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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Report: Ukraine Synagogue Firebombed Just Days After Distribution of Anti-Semitic Flyers (VIDEO)

April 20, 2014 12:00 pm 21 comments
A vandal firebombing the Noklayev Synagogue, in Ukraine, on April 19, 2014, as recorded by closed-circuit security cameras. Photo: Screenshot / Yisroel Gotlieb.

A vandal firebombing the Nikolayev Synagogue, in Ukraine, on April 19, 2014, as recorded by closed-circuit security cameras. Photo: Screenshot / Yisroel Gotlieb.

The Nikolayev Synagogue in Ukraine was reportedly firebombed by vandals at approximate 2 AM on Saturday morning, according to Chabad blog Shturem and closed-circuit footage of the attack, uploaded to YouTube at the weekend.

The footage was posted by Yisroel Gotlieb, son of the city’s chief rabbi, Sholom Gotlieb.

One firebomb was thrown at the door of the synagogue, which was unoccupied at the time, and another was lobbed at a window, according to the blog.

The junior Gotleib told Shturem that “miraculously a person passing by the shul was equipped with a fire extinguisher, and immediately put out the fire that had erupted, preventing massive damage.”

In February, the Giymat Rosa Synagogue, in Zaporizhia, southeast of Kiev, was also firebombed.

Reports of rising anti-Semitism in the Ukraine after Russia’s recent occupation of Crimea were highlighted last week when fliers, reminiscent of the pogroms of a century ago, were distributed outside of a synagogue on Passover. The origin of the fliers is yet unknown, and debate has focused on whether they were from Russian or Ukrainian groups, from officials or designed to appear so, or if they were intended as some kind of a KGB-style subterfuge created to use anti-Semitism as a lever in the conflict.

The fliers, distributed in Donetsk, were addressed to “Ukraine nationals of Jewish nationality,” alerting Jews to pay a fee to register their names on a list and to show documentation of property ownership, or face deportation.

————————————–

From the 21 Comments

  • If one hair from one Jewish head will fall, the IDF will take good care of those anti-semities Bastards!! They really don’t know who are they dealing with?? What happend 70 years ago will NEVER happen again!!

  • What is it about this you don’t understand? Israel must always be there!

  • chaim yosef levi

    This behavior is expected from Ukrainians. The Breslovers must stop patronizing Ukraine by peregrinating there. Better rremove the remains of Rabbi Nachman and bury him in Israel.
    Stop going there to drink their Vodka and to use the Ukrainian hookers. Other jews must leave that G-d forsaken land.p

  • Many of us regrettably have such short memories. We should ask ourselves why so many concentration camp guards and auxiliary troops were Ukrainian and were often more ruthless than their German compatriots. This part of the world has been a hot bed of anti-semitism for centuries past and anti-Jewish animus remains well entrenched in the psyche of the populace. Not one Jew should have taken up residence in the Ukraine after the Second World War.

  • Adele Mischel MSW

    Those of us who went through the Holocaust, know from personal experience, when the ugly demon of anti-Semitism once again rears its head. The Ukraine is no longer a home for a proud people…the Jewish people.
    It is difficult to leave a homeland, but in this situation, the real homeland is Israel..

  • A message from On High to get out of there.

  • A message from On High to get out of therre.

  • I thought the flyer and all the antisemetic stuff from the Ukraine was fake. Ha–I do not want to say that I told you that those Ukranian bastards were bad, but I told you so.

    This is precisely why I have said from the beginning, that I hope the Ukraine-Russia situation becomes the same as the Iran-Iraq War–for 9 years. If you think this Ukranian firebombing of a synagogue is bad for Jews, you should only know what their hero–Bohdan Chmelnitzky did to the Jews in the 1600?s. A whole lot worse than the Nazis and Hitler–yet that mother f***** Chmelnitzky, is on their $5 bill today; and the Ukranians are obviously proud of him.

    The Russians and the Ukranians should all drop dead–and I will celebrate those events!!!

  • REMEMBER: The sad sacks who perpetrated this sick act were nursed by their mothers’…
    Cowardly perversion by a few with lesser brains. Decency…Respect was never their strong suit..

  • Lucille Kaplan

    Even if these events are sinister contrivances of Russian annexationists wanting to make ethnic Ukrainians look bad, the fact that either side, in this conflict, feels free to resort to anti-Semitism, and that both sides know full well that anti-Semitism catches on like wildfire in this region,confirms what others have already said here: That it is folly for Jews to remain in this part of Eastern Europe. The mass exterminations of Jews in the forests of Volhyn (including 2 of my sisters), often at the hands of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators, bespeaks what appears to be nearly a genetically programmed hatred of Jews, in that region. . .I wish it were otherwise. .The time to evacuate is now.

  • It is time to get out of any country were Jews lives are threaten, Israel is the homeland and today there are no excuses for a big tragedy. “Never Again means Never Again.” One more reason for Israel to remain a Jewish State…a Jewish Nation… a Jewish Country.

  • pity we did not have a sniper on place to shoot him down

  • This is precisely why Israel must be the Jewish homeland.

    • Dr. abraham Weizfeld

      Just one fascist and so many frightened chickens? My uncle Meyer Goldsheider did not run away, he fought the Nazi occupation as a partisan.

  • Not a moment too soon for Jews to leave this country that has persecuted Jews for over 100 years. Nothing will change there until the last one is out. Then the Ukrainians will be able to blame us anyway, but can’t hurt anyone. They murdered 100?s of thousands of Jews during WWII, why does anyone think this was a passing fad.

  • NOW IS THE TIME FOR JEWS TO MAKE ALYAH TO ISRAEL BEFORE ITS TO LATE

  • An Easter greeting perhaps?

  • It is time for the Jews to get out of Russia, the Ukraine and any of the countries in the former Soviet Union.

    • You only encourage other mindsets to add to the shame…As you sit smug else wear.  Not helpful in the least.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Ottoman Revival Is Over.

 

NEW YORK — For Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s embattled prime minister, a win in Sunday’s local elections will be a Pyrrhic victory. While his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., will likely retain a majority of municipalities, Turkey as a whole, particularly as an international player, has lost.

Mr. Erdogan’s decade-plus grip on power has been weakened by anti-government protests, corruption allegations, and an ugly confrontation with the powerful and admired Muslim religious leader Fethullah Gulen. In a desperate effort to prevent any further hemorrhaging of his power, Mr. Erdogan has abandoned the ambitious foreign policy that was the basis for Turkey’s regional resurgence in recent years and has resorted to attacking his enemies. The prime minister is now so fixated on his own political survival that he recently attempted, in vain, to shut down Twitter across the country.

It’s a far cry from 2003, when Mr. Erdogan ascended to the premiership and announced a determined and democratic agenda to strengthen Turkey’s economic and global standing.

(The author says) I visited him soon afterward in Turkey’s capital, Ankara. He told me then, “There are approximately 72 million people in this country — and I represent each and every one.”   To represent everyone, he pushed for the passage of laws that granted increased freedoms to Turkey’s minorities, particularly the Kurds. He implemented economic policies to increase foreign investment. He reached out to far-flung capitals in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, opening more than a dozen embassies and many new markets. He even secured a rotating seat for Turkey on the United Nations Security Council in 2009 and made contributions to Washington’s “war on terror.”

Nearly every road that has been fixed, public transportation project approved, school built and reform passed has been done so with an eye to extending Turkey’s regional and global influence.

In 2009, Mr. Erdogan began to advance a “zero problems” foreign policy. The brainchild of his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, that policy was predicated on the idea that Turkey isn’t merely a “bridge” or “crossroads” between East and West, but an integral player in international diplomacy, security and trade. Turkey sought closer relations with neighbors in the Balkans, Russia, and especially the Middle East. “Zero problems,” guided Mr. Erdogan to deepen ties with Turkey’s southern and eastern neighbors, including Iran and Syria. Both became major trading partners and, in Iran’s case, a vital source for Turkish energy.

Some have called it “neo-Ottomanism” — an attempt to restore the former Ottoman Empire and its vanished regional glory. Whatever the label, Turkey managed to become a key foreign policy player in the eyes of American and European leaders.

President Obama traveled to Turkey in 2009 and spoke about the country’s strategic importance and increasing global role. During the Arab Spring, Western leaders held Turkey up as a progressive and prosperous democratic model for other Muslim-majority nations. Mr. Erdogan even took Turkey further toward European Union accession than any leader before him.

Beset by domestic crises, Mr. Erdogan has turned his focus toward his core constituency, a largely conservative, anti-Western population in the heartland. In doing so he has reverted to a tactic that has resonated with them: aggression.

Frantic to recreate the enthusiasm he garnered after storming off a panel with Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, in Davos in 2009 and his decision to cut ties with Israel after Israel attacked a Turkish flotilla in 2010, Mr. Erdogan has ramped up hostile rhetoric against his opponents — abroad and at home. He has attacked what he calls the “interest rate lobby,” called last summer’s protests a “dirty plot by foreign-backed elements,” and blamed the “provocative actions” of “foreign diplomats” for concocting corruption allegations. Recently, he slammed Mr. Gulen and his followers as a “spy ring” seeking to overthrow the government.

Moreover, Mr. Erdogan’s current governance strategy has gutted the country’s foreign policy. Nearby Crimea, a former Ottoman stronghold and the native land of the Tatars, an ethnic Turkic people, is a case in point. When Russia invaded and annexed the Black Sea peninsula, Mr. Erdogan failed to come to the defense of his cultural and religious brethren, as he did in Egypt. Indeed, after the Egyptian military ousted Mohamed Morsi in July, Mr. Erdogan dismissed their actions as “illegal,” refused to recognize the new government and recalled Turkey’s ambassador to Cairo. On Crimea, the Turkish prime minister has restricted himself to grunts of disapproval despite the fears of the Tatars who will now fall under Russian control just 70 years after Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of Tatars to Siberia.

Mr. Erdogan may believe that his tactics have worked. But in the long run, he’ll have to accept that his increased belligerence has isolated his country. When it comes to regional issues like Egypt, Iran and Iraq, the United States has now largely marginalized Turkey.

Not too long ago, the common question posed in Western capitals was “Who lost Turkey?” Many fingers pointed at Brussels and Washington. But today, as the prime minister steers Turkey away from its path of prosperity and international relevance toward antagonism and repression, the answer seems to be Mr. Erdogan himself.

Elmira Bayrasli is the co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted and a fellow at the World Policy Institute.

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

We added to this article about Turkey as follower of the Ottomans, in our title, also the Soviet Empire with a similar feeling that Putin is losing now in his effort to revive it under Russian leadership.

What we see in Putin’s stirring the Ukraine is just that – an attempt to extend Russia to the Soviet borders and this will cause economic retreat to the people of Russia, the surveillance of the internet and eventually unhappiness of Russian citizens. It will also impact the whole neighborhood.

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  Charles Ebinger, Brookings Institution FPEnergySecurity@brookings.edu

New Report: Oil and Gas in the Changing Arctic Region

Dear Colleagues:

The Arctic is changing. A shrinking polar icecap—now 40 percent smaller than it was in 1979—has opened not only new shipping routes, but access to 13 percent and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, respectively.

Today, the region’s vast energy, mineral and marine resources draw substantial international and commercial interest.

What can the U.S. do to strengthen the Arctic offshore oil and gas governance regime as it takes over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015?

In a new report, Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S., authors Charles K. Ebinger, John P. Banks, and Alisa Schackmann review the current framework regarding offshore Arctic energy exploration, and recommend efforts the U.S. should take to assert leadership in the region, such as:

  • Establish oil spill prevention and response as a guiding theme for its Arctic Council chairmanship;
  • Appoint a U.S. Arctic ambassador;
  • Accelerate development of Alaska-specific oil and gas standards; and
  • Strengthen bilateral arrangements with Russia and Canada.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Establish oil spill prevention, control, and response as the overarching theme for U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015-2017.
  • Create the diplomatic post of “Arctic Ambassador.”
  • Establish a Regional Bureau for Polar Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.
  • Accelerate the ongoing development of Alaska-specific offshore oil and gas standards and discuss their applicability in bilateral and multilateral forums for the broader Arctic region.
  • Strengthen bilateral regulatory arrangements for the Chukchi Sea with Russia, and the Beaufort Sea with Canada.
  • Support the industry-led establishment of an Arctic-specific resource sharing organization for oil spill response and safety.
  • Support and prioritize the strengthening of the Arctic Council through enhanced thematic coordination of offshore oil and gas issues.
  • Support the establishment of a circumpolar Arctic Regulators Association for Oil and Gas.

 

To learn more, watch this video and read the new policy brief from the Brookings Energy Security Initiative:

www.brookings.edu/ArcticEnergy

 

“I congratulate you and your collaborators on the report and
on the Energy Security Initiative. The active interest and involvement of Brookings in Arctic affairs is, and will be,
of enormous importance for the future development of the region.”

—H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland (written to Dr. Charles Ebinger)


We hope you will find this new report an informative primer on Arctic governance and a dependable reference in discussing Arctic affairs. We encourage your feedback by emailing ESI Project Coordinator Colleen Lowry at clowry@brookings.edu.

Warm regards,

Charles K. Ebinger
Director, Energy Security Initiative at Brookings

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

   Josef Friedhuber/Getty Images

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Using Copyright to Censor, from Turkey to Svoboda to Ban’s UN & Reuters.

 

By Matthew Russell Lee, The Inner City Press (ICP) at the UN in New York.

 

UNITED NATIONS, March 20 — Turkey has now blocked Twitter citing a prosecutor’s decision, drawing ire in the US from Press Secretary Jay Carney and State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in order to get his leaked phone calls removed from Google’s YouTube has reportedly “copyrighted” his calls.

 

   This use of copyright to try to censor has echoes in the United Nations — and in Ukraine, where the Svoboda Party tried to get videos of its Members of Parliament beating up a news executive taken down as violations of copyright.

 On the Guardian website on March 21, where the video had been was a notice that “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim.”

The New York Times reported that late on March 20, YouTube copies of the video were taken down “for violating the copyright of the Svoboda party spokesman, who seems to be working to erase the evidence from the Internet through legal means.”

 

   This is a growing trend. As set forth below, an anti-Press complaint to the UN’s Stephane Dujarric, now Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, has been banned from Google’s Search by an invocation of copyright similar to Erdogan’s.

 

  On March 21, Dujarric from Kyiv told Inner City Press neither he nor, he assuumed, Ban had seen the Svoboda beat-down video. This seems noteworthy, given its prominence in Ukraine. Now we can add: perhaps Ban and Dujarric didn’t see it due to the same censorship by copyright that has for now banned an anti Press complaint to them from Google’s Search.

 

  And as to Twitter, Dujarric in his previous post in charge of UN Media Accreditation grilled Inner City Press about a tweet mentioning World War Two – the basis for example of France’s veto power in the Security Council, which it parlayed into essentially permanent ownership of the top post in UN Peacekeeping, now though Herve Ladsous (coverage of whom Dujarric tried to dictate, or advise, Inner City Press about.)

