Education for green growth – new issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way”.
from Michael Funch
october 23, 2014
Education for green growth – new issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way”.
In the latest issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way” you can read about a number of projects the Nordic Council of Ministers has initiated or supported to secure a stronger focus on climate and sustainability issues in the school systems of the Nordic countries.
1. “The Great Nordic Climate Challenge” aims at raising the awareness of secondary school pupils around climate issues in a fun and playful way, while giving them instruments to actually monitor and change their own activities in a more a climate friendly manner.
2. Adult education and university teaching is the focus of two other projects, one a follow up to the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development, the other part of the Nordic Prime Ministers’ green growth initiative that provides the mainstay of this magazine.
3. Finally, the Biophilia educational project aims to incorporate the teaching materials based on the singer Björks eponymous work into the teaching of children in Nordic schools to stimulate their curiosity and interest in the natural sciences.
Taken as one, these projects fall well in line with a Nordic tradition for encouraging an open and playful education system, with room for independent thinking and proactive initiatives.
In an essay published in the New York Review of Books entitled Wake Up, Europe George Soros says that European leaders are failing to show adequate financial and military support for Ukraine. The situation there, he argues, presents Europe with what amounts to an existential threat from Russia. “Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it.” he says. Soros goes on to propose a set of actions that Europe and US could take to assist Ukraine and, ultimately, further their own interests.
Wake up, Europe
New York Review of Books
By George Soros
Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.
The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded. It is based on the use of force that manifests itself in repression at home and aggression abroad, as opposed to the rule of law. What is shocking is that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved to be in some ways superior to the European Union—more flexible and constantly springing surprises. That has given it a tactical advantage, at least in the near term.
Europe and the United States—each for its own reasons—are determined to avoid any direct military confrontation with Russia. Russia is taking advantage of their reluctance. Violating its treaty obligations, Russia has annexed Crimea and established separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. In August when the recently installed government in Kiev threatened to win the low level war in eastern Ukraine against separatist forces backed by Russia, President Putin invaded Ukraine with regular armed forces in violation of the Russian law that exempts conscripts from foreign service without their consent.
In seventy-two hours these forces destroyed several hundred of Ukraine’s armored vehicles, a substantial portion of its fighting force. According to General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the Russians used multiple launch rocket systems armed with cluster munitions and thermal-baric warheads (an even more inhumane weapon that ought to be outlawed) with devastating effect. * The local militia from the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk suffered the brunt of the losses because they were communicating by cell phones and could thus easily be located and targeted by the Russians. President Putin has, so far, abided by a cease-fire agreement he concluded with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on September 5, but Putin retains the choice to continue the cease-fire as long as he finds it advantageous or to resume a full-scale assault.
In September, President Poroshenko visited Washington where he received an enthusiastic welcome from a joint session of Congress. He asked for “both lethal and nonlethal” defensive weapons in his speech. However, President Obama refused his request for Javelin hand-held missiles that could be used against advancing tanks. Poroshenko was given radar, but what use is it without missiles? European countries are equally reluctant to provide military assistance to Ukraine, fearing Russian retaliation. The Washington visit gave President Poroshenko a façade of support with little substance behind it.
Equally disturbing has been the determination of official international leaders to withhold new financial commitments to Ukraine until after the October 26 election there (which will take place just after this issue goes to press). This has led to an avoidable pressure on Ukrainian currency reserves and raised the specter of a full-blown financial crisis in the country.
There is now pressure from donors, whether in Europe or the US, to “bail in” the bondholders of Ukrainian sovereign debt, i.e., for bondholders to take losses on their investments as a pre-condition for further official assistance to Ukraine that would put more taxpayers’ money at risk. That would be an egregious error. The Ukrainian government strenuously opposes the proposal because it would put Ukraine into a technical default that would make it practically impossible for the private sector to refinance its debt. Bailing in private creditors would save very little money and it would make Ukraine entirely dependent on the official donors.
To complicate matters, Russia is simultaneously dangling carrots and wielding sticks. It is offering—but failing to sign—a deal for gas supplies that would take care of Ukraine’s needs for the winter. At the same time Russia is trying to prevent the delivery of gas that Ukraine secured from the European market through Slovakia. Similarly, Russia is negotiating for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the borders while continuing to attack Donetsk airport and the port city of Mariupol.
It is easy to foresee what lies ahead. Putin will await the results of the elections on October 26 and then offer Poroshenko the gas and other benefits he has been dangling on condition that he appoint a prime minister acceptable to Putin. That would exclude anybody associated with the victory of the forces that brought down the Viktor Yanukovych government by resisting it for months on the Maidan—Independence Square. I consider it highly unlikely that Poroshenko would accept such an offer. If he did, he would be disowned by the defenders of the Maidan; the resistance forces would then be revived.
Putin may then revert to the smaller victory that would still be within his reach: he could open by force a land route from Russia to Crimea and Transnistria before winter. Alternatively, he would simply sit back and await the economic and financial collapse of Ukraine. I suspect that he may be holding out the prospect of a grand bargain in which Russia would help the United States against ISIS—for instance by not supplying to Syria the S300 missiles it has promised, thus in effect preserving US air domination—and Russia would be allowed to have its way in the “near abroad,” as many of the nations adjoining Russia are called. What is worse, President Obama may accept such a deal.
That would be a tragic mistake, with far-reaching geopolitical consequences. Without underestimating the threat from ISIS, I would argue that preserving the independence of Ukraine should take precedence; without it, even the alliance against ISIS would fall apart. The collapse of Ukraine would be a tremendous loss for NATO, the European Union, and the United States. A victorious Russia would become much more influential within the EU and pose a potent threat to the Baltic states with their large ethnic Russian populations. Instead of supporting Ukraine, NATO would have to defend itself on its own soil. This would expose both the EU and the US to the danger they have been so eager to avoid: a direct military confrontation with Russia. The European Union would become even more divided and ungovernable. Why should the US and other NATO nations allow this to happen?
The argument that has prevailed in both Europe and the United States is that Putin is no Hitler; by giving him everything he can reasonably ask for, he can be prevented from resorting to further use of force. In the meantime, the sanctions against Russia—which include, for example, restrictions on business transactions, finance, and trade—will have their effect and in the long run Russia will have to retreat in order to earn some relief from them.
These are false hopes derived from a false argument with no factual evidence to support it. Putin has repeatedly resorted to force and he is liable to do so again unless he faces strong resistance. Even if it is possible that the hypothesis could turn out to be valid, it is extremely irresponsible not to prepare a Plan B.
There are two counterarguments that are less obvious but even more important. First, Western authorities have ignored the importance of what I call the “new Ukraine” that was born in the successful resistance on the Maidan. Many officials with a history of dealing with Ukraine have difficulty adjusting to the revolutionary change that has taken place there. The recently signed Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was originally negotiated with the Yanukovych government. This detailed road map now needs adjustment to a totally different situation. For instance, the road map calls for the gradual replacement and retraining of the judiciary over five years whereas the public is clamoring for immediate and radical renewal. As the new mayor of Kiev, Wladimir Klitschko, put it, “if you put fresh cucumbers into a barrel of pickles, they will soon turn into pickles.”
Contrary to some widely circulated accounts, the resistance on the Maidan was led by the cream of civil society: young people, many of whom had studied abroad and refused to join either government or business on their return because they found both of them repugnant. (Nationalists and anti-Semitic extremists made up only a minority of the anti-Yanukovych protesters.) They are the leaders of the new Ukraine and they are adamantly opposed to a return of the “old Ukraine,” with its endemic corruption and ineffective government.
The new Ukraine has to contend with Russian aggression, bureaucratic resistance both at home and abroad, and confusion in the general population. Surprisingly, it has the support of many oligarchs, President Poroshenko foremost among them, and the population at large. There are of course profound differences in history, language, and outlook between the eastern and western parts of the country, but Ukraine is more united and more European-minded than ever before. That unity, however, is extremely fragile.
The new Ukraine has remained largely unrecognized because it took time before it could make its influence felt. It had practically no security forces at its disposal when it was born. The security forces of the old Ukraine were actively engaged in suppressing the Maidan rebellion and they were disoriented this summer when they had to take orders from a government formed by the supporters of the rebellion. No wonder that the new government was at first unable to put up an effective resistance to the establishment of the separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. It is all the more remarkable that President Poroshenko was able, within a few months of his election, to mount an attack that threatened to reclaim those enclaves.
To appreciate the merits of the new Ukraine you need to have had some personal experience with it. I can speak from personal experience although I must also confess to a bias in its favor. I established a foundation in Ukraine in 1990 even before the country became independent. Its board and staff are composed entirely of Ukrainians and it has deep roots in civil society. I visited the country often, especially in the early years, but not between 2004 and early 2014, when I returned to witness the birth of the new Ukraine.
I was immediately impressed by the tremendous improvement in maturity and expertise during that time both in my foundation and in civil society at large. Currently, civic and political engagement is probably higher than anywhere else in Europe. People have proven their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country. These are the hidden strengths of the new Ukraine that have been overlooked by the West.
The other deficiency of the current European attitude toward Ukraine is that it fails to recognize that the Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the European Union and its principles of governance. It ought to be evident that it is inappropriate for a country, or association of countries, at war to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity as the European Union continues to do. All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort even if that involves running up budget deficits. The fragility of the new Ukraine makes the ambivalence of the West all the more perilous. Not only the survival of the new Ukraine but the future of NATO and the European Union itself is at risk. In the absence of unified resistance it is unrealistic to expect that Putin will stop pushing beyond Ukraine when the division of Europe and its domination by Russia is in sight.
Having identified some of the shortcomings of the current approach, I will try to spell out the course that Europe ought to follow. Sanctions against Russia are necessary but they are a necessary evil. They have a depressive effect not only on Russia but also on the European economies, including Germany. This aggravates the recessionary and deflationary forces that are already at work. By contrast, assisting Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression would have a stimulative effect not only on Ukraine but also on Europe. That is the principle that ought to guide European assistance to Ukraine.
Germany, as the main advocate of fiscal austerity, needs to understand the internal contradiction involved. Chancellor Angela Merkel has behaved as a true European with regard to the threat posed by Russia. She has been the foremost advocate of sanctions on Russia, and she has been more willing to defy German public opinion and business interests on this than on any other issue. Only after the Malaysian civilian airliner was shot down in July did German public opinion catch up with her. Yet on fiscal austerity she has recently reaffirmed her allegiance to the orthodoxy of the Bundesbank—probably in response to the electoral inroads made by the -Alternative for Germany, the anti-euro party. She does not seem to realize how inconsistent that is. She ought to be even more committed to helping Ukraine than to imposing sanctions on Russia.
The new Ukraine has the political will both to defend Europe against Russian aggression and to engage in radical structural reforms. To preserve and reinforce that will, Ukraine needs to receive adequate assistance from its supporters. Without it, the results will be disappointing and hope will turn into despair. Disenchantment already started to set in after Ukraine suffered a military defeat and did not receive the weapons it needs to defend itself.
It is high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war. They are better off helping Ukraine to defend itself than having to fight for themselves. One way or another, the internal contradiction between being at war and remaining committed to fiscal austerity has to be eliminated. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Let me be specific. In its last progress report, issued in early September, the IMF estimated that in a worst-case scenario Ukraine would need additional support of $19 billion. Conditions have deteriorated further since then. After the Ukrainian elections the IMF will need to reassess its baseline forecast in consultation with the Ukrainian government. It should provide an immediate cash injection of at least $20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice.
The spending of borrowed funds is controlled by the agreement between the IMF and the Ukrainian government. Four billion dollars would go to make up the shortfall in Ukrainian payments to date; $2 billion would be assigned to repairing the coal mines in eastern Ukraine that remain under the control of the central government; and $2 billion would be earmarked for the purchase of additional gas for the winter. The rest would replenish the currency reserves of the central bank.
The new assistance package would include a debt exchange that would transform Ukraine’s hard currency Eurobond debt (which totals almost $18 billion) into long-term, less risky bonds. This would lighten Ukraine’s debt burden and bring down its risk premium. By participating in the exchange, bondholders would agree to accept a lower interest rate and wait longer to get their money back. The exchange would be voluntary and market-based so that it could not be mischaracterized as a default. Bondholders would participate willingly because the new long-term bonds would be guaranteed—but only partially—by the US or Europe, much as the US helped Latin America emerge from its debt crisis in the 1980s with so-called Brady bonds (named for US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady).
Such an exchange would have a few important benefits. One is that, over the next two or three critical years, the government could use considerably less of its scarce hard currency reserves to pay off bondholders. The money could be used for other urgent needs.
By trimming Ukraine debt payments in the next few years, the exchange would also reduce the chance of a sovereign default, discouraging capital flight and arresting the incipient run on the banks. This would make it easier to persuade owners of Ukraine’s banks (many of them foreign) to inject urgently needed new capital into them. The banks desperately need bigger capital cushions if Ukraine is to avoid a full-blown banking crisis, but shareholders know that a debt crisis could cause a banking crisis that wipes out their equity.
Finally, Ukraine would keep bondholders engaged rather than watch them cash out at 100 cents on the dollar as existing debt comes due in the few years. This would make it easier for Ukraine to reenter the international bond markets once the crisis has passed.
