialogue with the Ukrainian government — and, thus, any resolution of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict — becomes significantly more difficult. It’s perfectly possible that Putin wants the conflict to remain unresolved, on the assumption that it will undermine Ukraine. The problem is that an unresolved conflict will also undermine Russia.

As Ukraine and Russia’s other non-Russian neighbors are compelled by Moscow’s aggression to enhance their security, Russia may soon face a nightmare of its own creation — non-Russian encirclement. When Russians wake up to the reality after the euphoria of Crimea’s annexation wears off, Putin may very well discover that his own security and stability as President are in danger.

Russia says all Kiev troops are out of Crimea

Posted by Nuttapon_S On March - 28 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Putin congratulates Russian army for Crimea takeover, while Obama denounces assembly of troops at border with Ukraine.

Russia’s Defence Minister says that all Ukrainian servicemen loyal to Kiev have left Crimea and all military installations on the Black Sea peninsula are under Russian control, Interfax news agency has reported.

Sergei Shoigu said on Friday that he told President Vladimir Putin to return Ukrainian military vessels and airplanes which belong to forces that did not show their allegiance toward Russia.

Putin congratulated the Russian armed forces for their role in the takeover of Crimea, saying they had showed the new capacities of the Russian army.

“The recent events in Crimea were a serious test. They demonstrated the new capacities of our armed forces in terms of quality and the high moral spirit of the personnel,” he said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

The Russian president ordered troops to assemble by the border with Ukraine, a move denounced by US President Barack Obama.

Obama urged Russia to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border, saying it was out of the ordinary and called on Moscow to begin talks to defuse tensions.

“You’ve seen a range of troops massing along that border under the guise of military exercises,” he said, speaking to CBS News, “but these are not what Russia would normally be doing”.

Obama said the moves might be no more than an effort to intimidate Ukraine, but also could be a precursor to other actions. “It may be that they’ve got additional plans,” he said.

Interfax news agency quoted a Russian security official as saying that Western nations were seeking to weaken Russia’s influence in vitally important region, and that Russia was taking an “offensive counterintelligence measures,” in response.

But Obama said that Putin might be entirely misreading the West. “He’s certainly misreading American foreign policy.”

“We have no interest in circling Russia and we have no interest in Ukraine beyond letting Ukrainian people make their own decisions about their own lives,” he said.

UK hotels and shops saw income from Russians fall 17% in February compared with a year ago as visitor numbers fell back amid political unrest in Ukraine.

Finance company Global Blue said unrest and the effects of a weakening economy left Russians disinclined to travel.

The findings come from tax-free shopping specialists, Global Blue, which processes the vast majority of tax-free spending by overseas visitors.

Russians are among the top five biggest-spending tourists in the UK.

Global Blue, which processes 80% of all tax-free shopping in the UK, said they spend an average of almost £700 per transaction.

Non-EU residents can shop “tax-free” by claiming back the VAT – worth 20% – on spending above £30 at shops and hotels, basically by filling in a form.

Luxury

The fall in numbers saw Russians slip from the third-biggest spenders in the country to fourth place, overtaken by Nigerian nationals.

Global Blue says this fall in numbers, if the political and economic uncertainty continues, could have a serious impact on certain shops and hotels, particularly at the luxury end of the market, which is preferred by Russian visitors.

Gordon Clark, UK country manager of Global Blue, said: “The unstable situation in Russia has shown its effect on tourism spend this year as the weakening economy leaves shoppers disinclined to travel.”

But he said the UK was still an attractive place for Russian tourists because of the range of luxury brands on offer.

Until the fall-off in February spending had been rising sharply – with an annual increase in spending of 16% in 2013.

It also pointed out that the tourism body, Visit Britain, predicts growth in spending by Russian shoppers of 75% by 2020.

U.S., other powers kick Russia out of G8

Posted by Rattana_S On March - 25 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

The Hague, Netherlands (CNN) — President Barack Obama and other world leaders have decided to end Russia’s role in the group of leading industrialized nations, the White House said Monday.

The move to suspend Russia’s membership in the G8 is the latest direct response from major countries allied against Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force,” the statement said. “To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution.

“We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier in the day that being kicked out of G8 would be no big deal.

“G8 is an informal organization that does not give out any membership cards and, by its definition, cannot remove anyone,” he said during a news conference. ” All the economic and financial questions are decided in G20, and G8 has the purpose of existence as the forum of dialogue between the leading Western countries and Russia.”

Lavrov added that Russia was “not attached to this format and we don’t see a great misfortune if it will not gather. Maybe, for a year or two, it will be an experiment for us to see how we live without it.”