 

   Dujarric’s now bipolar tweeting has intersected with a recently revived anonymous trolling campaign which originated in the UN Correspondents Association, in support of the Sri Lankan government, alleging that any coverage of the abuse of Tamils must be funded by the now defunct Tamil Tigers.

 

  These outright attempts to censor are echoed, more genteelly, even as part of the UN press briefings these days. When Dujarric took eight questions on March 20 on Ban’s essentially failed trip to Moscow, fully half went to representatives of UNCA’s 15 member executive committee, including state media from Turkey, France and the United States. Other questions — by Twitter — were not answered, except those from explicitly pro-UN sources. These are the UN’s circles.

 

   Google has accepted and acted on DMCA complaints about leaked e-mails, for example from Reuters to the United Nations seeking to get the investigative Press thrown out, and has then blocked access to the leaked documents from its search.

  Of this abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry told Inner City Press about the Reuters case:

 

“Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a copyright holder (assuming that the person that sent this notice actually held copyright in the email) to abuse the DMCA to take down content and stifle legitimate speech. As countries outside the US consider adopting DMCA-like procedures, they must make sure they include strong protections for free speech, such as significant penalties for takedown abuse.”

 

  In this case, copyright is being (mis) claimed for an email from Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau to the UN’s chief Media Accreditation official Stephane Dujarric — since March 10 Ban Ki-moon’s new spokesperson — seeking to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.

 

  Access to the document has been blocked from Google’s search based on a cursory take-down request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

 

 If this remains precedent, what else could come down?

 

  Why not an email from Iran, for example, to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency? Why not a sanctions filing by a country? Here is Reuters logic, accepted if only automatically by Google:

 

The copyrighted material is a private email I wrote in April 2012 and for which I never gave permission to be published. It has been published on a blog and appears in on the first page of search results for my name and the firm I work for, Reuters. It can be seen here: www.innercitypress.com/reutersLC3unmalu.pdf

 

  But this is true of ANY leaked document: it can be said that the entity or person exposed “never gave permission [for it] to be published.” Does that mean Google can or should block search access to it?

 

  Can a complaint to a Media Accreditation official against a competitor legitimately be considered “private”? In any event, the DMCA is not about protecting privacy.

 

  Iran or North Korea could say a filing or status report they make with the IAEA is “private” and was not intended to be published. Would Google, receiving a DMCA filing, block access to the information on, say, Reuters.com?

 

  Charbonneau’s bad-faith argument says his complaint to the UN was “published on a blog.” Is THAT what Reuters claims makes it different that publication in some other media?

 

  The logic of Reuters’ and Charbonneau’s August 14, 2013 filing with Google, put online via the ChillingEffects.org project, is profoundly anti free press.

 

  The fact that Google accepts or didn’t check, to remain in the DMCA Safe Harbor, the filing makes it even worse. The request to take-down wasn’t made to InnerCityPress.com or its server — it would have been rejected. But banning a page from Search has the same censoring effect.

 

  The US has a regime to protect freedom of the press, and against prior restraint. But this is a loophole, exploited cynically by Reuters. What if a media conducted a long investigation of a mayor, fueled by a leaked email. When the story was published, could the Mayor make a Reuters-like filing with Google and get it blocked?

 

  Here is the text of Charbonneau’s communication to the UN’s top Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit official Stephane Dujarric and MALU’s manager, to which he claimed “copyright” and for now has banned from Google’s Search:

———————————————————-

Hi Isabelle and Stephane,

I just wanted to pass on for the record that I was just confronted by Matt Lee in the DHL auditorium in very hostile fashion a short while ago (there were several witnesses, including Giampaolo). He’s obviously gotten wind that there’s a movement afoot to expel him from the UNCA executive committee, though he doesn’t know the details yet. But he was going out of his way to be as intimidating and aggressive as possible towards me, told me I “disgust” him, etc.

In all my 20+ years of reporting I’ve never been approached like that by a follow journalist in any press corps, no matter how stressful things got. He’s become someone who’s making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs. His harassment of fellow reporters is reaching a new fever pitch.

I just thought you should know this.

Cheers,

Lou
Louis Charbonneau
Bureau Chief. United Nations
Reuters News Thomson Reuters reuters. com

This email was sent to you by Thomson Reuters, the global news and information company.

————————————————-

“UNCA” in the for-now banned e-mail is the United Nations Correspondents Association. The story developed here, as to Sri Lanka; here is a sample pick-up this past weekend in Italian, to which we link and give full credit, translated into English (NOT for now by Google) –

The fool of Reuters to the UN

by Mahesh – 12/27/2013 - calls for the removal of a letter from the head of his bureau at the United Nations, pursuing a copyright infringement on the part of the competition.

Try to make out a small competitor from the UN press room and then, when these publish proof of intrigue, invokes the copyright to release a letter from compromising the network.

MOLESTA-AGENCY  Inner City Press is a small non-profit agency covering the work of the United Nations for years, with an original cut, which become distasteful to many. Unlike other matching its founder master sent never tires of asking account of inconsistencies and contradictions and often refers to unpleasant situations involving colleagues and their reportage, too often twisted to obvious political contingencies.

THE LAST CAVITY – In this case the clutch is born when Matthew Lee, Inner City Press ever since he founded and made famous in the 90 ‘s, challenged the screening of “Lies Agreed Upon” in the auditorium of the United Nations, a filmaccio of propaganda in which the Sri Lankan regime tries to deny the now tested massacres (and destroyed by International Crisis Group). In the piece, in which denounced the incident, Lee also announced that the screening was organized by the President of the United Nations Correspondents (UNCA), Italian Giampaolo Pioli, skipping the normal consultation procedure for this kind of events. Pioli then, was also accused of being in a conflict of interest, given that he rented an apartment in New York an apartment to the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Sri Lanka, named Palitha Kohona and is suspected of war crimes.

TRY WITH THE COPYRIGHT- So he comes to the letter with which Louis Charbonneau, Reuters bureau chief at the United Nations, wrote to the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) calling for the ouster of Lee, which the UN being there for years as his colleagues, but we see that this was not done. Lee, however, comes into possession of the letter and publish it, and then writes to Google millantando Charbonneau the copyright on the letter and asking for removal pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That is a bit like if a company request the removal of a compromising document from a journalistic investigation, in the name of copyright, a claim clearly absurd and disingenuous.

HARASSMENT AND THREATS - In the letter published, Charbonneau complained about the aggressive behavior of Lee and cited among the witnesses to cases where Lee had been “aggressive” towards him even Pioli. Lee with that piece has gained throughout a hail of protests from Sri Lanka and an investigation by the UNCA, along with death threats and other well-known amenities the refugees away from the clutches of the regime, but it is still there. Behold then the brilliant idea of Charbonneau, improperly used copyright law to censor the objectionable publications to a colleague and competitor. Pity that Lee has already resisted successfully in similar cases, in 2008 was the same Google to remove your site from being indexed in the news in its search engines, it is unclear what impetus behind, only to regret it soon after that even Fox News had cried scandal.

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

And further – to the place of UN as restricting flow of information – Matthew Lee has the following:
www.innercitypress.com/ukraine2svobodaunseen032214.html

In Ukraine, List of Parties UN’s UNSG Ban Ki-moon Met With Still UNdisclosed, Visa Ban.

By Matthew Russell Lee

 

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 – With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Kyiv for a second day, it remained unclear if he met with representatives from the Svoboda Party, whose “freedom of speech” parliamentarian was filmed beating up a news executive and then sought to get the video removed from YouTube.

 

  Inner City Press on March 21 asked Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, video here

 

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about sanctions. I know that in his opening remarks, the Secretary-General talked about provocative actions and counter-reactions and obviously there have been, the US announced sanctions on a slew of individuals and one bank, and another bank, SMP, has been cut off from the Visa and Mastercard system. Russia has its own sanctions. Was this discussed, was this discussed while he was in Moscow? Does the Secretary-General think that sanctions should be done through the UN? And will he meet with representatives of the Svoboda party while he’s there, if they were to request it?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: There was a — I will share with you as soon as I get it — the list of party leaders that attended the meeting with the Secretary-General. So we will see who exactly was there and, you know, I’m not going to get into detailed reactions to sanctions and counter-sanctions and so forth. But what I will say is that, you know, everybody needs to kind of focus on finding a peaceful, diplomatic solution and lowering the tensions.

Inner City Press: Has he or you seen the video of the Svoboda party MPs beating up the television executive?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: I have not and I doubt that he has.

 

  But more than 24 hours later, the “list of party members” who met with Ban was still not provided or shared, nor was an explanation provided. What should one infer from that?

… … ….

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s race to Russia for relevance didn’t work as he’d hoped. Just after his meetings with Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov, Lavrov went to the Duma for the next step on Crimea.

  Then Ban’s spokesperson did a call-in Q&A to the UN press briefing room in New York where only questions pointing one way were selected and allowed. Thus, there were no questions to Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric about the new unilateral sanctions, or the trade embargo allegations.

   On March 19 after US Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia’s Vitaly Churkin was creative like Tolstoy or Chekhov, Churkin asked for a right of reply or additional statement at the end of the March 19 UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

   Churkin said that from these two literary references, Power has stooped to tabloids, and that this should change if the US expected Russian cooperation. The reference, it seemed, was to Syria and Iran, and other UN issues.

   One wanted to explore this at the stakeout, but neither Power nor Churkin spoke there. In fact, no one did: even Ukraine’s Yuriy Sergeyev left, down the long hallways with his leather coat and spokesperson. One wondered why.

   There were many questions to ask. Why did Ivan Simonovic’s UN human rights report not mention the Svoboda Party MPs beating up the head of Ukrainian national television?  Will France, despite its Gerard Araud’s speech, continue selling Mistral warships to Russia? What of France’s role in the earlier referendum splitting Mayotte from the Comoros Islands?

  Araud exchanged a few words with those media he answers to while on the stairs, then left. The UK’s Mark Lyall Grant spoke longer, but still left. Why didn’t Simonovic at least come and answer questions? Perhaps he will, later in the week.

    When Security Council session began at 3 pm on March 19, Russia was listed as the tenth speaker, after other Council members including not only the US but France. (The order, however, would soon change: Argentina and Russia switched spots.)

  Speaking first, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson recounted dates and events, such as the US and European Union sanctions of Marcy 17. Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric if there was any UN comment on or view of such unilateral sanctions. There was no comment.

   UN human rights deputy Ivan Simonovic spoke next, saying that attacks on ethnic Russians have been neither widespread nor systematic. Simonovic did not mention the widely publicized assault on a national TV executive by Svoboda Party MPs.

  Ukraine’s Yuriy Sergeyev mocked the referendum, saying that those who didn’t vote were visited at home.

  France’s Gerard Araud said that if there are fascists in this story, it is not where they’re said to be — but he did not address the Svoboda Party and its attack on the TV executive. Nor has he addressed the analogy to the referendum France pushed to split Mayotte from Comoros, nor France’s ongoing sale of Mistral warships to Russia.

  After Nigeria spoke, Argentina’s listed place was taken by Russia, in what has been confirmed to Inner City Press as an exchange. Russia’s Vitaly Churkin zeroed in on Simonovic not mentioning the Svoboda MPs’ assault, nor evidence that the same snipers should police and protesters in Kyiv.

  US Ambassador Samantha Power called this an assault on Simonovic’s report, and said Churkin had been as imaginative as Tolstoy or Chekhov, echoing an earlier US State Department Top Ten list. So what is the US, one wag mused, John Updike or Thomas Pynchon? It was a session meant for words.


Now that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon races to Russia for relevance, the news was handed out selectively by UN Moscow three hours before Ban’s new spokesperson, after a request, confirmed it.

   It’s worth remembering Moscow’s anger at who called Ban’s tune on Kosovo. What will be different now? After Russia, Ban will head to Kyiv to meet Yatsenyuk and the UN human rights monitors.

  It was at 6:20 am in New York when BBC said that “UN Moscow office confirm that Ban Ki Moon coming to Moscow tomorrow. Will meet Putin and Lavrov.”

  But no announcement by Ban’s Office of the Spokesperson, which has repeatedly refused to confirm Ban trips even when the country visited has already disclosed it.

  And so the Free UN Coalition for Access wrote to Ban’s new spokesperson Stephane Dujarric:

 

“Will you confirm what BBC says UN Moscow told it, that the Secretary General is traveling to Russia tomorrow to meet President Putin and FM Lavrov — and is so, can you explain why and how this UN news was distributed in that way first, and not through your office, to all correspondents at once? The latter part of the question is on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access as well.”

 

   Forty five minutes later, after a mass e-mail, Dujarric replied:

 

“Matthew, The official announcement was just made. The UN office in moscow did not announce anything before we did. I did see some leaked reports this morning from various sources but nothing is official until it’s announced by this office.”

 

  But it wasn’t a “leaked report” — BBC said that UN Moscow had CONFIRMED it. We’ll have more on this. For now it’s worth reviewing Ban Ki-moon’s response to Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008…

 

   The day after the Crimea referendum, the US White House announced new sanctions and Russia said Ukraine should adopt a federal constitution.

 

   Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric for Ban’s or the UN’s comment on either, if Ban thinks sanctions should ideally be imposed through the UN and not unilaterally, and if this might lead to a tit for tat.

 

  Dujarric said Ban’s focus is on encouraging the parties to “not add tensions;” on Russia’s federal constitution proposal he said the UN is “not going to get into judging every step.”  Video here.

 

  With Serry gone from Crimea and Simonovic called unbalanced by Russia, what is the UN’s role? Is it UNrelevant?

 

… … … and there is much more on our link.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

George Soros
See this link for an excerpt of George Soros’ new book,
The Tragedy of the European Union (PublicAffairs, publisher)
which was just published in the New York Review of Books today.

The Future of Europe: An Interview with George Soros.

Parts of the following interview with George Soros by the Spiegel correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz appear in their book, The Tragedy of the European Union: Disintegration or Revival?

 


soros_1-042414

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters    Supporters of the Russian annexation of Crimea at a rally in Red Square, March 18, 2014.
Gregor Peter Schmitz: The conflict in Crimea and Ukraine has changed the shape of European and world politics, and we will come to it. But let us first talk about a subject on which you’ve taken a critical position over the years: the crisis of the European Union: With regard to the euro, isn’t the worst over?George Soros: If you mean that the euro is here to stay, you are right. That was confirmed by the German elections, where the subject was hardly discussed, and by the coalition negotiations, where it was relegated to Subcommittee 2A. Chancellor Angela Merkel is satisfied with the way she handled the crisis and so is the German public. They reelected her with an increased majority. She has always done the absolute minimum necessary to preserve the euro. This has earned her the allegiance of both the pro-Europeans and those who count on her to protect German national interests. That is no mean feat.

So the euro is here to stay, and the arrangements that evolved in response to the crisis have become established as the new order governing the eurozone. This confirms my worst fears. It’s the nightmare I’ve been talking about. I’m hopeful that the Russian invasion of Crimea may serve as a wake-up call. Germany is the only country in a position to change the prevailing order. No debtor country can challenge it; any that might try would be immediately punished by the financial markets and the European authorities.