Under the current conditions it would be more practical and cost-efficient for the US and Europe not to use their own credit directly to guarantee part of Ukraine’s debt, but to employ intermediaries such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank and its subsidiaries.
The Ukrainian state-owned company Naftogaz is a black hole in the budget and a major source of corruption. Naftogaz currently sells gas to households for $47 per trillion cubic meters (TCM), for which it pays $380 per TCM. At present people cannot control the temperature in their apartments. A radical restructuring of Naftogaz’s entire system could reduce household consumption at least by half and totally eliminate Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for gas. That would involve charging households the market price for gas. The first step would be to install meters in apartments and the second to distribute a cash subsidy to needy households.
The will to make these reforms is strong both in the new management and in the incoming government but the task is extremely complicated (how do you define who is needy?) and the expertise is inadequate. The World Bank and its subsidiaries could sponsor a project development team that would bring together international and domestic experts to convert the existing political will into bankable projects. The initial cost would exceed $10 billion but it could be financed by project bonds issued by the European Investment Bank and it would produce very high returns.
It is also high time for the European Union to take a critical look at itself. There must be something wrong with the EU if Putin’s Russia can be so successful even in the short term. The bureaucracy of the EU no longer has a monopoly of power and it has little to be proud of. It should learn to be more united, flexible, and efficient. And Europeans themselves need to take a close look at the new Ukraine. That could help them recapture the original spirit that led to the creation of the European Union. The European Union would save itself by saving Ukraine.
* I am deeply disturbed by a report in the NY Times quoting the Human Rights Watch that subsequently – on October 2 and 5- Ukrainians also used cluster bombs, which I condemn. NATO should clarify both alleged Ukrainian and Russian use of such munitions.
Brussels – The EU’s 28 leaders are meeting on Thursday (23 October) in Brussels for what are expected to be tough negotiations on climate targets.
The so-called climate and energy framework is expected to contain specific targets for 2030 in the form of percentages.
While the European commission, which did a sort of opening bid in January, emphasizes its targets are “in line with science”, the figures fall victim to political bargaining.
At least seven of the EU’s 28 member states, mostly central and eastern European countries, want a 25 percent target for energy efficiency by 2030, instead of the 30 percent proposed by the commission and laid down in the draft conclusions.
They fear too ambitious goals will harm their competitiveness towards non-EU states.
A diplomatic source from one member state predicted the negotiators will end up with an efficiency figure in the middle: “I guess it will be 27 percent.”
The talks of Thursday focus on three targets for 2030. In addition to the efficiency target, EU leaders will discuss what share of the EU’s energy should come from renewable sources in 2030, and by how much greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced.
However countries come with a shopping list of ‘wants’. The UK wants only a greenhouse gas target. Ireland wants its heavy dependence on agriculture taken into account. Central and easter European countries want “conditional targets” which can be adjusted depending on the outcome of global climate talks in Paris in 2015.
This is because the EU by itself cannot limit global warming – it will need to convince other countries to also cut back on emissions.
The average global temperature has already risen about 0.85 degrees Celsius between 1880 and 2012, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The European Commission, the EU’s executive organisation, believes that to achieve the goal of not having the global average temperature increase by more than 2 degree Celsius (seen by experts as the minimum that needs to be achieved) the EU should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in 2050 – compared to the level in 1990.
The commission says that a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emission by 2030 – again, compared to 1990 levels – will put the bloc on track for the 2050 goal of an 80 percent reduction, athough this is disputed by environmental groups.
Brigitte Knopf, researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, emphasizes that science alone cannot be the only basis for policy-makers.
“How to distribute the burden? Who has to reduce how much of the emissions? These are ethical questions which clearly belong to the policy side.”
These questions will be discussed in Brussels starting Thursday afternoon, evening and possibly night.
While EU leaders will tackle climate change on Thursday, tomorrow will see them talk about the economy amid heightened concerns about the health of the Eurozone.
A special meeting of the 18 single currency leaders, as well European Central Bank Chief Mario Draghi, will begin at lunchtime.
Worries about the eurozone have begun to increase again amid fears of deflation and with Germany, the biggest economy, suffering a slowdown.
Last week, the International Monetary Fund warned there is a 40 percent chance of the eurozone falling into recession again.
The meeting also comes against the backdrop of highly sensitive assessments of national budgets to be taken by the European Commission, with France particularly on Brussels’ radar.
EU leaders are also due to discuss how to increase their support for Ebola-stricken countries in west Africa.
UK leader David Cameron is set to ask EU leaders to follow the UK in screening air passengers coming from the outbreak zone. Only France and Belgium have screening at their main airports.
Earlier this week foreign ministers agreed to more co-ordination of resources to fight the disease.
Finally, in what is mostly a formality, the council wll appoint the new European Commission under the leadership of Jean-Claude Juncker.
This summit thus also is a send-off for Juncker’s predecessor, Jose-Manuel Barroso. It is also the last council summit chaired by Herman van Rompuy, who will be succeeded by Donald Tusk.
Lobbying for Sustainable Development and Sustainability in general go on in parallel – like in:
“Beim Europäischen Rat am 23. und 24. Oktober werden die Staats- und RegierungschefInnen der EU über einen neuen Rahmen für die EU-Klima- und Energiepolitik bis 2030 entscheiden. In einem Lobbybrief an Bundeskanzler Faymann weist die AG Globale Verantwortung auf die Auswirkungen der EU-Klimapolitik auf internationale Entwicklung hin und fordert ambitionierte Zielsetzungen.
Der Lobbybrief der AG Globale Verantwortung erging gemeinsam mit einem Brief des europäischen Dachverbands CONCORD an Bundeskanzler Faymann sowie in Kopie an Vizekanzler Mitterlehner, Bundesminister Kurz und Bundesminister Rupprechter.”
Hilton St Petrsburg Bayfront
A Global Convergence of the Ocean Arts & Sciences
November 3 – 9, 2014 / St. Petersburg / Tampa Bay, Florida
Ocean all-stars to converge at 2014 BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit
Once a year, BLUE convenes a diverse ecosystem of ocean all-stars focused on the promotion of the ocean through film and media. Heads of state, celebrities, filmmakers, media scientists and global leaders have turned to BLUE as a platform for collaboration and progress, catalyzed by the dazzling, stunning and provocative films. From all walks of life, and from around the world, they arrive to be inspired by the content, get the scoop on new technology, hear about projects, share ideas and form partnerships that can change the tide.
“Our mission is to inspire people everywhere to connect with ocean conservation, and to serve as a catalyst for important discussions,” said BLUE Co-founder and CEO Debbie Kinder.
BLUE alternates between Tampa Bay and Monaco each year, attracting movie stars, explorers, governments, scientists, and filmmakers like no other ocean event to date. Among the film actors (subject to change) who plan to attend BLUE 2014 in person, or join Google Hangouts or participate by skype this year are Jeremy Irons, Richard Branson, Susan Sarandon and others – just the tip of the ice berg. It’s virtually a BLUE Who’s Who.
If you plan to attend BLUE, rooms are still available (for a limited time) at the BLUE Headquarters located at the Hilton Saint Petersburg Bayfront. Enjoy the surroundings as BLUE 2014 immerses in this vibrant ocean community of oceanographic institutions and museums located on one of the nation’s most strategic coastlines.
If you cannot attend the event, attend online – live broadcast, Google Hangouts and the EXPLOREBLUE2014 App will help you follow BLUE events throughout the week. Download the App for the latest schedule and update on speakers at BLUE.
UPDATED EVENT SCHEDULE AND SPEAKER LIST – CLICK HERE
BLUE – The Film Festival
Screenings of winning films and Q & A with film makers, ocean photography, marine technology and art exhibits.
The Industry Conference
Production and communication skills, underwater filmmaking technical expertise through hands-on master classes. The latest information on ocean issues and film projects, networking among commissioners and other media funding organizations.
The Conservation Summit
Lectures and panels impart the latest science, share insight, debate issues, and challenge audiences to be proactive. Some of the most dramatic and inspiring moments at BLUE.
Dr.Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, Founding Director of the MIT Energy Initiative and Director of the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, a former Undersecretary of DOE in charge of disposing of nuclear materials including those of Russia, he came to Head DOE in May 2013 after Nobel Laureate Steven Chu decided to return to academia.
Prof. Steven Chu was a vocal advocate for more research into renewable energy and nuclear power, arguing that a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combating climate change. For example, he has conceived of a global “glucose economy”, a form of a low-carbon economy, in which glucose from tropical plants is shipped around like oil is today. On February 1, 2013, he announced he would not serve for the President’s second term and resigned on April 22, 2013. The position then fell to Prof. Moniz who seems to be more in tune with the President’s “All of the above” energy concept.
Secretary Moniz appeared today, October 6, 2014, before the New York Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in a conversation with Matthew A. Winkler, Editor in Chief, Bloomberg News. This was a very active day that started at NYU - energy.gov/epsa/agenda-energy-inf… -
Agenda: Energy Infrastructure Finance. A Public Meeting on the Quadrennial Energy Review, Hosted by the United States Department of Energy and with Opening Remarks by
The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy and
The Honorable Carolyn Maloney, Member from New York of the United States House of Representatives
The event dealt with: ATTRACTING AND MAINTAINING CAPITAL FOR ENERGY TRANSMISSION, STORAGE, AND DISTRIBUTION (TS&D); BANKABILITY OF ELECTRICITY TS&D INFRASTRUCTURE; OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR NATURAL GAS AND LIQUID FUELS TS&D INFRASTRUCTURE.
The CFR meeting was titled “A Conversation With Ernest Moniz” and after a short lunch was followed at CFR by a Panel “The Battle of Interests Over the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals” where Ms. Gail Fosler, formerly President of the Conference Board and now provider of advisory service for global business leaders and public policymakers, presided over discussants: Carol Adelman, Director, Center for Global Prosperity, Hudson Institute; Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations; and Fred Krupp. President, Environmental Defense Fund.
In our posting we cover only the Ernest Moniz presentation before the CFR, as we feel this presentation introduced the Administration’s thinking without distraction from the conflicting interests of the 2014 various protagonists.
Asked what are the three main tasks of his Department, Professor Moniz opened by saying that a main task of his work is Energy Security, and going back to Jim Schlesinger who when the Department was established said this has to be considered in a collective context with the US allies, Moniz now mentioned the EU and specifically also the G7 and the immediacy of the need to assure heating gas for this winter for the Ukraine. In parallel he said he must devise a long-term plan on which he works with Canadian and UK experts even if the Russians do supply for now gas to Ukraine – the problem of energy security remains.
A second Question was if “All of the Above” is capable of handling the CO2 issue? The answer was that everything they do is geared to carbon reduction. Carbon sequestration is pushed with projects in this area involving enhanced oil recovery and oil production. Then there is the increased energy use efficiency in vehicles. Reduced dependence on oil is promoted and a new large bio-refinery will soon be opened in Kansas. So – it is nuclear, renewables, efficiency for the long-term and the use of gas in the mid-term. In the electricity production, wind use was increased by 45% and solar by 6%. LED is a great economic success. The stress is on aiming in 2015 to set goals of reduction in CO2 emissions by 17% in general with a reduction of 30% in the electricity sector. Most of this via sector by sector energy efficiency.
From here the discussion moved to the UN and the obvious that global challenges cannot be met without the Chinese and the European’s cooperation. “we saw at the UN strong statements by China, India, and he expects from these introductory statements a Paris outcome that has in it declarations of goals that are different by the different States. Asked directly if the target of 2 degrees Centigrade is realistic – the answer came in one word – “Challenging.” Then he enlarged by saying – “I would focus first on coal.” He feels bullish on solar – costs are coming down. 2000-2009 the US had no photovoltaic production now we have 9 plants and 12 under construction. He expects Europe to show leadership in the run-up to the 2015 meeting in Paris. “We will continue to encourage China, India, Brazil. and we will be a lot on airplanes.”
So far there was nothing new in what we heard except the emphasis on interdependence. Then came questions about exports from the US and about natural gas. His answers started by saying that the international market looks very different from 1975 when the laws forbidding exports of oil and gas from the US were passed. That is when we established DOE and the Petroleum Reserve etc. Ultimately exports are an issue for the Department of Commerce and not for DOE. There are also changes in production methods and at the petroleum refinery to be considered. He also pointed out that crude oil changed into products was not under those laws.
On the Keystone Pipeline he said that it was under the Secretary of State responsibility. On gas he predicted that exports cannot start before the end of 2015 – “so it is not an answer to Ukraine.”
Further, on a question about Eastern Mediterranean gas he said that this is also no answer for Europe’s needs. We consider these answers as newsworthy replies by the Secretary.
An added topic I was able to talk about with the Secretary after his presentation relates to the US position on supplies of oil and gas from the Arctic. He remarked that at the end of 2015 the Arctic Circle Council moves to the US for two years and he sees rather the subject from an environmental angle. To my great satisfaction I heard from him the old Sheik Yammani adage that the Age of Oil will end not because of a lack of oil. He also pointed at Shell Oil’s problems with their attempt at drilling for Arctic oil. With this attitude by the US I am now even more curious then ever of what will be the underlying spirit at the end of this moth’s meeting in Reykjavik of the 2014 Arctic Circle Assembly.