In a nod to political and economic reforms, the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy added Russia to their group in 1998 — transforming it from the G7 to the G8.

An aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed to CNN that a group summit initially planned for June in Sochi, Russia, where the Winter Olympics were just held, is now off.

The United States and its allies in Europe are “united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far,” Obama said earlier in the Netherlands where he attended a nuclear security summit with other world leaders.

Western powers have imposed sanctions and other penalties against specific people in Russia close to President Vladimir Putin.

A senior Obama administration official, not speaking for full attribution, said Obama and other leaders agreed that further steps to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin could include sanctions on energy, banking and defense sectors — all areas where Europe is deeply engaged economically with Russia.

Those additional sanctions could be prompted if Russia further escalates its incursion into Ukraine, which the official defined as sending troops beyond Crimea into the southern or eastern parts of the country. Violence in the contested peninsula could also trigger further sanctions.

While the official said further penetration of Ukraine by Russian troops remains the most immediate source of concern for the United States, other potential land grabs also worry the United States and its allies.

NATO has expressed concern Russia could attempt to reclaim a region of Moldova with Russian sympathies.

Obama has said a military incursion in Ukraine is off the table, and his advisers are hesitant to even frame the crisis in Ukraine as a bad ’80s flashback — Obama in one corner, Putin in the other. It’s not “Rocky IV,” as Secretary of State John Kerry said.

White House officials don’t care to publicly muse about Putin’s intentions.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the Russian President’s actions speak for themselves.

The White House emphasis throughout the Russian occupation of Crimea has been “de-escalation.”
Asked whether the United States will provide military aid to Ukraine’s woefully underfunded armed forces, administration officials cautioned that such assistance could inflame tensions.
“Our focus has been and remains on the economic and diplomatic instruments at this point,” Rice said. “Our interest is not in seeing the situation escalate and devolve into hot conflict.”
Lavrov met with Kerry on Monday and said Russia’s action in Crimea was necessary.
“It was the necessity to protect Russians who live there and who lived there for centuries,” he said in the news conference. “And when our partners compare Crimea to Kosovo, because in Kosovo a lot of blood was shed then its independence was proclaimed. So we have a question then: Is it necessary for the blood to be shed in Crimea to agree on the right of the people in Crimea for self-determination?”
While Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the United States are stepping up their calls to provide Ukraine with light arms and other military aid, administration officials have argued that sanctions put in place so far must be given time to take hold.
With an estimated 20,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s border, the question is whether Obama’s use of soft power will deter Putin.
With little resistance, the Russian President could easily move into eastern Ukraine even as Obama seeks to isolate Moscow in meetings with European allies. It’s a possibility not lost on senior administration officials.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, argued the Russian leader is likely eying more opportunities in the coming days.
“(Putin) has put all the military units he would need to move into Ukraine on its eastern border and is doing exercises. We see him moving forces in the south in a position where they could take the southern region over to Moldova,” Rogers said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
There are other approaches. Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, urged the administration to intensify its policy of isolating Putin.
“Mr. Putin’s Russia has no real allies. We must keep it that way,” McFaul wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times.

The White House emphasis throughout the Russian occupation of Crimea has been “de-escalation.”
Asked whether the United States will provide military aid to Ukraine’s woefully underfunded armed forces, administration officials cautioned that such assistance could inflame tensions.
“Our focus has been and remains on the economic and diplomatic instruments at this point,” Rice said. “Our interest is not in seeing the situation escalate and devolve into hot conflict.”
Lavrov met with Kerry on Monday and said Russia’s action in Crimea was necessary.
“It was the necessity to protect Russians who live there and who lived there for centuries,” he said in the news conference. “And when our partners compare Crimea to Kosovo, because in Kosovo a lot of blood was shed then its independence was proclaimed. So we have a question then: Is it necessary for the blood to be shed in Crimea to agree on the right of the people in Crimea for self-determination?”
While Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the United States are stepping up their calls to provide Ukraine with light arms and other military aid, administration officials have argued that sanctions put in place so far must be given time to take hold.
With an estimated 20,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s border, the question is whether Obama’s use of soft power will deter Putin.
With little resistance, the Russian President could easily move into eastern Ukraine even as Obama seeks to isolate Moscow in meetings with European allies. It’s a possibility not lost on senior administration officials.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, argued the Russian leader is likely eying more opportunities in the coming days.
“(Putin) has put all the military units he would need to move into Ukraine on its eastern border and is doing exercises. We see him moving forces in the south in a position where they could take the southern region over to Moldova,” Rogers said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
There are other approaches. Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, urged the administration to intensify its policy of isolating Putin.
“Mr. Putin’s Russia has no real allies. We must keep it that way,” McFaul wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times.

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