Schmitz: If you said that to Germans, they would say: Well, we have already evolved a lot. We are more generous now and have modified our policy of austerity.

Soros: I acknowledge that Germany has stopped pushing the debtor countries underwater. They are getting a little bit of oxygen now and are beginning to breathe. Some, particularly Italy, are still declining, but at a greatly diminished pace. This has given a lift to the financial markets because the economies are hitting bottom and that almost automatically brings about a rebound.

But the prospect of a long period of stagnation has not been removed. It’s generally agreed that the eurozone is threatened by deflation but opposition from the German Constitutional Court and its own legal departments will prevent the European Central Bank (ECB) from successfully overcoming the deflationary pressures the way other central banks, notably the Federal Reserve, have done.

The prospect of stagnation has set in motion a negative political dynamic. Anybody who finds the prevailing arrangements intolerable is pushed into an anti-European posture. This leads me to expect the process of disintegration to gather momentum. During the acute phase of the euro crisis we had one financial crisis after another. Now there should be a series of political rather than financial crises, although the latter cannot be excluded.

Schmitz: You say that current arrangements are intolerable. What exactly needs to change? What needs to be reformed?

Soros: At the height of the euro crisis, Germany agreed to a number of systemic reforms, the most important of which was a banking union. But as the financial pressures abated, Germany whittled down the concessions it had made. That led to the current arrangements, which confirm my worst fears.

Schmitz: As we speak, European finance ministers are in the process of concluding an agreement on the banking union. What do you think of it?

Soros: In the process of negotiations, the so-called banking union has been transformed into something that is almost the exact opposite: the re-establishment of national “silos,” or separately run banks. This is a victory for Orwellian newspeak.

Schmitz: What’s wrong with it?

Soros: The incestuous relationship between national authorities and bank managements. France in particular is famous for its inspecteurs de finance, who end up running its major banks. Germany has its Landesbanken and Spain its caixas, which have unhealthy connections with provincial politicians. These relationships were a major source of weakness in the European banking system and played an important part in the banking crisis that is still weighing on the eurozone. The proposed banking union should have eliminated them, but they were largely preserved, mainly at German insistence.

Schmitz: That is a pretty drastic condemnation. How do you justify it?

Soros: In effect, the banking union will leave the banking system without a lender of last resort. The proposed resolution authority is so complicated, with so many decision-making entities involved, that it is practically useless in an emergency. Even worse, the ECB is legally prohibited from undertaking actions for which it is not expressly authorized. That sets it apart from other central banks, which are expected to use their discretion in an emergency.

But Germany was determined to limit the liabilities that it could incur through the ECB. As a result, member countries remain vulnerable to financial pressures from which other developed countries are exempt. That is what I meant when I said that over-indebted members of the EU are in the position of third-world countries that are overindebted in a foreign currency. The banking union does not correct that defect. On the contrary, it perpetuates it.

Schmitz: You sound disappointed.

Soros: I am. I left no stone unturned trying to prevent this outcome, but now that it has happened, I don’t want to keep knocking my head against the wall. I accept that Germany has succeeded in imposing a new order on Europe, although I consider it unacceptable. But I still believe in the European Union and the principles of the open society that originally inspired it, and I should like to recapture that spirit. I want to arrest the process of disintegration, not accelerate it. So I am no longer advocating that Germany should “lead or leave the euro.” The window of opportunity to bring about radical change in the rules governing the euro has closed.

Schmitz: So, basically, you are giving up on Europe?

Soros: No. I am giving up on changing the financial arrangements, the creditor–debtor relationship that has now turned into a permanent system. I will continue to focus on politics, because that is where I expect dramatic developments.

Schmitz: I see. Obviously, people are concerned about the rise of populist movements in Europe. Do you see any opportunity to push for more political integration, when the trend is toward disintegration?

Soros: I do believe in finding European solutions for the problems of Europe; national solutions make matters worse.

Schmitz: It seems the pro-Europeans are often silent on important issues because they are afraid that speaking up might increase support for the extremists—for example, in the case of the many refugees from the Middle East and Africa who hoped to reach Europe and were detained on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Soros: Like it or not, migration policy will be a central issue in the elections. We must find some alternative to xenophobia.

Schmitz: What do you propose to do about it?

Soros: I have established an Open Society Initiative for Europe—OSIFE for short. One of its first initiatives is Solidarity Now, in Greece. The original idea was to generate European solidarity with the plight of the Greek population that is suffering from the euro crisis and Greek solidarity with the plight of the migrants, who experience inhuman conditions and are persecuted by the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party. It took us some time to get the project off the ground, and by the time we did, it was too late to generate European solidarity with the Greeks because other heavily indebted countries were also in need of support. So we missed that boat, but our initiative has had the useful by product of giving us a better insight into the migration problem.

Schmitz: What have you learned?

Soros: That there is an unbridgeable conflict between North and South on the political asylum issue. The countries in the North, basically the creditors, have been generous in their treatment of asylum seekers. So all the asylum seekers want to go there, particularly to Germany. But that is more than they can absorb, so they have put in place a European agreement called Dublin III, which requires asylum seekers to register in the country where they first enter the EU. That tends to be the South, namely, Italy, Spain, and Greece. All three are heavily indebted and subject to fiscal austerity. They don’t have proper facilities for asylum seekers, and they have developed xenophobic, anti-immigrant, populist political movements.

Asylum seekers are caught in a trap. If they register in the country where they arrive, they can never ask for asylum in Germany. So, many prefer to remain illegal, hoping to make their way to Germany. They are condemned to illegality for an indefinite period. The miserable conditions in which they live feed into the anti-immigrant sentiment.

Schmitz: Looking at other European issues, aren’t your foundations also very involved in the problems of the Roma (Gypsies)?

Soros: Yes, we have been engaged in those issues for more than twenty-five years. The Roma Education Fund has developed effective methods of educating Roma children and strengthening their Roma identity at the same time. If this were done on a large-enough scale it would destroy the hostile stereotype that stands in the way of the successful integration of the Roma. As it is, educated Roma can blend into the majority because they don’t fit the stereotype but the stereotype remains intact.

This is another instance where the European Commission is having a positive effect. I look to the European Structural funds to scale up the programs that work.

Schmitz: What do you think of Vladimir Putin’s recent policies with respect to Ukraine, Crimea, and Europe?

Soros: Now you are coming to the crux of the matter. Russia is emerging as a big geopolitical player, and the European Union needs to realize that it has a resurgent rival on its east. Russia badly needs Europe as a partner, but Putin is positioning it as a rival. There are significant political forces within the Russian regime that are critical of Putin’s policy on that score.

Schmitz: Can you be more specific?

Soros: The important thing to remember is that Putin is leading from a position of weakness. He was quite popular in Russia because he restored some order out of the chaos. The new order is not all that different from the old one, but the fact that it is open to the outside world is a definite improvement, an important element in its stability. But then the prearranged switch with Dmitry Medvedev from prime minister to president deeply upset the people. Putin felt existentially threatened by the protest movement. He became repressive at home and aggressive abroad.

That is when Russia started shipping armaments to the Assad regime in Syria on a massive scale and helped turn the tide against the rebels. The gamble paid off because of the preoccupation of the Western powers—the United States and the EU—with their internal problems. Barack Obama wanted to retaliate against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. He asked for congressional approval and was about to be rebuffed when Putin came to the rescue and persuaded Assad to voluntarily surrender his chemical weapons.

That was a resounding diplomatic victory for him. Yet the spontaneous uprising of the Ukrainian people must have taught Putin that his dream of reconstituting what is left of the Russian Empire is unattainable. He is now facing a choice between persevering or changing course and becoming more cooperative abroad and less repressive at home. His current course has already proved to be self-defeating, but he appears to be persevering.

Schmitz: Is Russia a credible threat to Europe if its economy is as weak as you say?

Soros: The oligarchs who control much of the Russian economy don’t have any confidence in the regime. They send their children and money abroad. That is what makes the economy so weak. Even with oil over $100 a barrel, which is the minimum Russia needs to balance its budget, it is not growing. Putin turned aggressive out of weakness. He is acting in self-defense. He has no scruples, he can be ruthless, but he is a judo expert, not a sadist—so the economic weakness and the aggressive behavior are entirely self-consistent.

Schmitz: How should Europe respond to it?

Soros: It needs to be more united, especially in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Putin prides himself on being a geopolitical realist. He respects strength and is emboldened by weakness. Yet there is no need to be permanently adversarial. Notwithstanding the current situation in Ukraine, the European Union and Russia are in many ways complementary; they both need each other. There is plenty of room for Russia to play a constructive role in the world, exactly because both Europe and the United States are so preoccupied with their internal problems.

Schmitz: How does that translate into practice, particularly in the Middle East?

Soros: It has totally transformed the geopolitical situation. I have some specific ideas on this subject, but it is very complicated. I can’t possibly explain it in full because there are too many countries involved and they are all interconnected.

Schmitz: Give it a try.

Soros: I should start with a general observation. There are a growing number of unresolved political crises in the world. That is a symptom of a breakdown in global governance. We have a very rudimentary system in place. Basically, there is only one international institution of hard power: the UN Security Council. If the five permanent members agree, they can impose their will on any part of the world. But there are many sovereign states with armies; and there are failed states that are unable to protect their monopoly over the use of lethal force or hard power.

The cold war was a stable system. The two superpowers were stalemated by the threat of mutually assured destruction, and they had to restrain their satellites. So wars were fought mainly at the edges. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a brief moment when the United States emerged as the undisputed leader of the world. But it abused its power. Under the influence of the neocons, who argued that the United States should use its power to impose its will on the world, President George W. Bush declared “war on terror” and invaded Iraq under false pretenses.

That was a tragic misinterpretation of the proper role of hegemonic or imperial power. It is the power of attraction—soft power—that ensures the stability of empires. Hard power may be needed for conquest and self-protection, but the hegemon must look after the interests of those who depend on it in order to secure their allegiance instead of promoting only its own interests. The United States did that very well after World War II, when it established the United Nations and embarked on the Marshall Plan. But President Bush forgot that lesson and destroyed American supremacy in no time. The neocons’ dream of a “new American century” lasted less than ten years. President Obama then brought American policy back to reality. His record in foreign policy is better than generally recognized. He accepted the tremendous loss of power and influence and tried to “lead from behind.” In any case, he is more preoccupied with domestic than foreign policy. In that respect America is in the same position as Europe, although for different reasons. People are inward-looking and tired of war. This has created a power vacuum, which has allowed conflicts to fester unresolved all over the world.

Recently, Russia has moved into this power vacuum, trying to reassert itself as a geopolitical player. That was a bold maneuver, inspired by Putin’s internal weakness, and it has paid off in Syria because of the weakness of the West. Russia could do what the Western powers couldn’t: persuade Assad to “voluntarily” surrender his chemical weapons. That has radically changed the geopolitical landscape. Suddenly, the prospect of a solution has emerged for the three major unresolved conflicts in the Middle East—Palestine, Iran, and Syria—when one would have least expected it.

The Syrian crisis is by far the worst, especially in humanitarian consequences. Russia’s entry as a major supplier of arms, coupled with Hezbollah’s entry as a supplier of troops, has turned the tables in favor of Assad. The fighting can be brought to an end only by a political settlement imposed and guaranteed by the international community. Without it, the two sides will continue to fight indefinitely with the help of their out-side supporters. But a political settlement will take months or years to negotiate. In the meantime, Assad is following a deliberate policy of denying food and destroying the medical system as a way of subduing the civilian population. “Starve or surrender” is his motto.

This raises the specter of a human catastrophe. Unless humanitarian assistance can be delivered across battle lines, more people will have died from illness and starvation during the winter than from actual fighting.

Schmitz: What about Iran?

Soros: There has been an actual breakthrough in the Iranian crisis in the form of a temporary agreement on nuclear weapons with the new president Hassan Rouhani. The sanctions imposed by the Western powers have been very effective. The Iranian revolution itself advanced to the point where it fell into the hands of a narrow clique, the Revolutionary Guard; the mullahs were largely pushed out of power. As head of the mullahs, the Supreme Leader could not have been pleased. He must also be aware that the large majority of the population has been profoundly dissatisfied with the regime. In contrast with previous attempts at negotiations, he seems to be in favor of reaching an accommodation with the United States. That improves the prospects for a final agreement. We must take into account, as Vali Nasr recently wrote, that Iran has, after Russia, the world’s second-largest reserves of natural gas; and it potentially might compete with Russia in supplying gas to Europe.

Schmitz: That leaves the longest—lasting crisis, Palestine.

Soros: Recent developments in Egypt have improved the chances of progress in the long-festering Palestinian crisis. The army, with the active support of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, has removed the legally elected president and is engaged in the brutal suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood. This otherwise disturbing development has a potentially benign side effect: it raises the possibility of a peace settlement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, to the exclusion of Hamas. This would have been inconceivable a few months ago. Secretary of State John Kerry became engaged in the Palestinian negotiations well before this window of opportunity opened, so he is ahead of the game. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is very suspicious but, for all his intransigence, cannot openly oppose negotiations because, having openly supported Mitt Romney in the American elections, he holds a relatively weak hand. Negotiations are making progress, but very slowly indeed.

If all three crises were resolved, a new order would emerge in the Middle East. There is a long way to go because the various conflicts are interconnected, and the potential losers in one conflict may act as spoilers in another. Netanyahu, for instance, is dead set against a deal with Iran because peace with Palestine would end his political career in Israel. Nevertheless, the broad outlines of a potential new order can already be discerned, although we cannot know the effects of the current crisis in Ukraine. Russia could become more influential, relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States may become strained, and Iran may emerge as America’s closest ally, second only to Israel. But the situation remains fluid and may change from one day to the next.

Schmitz: Recently the crisis in Ukraine has overshadowed all the others.

Soros: Indeed. Ukraine and in particular Crimea are of much greater interest to Russia than anything in the Middle East. Putin woefully misjudged the situation. Last autumn he had no difficulty in outmaneuvering the European Union, which was hamstrung by its internal political and financial problems. Under German leadership it offered too little and demanded too much. Putin could easily offer a better deal to Ukrainian President Yanukovych. But the Ukrainian people rebelled, upsetting the calculations of both sides.

The rebellion wounded Putin in his Achilles heel. The idea of a spontaneous rebellion simply did not enter into his calculations. In his view the world is ruled by power and those in power can easily manipulate public opinion. Failure to control the people is a sign of weakness.

Accordingly, he made it a condition of his assistance that Yanukovych should repress the rebellion. But the use of force aroused the public and eventually Yanukovych was forced to capitulate. This could have resulted in a stalemate and the preservation of the status quo with Ukraine precariously balanced between Russia and Europe, and a corrupt and inept government pitted against civil society. It would have been an inferior equilibrium with the costs exceeding the benefits for all parties concerned.