Die Ukraine im Ersten Weltkrieg 19. September 2014 Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften der Ukraine Kiew, Wolodymyrska 54
Veranstalter: O?sterreichisches Kulturforum Kiew, Deutsche Botschaft Kiew Kuratoren: Ukrainische Akademie der Wissenschaften, LBI fu?r Kriegsfolgen-Forschung Kooperationspartner: Tschechisches Kulturzentrum Kiew, Polnisches Institut Kiew.
Die heutige Ukraine geho?rte im Ersten Weltkrieg zu den Staaten, die am schwerwiegendsten und tiefgreifendsten von diesem Jahrhundert-Ereignis betroffen war: Die Ostukraine und die Nordbukowina, die heute Teil der Ukraine und damals Kronla?nder O?sterreich-Ungarns waren, wurden zwischen 1914 und 1919 mehrfach waren heftig umka?mpft. Insbesondere ab 1917/18 wird am ukrainischen Beispiel die in den letzten Jahren in der Historiographie vielfach diskutierte neue Chronologie sichtbar, die den Ersten Weltkrieg und den Russischen Bu?rgerkrieg als gemeinsames Ereignis, als „Neue Zeit der Wirren“ ansieht. Denn, es ist nahezu unmo?glich, die Ereignisse des Ersten Weltkrieges von den folgenden in Osteuropa und insbesondere im Bereich des ehemaligen zarischen Russland zu scheiden. Aus diesem Grund verfolgt die vorliegende Tagung einen integrativen Ansatz, mo?chte die Ereignisse zwischen 1914 und 1922 in die langfristigen Linien des spa?ten 19. Jahrhunderts und der folgenden Jahrzehnte einbetten.
Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften der Ukraine, Wolodymyrska 54 9:00 Uhr Ero?ffnung 17:00 Uhr Ende der Tagung
Buchpra?sentation mit Empfang
Ab 18 Uhr Deutsche Botschaft, Wul. Bogdana Khmelnitzkoho 25 Mit Helmuth Kiesel, Petro Rychlo und Julia Eichenberg
Here at SustainabiliTank we find above interesting in the sense of a retroactive effort to create history – the facts being that like in the Palestinian case, there really was never before an Ukrainian State – though undeniable the ethnicity of the people was different then that of their neighbors, but not until Stalin were they hammered together and called a Republic even though they had differences among themselves in religion, language, and aspirations. Interesting also that the German Government representation is part of the September 19th effort.
With Interference from Breaking News from the battle fields in the Ukraine and the Muslim World – the US and Russia are at Cold War level; Israel has already 20 dead (two civilians) and dozens wounded – Fareed Zakaria on CNN/Global Public Square did his best this Sunday July 20, 2014, to try to make sense from the present global wars.
I will try to reorganize the material into a neat tableau that can be viewed as a whole.
Fareed’s own introduction was about what happened in recent years is a “democratization of violence” that created an asymmetry like in Al Qaeda’s 9/11 where each of their one dollar generated the need for 7 million dollars to be spent by the US in order to counter-react.Thus, before, it was armies of States that were needed to have a war – now everyone can cause it with a pauper’s means.
Then he continued by saying that this is NOT what happened in Ukraine. There Putin was trying to fake it, by using his resources large State resources to create from former Russian soldiers a “rebel force in the Ukraine.” The Kremlin is operating the rebels in a situation where the military expenditures by Russia, which are 35 times larger then those of the Ukraine, take care of the expenditures of this war.
But where Vladimir Putin miscalculated – it is that he did not realize that when he takes the ginny of Nationalism out of his dark box, he will never be able to cause it to go back. Putin unleashed both – Russian and Ukrainian Nationalism and it might be that by now he is no boss over the outcome anymore.
Let us face it – G.W. Bush played a similar game in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US will not be master in the Middle East anymore. Zbigniew Brzezinski was asked on the program what should Obama do?
He thinks this is a historical defining moment that allows still to Putin to redeem himself. It is for him – rather then somebody else – to call for an International tribunal and allow open investigation by telling the pro-Russians in the Ukraine, whom he supported and provided them with arms, that they crossed the line. Brzezinski says this is a situation for Europe like it was before WWII.
The issue is that the Europeans are not yet behind the US. London is a Las Vegas for the Russians, France supplies them military goods, it was a German Chancellor before Merkel who made Europe dependent on Rusian gas. Without being clearly united behind the US, the West will get nowhere.
On the other hand – Russia, seeing the sanctions coming, sees the prospect of becoming a China satellite if sanctions go into effect. Not a great prospect for itself either.
So, the answer is Obama leadership to be backed by the Europeans and Putin making steps to smooth out the situation and redeem himself. This is the only way to save the old order.
Steven Cohen, Professor on Russia at Princeton: The US is in a complicated situation by having backed fully the Ukrainian government.
It is the US that pushed Putin to take his positions. The Ukraine is a divided country and the story is not just a recent development. Putin cannot just walk away from the separatists in the Ukraine – they will not listen to him.The reality in the Ukraine, as per Professor Cohen, is very complex and there are no good guys there – basically just a complex reality that was exploited from the outside.
Christa Freeland, a famous journalist, who is now a Canadian member of Parliament, and traveled many times to the Ukraine, completely disagrees with Cohen and says a US leadership is imperative.
Our feeling is that all this discussion goes on as if it were in a vacuum – the true reality is that in the Globalized World we are far beyond the post WWII configuration that was just Trans-Atlantic with a Eurasian Continental spur going to China and Japan. What has happened since is the RISE OF THE REST OF THE WORLD – with China, india, Brazil, and even South Africa, telling the West that besides dealing with Russia the West must deal with them as well !! The BRICS meeting in Fortaleza (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) where this week they established a $50 Billion alternative to the World Bank and a $100 Billion alternative to the IMF, ought to be part of the negotiation in the US and at the EU Member States when talking about a post-Ukraine-flare-up World. The timing may have been coincidental – but the build-up was not.
These days there is the celebration of 70 years (1–22 July 1944) of the establishing of the Bretton Woods agreements system that created the old institutions that can be changed only with the help of US Congress – something that just will not happen.Those are the World Bank and the IMF – but In the meantime China has become the World’s largest economy and they still have less voting power at the World Bank then the three BENELUX countries. The BRICS do not accept anymore the domination of the US dollar over their economies. If nothing else they want a seat at the table, and detest the fact that three out of five are not even at the UN Security Council.
So, the New World Order will have to account for this Rise of the Rest having had the old order based just on the West.
Further on today’s program, Paul Krugman a very wise man, a Nobel Prize holder in Economics, was brought in to show a quick take on the economy. He made it clear that there is an improvement but it is by far not enough.
It is more half empty then half full because by now it should have been better. But he stressed that despite the interference, Obamacare works better and ahead of expectations. Even premiums rise slower then before.
Yes, there are some losers, but this is a narrow group of young and healthy, but people that were supposed to be helped are helped.
On energy – yes – renewable costs are lower then expected.
Obama’s grade? Over all B or B-, but on what he endured from the opposition A-. Yes, we can trust Obama to decide the correct moves – and on International and Foreign Policy the White House has freer hands then in Internal, National, policy. His presidency is the most consequential since Ronald Reagan – whatever we think of Reagan – but in Obama’s case, he will leave behind a legacy of the country having been involved in less disasters, but leaving behind more achievements – be those in health-care, environment, finances, energy, migration, etc. then any President of the last 40 years. But where does this leave him in relation to the Rest of the World?
A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program – as reported by Irith Jawetz who participated at the UN in Vienna Compound July 15th Meeting .
The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and Search for Common Ground invited us to attend a panel discussion titled “A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program,” which was held on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 13:00 at the Vienna Center for Disarmament & Non Proliferation (VCDNP).
As P5+1 and Iran are meeting in Vienna at Foreign Ministers level to resolve the outstanding issues preventing a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before the 20 July deadline, a group of renown experts on the technical and political aspects of the negotiations have met at VCDNP to discuss and identify possible compromises.
Dr. Frank von Hippel, Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security
Mr. Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association. Previously he was the Executive Director of the Coalition to reduce Nuclear Dangers, and the Director of Security Programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility.
This was a very timely event, as the Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 group of Nations – the U.S., U.K., France. Germany, China, and Russia – spent the weekend in Vienna discussing follow ups to the interim agreement reached between them and Iran in advance of this July 20th deadline.
At the start of the Panel discussion, it was announced that at that very moment Secretary of State John Kerry is giving his Press Conference before flying back to Washington to report to President Obama about the negotiations. He is willing to come back next weekend for the July 20-th continuation of the discussions.
Ambassador Miller was the first speaker, and he gave a rather optimistic view of the situation. His presentation had more of a political nature. In his presentation he said that the basic principles of the negotiations is to assure that Iran has no nuclear weapons . Iran has the capability, brain, expertise and knowhow but has no strategic moral or ethical reason to develop nuclear weapons to be used as weapons of mass destruction.
It is a fact, though, that the Iranians insist on use of peaceful nuclear energy – to what extent it is peaceful and how can the rest of the world be sure that it will be peaceful, this is why the negotiations have to succeed. Ambassador Miller is hopeful that, after 35 years of the current regime in Iran, those negotiations will result in a positive answer.
Ambassador Miller commended all the participating teams, the Press and Academia. First he mentioned the top quality Iranian team at the negotiations, many of the participants he knows personally. They were able, motivated, and anxious to find a solution. The US team, led by Secretary Kerry did a remarkably good job, as did the rest of the teams. He commended the Press who were persistent – fully covered the negotiations and were very professional – and academia who helped with background information.
————— Mr. Daryl G.Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association talked about a solution for the Iranian Uranium-Enrichment Puzzle. In his presentation he stressed that “Solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, lower the risk of yet another major conflict in the region, and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a realistic, peaceful nuclear program are within reach” – he said.
Progress has already been achieved on several key issues – stregthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and oversight at existing and undeclared sites. … Iran has agreed to modify its Arak heavy-water reactor to drastically cut its plutonium output, and a general framework has been developed to waive, and eventually lift, sanctions against Iran. … Nevertheless, the two sides have more work to do to bridge differences on the most difficult issue: limiting Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity.As part of a comprehensive deal, Iran and the P5+1 have to agree on several steps to constrain Iran: limit uranium enrichment to levels of less than 5% – keep stocks of its enriched uranium near zero – and halt production-scale work at the smaller Fordow enrichment plant and convert it to research-only facility.
He shares Ambassador Miller’s hope and positive outlook that the negotiations will succeed. Anything less than success will be a catastrophe.
The last speaker was Dr. Frank von Hippel who is a Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.Dr. von Hippel gave a very technical presentation about the Possible elements of a compromise on Iran’s Nuclear Program.
Potential sources of fissile material from Iran’s nuclear energy program are:
1. Plutonium presence in reactor fuel (current issue is Arak reactor)
2. Iran’s centrifuge enrichment complex.
There are two stages in rationalizing the Current situartion:
Iran currently has installed 18,000 IR-1 centrifuges – the compromise would be:
1) to retire IR-1 and replace it with already installed IR-2ms to support research-reactor LEU needs.
2) Continued transparency for Iran’s centrifuge production – possibly as a template for enhanced transparency for centrifuge production worldwide.
3) Continued minimization of stocks of low enriched UF6.
Stage 1 will provide time to cool down an inflamed situation and would provide Iran and the West an opportunity for a cooler assessment of the costs and benefits of diferent possible paths.
In stage II, negotiations might agree on a solution currently beyond reach and also lay a base for a new global regime for enrichment.
National or Multi-National enrichment? A global Issue.
National – Every state has the right to enrich fuel for power reactor fuel. However today only Brazil, China, Iran, Japan and Russia have completely independent national civilian enrichment programs.
Multinational – Urenco (Germany, Netherland, UK) . Today Urenco owns the only operating U.S,. civilian enrichment plant.
Building in Flexibility for Iran:
1. Iran should have access to nuclear reactor and fuel vendors worldwide – to ensure that it is getting a good price and reliable delivery.
2. Iran could build up stockpile of fabricated fuel for Bushehr. That would take care of Iran’s fuel security concerns and make it easier for Iran to postpone a large domestic enrichment capacity or depend on a multinational enrichment plant – perhape equiped with Iranian centrifuges in another country in the Middle East.
Dr. von Hippel COPLIMENTED his theory with charts.
The consensus at the end of the discussion was that the negotiations seem to go well, and all panelists, as well as some members of the audience expressed their hope that they will indeed succeed. Ambassador Miller even went as far as to state that Iran at the moment is the most stable nation in the region, and we have to take advantage of it, make sure the negotiation succeed, and bring Iran back to the International community.
In the news today it was reported that Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Washington to brief President Obama on the negotiations – rather then on a prior advertised new effort in the Israel-Palestine arena. He was hopeful, but also said there are still some points which need to be clarified.
Further last comment by SustainabiliTank editor – we add – taken from a Thom Friedman article about a different issue:
We accept that in the future the World true powers of today – The US, China, India, Russia, Japan and the EU – and we like to add Brazil as well – will have to meet their minds and harmonize what ought to be a global leadership for a safe future planet. Just ad hoc chaperoning specific issues will be proven to be not enough.
The way to find a solution to the issue of a nuclear Iran shows that in the globalized world of today there must be an international guiding force. But on this much more has to be written for the sake of Sustainability.
For many, this has raised the question of whether they will watch the game together. But the more basic question is whether Francis, 77, of Argentina, and Benedict, 87, of Germany, will be watching at all, given that the match begins at 9 p.m. in Italy and may not end until nearly midnight.
Francis and Benedict have both lived on the grounds of the Vatican since Francis was elected to the papacy in March 2013, after Benedict’s historic resignation. Initially, some analysts speculated that the arrangement might breed intrigue: Would the Vatican be divided between two popes? Instead, the two men have apparently forged a warm friendship, as Benedict has quietly receded from public life while Francis has emerged as a major global figure.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who has fielded soccer questions this week with a chuckling amusement, doubted the two men would watch the game together, or at all. He noted that Benedict, a scholarly theologian and author of a multipart meditation on the life of Jesus, has never been much of a soccer fan, “though he clearly understands that it’s important to many people.” (In March 2012, Benedict did greet the German star Miroslav Klose at the Vatican.)
The first Latin American pope, Francis is unquestionably a fan, who as archbishop of Buenos Aires cheered for San Lorenzo, a local soccer club. After San Lorenzo won the Argentine championship last year, a small delegation of managers and players came to the Vatican in December to present Francis with a trophy and an inscribed team jersey that read, “Francisco Campeon,” or “Francis Champion.”
Last August at the Apostolic Palace, Francis welcomed the national teams of Italy and Argentina, including the star Argentine striker Lionel Messi, before the two sides played a friendly match in Rome. Francis managed to duck a question about which country he would be rooting for (Argentina won, 2-1), even as he called on the athletes to be role models for young people.
Francis also asked players on both teams to pray for him, according to The Associated Press, “so that I, on the ‘field’ upon which God placed me, can play an honest and courageous game for the good of us all.”
In that spirit, the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture has launched a “Pause for Peace” campaign and is asking for a global moment of silence before Sunday’s match to remember people enduring war and conflict.
And will the pope be watching on Sunday night?
Father Lombardi said the pope “sent the Argentine team his best wishes before the tournament,” but added that Francis watches very little television, “and especially at that hour.”
“Above all,” he added, “I think they both want the best team to win. They’re above partisan passion. In this, they are united.”
A version of this article appears in print on July 12, 2014, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: An Argentine and a German, but No Sign at the Vatican of a World Cup Rivalry.
by Nicu Popescu - senior analyst at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris, where he deals with the EU’s eastern neighbourhood and Russia.
For most of the last two decades virtually every Ukrainian election or opinion poll has displayed two Ukraines – one Western-leaning and another looking to Moscow; one voting Timoshenko or Yushchenko and another pro Yanukovich; one against Putin and another in favour of him. Unsurprisingly, many feared that the ousting of Yanukovich, the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the infiltration of eastern Ukraine by Russian military intelligence would lead Ukraine to split in two or collapse altogether like a house of cards.
Ukraine still faces four interconnected existential crises: economic, political, territorial and diplomatic (with Russia). It is also clear that even if the country manages to overcome these challenges, it will not be left unscathed. The past three months, however, have shown that Ukraine was not a powder keg waiting to explode, despite several matches having been thrown at it.
The country’s resilience has proven stronger than many assumed (both in Russia and the rest of Europe) and while its blend of problems might be poisonous, they are not insurmountable. Petro Poroshenko’s unexpectedly smooth popular election – with support drawn evenly across Ukraine – represents a potential turning point in the spiral of overlapping crises that have characterised its recent past.
One Ukraine, not two
Both Sunday’s elections results and the localised nature of the armed insurgency in east suggest there is neither two Ukraines nor a distinct ‘southeastern’ Ukraine. Although electoral preferences in Ukraine may have differed in the past, there is overwhelming popular and elite support for maintaining Ukraine as one state in the majority of its regions.
For all the worrying images of what looks like a descent into civil war, the armed insurgency is affecting just parts of two Ukrainian regions, or oblasts – Donetsk and Luhansk. The other regions of the ‘southeast’ – Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, Odessa, Kharkiv and Kherson – have more or less remained stable. None of these regions witnessed the overnight implosion of the state apparatus that occurred in Crimea or parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, although it is not impossible that further Russian inroads could destabilise the situation further.
This relative stability is partly due to attempts by Ukrainian elites – in Kiev and in the east – to find a new post-Yanukovich modus vivendi. But the wider public also seems to be on a similar path: an opinion poll conducted last month by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology revealed that over 70% of people in the south and east of the country no longer consider Yanukovich their legitimate president; 79% do not support secession from Kiev (and only 25% support federalisation); and 45% would be happy with decentralisation. Although in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk there are greater levels of support for Yanukovich, the armed insurgency, and for joining Russia, even there such support hovers around 20%-30% (in the other regions it is under 10%). In short, there is no broad-based support for either armed separatists or a Russian intervention.
Finally, the recent election results are indicative of a country that has significant regional variations but is, nonetheless, one country. Poroshenko, who was born in south Ukraine not far from Odessa, came first in the presidential race in every single region of Ukraine.
Localizing the armed insurgency
In response to the takeover of public buildings in parts of eastern Ukraine, the government deployed military and police units in an attempt to fight the armed challenge to state authority. The start of the operation was, however, a disaster. Local police and intelligence in the Donetsk and Luhansk area refused to obey orders or simply disbanded: in one instance, a group of soldiers surrendered several armed personnel carriers to a protesting crowd. In Mariupol, the army, not trained in the ways of managing large, mostly unarmed crowds in urban settings, opened fire on civilians. Now several weeks into the operation, several towns in the two regions remain outside governmental control.
Yet in another sense, the operation has been a qualified success. Although its maximalist goal of quickly defeating the separatists was not achieved, its minimalist goal – containing the insurgency, preventing its geographic spread, and holding the 25 May presidential elections in most parts of Ukraine – has been achieved. Elections were properly organised and carried out in 22 out of 25 regions (people were denied the opportunity to vote in Donbas and Luhansk, as well as in annexed Crimea). Despite the intensified fighting and additional bloodshed since the elections, the chances that Kiev can prevent the contamination of other parts of Ukrainian territory look reasonable.
A key player in containing and even rolling back the insurgency is one of Ukraine’s most prominent oligarchs and leader of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine: Igor Kolomoisky. Upon being appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region in March, he quickly stabilised the situation by asserting control over the law enforcement agencies. Parts of the Donetsk region, unhappy with the descent into separatist chaos, are now seeking protection from the Kolomoisky-led Dnipropetrovsk administration. And when around 40 people died after clashes in Odessa between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists, a Kolomoisky protégé was quickly appointed local governor.
Avoiding an economic crash
Thanks to Western assistance, a total economic collapse seems to have been averted, and the self-styled ‘Kamikaze government’ led by Yatseniuk has already begun to undertake certain reforms. An all-out assault on vested interests is unlikely, but a lower-key war of attrition against some of the more corrupt elements of the state is underway.
Partly thanks to strong IMF and Western conditionality, some progress is being made. A new, World Bank approved public procurement law was adopted in parliament (albeit on the second attempt and with a one vote majority). An anti-discrimination law, paving the way to EU visa liberalisation, has also been passed. The government has increased the cost of the hitherto subsidised energy prices, which should help redress some of Ukraine’s gas debt. Pavlo Sheremeta, the economy and trade minister (a graduate from Harvard Business School and former advisor to the Malaysian government), boldly aims to bring Ukraine closer to the top 10 countries with the best business environment – according to the Cost of Doing Business report, where Ukraine held the 145th place in 2013. Admittedly this is no small task, but setting ambitious goals is having the positive effect of focusing minds in Kiev.
For a government that is three months old, and has spent most of its time managing an armed challenge to its statehood, localising separatism, organising presidential elections and taking steps to deal with the country’s economic mess, this is a decent start. Yet success is far from assured, since the remedy for one type of crisis often aggravates another. In this respect, the central question for Ukraine in the following months will be how to maintain internal unity while reforming the oligarchic economy that triggered the revolution in the first place.
Disempowering the oligarchs?
The system whereby oligarchs made their fortunes by looting the state through corrupt public procurement, various subsidies (including gas), and the privatisation of law enforcement agencies – which allowed the most powerful business sharks to take over assets of their competitors through administrative pressure, in what is called ‘reiderstvo’– had long undermined the Ukrainian state. Reform means conflict – with vested interests, a bloated public sector, and the subsidised sectors of the economy which are driving the whole country to bankruptcy. The system survived for so long precisely because it has so many stakeholders, with a handful of oligarchs being only the most visible beneficiaries.
Though tackling corruption was supposed to be a key priority for the post-Yanukovich government, the focus on internal reform shifted to territorial defence following the armed intervention on its eastern borders. Confronted with an military conflict, Kiev took steps to co-opt (rather than squeeze) the oligarchs – not least because most of them have their power bases in eastern Ukraine – and to offer them a stake in the new political system as a way of maintaining the country’s unity. Declaring war on the oligarchs could have led to even greater destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. Igor Kolomoisky was appointed as governor of Dnipropetrovsk, and Serhiy Taruta as governor of Donetsk, while other oligarchs such as Dmitri Firtash, or regional ‘barons’ like Genady Kernes in Kharkiv, positioned themselves as relatively constructive players in order to retain as much (and as many) of their fiefdoms as possible. Petro Poroshenko, the new president of Ukraine, is one of the country’s richest individuals and has served in various governments under both presidents Yushchenko and Yanukovich.
Co-opting the oligarchs has yielded success in the short term, helping to confine the armed insurgency in the east to just two regions. Yet this short-term success could turn into a mid-term failure if the oligarchic system remains the same. Since the government is not in a position to launch an all-out Saakashvili-style assault on corruption and vested interests, the best-case scenario would be to embark on a series of ‘salami’ reforms conducted by technocrats in the government with as much external support as possible and strong conditionality from international donors in order to strengthen the hand of the reformists. While such a piecemeal approach could be an arduous task and could easily fail, it appears to be the only real possibility given the current environment.
Federation or separation?
Ukraine’s territorial crisis will not be resolved soon. Short of a Chechnya-style, large-scale military assault on urban areas – which would risk the mass indiscriminate killing of civilians – Ukraine is not in a position to defeat the armed insurgents as long as they receive (tacit) Russian support.
For the time being, two possible models of a ‘non-solution’ have been floated. One is labelled ‘Finlandisation’, i.e. the creation of a neutral state which – as the theory goes – would offer credible guarantees that NATO will not grant membership to Ukraine and thus assuage Russia. The other is labelled ‘Bosnia-isation’, i.e. the creation of a federalised entity with large veto powers for its constituent regions. The two models do not appear incompatible, and could even be combined.
On paper, both options have their merits. Finland has done well since the end of the Second World War, is prosperous and secure and joined the EU in 1995. For its part, while Bosnia might appear a rather dysfunctional federation but its constituent parts have at least prevented further bloodshed. Unfortunately, neither option is likely for Ukraine.
Should Ukraine become either neutral or federal – or both – it would end up nothing like either Bosnia or Finland. Bosnia might be still divided internally, but it sits in the middle of the single most benign international environment on earth. Finland’s neutrality throughout the Cold War was agreed upon and respected: none of these two conditions are likely in Ukraine. It suffices to look at Moldova, which adopted neutrality in 1994 in the hope that this would persuade Russia to cease their support for secessionist Transnistria. Not only this has not happened, but Moldova has been under constant and growing Russian pressure not to move closer to the EU. Even Ukraine under President Yanukovich – who gave up trying to move closer to NATO – was placed under constant pressure not to sign the Association Agreement with the EU. Similarly, a neutral Ukraine would be unlikely to bring about a new era of Russian-Ukrainian-Western cooperation, for now Russia perceives it to be in direct competition with not just NATO but also the EU.
Another scenario, almost by default, would be the transformation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions into a bigger ‘Transnistria’ – a secessionist territory that is not recognised by anyone, but which creates de facto state structures with Russian support. Moscow’s logic would be that, at a later stage, this could be used as a bargaining chip with the government in Kiev to push for federalisation and/or neutrality.
These tactics has been employed several times before – in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria itself – but without much success for Russia. The presence of these frozen conflicts made Georgian and Moldovan moves away from Russia more, rather than less, likely. Both countries have now learned to live without their former regions and are on the verge of signing Association Agreements with the EU despite Russian threats and at the risk of complicating relations with their secessionist regions further. While Georgia and Moldova might lag far behind the EU in political and economic terms, they nevertheless have score reasonably well for resource-poor countries manoeuvring in a very difficult geopolitical environment.
There is already a growing sentiment among Kiev elites that, if it comes to it, losing the Donbass would not be catastrophic and might actually lead to a more cohesive and reform-oriented Ukraine. Against all odds, Ukraine is managing to survive as a country: it now needs to build a state.
VATICAN CITY — In a richly symbolic ceremony, Pope Francis oversaw a carefully orchestrated “prayer summit” with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents on Sunday as Jews, Christians and Muslims offered invocations for peace in the Vatican gardens.