But Putin persisted in his counterproductive approach. Yanukovych was first hospitalized and then sent to Sochi to be dressed down by Putin. Putin’s instructions brought the confrontation to a climax. Contrary to all rational expectations, a group of citizens armed with not much more than sticks and shields made of cardboard boxes and metal garbage can lids overwhelmed a police force firing live ammunition. There were many casualties, but the citizens prevailed. It was a veritable miracle.

Schmitz: How could such a thing happen? How do you explain it?

Soros: It fits right into my human uncertainty principle, but it also reveals a remarkable similarity between human affairs and quantum physics of which I was previously unaware. According to Max Planck, among others, subatomic phenomena have a dual character: they can manifest themselves as particles or waves. Something similar applies to human beings: they are part freestanding individuals or particles and partly components of larger entities that behave like waves. The impact they make on reality depends on which alternative dominates their behavior. There are potential tipping points from one alternative to the other but it is uncertain when they will occur and the uncertainty can be resolved only in retrospect.

On February 20 a tipping point was reached when the people on Maidan Square were so determined to defend Ukraine that they forgot about their individual mortality. What gave their suicidal stand historic significance is that it succeeded. A deeply divided society was moved from the verge of civil war to an unprecedented unity. Revolutions usually fail. The Orange Revolution of 2004 deteriorated into a squabble between its leaders. It would be a mistake to conclude that this revolution is doomed to suffer the same fate. Indeed the parties participating in the interim government are determined to avoid it. In retrospect the resistance of Maidan may turn out to be the birth of a nation. This promising domestic development was a direct response to foreign oppression. Unfortunately it is liable to provoke further pressure from abroad because successful resistance by Ukraine would present an existential threat to Putin’s continued dominance in Russia.

Schmitz: You are referring to the Russian invasion of Crimea. How do you see it playing out?

Soros: If it is confined to Crimea it will serve as a further impetus to greater national cohesion in Ukraine. Crimea is not an integral part of Ukraine. Khrushchev transferred Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 by an administrative decree. The majority of its population is Russian and it is the base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. That is exactly why Putin is liable to put military and economic pressure on Ukraine directly and they are not in a position to resist it on their own. They need the support of the Western powers. So Ukraine’s future depends on how the Western powers, particularly Germany, respond.

Schmitz: What should the Western powers do?

Soros: They should focus on strengthening Ukraine rather than on punishing Russia. They cannot prevent or reverse the annexation of Crimea. They are bound to protest it of course because it violates the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 that guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, but they are not in a position to oppose it by military means. Even sanctions ought to be used sparingly in order to preserve them as a deterrent against the real danger, namely of direct military or economic assault on Ukraine. Russian forces have already occupied a gas plant in Ukraine supplying Crimea and may take more territory unless they are stopped.

Fortunately economic sanctions would be a potent deterrent provided they are used judiciously. Freezing the foreign assets of Russian oligarchs is the opposite of smart sanctions. Oligarchs sending their profits and their children abroad weaken the Russian economy. Until now capital flight was more or less offset by foreign direct investment. Effective sanctions would discourage the inflow of funds, whether in the form of direct investments or bank loans. Moreover, the US could release oil from its strategic reserve and allow its sale abroad. That could put the Russian economy into deficit. The Russian economy is fragile enough to be vulnerable to smart sanctions.

Schmitz: Wouldn’t that be cutting off your nose to spite your face? Germany has a lot of investments in Russia, which are equally vulnerable.

Soros: Effective sanctions against Russia should be threatened at first only as a deterrent. If the threat is effective, they wouldn’t be applied. But Chancellor Merkel faces a fundamental choice: should Germany be guided by its narrow national self interests or should it assert its leadership position within the European Union and forge a unified European response? On her choice hinges not only the fate of Ukraine but also the future of the European Union. Her passionate speech to the German Parliament on March 13 gives me hope that she is going to make the right choice.

Schmitz: What is your idea of the right choice?

Soros: A large-scale technical and financial assistance program for Ukraine. The EU and the US, under the leadership of the International Monetary Fund, are putting together a multibillion-dollar rescue package that will save the country from financial collapse. But that is not enough: Ukraine also needs outside assistance that only the EU can provide: management expertise and access to markets.

Ukraine is a potentially attractive investment destination. But realizing this potential requires improving the business climate by addressing the endemic corruption and weak rule of law. The new regime in Ukraine is eager to confront that task. But only the EU can open up its domestic market and provide political risk insurance for investing in Ukraine. Ukraine in turn would encourage its companies to improve their management by finding European partners. Thus Ukraine would become increasingly integrated in the European common market. That could also provide a much-needed fiscal stimulus for the European economy and, even more importantly, help to recapture the spirit that originally inspired the European Union.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Uri Avnery

 

March 22, 2014

 

 

 

                                                A Hundred Years Later

 

 

 

THERE IS an old Chinese curse that says: “May you live in historic times!” (If there isn’t, there should be.)

 

 

 

This week was a historic time. The Crimea seceded from Ukraine. Russia annexed it.

 

 

 

A dangerous situation. No one knows how it will develop.

 

 

 

 

 

AFTER MY last article about the Ukrainian crisis, I was flooded with passionate e-mail messages.

{ We posted the first Uri Avnery article on Crimea under our title - www.sustainabilitank.info/2014/03… that implied we did think this was a very good and honest article. So, it is interesting to see other reactions. We also followed up with several articles on Stepan Bandera that slowed our enthusiasm about Ukrainian independence unless it is made clear that the Maidan leaders and followers understand that “Nationalism Ueber Alles” is nothing to be happy about.}

 

 

Some were outraged by one or two sentences that could be construed as justifying Russian actions. How could I excuse the former KGB apparatchik, the new Hitler, the leader who was building a new Soviet empire by destroying and subjugating neighboring countries?

 

 

Others were outraged, with the same passion, by my supposed support for the fascist gangs which have come to power in Kiev, the anti-Semites in Nazi uniforms, and the American imperialists who use them for their own sinister purposes.

 

 

I am a bit bewildered by the strength of feeling on both sides. The Cold War, it seems, is not over. It just took a nap. Yesterday’s warriors are again rallying to their flags, ready to do battle.

 

 

Sorry, I can’t get passionate about this side or that. Both, it seems to me, have some justice on their side. Many of the battle cries are bogus.

 

 

 

 

THOSE WHO rage against the annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation and compare it to Hitler’s “Anschluss” of Austria may be right in some sense.

 

 

 

I remember the newsreels of ecstatic Austrians welcoming the soldiers of the Führer, who was, after all, an Austrian himself. There can be no doubt that most Austrians welcomed the “return to the fatherland”.

 

 

 

That seems to be the case now in the Crimea. For a long time the peninsula had been a part of Russia. Then, in 1954, the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian himself, presented the Crimea as a gift to Ukraine. It was mostly a symbolic gesture, since both Russia and Ukraine belonged to the same Soviet state and were subject to the same oppression.

 

 

 

But the main point is that the people of the Crimea were not consulted. There was no referendum.  {that seems to be the outsiders argument – those that look on this as they were looking on the Austrian Case – but really – in crimea there was a gun point referendum in the set up voting that did probaby present the results that the population of today wanted – PJ}

The majority of the population is Russian, and undoubtedly wishes now to return to Russia. It expressed this wish in a referendum that, on the whole, seems to be quite authentic. So the annexation may be justified.

 

 

 

Vladimir Putin himself brought up the precedent of Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia not so long ago. This may be a bit cynical, since Russia strenuously objected to this secession at the time. All the Russian arguments then are now contradicted by Putin himself.

 

 

 

If we leave out cynicism, hypocrisy and great power politics for a moment, and stick to simple moral principles, then what is good for the goose is good for the gander. A sizable national minority, living in its homeland, has a right to secede from a state it does not like.

 

 

 

For this reason I supported the independence of Kosovo and believe that the same principle applies now to Catalonia and Scotland, Tibet and Chechnya.

 

 

 

There is always a way to prevent secession without using brute force: to create conditions that make the minority want to stay in the majority state. Generous economic, political and cultural policies can achieve this. But for that you need the wisdom of farsighted leaders, and that is a rare commodity everywhere. 

 

 

 

 

 

BY THE same token, Ukrainians can be understood when they kick out a president who wants to bring them into the Russian orbit against their will. His golden bathroom appliances are beside the point.

 

 

 

Another question is what role the fascists play in the process. There are contradictory reports, but Israeli reporters on the scene testify to their conspicuous presence in the center of Kiev.

 

 

 

The problem has confronted us since the Tunisian Spring: in many of the “spring” countries the uprisings bring to the fore elements that are worse than the tyrants they want to displace. The revolutions are started by idealists who are unable to unite and set up an effective regime, and then are taken over by intolerant fanatics, who are better fighters and better organizers. 

 

 

 

That is the secret of the survival of the abominable Bashar al-Assad. Few people want Syria to fall into the hands of a Taliban-like Islamic tyranny. That is also the fate of Egypt: the liberal democrats started the revolution but lost the democratic elections to a religious party, which was in a haste to impose its creed on the people. They were overthrown by a military dictatorship that is worse than the regime which the original revolution overthrew.

 

 

 

The emergence of the neo-Nazis in Kiev is worrying, even if Putin uses their presence for his own purposes. If they are supported by the West, overtly or covertly, that is disturbing.

 

 

 

 

 

EQUALLY WORRYING is the uncertainty about Putin’s intentions.

 

 

 

In many of the countries surrounding Russia there live large numbers of Russians, who went to live there in Soviet times. Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and other countries have large Russian minorities, and even majorities, who yearn to be annexed to the motherland.

 

 

 

No one really knows Putin. How far will he go? Can he control his ambitions? Will he be carried away by his successes and the lack of wise policies in Western capitals?

 

 

 

Addressing his parliament about the annexation of the Crimea, he seemed restrained, but there was no mistaking the imperial trimmings of the event. He would not be the first leader in history who overestimated his successes and underrated the power of his opponents.

 

 

 

And on the other side – is there enough wisdom in Washington and the other Western capitals to produce the right mixture of firmness and restraint to prevent an uncontrollable slide into war?

 

 

 

 

 

IN THREE months the world will “celebrate” the hundredth anniversary of the shot in Sarajevo – the shot that ignited a worldwide conflagration.

 

 

 

It may be helpful to recount again the chain of events that caused one of the most destructive wars in human history, a war that consumed millions upon millions of human lives and destroyed an entire way of life.

 

 

 

The shot that started it all was quite accidental. The assassin, a Serb nationalist, failed in his first attempt to kill a quite insignificant Austrian archduke. But after he had already given up, he came across his intended victim again, by chance, and shot him dead.

 

 

 

The incompetent Austrian politicians and their senile emperor saw an easy opportunity to demonstrate the prowess of their country and presented little Serbia with an ultimatum. What could they lose?

 

 

 

Except that Serbia was the protégé of Russia. In order to deter the Austrians, the Czar and his equally incompetent ministers and generals ordered a general mobilization of their vast army. They were quite unaware of the fact that this made war unavoidable, because…

 

 

 

The German Reich, which had come into being only 43 years earlier, lived in deadly fear of a “war on two fronts”. Located in the middle of Europe, squeezed between two great military powers, France and Russia, it drew up a plan to forestall this eventuality. The plan changed every year in the wake of military exercises, but in essence it was based on the premise that one enemy had to be crushed before the other enemy had time to join the battle.

 

 

 

The plan in place in 1914 was to crush France before the cumbersome Russian mobilization could be completed. So when the Czar announced his mobilization, the German army invaded Belgium and reached the outskirts of Paris in a few weeks. They almost succeeded in defeating France before the Russians were ready.

 

 

 

(25 years later, Hitler solved the same problem in a different way. He signed a sham treaty with Stalin, finished France off and then attacked Russia.)

 

 

 

In 1914, Great Britain, shocked by the invasion of Belgium, hastened to the aid of its French ally. Italy, Japan, and others joined the fray. So did the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine. World War I was underway.

 

 

 

Who wanted this terrible war? Nobody. Who took a cool-headed decision to start it? Nobody. Of course, many national and international interests were involved, but none so important as to justify such a catastrophe.

 

 

 

No, it was a war nobody wanted or even envisioned. The flower of European youth was destroyed by the sheer stupidity of the contemporary politicians, followed by the colossal stupidity of the generals.

 

 

 

And in the end, a peace treaty was concocted that made another world war practically inevitable. Only after another awful world war did the politicians come to their senses and make another fratricidal war in Western Europe  unthinkable.

 

 

 

A hundred years after it all started, it is well to remember.

 

 

 

 

 

CAN ANYTHING like this happen again?  Can an unintended chain of foolish acts lead to another catastrophe? Can one thing lead to another in a way that incompetent leaders are unable to stop?

 

 

 

I hope not. After all, during these hundred years, some lessons have been learned and absorbed.

 

 

 

Or not?

 

 

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The territory of Eastern Europe on which the present state of Ukraine is located was first mentioned in history in the 9th century as Kievan Rus which is in effect the cultural birthplace of Russia of today – one could say that it parallels to the West Bank of the Palestinians that was the birthplace of the historic Israeli kingdom. I am sure that lots of people will disagree with this. But it is true nevertheless and we say it is of no practical importance today.

After the Partitions of Poland (1772–1795) and conquest of Crimean Khanate, Ukraine was divided between Russia and Austria, thus the largest part of the territory of Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire, with the rest, since 1849  under the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

After the Russian Revolution, there was created an internationally recognized independent Ukrainian People’s Republic that emerged from its own civil war. The Ukrainian–Soviet War followed, which resulted in the Soviet Army establishing control in late 1919 – this Soviet victory was in effect the end of a short lived Ukraine. The conquerors created then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which on 30 December 1922 became one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union.

Then there was a genocide of Ukrainians by Stalin: millions of people starved to death in 1932 and 1933 in the Holodomor. After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and Soviet Union, the Ukrainian SSR’s territory was enlarged westward. During World War II the Ukrainian Insurgent Army tried to reestablish Ukrainian independence and fought against both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. But in 1941 Ukraine was occupied by Nazi Germany, being liberated in 1944. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the the two Soviet Republics (the other being Belarus) to bolster the voting power of the Soviet Union in the founding of the United Nations – the assumption was that their territories were under Nazi occupation.

From above, it can be concluded that real first steps of a modern Ukrainian statehood came when the Ukraine per se got set up around WWII as an enlarged soviet republic by Stalin’s Soviets  -  The Ukr.SSR,  Before that – in 1918 there were attempts at creating several Ukrainian States but they got suppressed swallowed up. To the Ukrainian SSR Stalin added later Hotin and South Bessarabia (AkermanRegion) taken from Bessarabia, the Chernivtsi region that was part of  Bukowina and the whole Eastern Galicia that was annexed from Poland. That Ukrainian SSR became in 1991 the Independent State of Ukraine by brake-up of the USSR in 1991. The UN membership was extended to them naturally
on basis of the latest Soviet geography.

  The Akerman region makes Ukraina a Danube Conference state  denying Moldova outlet to the sea. This area includes the Gagauz people. They proclaimed the Gaugazia State.

tribuna.md/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/img-gagauzia-2.jpg

Moldova was given the Tiraspol area East of the Dniester instead.

This enclave  refused to become Moldova after the breaking up of the Soviet Union.

 After a war  with the the Russian Tank division  stationed there which were victors, they  formed a breakaway  illegal state that named itself Transnistria (Trans-Dniester River) – that  included de facto the twin town of Tiraspol – Bender. Bender is on the west bank – the Moldova side of the Dniester.

Moldova it thus next hub of breakaway States – but now without bordering Russia it stands to reason that they will just freeze this reality.

Crimea was passed by Nikita Krushchev from the larger Soviet Union part that is now the Russian Federation to Ukraina SSR only in 1954. Crimea was now claimed by Russia and it stands to reason that even in honest voting there would have been a pro-Russian majority. The West can claim that in a civilized world one should go about secessions the way Scotland is doing it and it takes years in peace – not days at gun point.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

QUOTATION OF THE DAY

“They cheated us again and again, made decisions behind our back, presenting us with completed facts. That’s the way it was with the expansion of NATO in the East, with the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders.”

VLADIMIR V. PUTIN, listing grievances against the West as he reclaimed Crimea as a part of Russia.

 

Putin Reclaims Crimea for Russia and Bitterly Denounces the West

By STEVEN LEE MYERS and ELLEN BARRY

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said he was reversing what he described as a historical mistake, declaring, “Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people.”

News Analysis

If Not a Cold War, a Return to a Chilly Rivalry

By PETER BAKER

Tensions over Crimea may not bring a new Cold War, but analysts worry about a long period of confrontation and alienation.

OPINION | Room for Debate

Ukraine’s Effect on a Deal for Syria

How will deteriorating relations between the West and Russia affect Syria?

Op-Ed Columnist

From Putin, a Blessing in Disguise

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

If this is Cold War II, let’s make this race an Earth Race.

—-

Today’s Editorials

Post-Crimea Relations With the West

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

President Obama is right to warn Vladimir Putin that further provocations by Russia could isolate and diminish its influence.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Europe

Russia Seizes Gas Plant Near Crimea Border, Ukraine Says.

Photo

Armed forces patrolled a checkpoint on a road between Sevastopol and Simferopol in Crimea on Saturday. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Tensions mounted on the eve of a secession referendum here in Crimea as helicopter-borne Russian forces made a provocative incursion just outside the peninsula’s regional border to seize a natural gas terminal, while American and European officials prepared sanctions to impose on Moscow as early as Monday.

The military operation by at least 80 troops landing on a slender sand bar just across from Crimea’s northeast border seemed part of a broader effort to strengthen control over the peninsula before a referendum Sunday on whether its majority Russian-speaking population wants to demand greater autonomy from Ukraine or break away completely and join Russia. Whatever its tactical goals, the seizure of the terminal sent a defiant message to the United States and Europe and underscored that a diplomatic resolution to Russia’s recent takeover of Crimea remains elusive.

The raid came as American and European diplomats at the United Nations pushed for a vote on a resolution declaring the Sunday referendum illegal, essentially forcing Russia to veto the measure. In the end, Russia cast the only vote against it; even China, its traditional ally on the Council, did not vote with Moscow but abstained, an indication of its unease with Russia’s violation of another country’s sovereignty. Western diplomats hoped the result would reinforce Russia’s growing international isolation over Ukraine.

American and European officials worked through the day readying lists of Russians to penalize after the referendum, including possibly vital members of President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle. Among the Russians who have been on at least some lists circulated for consideration for Western sanctions, according to officials, are Sergei K. Shoigu, the defense minister; Aleksandr V. Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Service; Nikolai P. Patrushev, the secretary of the security council; Sergei B. Ivanov and Vladislav Surkov, two of Mr. Putin’s closest and most powerful advisers; Dmitri O. Rogozin, a deputy prime minister; Aleksei Miller, the chief executive of Gazprom, the state energy giant; and Igor Sechin, head of the oil company Rosneft.

President Obama and his European counterparts may start with only some of the Putin confidants in whatever sanctions are imposed immediately after the referendum, so as to have the means to further escalate their response should Russia continue to press its seizure of Ukrainian territory. Instead, they may focus at first on lower-level officials, military leaders, business tycoons or parliamentarians.

The sanctions would ban the targets from traveling to Europe or the United States and freeze any assets they had in either place. Western officials said they do not plan to sanction Mr. Putin himself, at least at this point, because he is a head of state, nor do they intend to target Sergey V. Lavrov, the foreign minister, because he needs to travel if there are any future diplomatic talks.

Mr. Obama’s cabinet secretaries and top advisers huddled in the White House on Saturday to discuss their strategy, joined by Secretary of State John Kerry, who returned from a fruitless last-ditch diplomatic trip to talk with Mr. Lavrov in London.

The degree of sanctions and the exact timing may depend on how Moscow reacts immediately after the referendum, which is almost universally expected to approve seceding from Ukraine and becoming part of Russia, officials said. If Mr. Putin moves promptly to initiate annexation, that would trigger immediate action, but if he holds back and leaves room for talks, Washington and Brussels may defer the tougher actions.

Photo

Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, and her Russian counterpart, Vitaly I. Churkin, before voting on a Security Council resolution. Credit Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Russia left little impression of backing down on Saturday. Russian forces made a show of added strength here in Simferopol, the regional capital, stationing armed personnel carriers in at least two locations in the city center and parking two large troop carriers outside the headquarters of the election commission. Before Saturday, the heavy equipment had largely been kept out of the city.

The more provocative move, however, was the seizure of the gas terminal in the Kherson region near a town called Strelkovoye, which drew new threats of a military response from the Ukrainian government. Until now, it has refrained from responding in force to Russian actions, but it sent troops Saturday to surround the gas terminal, according to a Ukrainian news service quoting local police, though there were no immediate indications of any shots being fired.

In Kiev, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Ukraine “reserves the right to use all necessary measures” to stop what it called “the military invasion by Russia.”

The White House suggested the move by Russia only increased the likelihood of sanctions. “We remain concerned about any attempt by Russia to increase tensions or threaten the Ukrainian people, and as we have long said, if Russia continues to take escalatory steps, there will be consequences,” said Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokeswoman.

The pro-Russian government in Crimea issued a statement saying its “self-defense” forces had seized the gas terminal because Ukraine had turned off the supply of fuel, leaving homes, hospitals and schools without heat or electricity. The government also said that it found the terminal rigged with explosives “with the goal of totally destroying it,” which would cut off gas to eastern cities in Crimea.

Photo

Ukrainian servicemen guarded a checkpoint near the village Salkovo, in Kherson region, on Saturday. Credit Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Those claims, carried by the Interfax news service, were impossible to verify independently. Power in some parts of Crimea appeared to be disrupted in recent days, although it was possible that was because of power lines downed by high winds.

Although the Crimean government sought to take responsibility for the operation, there was little doubt that it was conducted by Russian forces, given the involvement of helicopters and other sophisticated equipment.

The move appeared to fit the pattern of deployment on Crimea. The Ukrainian Unian news agency cited local residents saying soldiers without identifying insignia had landed near the gas terminal in helicopters with Russia’s red-star tail art.

Officials in Ukraine have worried Russia would begin to take steps to ensure it could continue to provide services to Crimea, including trying to secure gas supplies that come from outside the peninsula. Such steps would be expected to diminish Ukraine’s leverage over Crimea.

The showdown at the United Nations was dramatic in its own way. The Russian ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, preceded his veto by saying that Moscow would respect the results of Sunday’s referendum, but he did not say what it would do afterward. He described the referendum as an “extraordinary measure,” expressing the Crimean people’s right to self-determination, made necessary by what he called an “illegal coup carried out by radicals” in Ukraine, referring to the street protests that led to the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a Russian ally.

Photo

Armed men left the Moscow Hotel in Simferopol after taking over some floors. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

Western officials crafted the language to persuade China not to side with Moscow. China is sensitive about talk of secession since it has its own worries about restive regions, including Tibet.

“China has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states,” said Liu Jieyi, the Chinese ambassador, explaining his abstention before adding a jab at the West: “At the same time, we have noticed foreign interference is also an important reason leading to violent clashes on the streets of Ukraine.”

The officials meeting in Washington and Europe working on sanctions saw three scenarios for Monday and beyond: Mr. Putin does not act; he moves to begin the legal processes of annexation; or, in the worst case, he moves to seize parts of eastern Ukraine.

Also on Saturday, amid the tensions between the West and Russia, NATO announced that several of its websites had been hit by cyberattacks. A spokeswoman said on Twitter that the sites had been hit by a denial of service attack, but that there had been no operational effect. A former Obama administration official said  responsibility for the attack was claimed by a group called cyber-Berkut. Ukraine’s riot police are known as the Berkut.

Ukrainian officials have been worried about an escalation of Russian military actions, reporting shifting tanks and troops in the north of Crimea, near the Ukrainian mainland. A spokesman in Crimea, Vladislav Seleznyov, said troops and trucks towing artillery pieces moved from Kerch, a city near the strait of the same name separating Crimea from Russia, to the north.

In one episode on Saturday night, masked gunmen stormed into the Hotel Moskva in Simferopol where foreign journalists are staying. The heavily armed men, many in plainclothes, searched some rooms. Some journalists said their flash drives had been taken.

Crimean officials insisted it was a training exercise.

Mr. Putin on Saturday was in the southern Russian resort city of Sochi, where he watched the open relay in cross-country ski racing in the Paralympics. Russia won the gold; Ukraine won the silver. The Kremlin issued a statement saying Mr. Putin had congratulated both teams.

——————

David M. Herszenhorn reported from Simferopol, Ukraine; Peter Baker from Washington; and Andrew E. Kramer from Kiev, Ukraine. Somini Sengupta contributed reporting from the United Nations, Steven Lee Myers from Moscow, Noah Sneider from Simferopol and Scott Shane from Washington.

———————

Some Comments:

KJ

The pipeline capacity to China would not make up for the cutoff of Russian natural gas to Western Europe and the Chinese would not even buy…

EAL

It’s been more than a week since this all started. What good will it do to freeze Russian bank accounts here and in Europe? I would think…

rkasper

Mr. Putin,How is seizing a gas distribution facility in another nation’s territory “protecting the Russian citizens” therein? We all know…

———–

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

 

The New York Times – QUOTATION OF THE DAY:

 

“We don’t have a common vision of the situation.”

 

SERGEY V. LAVROV, Russia’s foreign minister, on the failure of talks with Secretary of State John Kerry to ease tensions over Russia’s insistence that a referendum on Crimean independence proceed as scheduled.

 

But in Washington the Republicans think the World is just an intra-US-political game. Quite disgusting that Senator McCain does not accept his defeat, and his party’s defeat at the polls. Simply, in his case the results were not good enough for the Republican Supreme Court to move in and overturn the polls. He is quoted:

 

 

OPINION | Op-Ed Contributor to the New York Times

Obama Has Made America Look Weak

By JOHN McCAIN

 

The Crimea crisis offers Americans a chance to restore our country’s credibility on the world stage.

BUT ABOVE TWO FIGURES SHOW CLEARLY THAT RUSSIA IS RATHER AN EU PARTNER AND CLEARLY NOT A US PARTNER.   AS RUSSIA IS RATHER UNIMPORTANT TO US BUSINESS – BUT MUCH MORE IMPORTANT TO EU BUSINESS – LET THE EU FIGURE OUT HOW TO REACT TO RUSSIA’S INCURSION TO THE UKRAINE. THERE IS RATHER A CHANCE THAT COMMON GROUND WILL EVENTUALLY BE FOUND WITH THE EUROPEANS BUT IT WILL BE DISASTER IF CRIMEA BECOMES THE SUBSTANCE OF US INTERNAL POLITICS AS SENATOR McCAIN WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT.

BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? SENATOR McCAIN ACTUALLY SAYS HE WANTS THE US TO GO IN THE EXACT DIRECTION PRESIDENT OBAMA IS TRYING TO TAKE IT – BUT INTERFERES WITH HIM.  HE SAYS THAT HE – McCAIN SEES THIS POLICY  AND OBAMA DOES NOT.

McCAIN  JOINS THE OBAMA-BASHERS AND BY DOING SO HE IN EFFECT BACKS THOSE THAT WANT TO REVISIT AND RELIVE VIETNAM, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN … THE BIG ARMS INDUSTRY … THE COLD WARRIORS … AND WE REFUSE
TO BE FOOLED.

Furthermore – ask the East Europeans, now part of the EU, about the price they paid at the 1945 Yalta meeting for America’s interest in Middle East oil – specifically in Iranian oil. They became after WWII that was fought on their back – the payment to Stalin for his giving up communism’s  incursion in Iran – which may have in effect also after some other cycles led to the present US-bashing by Iran. Whatever the Obama moves and non-moves – they are at least more honest then this inter-party bashing by Americans.

His words in that OP-ED Opinion piece:

Should Russia’s invasion and looming annexation of Crimea be blamed on President Barack Obama? Of course not,  just as it should not be blamed on NATO expansion, the Iraq war or Western interventions to stop mass atrocities in the Balkans and Libya. The blame lies squarely with Vladimir V. Putin, an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and K.G.B. apparatchik.

But in a broader sense, Crimea has exposed the disturbing lack of realism that has characterized our foreign policy under President Obama. It is this worldview, or lack of one, that must change.

For five years, Americans have been told that “the tide of war is receding,” that we can pull back from the world at little cost to our interests and values. This has fed a perception that the United States is weak, and to people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative.

 

 

That is how Mr. Putin viewed the “reset” policy. United States missile defense plans were scaled back. Allies in Eastern Europe and Georgia were undercut. NATO enlargement was tabled. A new strategic arms reduction treaty required significant cuts by America, but not Russia. Mr. Putin gave little. Mr. Obama promised “more flexibility.”

Mr. Putin also saw a lack of resolve in President Obama’s actions beyond Europe. In Afghanistan and Iraq, military decisions have appeared driven more by a desire to withdraw than to succeed. Defense budgets have been slashed based on hope, not strategy. Iran and China have bullied America’s allies at no discernible cost. Perhaps worst of all, Bashar al-Assad crossed President Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons in Syria, and nothing happened to him.

For Mr. Putin, vacillation invites aggression. His world is a brutish, cynical place, where power is worshiped, weakness is despised, and all rivalries are zero-sum. He sees the fall of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” He does not accept that Russia’s neighbors, least of all Ukraine, are independent countries. To him, they are Russia’s “near abroad” and must be brought back under Moscow’s dominion by any means necessary.

What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world. That has emboldened other aggressive actors — from Chinese nationalists to Al Qaeda terrorists and Iranian theocrats.

Crimea must be the place where President Obama recognizes this reality and begins to restore the credibility of the United States as a world leader. This will require two different kinds of responses.