“It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide,” Francis said at the ceremony.
During his trip last month to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, Francis unexpectedly extended invitations for a summit at the Vatican to President Shimon Peres of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
He said the meeting would be about prayer, not politics, and Vatican officials sought to dispel any expectation that a breakthrough would emerge.
Many Mideast analysts, while applauding the gesture, have been skeptical that the meeting would help revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but it did, at least, bring together the two presidents, who held a private meeting after the ceremony with Francis.
During the ceremony, Mr. Peres and Mr. Abbas avoided the familiar political tropes. There was no mention of 1967 borders or security arrangements. Mr. Abbas did not use the word “occupation,” according to an English translation of his prepared text distributed by the Vatican. (Nor did he say the word “Israel,” though he did refer once to Israelis.)
Yet there were some subtle provocations. Mr. Abbas called Jerusalem, considered by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital, “our Holy City” and referred to “the Holy Land Palestine.” (Mr. Peres described Jerusalem both as “the vibrant heart of the Jewish people” and as “the cradle of the three monotheistic religions.”)
Mr. Abbas also prayed for a “sovereign and independent state” and said Palestinians were “craving for a just peace, dignified living and liberty,” implying that they were denied these things under Israel’s occupation.
Mr. Peres did not mention rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, but he evoked the attacks with the biblical quotation, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
The ceremony was held in a garden behind St. Peter’s Basilica that is enclosed by a high hedge to provide a sense of intimacy, and that offers a spectacular view of the cupola of the basilica. It also was chosen as a place that seemed somewhat neutral in terms of religious iconography. The service was carefully organized into three successive “moments,” in which prayers and readings were offered by Jews, then Christians and then Muslims. Then the three leaders spoke.
In the moments before the ceremony, the three men rode together in a small bus to the garden, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the Orthodox Christian leader. At times, they appeared to share a laugh.
The prayer summit came at a fraught political moment. Less than a week ago, a new Palestinian government was sworn in that is based on a pact with Hamas, the militant Islamic movement branded as terrorist by most of the West. Israel has officially shunned the new cabinet and has sought unsuccessfully to galvanize the world against it. Israel’s cabinet did give Mr. Peres the pro forma approval to travel to the Vatican, but some in Israel worried about the timing of this new embrace of Mr. Abbas.
In contrast to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Peres has long maintained that Mr. Abbas is a suitable partner for peacemaking. In a recent television interview, Mr. Peres said that in 2011, Mr. Netanyahu cut off back-channel talks between the two presidents that had come close to a deal, something the prime minister’s office has denied. But even as Mr. Peres was arriving for the Vatican event, Mr. Netanyahu continued his criticism of the new Palestinian government during a cabinet meeting on Sunday in Jerusalem.
“Whoever hoped that the Palestinian unity between Fatah and Hamas would moderate Hamas is mistaken,” he said, calling for international pressure on Mr. Abbas to dissolve the new partnership.
In the hours before the prayer summit, the usual crowd of tourists milled about St. Peter’s Square, including some people who hoped the meeting could make a difference.
“His gesture can help solve the situation,” said Esteban Troncosa, 16, of Santa Fe, Argentina, who was in Rome for a one-month language study trip with his class. “His message has always been to stop wars, and avoid any form of violence. I am sure this can make a difference. The pope can’t sign political agreements, but he is a symbol and can make people and politicians think.”
UN Says It’s Ukraine’s Call If Pulls 600 Troops, UN’s Call on If-Asked.
By Matthew Russell Lee, The Inner City Press at the UN.
UNITED NATIONS, May 30 — After Ukrainian defense official Andriy Ordinovych said that the country’s 18 helicopter crews might be recalled from UN Peacekeeping missions to take part in operations in Eastern Ukraine, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it. Video here.
On helicopters, Dujarric said he was not aware of any talks. Later on May 30 his office sent this to Inner City Press:
From: UN Spokesperson – Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Fri, May 30, 2014 at 2:59 PM
Subject: Your question on Ukraine
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] innercitypress.com
The UN relies on the voluntary contributions of Member States for boots on the ground and equipment. Decisions as to whether specific units are withdrawn belong, ultimately, to the responsible national authorities. Approximately 600 Peacekeepers from Ukraine continue to serve in our various operations around the globe. Ukrainian personnel are valuable and highly-skilled and play important roles in implementing our mandates in our Missions, and we continue to remain grateful for their service and contributions.
Inner City Press also on May 30 asked UN Spokesman Dujarric why he had confined Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s comment on the May 25 election to an “if-asked” he read out only part of when Inner City Press asked on May 27. Dujarric replied, “I’m the one at the podium, it’s my call.” Video here.
Inner City Press: I wanted to know if the UN has any position on the jets bombing and strafing around Donetsk in Ukraine and the ultimatum to surrender or be killed that’s been issued by Government, as well as the death of an Italian and Russian journalist over the weekend.
Spokesman Dujarric: The Secretary-General is alarmed by the continuing violence that we’ve seen in the east over the weekend where clashes in Donetsk, as you said, left dozens dead. The Secretary-General urged that the restoration of State control over Government facilities be achieved through exclusively peaceful means, including an inclusive political dialogue. And obviously, we very much regret the deaths of the journalists who were killed covering the story.
Inner City Press: Does that mean that “surrender or die”… by the Government or the Government waiting for the new President, that this is something that the UN doesn’t support?
Spokesman Dujarric: I think what I’ve just said is that the Secretary-General urged that restoration of State control over Government facilities be achieved through exclusively peaceful means, including an inclusive political dialogue.
During the May 27 briefing, Dujarric made no comment on the election in Ukraine, and no comment or “off the cuff” statement from Ban Ki-moon went up on the UN’s website.
27 May 2014 – While welcoming the “generally peaceful” nature of Ukraine’s weekend presidential elections, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed concern that eligible voters in some parts of the county’s crisis torn eastern region were not allowed to participate in the national poll.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the fact that polling in most of Ukraine took place in a generally peaceful and orderly manner and largely in line with international standards and fundamental freedoms, according to a number of national and international monitors,” according to a statement read out be a UN spokesperson.
At the same time however, Mr. Ban is concerned that eligible voters were denied the right to vote in parts of eastern Ukraine, said the statement, echoing media reports suggesting polling irregularities and disruptions in the east, which has seen a wave of anti-Government sentiment over the past two months.
“The SG is alarmed by continuing violence in the east, where clashes in Donetsk left dozens dead yesterday,” the statement went on to say, adding that the UN chief urged that restoration of State control over Government facilities be achieved through exclusively peaceful means, including an inclusive political dialogue.
But where was the line said, or “read out b[y] a UN spokesperson”?
Inner City Press looked on the UN Spokesperson’s website: not there. So at the May 29 noon briefing, as spokesman Dujarric tried to end the briefing after only two questions, Inner City Press asked.
Dujarric replied that the statement was read out to “some of your colleagues” in the hallway. Moments later he e-mailed this to Inner City Press, as “shared language” –
The Secretary-General welcomes the fact that polling in Ukraine took place in a generally peaceful and orderly manner and largely in line with international standards and fundamental freedoms, according a number of national and international monitors.
The Secretary-General is concerned, however, that eligible voters were denied the right to vote in parts of eastern Ukraine.
The Secretary-General is alarmed by continuing violence in the east, where clashes in Donetsk left dozens dead yesterday. He urged that restoration of state control over government facilities be achieved through exclusively peaceful means, including an inclusive political dialogue.
Inner City Press asked, If this was a prepared statement, why was it not read out in the briefing room and put on the SG’s or Spokeperson’s web site?
Dujarric replied, “It was an if asked.”
But why would the UN make its statement on the Ukraine election an If-Asked?
It appears that when no one asked in the briefing room, somehow Dujarric got asked by… UN News Center? So, a cynic might conclude, the UN can arrange to be asked by its own media.
Note that the UN News Center Russia page reversed the If-Asked “shared language” to start with the last part, more palatable to Russia:
27/05/2014 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is alarmed by reports of continued violence in the east of Ukraine, particularly in Donetsk, where dozens of people were killed. This was announced by his press secretary Stephen Dyuzharrik. “Secretary-General strongly resembles that restoration of state control agencies should be only through peaceful means, including an inclusive political dialogue” – a spokesman said at a press briefing on Tuesday. Secretary General welcomed the fact that “the vote in many parts of Ukraine took place in a peaceful manner, in accordance with international standards and ensuring fundamental freedoms, as reported by a number of national and international observers.” Meanwhile, the head of the UN is concerned that in some parts of eastern Ukraine. legitimate voters were denied their right to vote. Dyuzharrik Stephen noted that the United Nations deeply regrets the deaths of journalists covering the events in Ukraine. He expressed hope that the issue of protection of journalists will be reflected in the next report of the UN mission to monitor the situation of human rights in the country. According to media reports, in eastern Ukraine were killed Italian journalist Andrea Rokkelli and his Russian translator Andrei Mironov.
At World Cup in Brazil, 60% of UNSC But Only 16% of UN Members Will Play.
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, June 1 — In the upcoming World Cup in Brazil later this month, nine of the 15 members of the UN Security Council will participate. So 60% of the Security Council’s members will be there, while only 16% of the UN’s 193 member states will be.
In the Ukraine — the Crimea, the Eastern and Southern Oblasts (States) – the locus of the kerfuffle – seem to give birth to a growing butterfly effect that has landed on the Russian Dynosaurus Rex back, and finally got it to act in ways it was not prepared to act originally.
This is an analysis inspired by a programmed presentation at the Concordia Press Club in Vienna – that seemed to focus merely on a Freudian analysis of the Putin mind, but turned eventually into a very good wide conversation about the topic as originally advertised. We recognized fully the change in the discussion having had to do something with this redirection of the event as it proceeded.
We found the Press conference exciting, but decided to write up what was NOT said originally and what we thought was going to be said, but came out only later. So, was my original expectation just wrong? My topic here is rather the second part of that Press Conference that was originally unsaid by the speaker.
So, let us start with the title of the original ICEUR Class of May 23, 2014, with Sergei Medvedev of the Higher School of Economics, Faculty of Political Science, of the Moscow State University with the title: “THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT: HOW CRIMEA WILL TRANSFORM RUSSIAN DOMESTIC POLITICS” – held at the Concordia Press Club in Vienna, Austria.
The Class chaired by Hans Georg Heinrich who with Ludmilla Lobova are since the 201 beginnings the Responsible Editors of the ICEUR “Strategic & Business Intelligence” product.
Prof. Hans-Georg HEINRICH is professor emeritus for Political Sciences at the University of Vienna, Vice-President and manager of ICEUR-Vienna. Dr. Lubmilla Lobova is the Scientific Director of ICEUR-Vienna.
ICEUR-Vienna – the International Center for Advanced EU-Russia Research – is an independent brain trust providing analysis, intelligence and customized services for clients in business, economic decision making and the academia.
I did not write this up earlier – but left more then a week go by to make sure I do not just shoot from the hip. Since then we had the results of the Presidential elections in the Ukraine and it seems that the team – of President Petro Poroschenko, a western style businessman, and Boxing Champ Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kiev (Kyiv), are holding in solid hands all areas west of Kyiv, with strong backing in most of the rest of the Ukraine – except the Krim (Crimea) which the Russian will never return to the Ukraine.
What seems very interesting is that seemingly Mr. Putin has indeed drawn for his use a chart of plus and minus for further action in the Ukraine – this after it sunk in that there were some enormous losses in economic terms and in goodwill – mainly in the US and in some other OECD countries – and what is worse – among his own oligarchs. After all, it was not nice to hear of further acquisitions in the west made with money that flew out of Russia – be it even such things as buying part of Pirelli by Roseneft albeit – Pirelli’s chief Marco Tronchetti-Provera came to St. Petersburg to sign the agreement with Rosneft’s chief Igor Sechin in Putin’s presence – thus honoring Putin – but the money left Russia and went to banks in the west the likes of Bank-Austria-Mutter, UniCredit and Banca Intessa Sampaio.
Putin is also aware of the results in the May 25, 2014, elections for the European Parliament. Mme. Le Pen in France, some Anti-Unionists in the UK – and others that will not even be able to form an internal united opposition in the EU, but infuriate whoever will lead the EU seemed to like Putin’s Russia. But this is only a foot-note. The EU will worry about the Ukraine rather then about Russia.