The first, and most urgent, is crisis management. We need to work with our allies to shore up Ukraine, reassure shaken friends in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, show Mr. Putin a strong, united front, and prevent the crisis from getting worse.

This does not mean military action against Russia. But it should mean sanctioning Russian officials, isolating Russia internationally, and increasing NATO’s military presence and exercises on its eastern frontier. It should mean boycotting the Group of 8 summit meeting in Sochi and convening the Group of 7 elsewhere. It should also mean making every effort to support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea. They refuse to accept the dismemberment of their country. So should we.

Crimea may be falling under Russian control, but Ukraine has another chance for freedom, rule of law and a European future. To seize that opportunity, Ukrainian leaders must unify the nation and commit to reform, and the West must provide significant financial and other assistance. Bipartisan legislation now before Congress would contribute to this effort.

More broadly, we must rearm ourselves morally and intellectually to prevent the darkness of Mr. Putin’s world from befalling more of humanity. We may wish to believe, as President Obama has said, that we are not “in competition with Russia.” But Mr. Putin believes Russia is in competition with us, and pretending otherwise is an unrealistic basis for a great nation’s foreign policy.

Three American presidents have sought to cooperate with Mr. Putin where our interests converge. What should be clear now, and should have been clear the last time he tore apart a country, is that our interests do not converge much.  He will always insist on being our rival.

The United States must look beyond Mr. Putin. His regime may appear imposing, but it is rotting inside. His Russia is not a great power on par with America. It is a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime.  And eventually, Russians will come for Mr. Putin in the same way and for the same reasons that Ukrainians came for Viktor F. Yanukovych.

We must prepare for that day now. We should show the Russian people that we support their human rights by expanding the Magnitsky Act to impose more sanctions on those who abuse them. We should stop allowing their country’s most corrupt officials to park ill-gotten proceeds in Western economies. We should prove that countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have a future in the Euro-Atlantic community, and Russia can, too.

 

We must do all we can to demonstrate that the tide of history is with Ukraine — that the political values of the West, and not those of an imperial kleptocracy, are the hope of all nations. If Ukraine can emerge from this crisis independent, prosperous and anchored firmly in Europe, how long before Russians begin to ask, “Why not us?” That would not just spell the end of Mr. Putin’s imperial dreams; it would strip away the lies that sustain his rule over Russia itself.

America’s greatest strength has always been its hopeful vision of human progress. But hopes do not advance themselves, and the darkness that threatens them will not be checked by an America in denial about the world as it is. It requires realism, strength and leadership. If Crimea does not awaken us to this fact, I am afraid to think what will.

John McCain is a Republican senator from Arizona.

 Some Comments

 

V

Hahahahaha.Ha.Hahahaha.Thanks for the good laugh, Senator McCain. By the way, thanks also for all your “insight, expertise and wisdom” on…

stu freeman

Thank you, Sen. McCain, for your service and heroism during the Viet-Nam period (a conflict from which we would have most certainly emerged…

david

John McCain continues to refight the Vietnam War.He like many of the neo-cons believes that only if the US had fought harder in Vietnam the…

AND THE EUROPEANS WRITE:

***** EUobserver – 15.03.2014 ******************************

****************

UKRAINE MATTERS!

Conference, Tuesday 18th March from 15:00 to 18:00 at the Renaissance Hotel
brought to you by the EU Ukraine Business Council with live feed to
Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv.  What measures can the EU take to stabilise the
situation and bring Ukraine out of crisis?

To book, register at www.planetReg.com/UkraineMatters.

***** THE NEWS *************************************************************

1. EU undecided on Russia sanctions ahead of Crimea vote – 14/03/2014 20:15:12

Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU has appealed for European unity ahead of
Sunday’s tinderbox “referendum” in Crimea.

euobserver.com/foreign/123472

———–
2. Europe looking at alternatives to Russian gas – 14/03/2014 20:04:06

EU leaders meeting in Brussels next week will look at ways to lower the
bloc’s dependence on Russian gas as they prepare economic sanctions against
Moscow.

euobserver.com/economic/123466

———–
3. [Agenda] Russia sanctions to dominate this WEEK – 14/03/2014 20:11:41

Possible EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine are set to dominate this
week’s agenda as leaders gather in Brussels to discuss the implications of
the referendum in Crimea.

euobserver.com/agenda/123469

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

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 We wonder that anti-EU British and Dutch Right-Wingers were not mentioned among the invitees – perhaps that was an oversight of the reporter?

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

Russia invites EU far-right to observe Crimea vote.

from the EUobserver – 13.03.14

By Benjamin Fox

 

BRUSSELS – The Russian government has invited some of Europe’s far-right parties to observe this weekend’s referendum in Crimea.

The leader of France’s National Front party, Marine Le Pen, told press at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (12 March) that her executive has not yet decided whether to go.

The Austrian Freedom party, a National Front ally, also got an invitation.

Crimeans will go to the polls on Sunday to pick one of two options: “Are you in favour of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation?” or “Are you in favour of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution? [on semi-autonomy inside Ukraine].”With Russian soldiers and paramilitaries in control of streets and public buildings, the vote will effectively be held at gunpoint.

EU leaders have said the referendum is illegal.

The G7 club of wealthy nations, which also includes Canada, Japan, and the US, described it as a “deeply flawed process which would have no moral force.”

The OSCE, a Vienna-based multilateral body, has also declined to send observers because the vote was called in violation of Ukraine’s constitution.

But for her part, Le Pen voiced sympathy for Russia, even if it opts to annex the territory after Sunday’s result.

“Crimea is not like the rest of the country … it is very closely linked to Russia,” she said, adding: “We have to take account of the history of Crimea.”

“From the outset of the crisis we [the National Front] have said that Ukraine should maintain its sovereignty but allow the three main regions to have a lot of autonomy.”

She described the prospect of EU economic sanctions against Russia as “dangerous” and echoed Russian propaganda on the new authorities in Kiev.

“We should have some qualms about the new government because it was not elected … We know that there are neo-Nazis and extremists in this government,” she said.

With Europe’s far-right keen to play up the Ukrainian crisis as an EU foreign policy blunder, Austrian MEP Andreas Moelzer, from the Freedom Party, told Austrian news agency APA also on Wednesday that he is considering Putin’s offer.

“We are among the few who try to understand Russia,” he said.

———–

The Soviet Union made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954.

Some 58 percent of its 2 million people are ethnic Russians.

But ethnic Russians became the majority only in World War II, when Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of Armenians, Bulgarians, Jews, Germans, Greeks, and Tatars from the region.

The 800,000 or so Ukrainian speakers who live there now form the majority in nine districts.

The 250,000 or so Tatars in Crimea have appealed for EU, US, and Turkish help to keep them from falling under Putin’s rule.

 

Crimean Tatars Face Uncertain Future

Seventy years after Stalin brutally deported thousands of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia, the descendants of those who returned fear repression as Russia tightens its grip on the peninsula.

. Related Article

 

Amid Preparations, Mediator Says Syria Vote Would Doom Talks

By SOMINI SENGUPTA

Lakhdar Brahimi said there were many signs that Syria’s government was planning an election, though that would be counterproductive for talks.

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

OUR CONCLUSION:
ELECTIONS AT GUN-POINT ARE A FAKE DEMOCRATIC WAY TO HELP DESPOTS ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS. WE THINK THE US TEA-PARTY COULD ALSO TAKE A BREAK BY GOING TO THE CRIM.  WE SAY THIS WITHOUT
JUDGEMENT OF THE MERITS OF THE ISSUE AT HAND – RATHER BY THINKING ONLY OF THE SUSTAINABILITY OF THE APPROACH OF CALLING FOR DISPUTED ELECTIONS WITHOUT A WIDE RANGE OF OBSERVERS.

 ======================

THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF INFORMATION ABOUT US-RUSSIA DISCUSSIONS IS AS FOLLOWS:

Remarks

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Winfield House
London, United Kingdom
March 14, 2014

 


 

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. My pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Lavrov to Winfield House, the American Embassy residence here in London. Obviously, we have a lot to talk about. I look forward to the opportunity to dig into the issues and possibilities that we may be able to find about how to move forward together to resolve some of the differences between us. And we look forward, I know, to a good conversation.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Well, I’m also satisfied to have this meeting today. This is a difficult situation we are in. Many events have happened and a lot of time has been lost, so now we have to think what can be done. Thank you.

AND THAT IS HOW IT IS.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Statement by UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant to the UN Security Council on the situation in Ukraine – 13 March 2014.

I welcome Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the Security Council today. The United Kingdom stands side-by-side with the Ukrainian people in this time of crisis.

We commend Mr Yatsenyuk, his government, and the people and armed forces of Ukraine, for the remarkable restraint they have shown in the face of repeated provocation. Because of their strength of will, there is still a chance for a peaceful, diplomatic solution.

Mr President,

Over the past week, we have heard in this chamber, and elsewhere, an attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the transitional government in Ukraine. This is entirely unwarranted. Mr Yanukovych deserted his office and his people in the midst of a crisis. Rather than work to implement the 21 February Agreement, he abandoned his post. He was disowned by his own party and his removal approved by an overwhelming majority of Members of Parliament.

The transitional Government which replaced him has already taken important steps, steps which uphold the spirit of the 21 February Agreement and which lay the foundations for the future of Ukraine. They have restored the 2004 Constitution; they have begun the process of constitutional reform; and they have scheduled elections for 25 May.
These forthcoming elections will enable all Ukrainians to choose their own leaders. International monitors stand ready to ensure that these elections are free and fair. We urge all parties to support this effort.

We all agree that Ukraine needs our support in this time of transition. We all acknowledge that Ukraine has a pressing need for reform, for improvements to its political culture, for political stability, for inclusiveness and for an end to corruption. We all support the call for investigations into the violence of the past three months. We all back fresh elections under international observation. And we all agree on the importance of protecting minority rights. These points of agreement could form a basis around which we could coalesce to find a way forward.

But in order to move from away from confrontation, the Russian Federation needs to accept that the cause of current instability in Ukraine lies not in Kiev, nor in Donetsk.

It comes from the actions of the Russian Federation in the Crimean Peninsula where, against the expressed wishes of the Ukrainian Government, Russian military forces have taken control of a large part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

We utterly condemn this blatant violation of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and this flagrant breach of international law.

Russia claims that it is acting to protect its citizens. We have heard claims of Russian speakers and nationals under threat, the Russian language outlawed, rampant anti-semitism, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine. All these claims have been shown to be unfounded. The only part of Ukraine where minorities are under threat is in Russian occupied Crimea, where Ukrainian forces are besieged in their bases and hundreds of members of the Tartar community are fleeing Crimea in fear. Where, as we have heard just now from Mr Feltman, ASG Šimonovic has been denied access, denied the opportunity to investigate the disturbing developments taking place in Crimea. But those international observers who have visited Crimea, including Astrid Thors, the OSCE Commissioner on National Minorities, have found no evidence of any violations or threats to the rights of Russian speakers. They have, however, reported that, as a consequence of Russian actions, tensions between ethnic communities have increased.

Mr President,

We are deeply concerned by the decision by the so-called Crimean government – installed by an armed Putsch accompanied by Russian military intervention – to hold a referendum on 16 March to ascertain whether Crimea should become part of the Russian Federation. We are equally concerned by the legislative steps Russia is taking to facilitate this referendum.

It is absolutely clear that the proposed referendum would violate the Ukrainian Constitution. Article 73 sets out that any alteration to the territory of Ukraine must be resolved by an All-Ukrainian referendum. This is manifestly not an all-Ukrainian referendum.

Moreover, a free and fair referendum cannot possibly be held while Russian troops and Russian-backed militias dominate Crimea, where there is no electoral register, where there are restrictions on press freedom, and where voters are casting their ballots under the barrel of a gun.

Under such conditions, it is clear that any referendum vote in Crimea this weekend would be farcical. Worse, it would reopen ethnic divisions and risk a serious escalation in tensions. Such a referendum will not be recognised by the international community.

Mr President,

A window of opportunity remains to find a peaceful resolution to this crisis. The window is narrow, but it exists. But finding this solution requires Russia to take a number of important steps. It must de-escalate. Its forces must return to their bases in Crimea and to the force levels stipulated in the Black Sea Fleet basing agreements. International monitors must be allowed into Crimea. Their presence will ensure that the rights of people belonging to minorities are fully respected by all parties. Russia should distance itself from the proposed referendum, clearly indicate that it will not seek to use the result as a pretext for annexation, and publicly reaffirm its commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And Russia must agree to proposals for a dialogue with the Ukrainian Government either directly or through meaningful international diplomatic process.

Mr President,

The Council is meeting today in the gravest possible circumstances.

A referendum is set to take place on Sunday which is illegal under Ukrainian law and the consequences of which will clearly be inflammatory and destabilising – with serious implications for the UN charter and international norms.

There is no need for this. What we have just heard from Prime Minister Yatsenyuk confirms what many of us have been repeatedly emphasising in this Council: that there is a clear willingness on the part of the Ukrainian Government to address Russia’s stated concerns through peaceful dialogue, discussion and negotiation.

When there is a readiness for dialogue it makes no sense – indeed it would be dangerous and irresponsible – for Russia to take unilateral actions or to collude with unilateral actions of the Crimean authorities.

The United Kingdom urges Russia to refrain from such unilateral actions and to distance itself from the referendum set to take place on Sunday.

And the United Kingdom urges this Security Council to make clear that Ukraine’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity must be respected and that any attempt to modify Ukraine’s borders through unlawful means will not be tolerated.

Kind regards,
Press Office l UK Mission to the UN

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

A Tsar’s Bride Dmitri Tcherniakov has set this Rimsky-Korsakov work, with Olga Peretyatko (in white suit) in the title role, in a TV studio, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Credit Brescia/Amisano-Teatro alla Scala

 

MILAN — The Oprichniks were the murderous henchmen of Ivan the Terrible, torturing and killing the czar’s enemies.

It says a lot about the Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov’s world view that he has chosen to reimagine these thugs as contemporary television executives in his exhilarating production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Tsar’s Bride” at the Teatro alla Scala here. This lurid tale of jealousy, insanity and the search for a royal wife has become, in Mr. Tcherniakov’s alchemical hands, a vivid, unsettling reflection on the media and the fast-disintegrating line between what seems real and what is.

It isn’t the first time that this director has brought a new angle to an older work. His charged, often claustrophobic interpretations of operas like Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” over the past few years have revealed fresh narratives and unexpected emphases in well-trodden classics. Just last month at the Metropolitan Opera, his new production of Borodin’s “Prince Igor” added some sections, cut others and rearranged what was left to create a dreamy portrait of a ruler and society thrown out of joint by the hunger for war.

Ms. Peretyatko, left, and the mezzo Anna Lapkovskaja in ‘‘The Tsar’s Bride.’’ Credit Brescia/Amisano-Teatro alla Scala

 

But “Prince Igor” is a torso. Borodin never finished it and, as far as an overarching structure, barely even started it, a fact that even the Met’s strong production couldn’t conceal. While Mr. Tcherniakov’s version of “Igor” showed craft and care, it was bracing on Wednesday, at the second performance of “The Tsar’s Bride,” to see what he is capable of when he actually has a full opera to work with.