In effect the first result of these elections that has a big impact on Russia is that this last Thursday, May 29, 2014, the EU Commissioner of Energy, Mr. Guenther Oettinger, declared null and void any attempt by the Austrian oil company OEMV and Russia’s Gasprom to build the South Stream pipeline that would have reinforced Europe’s dependence on Russia’s gas supplies. Oettinger made it clear that a pipeline with its sole reason the bypassing the Ukraine in order to avoid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, is not ethical and not in the EU’s interest. Now, that was a blow Putin had anticipated, and the tactician he is, he used his visit with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to sign an agreement to sell gas to China – building a new pipeline to China instead. This agreement was being negotiated for the last three years, but it did not reach the signing stage because the Chinese were not ready to pay to the Russians more for the gas then what they pay to Turkmenistan for the gas that gets delivered to them from Central Asia. Finally – now – under conditions of duress – Putin signs the equivalent of a $400 Billion 30 years agreement with China with exact details hidden. Above happened May 21, 2014and we learned that though he got more then what was offered before, but still much less then what he gets from the EU – the real disaster for him might be in the fact that he will be payed in Yuans rather then US dollars. He is thus forced to move in part away from the World Trade that uses the dollar currency, to the new bloc being created by Brazil and China that will use BRIC currencies for trade. Someone having called this a switch from a Petro-Dollar driven World economy to a Gas-o-Yuan new system. As a new comer to this very successful bloc of upstart industrializing economies, with his underdeveloped, resource-exports State – this in effect makes him dependent of his buyers – now China – while before these Ukraine adventures he was in a long-range friendlier environment of Europe. That is why we think that the Crimea adventure was indeed that BUTTERFLY that landed n the dynosaurus back and started a process that might lead to the unraveling of Russia without a drama of a Cold War and nuclear weapons focused on each other.
But we are not complete pessimists in regard to Russia – and looking at Brussels were we see in the cards a grand coalition that will put in charge of the EU the Black and Red parties in tandem – this like it is done nearly always in Austria, and sometimes in Germany. These moves in Brussels might allow eventually Mr. Putin to come back to the negotiations’ table after making sure he forgets about his troika ambition – that meant for him the harnessing of the Ukraine and hitch it together with Belarus and Kazakhstan to his beloved troika. He will then have to resign himself to a two horses wagon only.
Upcoming ICEUR Master Class with Sergei Medvedev “The butterfly effect: How Crimea will transform Russian domestic politics” Time: 23 May 2014, 10:00 Venue: Presseclub Concordia, Bankgasse 8, 1010 Vienna Lecturer: Sergei A. Medvedev, Professor HSE Moscow, Deputy Dean for International Affairs Language: English Please register: email@example.com
“Ukraine-A new departure?” A Touch of High Politics: The ICEUR Round Table on Ukraine
ICEUR-Vienna´s statutory mission is to support and promote the dialogue between the post-Soviet area and the other European states. The rapidly escalating Ukrainian crisis has clearly evidenced the need for an institution that provides a meeting place for the business-like discussion of relevant issues. For the Ukrainian Round Table, we had deliberately invited panelists with different backgrounds and political convictions. Events in the Crimea loomed large over the agenda, which made diversity management difficult, but feasible. Despite the sharp conflict lines and the emotions generated by the recent tragic events (one speaker was a participant at the Maidan demonstrations, another had, among other things, consulted past presidents), the outlines of a common ground became visible. All panelists agreed on the goal of a future civilized Ukraine, preferably in a federal format. When it comes to issues of state and nation building, opinions diverged: Mr. Pogrebinskyyi came out strongly against presidential elections in May. He argued that such a move would polarize the nation and went with the hazard of re- introducing presidential authoritarianism through the back door. According to him, parliamentary elections should take precedence, and the new constitution should drastically curb the powers of the president. Mr. Vysotskiy supported the views of groups represented by the Maidan. They pursue a different strategy and believe that a strong elected president would guarantee stability. Mr. Fesenko, who is an advisor of the government in power, pleaded for fair elections that would reproduce a representation of the major political forces and reduce the political weight of marginal groups Unsurprisingly, the panelists as well as the discussants (among them members of the Russian Embassy) had widely divergent views about who was to blame for the violence in Kiev and elsewhere. Yet, they agreed that the truth could not be established at this point. It was also pleasant to hear that the discussants felt a follow-up to be held in Vienna would yield even more concrete and tangible results. ICEUR stands ready to act as a focal point for such initiatives. Panelists from Ukraine: Mikhail B. Pogrebinskiy,
Director, Kiev Center for Political and Conflict Research. Analyst, advisor of all Ukrainian presidents since 1991
journalist, LIGABusinessinform, participant in the Maidan demonstrations
analyst, director, Center for Applied Political Research “Penta”, advisor of the present Ukrainian government
Business Seminar in Vienna “The Russian Economy After Sochi”
Summary of findings of the ICEUR Business Seminar, 3 March 2014-03-10
The two speakers, Mikhail Dmitriev and Segey Afontsev, dealt with the dynamic of the Russian economy from different perspectives, but arrived at more or less the same conclusions. They both presented a gloomy outlook for the near future. The period of high growth rates is over and recession may be around the corner. The impact of the Ukrainian crisis can be felt already, particularly in the ballooning exchange rate and the rapid decay of the securities market. Yet, they maintain that the downslide of the Russian economy has structural causes which are merely reinforced by the Ukrainian conflict. Mr. Dmitriev predicts the stalling of growth figures because of the fact that a relatively high level of consumer saturation has been reached and income growth has ground to a halt. In fact, consumption growth has outdistanced income growth during the boom years. The shrinking of the working age populations worldwide is bound to hobble productivity and economic growth. Mr. Afontsev drew the attention to the fact that since 2009, outward FDI has surpassed inward FDI. Almost 40% of the capital leaving Russia is invested in EU countries (as opposed to 9% in Ukraine). Conversely, most investment capital coming to Russia originates in Cyprus and the Netherlands (together, 36% of total FDI). This ties in with the observation that the share of energy carriers in total exports has been growing in recent years (from a low of 37% in 1994 to almost 68% in 2013). The speaker was also skeptical about the economic benefits of megaprojects: As a rule, they drain important reserve funds, stimulate corruption and are not sustainable. Both speakers agreed that in order to preserve and improve the achievements of the boom years and to avoid wide-spread dissatisfaction and protests, the Russian economy must be radically modernized. There is no other option than the dehabituation from the addiction to oil and gas.
M. Dmitriev. The new Russian consumer: Preferences, socio-economic situation, consumption patterns (Power Point)
S. Afontsev. The Russian Economy: Situation and Outlook (Power Point)
How is the victory of Conchita Wurst being politicized in Poland? What is the connection between Eurovision and the upcoming European Parliamant elections?
The Polish political scene was electrified following the Austrian win in the Eurovision song contest. Right-wing parliamentarians and candidates in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament held numerous press conferences in order to complain about this ‘new’ Europe, which allows the victory of a ‘woman with a beard’. Also Polish social media exploded with homo- and transphobic comments and memes.
‘Europe takes away our shipyards and sugar factories and gives us bearded weirdoes instead!’ a
right wing political party spokesperson tweeted yesterday. Another tweet by a Polish candidate for the European Parliament epitomizes the general mood yesterday: ‘Europe has lost it! They promote
a bearded weirdo from Austria instead of beautiful and talented girls. This madness needs to be done away with!’
The victory of the Austrian singer Conchita Wurst (drag alias of performer Thomas Neuwirth) politicized Eurovision for Poland (to see how political Eurovision has always been in other parts of Europe, it is enough to follow voting patterns in the Balkans or the Caucasus). Politicians and commentators alike were going out of their way to deride the debauchery they saw. ‘Conchita Wurst is a symbol of the direction, in which Europe is heading (…) a symbol of Europe I don’t want. My Europe is based on Christian values’, said the spokesperson of the main Polish opposition party, Law and Justice (currently polling first for European elections).
‘Very disquieting things are going on in Europe, things that show decadence, downturn and we would like to reverse this trend’ Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice, pointed out. ‘Any propaganda aiming to efface differences between men and women is the road to decay (…) we should definitely not celebrate such things, these events do not bode well’ he added.
The Polish Catholic Church lost no time in putting their two cents in as well: ‘This is another form of promoting groups that sneer at human dignity (…) another confirmation that backgrounds priding themselves on sexual licentiousness are protected by the dominant media and “politically correct” authorities’ said priest Marek Drzewiecki. ‘It seems that the victory of Conchita Wurst was a result of the propagation of genderism. And here we should have concerns, because in the long run this destroys the family’, commented the Polish media go-to priest Dariusz Oko.
It has to be said that Polish commentators were outdone only by the Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who stated that this was the end of Europe and that the Soviet army should have never left Austria 50 years ago…
Polish gender wars:
Trolling and hate speech are a common blight of internet memes and fora. But the Polish political and social media reaction to this year’s Eurovision winner is part of a larger war which has been waged against the term ‘gender’ in Poland. As outrageous as it sounds, for the past two years or so, mainstream conservative and right wing forces (which dominate the Polish political scene) have constructed and maintained a discursive fight over the meaning and application of the seemingly obscure academic concept of gender. The virulent attacks were mostly aimed at feminist and queer academia, gender equality programs and policies especially in school and kindergarten education.
The ‘war on gender’ discourse originated in the catholic church and quickly spilled over into parliamentary and local politics. By conflating and mixing terms and phenomena this discourse attempts to hammer the message home that ‘gender’ (or ‘gender ideology’ and ‘genderism’ as used by the proponents) destroys traditional Polish family values (through divorce and same-sex relationships), promotes and ‘spreads homosexuality’, causes child sexual abuse (gender equality education is supposed to ‘sexualise children’), and turns everyone into transvestites. There is no knowledge or education on the differences between sexual reassignment, cross-dressing or transgender and queer identities and essentially no awareness on issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Hence, the ‘war on gender’ in Poland is intensely trans- and homophobic and plays into the wider anti-feminist and anti-LGBT moods within Eastern Europe. According to the 2013 ‘EU LGBT Survey’ by the Fundamental Rights Agency, 57% of people self-identifying as LGBT felt discriminated against in Poland (EU average – 47%), with only Lithuania and Croatia ranking higher (61% and 60% respectively). The lack of improvement in the social position of sexual minorities paired with attempts to roll back women’s rights (restrictions on abortion law, lack of civil partnerships legislation, problems with the implementation of anti-discrimination clauses) are a wider feature in the region. After the fall of state socialism, Eastern Europe has seen waves of growing religious and nationalistic intolerance. The rhetoric of ‘return to tradition’ (where ‘tradition’ stands for normality and nature, meaning mono-ethnic patriarchy) has become an ever-present image and dominant component of the revived and mythologized national identities in Poland, Russia, the Baltic states, the Balkans, Slovakia and Hungary.
‘We are Slavs’ vs. Wurst
According to such narratives ‘women are women and men are men’, because there are undeniable biological differences which give the two sexes specific gender roles, since men and women must have inherently different emotional and psychological qualities. This gender essentialism emerges most strikingly if you compare the Polish Eurovision performance – the song ‘We are Slavic’ and Conchita Wurst’s ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’. Eurovision is a proud feat of kitsch, but the two performances give a perfect illustration of competing gender perspectives. Conchita Wurst embodies everything that conservative Eastern Europe fears from the EU – subversion and transgression in terms of gender roles, gender ambiguity and flexibility in gender expression (translated in Poland into moral decay, rampant trans- and homosexuality, as well as going against nature or god’s law). What about ‘us, Slavs’? The song depicts perfectly the Polish heteronormative natural and traditional vision of gender roles: ‘We Slavic girls know how our charms and beauty work/We like to shake what mom gave us in our genes/ This is Slavic blood!/(…) What’s ours is best, because it’s ours!’ Whether you think the performance was pastiche, soft porn or just good fun, the not-so-subtle message was that Slavic women know ‘how to use what mother nature gave them’ and half-dressed do the laundry and churn butter by hand in sexually inviting ways for their men.
War on gender and European Parliament elections
The Polish ‘war on gender’, which had somewhat died down in the past couple of months, reached another apogee this week thanks to the Eurovision song contest. The amount of bile, hate speech and trans- and homophobia that spilled from Polish political elites and social media in response to the event shows how dominant the ‘gender war’ thinking has become as a comfortable rhetoric tool in debates. It also gave conservative Eurosceptics an image to point to before the European Parliament elections later this month. Given the already extremely low interest and weak voter turnout (never exceeding 25% so far) in European elections, the Polish right wing gained an emotive picture to scare people with and to rally against. An image that plays perfectly into the political game they have been playing since mid-2012, when they took on fighting ‘gender’ and trying to curb gender equality, women’s and sexual minority rights even further. Image of a woman with a beard.
Barbara Gaw?da is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on gendered political discourses in Eastern Europe.
And from the ECONOMIST of May 19, 2014 by T.J. in Eastern approaches – Ex-communist Europe:“The Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and another senior churchman have used the floods to attack the country’s lesbian and gay community as well as Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian drag queen who won the Eurovison song contest on May 10th. They claim that the floods were a punishment from God for their vices.”
But this is not all – similar arguments come in Vienna also from Muslim sources. Personally – I was lectured today by my good Macedonian Muslim tailor on how from above angels punish us for the ways women behave, and he gave me full description of the way these angels, under Gabriel, act according to the Koran and tradition.He also reminded me of Lot’s daughters and the upheaval they caused and the hole in the earth that is now the Dead Sea! To show how series this is he gave me to take home some booklets that were given to him.
In short, a poor rational person like myself is pushed to take cover by these Eastern minds – be they from the Eastern Christian Churches or Muslims. Europe is still far away from enlightenment.
And what about the Christian right or the extreme Jewish Orthodoxy in America? Are they any better?
Too bad that in the 21st Century we still have to hear such arguments while we try to analyze man-induced climate change.
On the other hand, according to the “Heute” paper of today, the husband of Conchita Wurst (Tom Neuwirth) is Jacques Patriaque – who is a “Boylesque” dancer – that is the men parallel to Burlesque that shows mostly women.
This information became available as Mr. Patriaque will be performing in an upcoming festival – www.boylesque festivalvienna.com – This new angle to Conchita’s story story is bound to be reason for new criticism.
Whatever – we will continue to hold to our idea that people’s preferences do not entitle them to prejudice that impacts human rights of others.
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin said Monday that he was withdrawing Russian troops from the border with Ukraine, the second time he has said that in less than two weeks. He also praised the government in Kiev, which he had previously called an illegal, fascist junta, for its willingness to negotiate structural changes.
But the intended audience for these conciliatory remarks may not have been the United States and Europe, who would distrust them in any event. No, Mr. Putin’s gaze was more likely fixed on China, where he arrives on Tuesday by all accounts determined to show that he, too, wants to pivot to Asia.
While Mr. Putin has been casting an eye eastward practically since he returned to the presidency in 2012, the crisis in relations with the West over Ukraine has made ties to Asia, and particularly relations with its economic engine, China, a key strategic priority. With Europe trying to wean itself off Russian gas, and the possibility of far more serious Western sanctions looming should the crisis deepen, Moscow needs an alternative.
Mr. Putin has stressed repeatedly in recent weeks that Russia sees its economic future with China, noting that its Asian neighbor was on track to surpass the United States as the leading global economic power. A tilt to the East is also in keeping with Mr. Putin’s recent turn to a conservative nationalist ideology, emphasizing religion, family values and patriotism in contrast to what he sees as the increasingly godless, relativist and decadent West.
“Today, Russia firmly places China at the top of its foreign trade partners,” Mr. Putin said in an interview with Chinese journalists on the eve of his visit, according to a transcript released Monday by the Kremlin. “In the context of turbulent global economy, the strengthening of mutually beneficial trade and economic ties, as well as the increase of investment flows between Russia and China, are of paramount importance.”
Mr. Putin’s announcement of a pullback of Russian forces from the Ukraine border was likely to help calm the situation there before presidential elections scheduled for Sunday. But it could also be seen as a gesture to Chinese sensitivities about separatism, given Beijing’s continuing troubles with Tibet, the Uighurs and scores of lesser-known ethnic and religious minorities.
It was also the third time Mr. Putin had announced a pullback without any evidence of troops actually departing, the NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, noted Monday at a news conference in Brussels.
The centerpiece of Mr. Putin’s two-day visit to China could well be a long-stalled deal with Russia to ship natural gas from new Siberian fields to China starting around 2019. The two have been haggling over the deal for a decade, but could not agree on a price for the gas.
Experts anticipate that Russia is finally prepared to come to terms, if only to let Washington and Western Europe know that it has other markets for its gas and important friends in the world.
“Because of this current disaster in our relations with the West, they have no alternative,” said Vasily B. Kashin, a China expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow policy organization. “They need to go to Asia to make any deals possible as quickly as possible.”
Mr. Putin is due in Normandy on June 6 for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. He is likely to meet with President Obama and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to discuss the Ukraine crisis. Brandishing a new gas deal with China would strengthen Mr. Putin’s hand, helping deflate the threat of Western sanctions.
In the interview with Chinese journalists, Mr. Putin noted that bilateral trade with China last year was close to $90 billion. Although Russian trade with the European Union as a bloc is far larger, amounting to some $370 billion in 2012, trade with China is on par with leading individual partners like Germany. Trade with the United States was only $26 billion in 2012.
Russia needs new markets because it is hugely dependent on commodity exports, earning some 67 percent of its export income from oil and gas alone. Financing from China would also help offset reluctance by Western banks to extend new loans, given the threat of sanctions.
“There will be a natural gas agreement, which is very important not for the agreement itself, but because it will open the road for further, much bigger agreements in natural gas and other raw materials,” Mr. Kashin said.
Mr. Putin said Russia would try to increase trade volume with China to $100 billion next year and double that by 2020.
Aside from what he described as a “strategic energy alliance,” Mr. Putin mentioned possible joint projects in airplanes and helicopters, mining, agricultural processing and transportation infrastructure. Other technical and military cooperation agreements will also be discussed, but both sides tend to keep those secret, so details might not emerge for some months, experts said.
Russia and China, which share a border of more than 2,600 miles, have long had uneasy relations. Russia, wary about the economic gorilla along its southern borders, blocked Chinese investment, particularly in fields considered strategic like energy, except for two small deals. Mr. Putin on Monday clearly enunciated a more welcoming message.
“That is a big shift,” said Clifford Gaddy, of the Brookings Institution in Washington and the author of a book on Mr. Putin, “and indicates how serious they are in taking a step toward China.”
Mr. Gaddy added, “It is a shift in rhetoric, and we will see if it is followed up with a shift in action.”
In highlighting that the sanctions are helping to disrupt the Russian economy, the Obama administration has virtually ignored that it is pushing Russia toward greater dependence on China, Mr. Gaddy noted.
The Russians are hoping that China will also agree to help build a bridge linking the mainland to the Crimean port of Kerch, lending not only valuable expertise but also tacit endorsement of an annexation that much of the world considers illegal. There is no current land link to the annexed territory.
China abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote in March rejecting the referendum that Russia organized in Crimea before annexing it. That earned China special praise from Mr. Putin in his speech announcing the annexation.
Russia and China are also scheduled to hold joint naval exercises in China toward the end of the month, and President Xi Jinping was one of the few world leaders to put in an appearance at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
There is, of course, no guarantee that the two sides will come to terms on the gas deal. Alexei Miller, the chief executive of state-run Gazprom, announced over the weekend that Russia and China had agreed on everything in the 30-year contract except the price.
Experts noted that the price gap had endured for years, although it is generally believed to have shrunk from hundreds of dollars per thousand cubic meters to $50 or less. Before, Moscow’s bargaining strategy was to wait out the Chinese, figuring that their insatiable appetite for natural resources would bring them to Russia’s doorstep at favorable terms.
But analysts believe that passive strategy is over.
“There is no more time, with sanctions escalating,” said Ildar Davletshin, the head of oil and gas research at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank. “Russia has become more desperate to get a real outlet.”
Mr. Davletshin also noted that as negotiations had dragged on, Russia gradually lost market share to other suppliers in Central Asia.
Russia, with its massive resources, is attractive to the Chinese. “Russia is just across the river and it is vast and underpopulated, so it is attractive for China to own a piece,” Mr. Davletshin said.
That also puts its resources out of reach of American sanctions and the United States Navy, analysts noted.
As initially conceived, Russian gas was to enter China in its far west, where the demand was lowest, and in the ensuing years China negotiated deals for other, cheaper sources.
So the current deal concentrates on selling 38 billion cubic meters of gas, worth about $14 billion if they agree to a price of around $380 per thousand cubic meters, as analysts expect. Part of the bargaining also concerns the financing China might provide to build the nearly 1,500 mile pipeline, estimated to cost $30 billion.
Andrew Higgins contributed reporting from Brussels.
Also Think of the BRICS, supported by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that within the G20, are the new grouping that intends to stand up to NATO and the G7 and is meeting in July 2014 in Brazil to establish a $100 billion BRICS development bank, announced in 2012, to be a potential alternative to the US led UN’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank – as a source of project financing for the developing world – with the former 120 NAM (Non Aligned Movement) Nations solidly aligned with the China-Russia led, and gas fed, new result of Asia’s own “Pivoting” that is evolving since Washington’s own “RESET to Asia” policy. This is no less then a World reorganization to change the post WWII architecture that rebuilt Europe and established the UN. Now a China led new structure is the result of China becoming the World’s largest economy, a new Sino-Russia relationship, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,
More BRICS cooperation meant to bypass the dollar is reflected in the “Gas-o-yuan,” as in natural gas bought and paid for in Chinese currency. Gazprom is even considering marketing bonds in yuan as part of the financial planning for its expansion. Yuan-backed bonds are already trading in Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and most recently Frankfurt.
Above stresses the importance of the largest BUYER in the fossil fuels market, whose currency then becomes the World’s Reserve currency. Hence the dollar that bought Arab oil might now be replaced by the Yuan that buys Russian gas. Strange as it might seem, but the dependence on these imports of energy matter is the reasurance of the stability of the buyer’s currency – that needs no-more to show it has large reserves of Gold to gain the needed credibility.
We strongly recommend the following link and TomDispatch.com Asian correspondent’s Pepe Escobar’s look at what he sees as the start of Cold War II with these “resets” and “pivots” and the Shanghai Cooperation Council. He also looks at Washington and sees there the start of a Cold War 2.0 mentality that stresses military hardware expense allowing for a neglect of internal infrastructure at a time China grows by building up its own internal market.
Nevertheless, we must also remark here that Pepe Escobar has not looked yet at the new India as it might evolve under the Narendra D. Modi Administration, and a possible US attempt to try some new alignment with the largest democracy in the world as its way of re-entering the large mass of people economics needed to have weight in a world of consumers. We must also note that in order to reenter the global market, the US must have again also exportable consumer goods besides the present military exports – the latter also by now not being left as a US global monopoly. Much of the decreased US need for oil imports being not just because of increases in energy efficiency and increases in alternate sources of energy, but as well in the loss of production of goods and employment of its people.
When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean landmass but also a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars.
Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence.
Russia did so under an international accord that gives nations sovereignty over areas up to 230 miles from their shorelines. It had tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to energy resources in the same territory in a pact with Ukraine less than two years earlier.
“It’s a big deal,” said Carol R. Saivetz, a Eurasian expert in the Security Studies Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It deprives Ukraine of the possibility of developing these resources and gives them to Russia. It makes Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian pressure.”
Gilles Lericolais, the director of European and international affairs at France’s state oceanographic group, called Russia’s annexation of Crimea “so obvious” as a play for offshore riches.
In Moscow, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin said there was “no connection” between the annexation and energy resources, adding that Russia did not even care about the oil and gas. “Compared to all the potential Russia has got, there was no interest there,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Saturday.
Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and other major oil companies have already explored the Black Sea, and some petroleum analysts say its potential may rival that of the North Sea. That rush, which began in the 1970s, lifted the economies of Britain, Norway and other European countries.
William B. F. Ryan, a marine geologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said Russia’s Black Sea acquisition gave it what are potentially “the best” of that body’s deep oil reserves.
Oil analysts said that mounting economic sanctions could slow Russia’s exploitation of its Black and Azov Sea annexations by reducing access to Western financing and technology. But they noted that Russia had already taken over the Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company, instantly giving Russia exploratory gear on the Black Sea.
“Russia’s in a mood to behave aggressively,” said Vladimir Socor, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a research group in Washington that follows Eurasian affairs. “It’s already seized two drilling rigs.”
The global hunt for fossil fuels has increasingly gone offshore, to places like the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and the South China Sea. Hundreds of oil rigs dot the Caspian, a few hundred miles east of the Black Sea.
Nations divide up the world’s potentially lucrative waters according to guidelines set forth by the 1982 Law of the Sea Treaty. The agreement lets coastal nations claim what are known as exclusive economic zones that can extend up to 200 nautical miles (or 230 statute miles) from their shores. Inside these zones, countries can explore, exploit, conserve and manage deep natural resources, living and nonliving.
The countries with shores along the Black Sea have long seen its floor as a potential energy source, mainly because of modest oil successes in shallow waters.
Just over two years ago, the prospects for huge payoffs soared when a giant ship drilling through deep bedrock off Romania found a large gas field in waters more than half a mile deep.
Russia moved fast.
In April 2012, Mr. Putin, then Russia’s prime minister, presided over the signing of an accord with Eni, the Italian energy giant, to explore Russia’s economic zone in the northeastern Black Sea. Dr. Ryan of Columbia estimated that the size of the zone before the Crimean annexation was roughly 26,000 square miles, about the size of Lithuania.
A month later, oil exploration specialists at a European petroleum conference made a lengthy presentation, the title of which asked: “Is the Black Sea the Next North Sea?” The paper cited geological studies that judged the waters off Ukraine as having “tremendous exploration potential” but saw the Russian zone as less attractive.
In August 2012, Ukraine announced an accord with an Exxon-led group to extract oil and gas from the depths of Ukraine’s Black Sea waters. The Exxon team had outbid Lukoil, a Russian company. Ukraine’s state geology bureau said development of the field would cost up to $12 billion.
“The Black Sea Hots Up,” read a 2013 headline in GEO ExPro, an industry magazine published in Britain. “Elevated levels of activity have become apparent throughout the Black Sea region,” the article said, “particularly in deepwater.”
When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine on March 18, it issued a treaty of annexation between the newly declared Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation. Buried in the document — in Article 4, Section 3 — a single bland sentence said international law would govern the drawing of boundaries through the adjacent Black and Azov Seas.
Dr. Ryan estimates that the newly claimed maritime zone around Crimea added about 36,000 square miles to Russia’s existing holdings. The addition is more than three times the size of the Crimean landmass, and about the size of Maine.
At the time, few observers noted Russia’s annexation of Crimea in those terms. An exception was Romania, whose Black Sea zone had been adjacent to Ukraine’s before Russia stepped in.
“Romania and Russia will be neighbors,” Romania Libera, a newspaper in Bucharest, observed on March 24. The article’s headline said the new maritime border could become a “potential source of conflict.”