Like many Russian masterpieces, this Rimsky-Korsakov piece, which premiered in 1899, is still a relative rarity in the West, and it hasn’t always gotten the respect it deserves. It can seem, at first glance, a rather superficially sumptuous melodrama. But this performance made a strong case for its glimmers of forward-thinking angularity as well as its late-Verdian propulsion: it is an assemblage of set pieces — arias, ensembles, choruses — that presses forward with vigor.

The plot takes its cue from an encyclopedia footnote about which little is known: Ivan the Terrible’s brief third marriage to a commoner who was selected from 12 finalists for his hand and who died mysteriously a few days after their wedding. In the opera, this young woman, Marfa, is the pawn in a tangled love story that leaves her insane, succumbing to poison, and several other people dead.

The odd thing about Rimsky-Korsakov’s telling is that while there’s certainly a bride in it, there’s no czar. The one time in the original libretto that the fearsome Ivan seems to enter the picture, we’re not even sure it’s him: Marfa and her friend think they recognize his dreadful eyes in an anonymous man on horseback.

First at the Berlin Staatsoper in October and now in Milan, and both times with Daniel Barenboim conducting, Mr. Tcherniakov has taken this empty space at the opera’s core and run with it. The curtain rises on a TV studio where what seems to be a storybook pageant about old Russia is being filmed.

Before the overture is over, video projections bring us into an online chat among the Oprichnik-executives, who propose the need to invent a fake czar. A computer-generated leader is swiftly created for the public to revere and fear, and a “Bachelor”-style competition is started to help choose his bride.

At its heart this is yet another iteration of the theater-within-the-theater conceit that has tripped up even gifted directors. (See Stefan Herheim’s London production of Verdi’s “Les Vêpres Siciliennes” last fall.) But Mr. Tcherniakov makes it work with the fresh energy of his concept and the vital performances he draws from his cast.

All the world’s a screen in this “Tsar’s Bride,” a society distinguished most by the ceaseless generation and consumption of “content.” So Lyubasha, driven to desperation by jealousy, performs part of her first-act monologue in front of the cameras in an empty studio.

At the end, the innocent Marfa’s mad scene is filmed — ready to join happier, earlier clips flickering on the studio monitors. Becoming a media spectacle may be the most fitting way for her to go, in a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword way: Throughout the previous acts, the Oprichniks’ product — a manufactured reality, half-news, half-entertainment — has been gobbled up from the television at Marfa’s family’s home. (We glimpse a few seconds of battle footage, too, lest anyone forget what all the fuss about a royal wedding is distracting from.)

Mr. Tcherniakov’s tweaks yield some of the production’s most effective moments. In the original libretto, the vindictive Lyubasha secretly spies on Marfa, her romantic rival. But here the encounter was face to face, making Lyubasha’s furious vows both more terrifying and more pitiable.

This director designed his own set, as is his usual practice, and it is a rotating wonder that makes possible, for instance, an elegant transition into the first-act trio. The world of the opera is rendered as a hermetic, arid interior. Nature is just another image, whether in the form of video of sun-dappled leaves or in the flowered wallpaper of Marfa’s living room.

The intense performances, not least that of the theater’s vibrant chorus, popped against this stark setting. The dusky-voiced mezzo Marina Prudenskaya’s Lyubasha was a small miracle of barely contained despair. The tenor Pavel Cernoch was a bright-voiced wimp as Marfa’s childhood sweetheart, Lykov, and the bass Anatoli Kotscherga a bearish presence as her father, Sobakin.

His baritone husky and lithe, Johannes Martin Kränzle was a bitter cynic at the heart of a cruel game as Gryaznoy, the Oprichnik mastermind of the czar’s bride scheme. The mezzo Anna Lapkovskaja was warm-hearted and warm-toned as Marfa’s friend, Dunyasha. The veteran soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow was touchingly deluded as her mother, Saburova.

Her voice and manner agile and girlish in the early acts, the soprano Olga Peretyatko was transformed into a bitter Norma Desmond lookalike for a riveting mad scene, her eyes glittering under the studio spotlights. (She gets another descent into insanity next month as Elvira in Bellini’s “I Puritani” for her Metropolitan Opera debut.)

Mr. Barenboim brought out the music’s broad sweep and agitated details in moments like the febrile trembling as Gryaznoy toasts the bride-to-be in Act 3. He led the brass blasts at the start of the fourth act, each of which recedes into quiet unease, with a tautness and weight that revealed their debt to the opening of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung.”

I wondered how the plusher Metropolitan Opera Orchestra would sound in this score, which has never been performed at the Met. I hope to have the chance to find out before too long, perhaps in Mr. Tcherniakov’s daringly theatrical production, a natural fit if ever there was one for media-driven New York.

The Tsar’s Bride. Directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov. Teatro alla Scala, Milan.Through March 14. teatroallascala.org.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Seeking An Exit From the Ukrainian Cul-de-Sac.

Posted:

German chancellor Angela Merkel came away from a phone conversation with Russian president Vladmir Putin this week convinced that he is living “in another world,” she told Barack Obama — an Orwellian alternative universe, perhaps, in which freedom is slavery and lies are propagated by a Ministry of Truth. The political crisis that is consuming Ukraine has re-ignited the embers of cold war hostility and paranoia.

Yet as the West and Russia square off, Merkel has been reluctant to sanction and isolate Russia for destabilizing Ukraine. This only reinforces Washington hardliners’ disdain for Europe’s supposed ineffectuality: it was the European Union’s trade initiative that Putin torpedoed, triggering the Ukrainian upheaval — and now the E.U. expects the Americans to deal with Russia’s hardball reaction?

Europhile Henry Kissinger caustically blames E.U. “bureaucratic dilatoriness” for “turning a negotiation into a crisis.” The last disciple of Metternichian realpolitik, Kissinger at least recognizes the perils of reacting intemperately and urges a compromise with Moscow involving “Finlandization” of Ukraine. But his fellow Republicans have seized on Ukraine to launch a full-throated assault on Obama as a “weak indecisive leader” whose “feckless foreign policy” invited Russian aggression and who lacks the backbone to force Putin into ignominious retreat.

If cold-war reflexes still come quickly to life in conservative quarters in Washington, they are far more deeply ingrained in Russia. Putin famously told the Duma that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century.” NATO’s expansion eastward and its war with Serbia over Kosovo propelled his ascension to power in 1999, and what he sees through the Moscow looking-glass is an implacable Western drive to hem in Russia and impose Western economic and political models worldwide.

Russian rhetoric about Ukraine bitterly parodies the language of current Western internationalism. Russian military forces are undertaking a “humanitarian intervention,” just as the Western countries did in Libya and have proposed for Syria (though in Ukraine no one has been killed or remotely threatened by the current Kiev authorities).

The Crimean autonomous region has the right to secede from Ukraine, just as the Western countries asserted for Kosovo (juridically an uncomfortably snug parallel, though missing the small detail of internationally certified lethal repression by Belgrade).

Ejection of sitting government officials from their posts by militant protesters in Russified districts of Ukraine is an expression of the popular will, a just riposte to the “Euro-Maidan” protesters who finally forced the flight of president Viktor Yanukovych.

Sergey Aksyonov, whose fervently Russian party won four percent of Crimeans’ votes in regional elections, could then be legitimately installed as the region’s leader, while it was illegitimate for the national parliament, including Yanukovych’s own party members, to appoint Oleksandr Turchynov, whose Fatherland party had garnered 26 percent of Ukrainians’ votes for the Rada in 2012, to fill the purportedly vacant presidency.

All this pretended symmetry is simply pretextual. The bottom line is that Putin deemed even a modest European link for Ukraine as a serious threat to Russia, perhaps a first step toward NATO. He gambled that he could prevent it.

The gamble backfired badly, mobilizing legions of protesters and knocking Yanukovych, who had walked a fine line between Ukrainians’ European aspirations and Russian sympathies, off balance and finally out of power. While Obama does not see “some cold war chessboard,” Moscow concluded it had just lost its queen, and riskily upped the ante.

The confrontation, however, actually poses more danger to Putin’s economically brittle regime than to the West. And for a leader who craves international respect–basking in hosting the G-20 summit last September, sulking in the absence of his peers at the Sochi Olympics–Russia’s deepening isolation is a blow.

Last year the Pew Research Center found barely a third of citizens across 38 countries had a favorable view of Russia, compared to the half that saw China favorably and the nearly two-thirds favorable to the United States. Without bonds of amity, every relationship becomes transactional. Now, Putin’s tough talk and rough action are only exacerbating the international distaste. Even China, often an ally in the United Nations Security Council, is warning Moscow “not to interfere in others’ internal affairs.”

The militiamen in Crimea who blocked U.N. envoy Robert Serry’s way sent a particularly disquieting signal. The United Nations provides one of the few international mechanisms of ingrained impartiality that can walk everyone back from confrontation.

Presumably a deal can be made. Putin had evinced no interest in Russian control of Crimea so long as the government in Kiev was neutral between East and West, and permanently detaching it from Ukraine tilts the country’s electoral balance decisively toward the Russoskeptics. An international accord that guarantees a democratic Ukraine’s territorial integrity and bars it from any military alliance, on the Finnish and Austrian model, will likely be at the heart of a resolution. And if Putin decides to proceed with Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, he is signing off on NATO membership for Kiev, and other countries can permanently reject visa applications from Crimea or economic transactions with it.

The United States has proved itself essential to mobilizing the political pressures most persuasive to Putin, and Secretary of State John Kerry is managing the diplomacy with admirable firmness and nuance. But this is really a European affair. It is Europe that has the economic leverage that matters to Russia, and Europe whose prosperity Ukrainians want to share. Let Europe lead.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A DISCLOSURE:

THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ – IT HELPS ME UNDERSTAND MY OWN FEELINGS AS WELL – SPECIALLY AS I LOST A GRANDMOTHER AND AN AUNT TO THE BUTCHER KNIVES (LITERALLY) OF THE UKRAINIAN BANDERA  NATIONALISTS IN MILLIE – (THE BUKOWINA OF OLD AND NOW IN THE CHERNIVTSI OBLAST OF THE UKRAINE TAKEN BY THE SOVIETS FROM ROMANIA) – THAT WERE INCITED BY A PRIEST THAT CAME FROM KUTTY (UKRAINIANS LIVING THEN UNDER POLAND BEFORE BEING ANNEXED BY THE SOVIETS), ACROSS THE CHEREMUSH RIVER in 1941. THOSE UKRAINIANS THAT SURVIVED THE WAR ENDED UP IN BRITISH COLUMBIA AS RESPECTED WAR REFUGEES LIKE THE SURVIVORS OF MY MOTHER’S FAMILY ENDED UP IN TORONTO. THE CANADIAN UKRAINIANS MARCHED WITH THE RED&BLACK FLAG THEN NEXT TO CANADA FLAG IN LVIV WHEN I WITNESSED THERE THE UKRAINIAN INDEPENDENCE – AND THEY WONDERED WHY I DO NOT MARCH WITH THEM ALSO. I SAW NOW THOSE SAME  RED/BLACK FLAGS ON THE MAIDAN VIA TV.

INTERESTING HOW AVNERY REMINDS US THAT I MIGHT BE A DESCENDENT OF THE UKRAINIAN KHAZARS – PERSONALLY I KNOW THAT FATHER AND ME LOOK LIKE THAT – BUT HE ALSO TELLS US THAT BINATIONALISM DOES NOT WORK, AND THAT NETANYAHU IS BUILDING THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL AS A JEWISH STATE – AND THAT HURTS VERY MUCH. YES – ABSOLUTELY A MUST STUDY ARTICLE.

————————

Uri Avnery

March 8, 2014

 

                                                God Bless Putin

 

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is very good at making speeches, especially to Jews, neocons and such, who jump up and applaud wildly at everything he says, including that tomorrow the sun will rise in the west.

 

The question is: is he good at anything else?

 

 

HIS FATHER, an ultra-ultra-Rightist, once said about him that he is quite unfit to be prime minister, but that he could be a good foreign minister. What he meant was that Binyamin does not have the depth of understanding needed to guide the nation, but that he is good at selling any policy decided upon by a real leader. 

 

(Reminding us of the characterization of Abba Eban by David Ben-Gurion: “He is very good at explaining, but you must tell him what to explain.”)

 

This week Netanyahu was summoned to Washington. He was supposed to approve John Kerry’s new “framework” agreement, which would serve as a basis for restarting the peace negotiations, which so far have come to naught.

 

On the eve of the event, President Barack Obama gave an interview to a Jewish journalist, blaming Netanyahu for the stalling of the “peace process” – as if there had ever been a peace process.

 

Netanyahu arrived with an empty bag – meaning a bag full of empty slogans. The Israeli leadership had striven mightily for peace, but could not progress at all because of the Palestinians. It is Mahmoud Abbas who is to blame, because he refuses to recognize Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

 

What…hmm…about the settlements, which have been expanding during the last year at a hectic pace? Why should the Palestinians negotiate endlessly, while at the same time the Israeli government takes more and more of the land which is the substance of the negotiations? (As the classic Palestinian argument goes: “We negotiate about dividing a pizza, and in the meantime Israel is eating the pizza.”)

 

Obama steeled himself to confront Netanyahu, AIPAC and their congressional stooges. He was about to twist the arms of Netanyahu until he cried “uncle” – the uncle being Kerry’s “framework”, which by now has been watered down to look almost like a Zionist manifesto. Kerry is frantic for an achievement, whatever its contents and discontents.

 

Netanyahu, looking for an instrument to rebuff the onslaught, was ready to cry as usual “Iran! Iran! Iran!” – when something unforeseen happened.

 

 

NAPOLEON FAMOUSLY exclaimed: ”Give me generals who are lucky!”  He would have loved General Bibi.

 

Because, on the way to confront a newly invigorated Obama, there was an explosion that shook the world:

 

Ukraine.

 

It was like the shots that rang out in Sarajevo a hundred years ago.

The international tranquility was suddenly shattered. The possibility of a major war was in the air.

 

Netanyahu’s visit disappeared from the news. Obama, occupied with a historic crisis, just wanted to get rid of him as quickly as possible. Instead of the severe admonition of the Israeli leader, he got away with some hollow compliments. All the wonderful speeches Netanyahu had prepared were left unspeeched. Even his usual triumphant speech at AIPAC evoked no interest.

 

All because of the upheaval in Kiev.

 

 

BY NOW, innumerable articles have been written about the crisis. Historical associations abound.

 

Though Ukraine means “borderland”, it was often at the center of European events. One must pity Ukrainian schoolchildren. The changes in the history of their country were constant and extreme. At different times Ukraine was a European power and a poor downtrodden territory, extremely rich (“the breadbasket of Europe”) or abjectly poor, attacked by neighbors who captured their people to sell them as slaves or attacking their neighbors to enlarge their country.