Many nations have challenged Russia’s seizing of Crimea and thus the legality of its Black and Azov Sea claims. But the Romanian newspaper quoted analysts as judging that the other countries bordering the Black Sea — Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania — would tacitly recognize the annexation “in order to avoid an open conflict.”
Most immediately, analysts say, Russia’s seizing may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. The planned pipeline, meant to run through the deepest parts of the Black Sea, is to pump Russian gas to Europe.
Originally, to avoid Ukraine’s maritime zone, Russia drew the route for the costly pipeline in a circuitous jog southward through Turkey’s waters. But now it can take a far more direct path through its newly acquired Black Sea territory, if the project moves forward. The Ukraine crisis has thrown its future into doubt.
As for oil extraction in the newly claimed maritime zones, companies say their old deals with Ukraine are in limbo, and analysts say new contracts are unlikely to be signed anytime soon, given the continuing turmoil in the region and the United States’ efforts to ratchet up pressure on Russia.
“There are huge issues at stake,” noted Dr. Saivetz of M.I.T. “I can’t see them jumping into new deals right now.”
The United States is using its wherewithal to block Russian moves in the maritime zones. Last month, it imposed trade restrictions on Chernomorneftegaz, the breakaway Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company.
Eric L. Hirschhorn, the United States under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said sanctions against the Crimean business would send “a strong message” of condemnation for Russia’s “incursion into Ukraine and expropriation of Ukrainian assets.”
Alexandra Odynova contributed reporting from Moscow.
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Thousands of steelworkers fanned out on Thursday through the city of Mariupol, establishing control over the streets and banishing the pro-Kremlin militants who until recently had seemed to be consolidating their grip on power, dealing a setback to Russia and possibly reversing the momentum in eastern Ukraine.
By late Thursday, miners and steelworkers had deployed in at least five cities, including the regional capital, Donetsk. They had not, however, become the dominant force there that they were in Mariupol, the region’s second-largest city and the site last week of a bloody confrontation between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian militants.
While it was still far too early to say the tide had turned in eastern Ukraine, the day’s events were a blow to separatists who recently seized control here and in a dozen or so other cities and who held a referendum on independence on Sunday. Backed by the Russian propaganda machine and by 40,000 Russian troops just over the border, their grip on power seemed to be tightening every day.
But polls had indicated that a strong majority of eastern Ukrainians supported unity, though few were prepared to say so publicly in the face of armed pro-Russian militants. When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia withdrew support for the separatists last week, calling for a delay in the referendum and for dialogue on Ukraine’s future, the political winds shifted, providing an opening that the country’s canny oligarchs could exploit.
The workers who took to the streets on Thursday were among the hundreds of thousands in the east who are employed in metals and mining by Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, who only recently went beyond paying lip service to Ukrainian unity and on Wednesday issued a statement rejecting separatism.
Critics say Mr. Akhmetov could have prevented much of the bloodshed in the east if he had taken a strong stance sooner. But his lieutenants say he decided to confront the separatists out of a deep belief that independence, or even quasi-autonomy, would be disastrous for eastern Ukraine. Mr. Akhmetov urged his employees, whose jobs were at risk, to take over the city.
The workers, who were wearing only their protective clothing and hard hats, said they were “outside politics” and were just trying to establish order. Faced with waves of steelworkers joined by the police, the pro-Russian protesters melted away, along with signs of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and its representatives. Backhoes and dump trucks from the steelworkers’ factory dismantled the barricades that separatists had erected.
Metinvest and DTEK, the metals and mining subsidiaries of Mr. Akhmetov’s company, System Capital Management, together employ 280,000 people in eastern Ukraine, forming an important and possibly decisive force in the region. They have a history of political activism stretching back to miner strikes that helped bring down the Soviet Union. In this conflict, they had not previously signaled their allegiance to one side or the other.
It remains possible that the separatists could regroup and challenge the industrial workers, though few were to be found in and around Mariupol on Thursday, even in the public administration building they had been occupying.
“We have to bring order to the city,” Aleksei Gorlov, a steelworker, said of his motivation for joining one of the unpaid and voluntary patrols that were organized at Ilyich Iron and Steel Works. Groups of about six steelworkers accompanied two police officers on the patrols.
“People organize themselves,” he said. “In times of troubles, that is how it works.”
Workers from another mill, Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, took one side of the city, while the Ilyich factory took the other. Both groups were trying to persuade longshoremen to patrol the port, Mr. Gorlov said.
The two steel mills fly Ukrainian flags outside their headquarters, though like so much else in Ukraine, the lines of loyalty are muddled. At least a portion of the police in the city mutinied last Friday, leading to a shootout with the Ukrainian National Guard that killed at least seven people.
The chief executive of Ilyich Steel Works, Yuri Zinchenko, is leading the steelworker patrols in the city. He said the company had remained on the sidelines as long as possible, while tacitly supporting unity with Ukraine by conveying to workers that a separatist victory would close export markets in Europe, devastating the factory and the town.
Though the workers had differing views of the new government in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, on the whole they supported the patrols to restore order, employees and managers said. “Everybody can have their own opinion, but not at work,” Sergei Istratov, a shift boss at the factory, said. “At work, you have to do what the factory demands.”
Yuri Ryzhenkov, the chief executive of Metinvest, which is ranked among the top five steel producers globally, said managers had been conveying to workers: “The most important thing you have is the steel mill. If you have the steel mill, you have jobs, salaries and stability for your families.”
Once patrols began, he said, representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic visited the Ilyich factory, demanding to know what was happening. “They were not very friendly at first,” Mr. Ryzhenkov said. But the patrols were welcomed in town, he said, and militants had little option but to acquiesce, at least in Mariupol.
“The Donetsk People’s Republic understands if they attack unarmed local people, they will lose all support here,” he said.
The effort is more than ad hoc. The coal and steel workers will soon have uniforms for the street patrols, Metinvest executives said, with patches identifying them as members of the “Volunteer People’s Patrol.”
If the patrols are successful, they said, they will try the tactic in most major cities in the Donetsk region, though not in Slovyansk, a stronghold of pro-Russian militants where Metinvest and DTEK have no factories or mines.
Ilyich Iron and Steel, a grimy scene of mid-20th-century industrial sprawl, is one of Ukraine’s most important factories, producing five million tons of slab steel a year. About 50,000 people work in the steel industry in Mariupol, a city of 460,000. So far, 18,000 steelworkers have signed up for the patrols, Metinvest executives say.
“There’s no family in Mariupol that’s not connected to the steel industry,” Mr. Zinchenko said in an interview at his desk, which was decorated with a miniature Ukrainian flag. He said he had negotiated a truce with local representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic, but not with the group’s leaders.
Mr. Akhmetov’s statement detailed the daunting problems facing the regional economy — and his assets — if the Donetsk People’s Republic were to win its struggle with Kiev.
“Nobody in the world will recognize it,” he said in a videotaped statement. “The structure of our economy is coal, industry, metallurgy, energy, machine works, chemicals and agriculture, and all the enterprises tied to these sectors. We will come under huge sanctions, we will not sell our products, cannot produce. This means the stopping of factories, this means unemployment, this means poverty.”
Russia itself exports steel, so it has never been a significant market for the output of the Donetsk region.
Residents welcomed the steelworker patrols for bringing an end to chaos and insecurity. They said masked men had robbed four grocery stores, a shop selling hunting rifles and a jewelry store, and that they had burned down a bank.
The crowds of pro-Russian protesters who had jeered and cursed Ukrainian soldiers last week were nowhere to be seen. On the city’s central square Thursday afternoon, a pro-Russian rally drew a few dozen protesters, who were watched over by a group of steelworkers.
The government in Kiev rebutted reports that the police chief had been found hanging and dead in the town. He had indeed been kidnapped by gunmen and was severely beaten, the Interior Ministry said, but he was eventually rescued.
“There are a lot of idiots with guns in my city,” said Aleksey Rybinsev, 38, a computer programmer who added he welcomed the new patrols, though he feared they might develop into another informal militia group. “I haven’t seen a policeman all day. I didn’t see them, and I didn’t want to see them.”
A version of this article appears in print on May 16, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Workers Quiet Unrest in Cities in East Ukraine.
Talks on Ukraine Crisis Open in Kiev Without Representation for Separatists
France’s Sale of 2 Ships to Russians Is Ill-Advised, U.S. Warns –
“The Faces of Nearly 3,000 Innocent Souls”Yesterday, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum opened its doors to the families of those who lost their lives in the 2001 attacks, as well as the first responders and recovery workers that helped save the lives of others that day.
“Here, at this memorial, this museum, we come together,” said President Obama. “We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls — men and women and children of every race, every creed, and every corner of the world. … Here we tell their story, so that generations yet unborn will never forget.”
“Here, at this memorial, this museum, we come together. We stand in the footprints of two mighty towers, graced by the rush of eternal waters. We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls — men and women and children of every race, every creed, and every corner of the world. We can touch their names and hear their voices and glimpse the small items that speak to the beauty of their lives. A wedding ring. A dusty helmet. A shining badge.
Here we tell their story, so that generations yet unborn will never forget. Of coworkers who led others to safety. Passengers who stormed a cockpit. Our men and women in uniform who rushed into an inferno. Our first responders who charged up those stairs. A generation of servicemembers — our 9/11 Generation — who have served with honor in more than a decade of war. A nation that stands tall and united and unafraid — because no act of terror can match the strength or the character of our country. Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us; nothing can change who we are as Americans.”
In his remarks, the President also told the story of Welles Crowther, a young man who gave his own life in order to save others:
“On that September morning, Alison Crowther lost her son Welles. Months later, she was reading the newspaper — an article about those final minutes in the towers. Survivors recounted how a young man wearing a red handkerchief had led them to safety. And in that moment, Alison knew. Ever since he was a boy, her son had always carried a red handkerchief. Her son Welles was the man in the red bandana.
Welles was just 24 years old, with a broad smile and a bright future. He worked in the South Tower, on the 104th floor. He had a big laugh, a joy of life, and dreams of seeing the world. He worked in finance, but he had also been a volunteer firefighter. And after the planes hit, he put on that bandana and spent his final moments saving others.
Three years ago this month, after our SEALs made sure that justice was done, I came to Ground Zero. And among the families here that day was Alison Crowther. And she told me about Welles and his fearless spirit, and she showed me a handkerchief like the one he wore that morning.
And today, as we saw on our tour, one of his red handkerchiefs is on display in this museum. And from this day forward, all those who come here will have a chance to know the sacrifice of a young man who — like so many — gave his life so others might live.”
“Those we lost live on in us,” said the President. “In the families who love them still. In the friends who remember them always. And in a nation that will honor them, now and forever.”
The President kept his words tight and dignified without mentioning the perpetrators, but we allow ourselves to be more outspoken and remind our readers that the Bin Ladens are products of our insistence on using their Saudi Arabia as a mere oil-source, and do not dare to talk of human rights or other such banalities as democracy. We also would never speak up against religious Islamic Arab racism as long as the Arab world just persists in harming their own. It is only when they step out of line and harm American or Israeli citizens that we wake up – but still continue to buy their oil and gas.
Now, while we mourn the civilized world’s victims “of all races and creeds” as per the 9/11 beast-made cataclysm – our papers talk of a “Black Bin Laden” by the name of Abubakar Shrkau, the boss of the Islamic Terror-group Boko Haram who has it out against the Christian Nigerians – killing them and abducting their daughters. This is no less then a “cleansing” operation in the Islamic World, and the results are clear in the Middle East and are now being extended to Africa – this along the “oil-road” – be it in Sudan or Nigeria.
When will the US and the EU finally realize that energy is not a synonym for oil?
If Climate Change, and now also the fate of the Ukraine are no eye openers – what will ever awaken a dormant US Congress or a dormant EU Parliament that can think only oil and gas?
On 9/11 2001, the day the UN General Assembly was to start their meetings, I was supposed to participate and being inducted at a ringing of the Peace Bell. Obviously, looking at the clouds of dust hovering over down-town, that were visible even at the 42 Street at the UN, the event was postponed by several days, and when held it was more like a wake not an inspiration. I, and everyone involved in this, will never forget or forgive. (PJ)
And from today’s mail from The Council of Foreign Relations:
Boko Haram’s kidnapping of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria has claimed more international attention than any other atrocity of the ongoing insurgency. A Boko Haram warlord’s video claiming responsibility for the kidnapping and threatening to, in effect, sell the girls into slavery appears to have fed the media storm, tying the tragedy to larger issues of human trafficking, child marriage, and girls’ education. Read more on Africa in Transition »
Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “secular education is a sin,” has been committing heinous attacks across Nigeria’s north for years, frequently targeting schools. To fight back, Abuja must double down on education even as it rethinks its counterterrorism strategy. Read more on ForeignAffairs.com »
Education has long been in the crosshairs of extremists, but only recently came to light via Boko Haram’s kidnapping of nearly three hundred school girls. More than seventy million school-aged children do not attend elementary school. This statistic will need to change to ensure prosperity, stability, and security. Read the op-ed »
Will the “Civilized World” do anything if the present rage subsides? (PJ)