 

The Ukraine’s relationship with Russia is even more complex. In a way, the Ukraine is the heartland of Russian culture, religion and orthography. Kiev was far more important than Moscow, before becoming the centerpiece of Muscovite imperialism.

 

In the Crimean War of the 1850s, Russia fought valiantly against a coalition of Great Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia, and eventually lost. The war broke out over Christian rights in Jerusalem, and included a long siege of Sevastopol. The world remembers the charge of the Light Brigade. A British woman called Florence Nightingale established the first organization to tend the wounded on the battlefield.  

 

In my lifetime, Stalin murdered millions of Ukrainians by deliberate starvation. As a result, most Ukrainians welcomed the German Wehrmacht in 1941 as liberators. It could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but unfortunately Hitler was determined to eradicate the Ukrainian “Untermenschen”, in order to integrate the Ukraine into the German Lebensraum.

 

The Crimea suffered terribly. The Tatar people, who had ruled the peninsula in the past, were deported to Central Asia, then allowed to return decades later. Now they are a small minority, seemingly unsure of where their loyalties lie.

 

 

THE RELATIONSHIP between Ukraine and the Jews is no less complicated.

 

Some Jewish writers, like Arthur Koestler and Shlomo Sand, believe that the Khazar empire that ruled the Crimea and neighboring territory a thousand years ago, converted to Judaism, and that most Ashkenazi Jews are descended from them. This would turn us all into Ukrainians. (Many early Zionist leaders indeed came from Ukraine.)

 

When Ukraine was a part of the extensive Polish empire, many Polish noblemen took hold of large estates there. They employed Jews as their managers. Thus the Ukrainian peasants came to look upon the Jews as the agents of their oppressors, and anti-Semitism became part of the national culture of Ukraine.

 

As we learned in school, at every turn of Ukrainian history, the Jews were slaughtered. The names of most Ukrainian folk-heroes, leaders and rebels who are revered in their homeland are, in Jewish consciousness, connected with awful pogroms.

 

Cossack Hetman (leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who liberated Ukraine from the Polish yoke, and who is considered by Ukrainians as the father of their nation, was one of the worst mass-murderers in Jewish history. Symon Petliura, who led the Ukrainian war against the Bolsheviks after World War I, was assassinated by a Jewish avenger.

 

Some elderly Jewish immigrants in Israel must find it hard to decide whom to hate more, the Ukrainians or the Russians (or the Poles, for that matter.)

 

 

PEOPLE AROUND the world find it also hard to choose sides.

 

The usual Cold-War zealots have it easy – they either hate the Americans or the Russians, out of habit.

 

As for me, the more I try to study the situation, the more unsure I become. This is not a black-or-white situation.

 

The first sympathy goes to the Maidan rebels. (Maidan is an Arab word meaning town square. Curious how it travelled to Kiev. Probably via Istanbul.)

 

They want to join the West, enjoy independence and democracy. What’s wrong with that?

 

Nothing, except that they have dubious bedfellows. Neo-Nazis in their copycat Nazi uniforms, giving the Hitler salute and mouthing anti-Semitic slogans, are not very attractive. The encouragement they receive from Western allies, including the odious neocons, is off-putting.

 

On the other side, Vladimir Putin is also not very prepossessing. It’s the old Russian imperialism all over again.

 

The slogan used by the Russians – the need to protect Russian-speaking people in a neighboring country – sounds eerily familiar. It is an exact copy of Adolf Hitler’s claim in 1938 to protect the Sudeten Germans from the Czech monsters.  

 

But Putin has some logic on his side. Sevastopol – the scene of heroic sieges both in the Crimean War and in World War II, is essential for his naval forces. The association with Ukraine is an important part of Russian world power aspirations.

 

A cold-blooded, calculating operator, of a kind now rare in the world, Putin uses the strong cards he has, but is very careful not to take too many risks. He is managing the crisis astutely, using Russia’s obvious advantages. Europe needs his oil and gas, he needs Europe’s capital and trade. Russia has a leading role in Syria and Iran. The US suddenly looks like a bystander.

 

I assume that in the end there will be a compromise. Russia will retain a footing in the coming Ukrainian leadership. Both sides will proclaim victory, as they should.

 

(By the way, for those here who believe in the “One-State Solution”: Another multicultural state seems to be breaking apart.)

 

 

WHERE WILL this leave Netanyahu?

 

He has gained some months or years without any movement toward peace, and in the meantime can continue with the occupation and build settlements at a frantic pace.

 

That is the traditional Zionist strategy. Time is everything. Every postponement provides opportunities to create more facts on the ground.

 

Netanyahu’s prayers have been answered. God bless Putin.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 6th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

U.S. Provokes Russia, Acts Surprised to Get Nasty Reaction.

If too many people get sucked in by the current, distorted media coverage of events unfolding now in Ukraine, then there’s a good chance life will get very ugly for a lot of innocent people, since one of the logical end points is the use of nuclear weapons. Everyone in power knows that’s a potential reality, but the urge to demagogue the Russians is presently overwhelming honesty and caution. 

Ukraine is NOT a real place. Ukraine has never been a real place, not in the sense that Madascar or Cuba are both undeniably real places with real edges.  Ukraine has no real edges, just lines on a map imposed by some treaty or army over the past several thousand years. To speak, as the more pompous do, of Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” is to speak of an imaginary construct, useful for blurring people’s minds for political purposes.

www.alternet.org/world/us-provokes-russia-acts-surprised-get-nasty-reaction?akid=11573.102217.gz0pAk&rd=1&src=newsletter966991&t=2&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Ukraine in recent years has been what the power brokers of the disintegrating Soviet Union decided to let it be in 1991. Ukraine has no coherent history as a nation. First inhabited some 44,000 years ago, most of the region’s history is as occupied territory. 

Russia’s history of maintaining a military presence in Crimea is older than United States history. The Russian Black Sea Fleet has been based in Sevastopol in Crimea continuously since 1783. For the Russians, this is a crucial warm water port, currently leased from Ukraine till 2042. 

To understand what this means to the Russians, it probably matters more to them than the United States would care if the Cubans decided to threaten the Naval Base at Guantanamo, and we know that wouldn’t have a happy ending. 

Is anyone involved in Ukraine NOT to blame for something? 

In spite of its history as a subjugated non-state, Ukraine has managed something like a functioning democratic government from time to time in recent years. Now is not one of those times. The elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, was by all accounts corrupt, but he was elected. Although the process was somewhat messy, he was duly elected in 2010 with almost 49% of the vote, concentrated in Russian-populated eastern Ukraine and Crimea. 

Now Yanukovych has been deposed, perhaps justly, but by an unjust process spearheaded by a street mob and a disenthralled parliament. The parliament has appointed an acting president and Yanukovych is in asylum in Russia. It’s not clear that Ukraine now has a legitimate government of any sort. 

The Ukrainian presidential crisis, which is ongoing, is surely the result of longstanding, internal Ukrainian faultlines, ethnic, political, and economic. And the crisis is even more surely the result of deliberate, years-long interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine by the United States, the European Union, NATO, and other western forces, as Robert Parry has described. Ukraine appears to be the latest victim of those New American Century conspirators who brought the world such success in Afghanistan, Iraq, Honduras, and Syria (home to another Russian warm water port and only Mediterranean base). 

“KREMLIN DEPLOYS MILITARY TO SEIZE CRIMEA” – N.Y. Times headline

That front page headline in the Times is, perhaps, less inflammatory than others elsewhere, but it was five columns wide and deploying “Kremlin” that way is pure Cold War journalism. As for accuracy, it’s close – even if it doesn’t acknowledge that Russian troops have long been based in Crimea and “seize” is a hyperbolic rendering of an unopposed deployment which may even have been welcomed by most of the population. 

The subhead – “REBUFF TO OBAMA” – is essentially propaganda, as it tries to make the President personally relevant to a situation that has its own dynamic. It’s also propaganda insofar as it tries to make this an American crisis to which we’re supposed to respond, rather than one we promoted for reasons that remain obscure.

The Times offers some idea of why Russia might be wary, but that’s deep in an inside sidebar, not the front page story. The deadpan tone hides a host of implied threats to Russian stability and safety: 

“Ukraine had accomplished some military reform with NATO advice, but since President Yanukovych said that Ukraine was not interested in full NATO membership, cooperation has lagged, the NATO official said. Ukraine has, however, taken part in some military exercises with NATO, contribute some troops to NATO’s response force and helped in a small way in Libya.” 

 In other words, the “pro-Russian” Yanukovych was contributing to NATO, albeit in a small way that might even have been part of a balancing act reflecting Ukraine’s unfortunate but inescapable geographic location bordering both Russia and NATO members Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland. As far as the NATO allies were concerned, Ukraine’s effort to be a buffer state with good relations with all its hostile neighbors was not enough. Both NATO and the European Union were pressuring Ukraine to choose sides, NATO’s side. How did they honestly expect Russia to react, sooner or later? 

These provocations have gone on for years in different forms, apparently with President Obama’s blessing, since he apparently did nothing, or nothing effective, to mitigate or even cease the relentless instigation of Ukrainians toward violence. In mid-December 2013, former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich warned of the trap Ukrainian demonstrators in Independence Square were headed toward. 

The fascist, neo-Nazi, ethnic cleansing forces in Kiev and western Ukraine do not control the government at this point, but they control the streets and they the most armed and organized of the factions in Ukraine. They provided many of the shock troops in recent confrontations with police at Independence Square. 

Concern about the possible rise to power of right wing forces contributed to the decision by Crimean authorities to reject the legitimacy of the Kiev government and establish de facto control of Crimea as, effectively, a temporary independent and autonomous province of Ukraine. After that, Sergei Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea, asked the Russians for help safeguarding the region. 

Aksyonov also announced that Crimea would hold a public referendum on independence on March 30, 2014.

The government in Kiev mobilized the military to defend Ukraine and dispatched some troops to Crimea. There the majority of those troops reportedly joined the forces of the Crimean autonomous region. 

“PUTIN GOES TO WAR” – New Yorker online headline, March 1, 2014.

The usually brilliant David Remnick somehow sees this multi-faceted, low level, uncertain and ambiguous situation as a “war.” Since no shot had been fired by the time he wrote about what he called a “demonstration war,” that made it an especially interesting demonstration. 

“Putin’s reaction exceeded our worst expectation,” Remnick wrote, suggesting that no one had realistic expectations. For this statement to be true, “we” must have been delusional. Remnick must know that a rational person’s expectations when provoking a huge nuclear power would have to be extreme – or detached from reality. 

What did anyone expect Russia to do in the face of perennial probes affecting its vital interests, real or perceived? Writing with a Cold War approach that denigrates or omits anything that makes sense of Russian behavior, Remnick compares the Russian deployment in Crimea to Georgia in 2008, Afghanistan in 1979, Checkoslovakia in 1968.  He omits any mention of Sevastop[ol or NATO. He argues instead that this is all about Putin’s psyche. 

Without doubt, Putin’s Russia has its horrors, but not everyone is blinded by them, any more than they are blinded by American horrors. Writing in Haaretz on February 25, before Ukraine fully came apart, Amatzia Baram wrote with clear-eyed analysis of the developing situation:

 “If Ukraine degenerates into chaos, Russia’s naval base in Sevastopol will be in danger. If that happens, Putin may have an interest in seeing Ukraine split, for he will have no choice but to seize control somehow – perhaps with the services of a loyal Ukrainian politician – of Sevastopol and the surrounding area, or even of Eastern Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula where it is situated.” 
 
The United States does not bear the sole responsibility for de-stabilizing Ukraine and risking a nuclear power confrontation, but there is little doubt that if the United States had not been an eager co-conspirator in twenty years of increasingly reckless global expansionism we wouldn’t be in this current quandary. 
 
But here we are, headed into another media wonderland where the actual context of putting missiles near another country’s borders is expected to elicit a reaction different from the one the Russians would get if they tried to finagle Mexico into a military alliance or base missiles in Canada. 

Come on, people, keep your wits about you. American exceptionalism isn’t always such a good thing. 

 —————

 

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary.      He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

QUOTATION OF THE DAY

 

“It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve.”

 

JOHN KERRY, secretary of state, on Russia’s actions in Crimea, a region in Ukraine.

 

QUOTATION OF THE DAY

 

“The only thing we had to do, and we did it, was to enhance the defense of our military facilities because they were constantly receiving threats and we were aware of the armed nationalists moving in.”

 

VLADIMIR V. PUTIN, president of Russia.

No Easy Way Out of Ukraine Crisis.

 

 

WASHINGTON — For all his bluster and bravado, President Vladimir V. Putin’s assurance on Tuesday that Russia does not plan, at least for now, to seize eastern Ukraine suggested a possible path forward in the geopolitical crisis that has captivated the world. Global markets reacted with relief, and the White House with cautious optimism.

But the development presented a tricky conundrum for President Obama and his European allies. Even if Russia does leave eastern Ukraine alone and avoids escalating its military intervention, can it effectively freeze in place its occupation of the Crimean Peninsula? Would the United States and Europe be forced to tacitly accept that or could they find a way to roll it back — and, if so, at what price?

Ever since Russian forces took control of Crimea, Mr. Obama’s aides have privately conceded that reversing the occupation would be difficult, if not impossible, in the short run and focused on drawing a line to prevent Mr. Putin from going further.

 

 

If Crimea in coming weeks remains cordoned off, it will then require a concerted effort to force Russia to pull back troops, an effort that could divide the United States from European allies who may be more willing to live with the new status quo.

For the moment, the White House was focused on preventing the confrontation from escalating. While dismayed if not surprised by Mr. Putin’s bellicosity and justification of his actions, American officials took some solace that he said he saw no need at this point for intervention in Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine. They were also encouraged by his seeming acceptance of elections in May as a way to legitimize a new Ukrainian government and by his decision to cancel a military exercise near the border. And they detected no new influx of troops into Crimea.

While Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kiev on Tuesday to show support for its beleaguered pro-Western government, Mr. Obama consulted with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany by telephone about finding a face-saving way for Mr. Putin to withdraw in favor of international monitors.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Obama said some had interpreted Mr. Putin’s remarks earlier in the day to mean he “is pausing for a moment and reflecting on what’s happened.”

Others cautioned against reading too much into Mr. Putin’s statements. “It would be a mistake on our part to look at what he’s saying and think this crisis is almost over: ‘O.K., we’ve lost Crimea, but the rest of the country is with us,’ ” said Ivo Daalder, Mr. Obama’s first ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

He said Crimea would become a precedent: “Crimea is a big deal. It means a country can be invaded, and a big piece of it can be taken away with no price. But two, this isn’t just about Crimea. This is about who is ultimately in control of Ukraine.”

The situation remained tense, as Obama administration officials moved forward with plans for sanctions that could be imposed by the United States and, they hoped, in conjunction with European allies. The administration is developing plans for actions that would escalate over time if Russia continued to leave forces in place in Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine.

Mr. Obama has authority to take several steps without new legislation from Congress. For starters, under a law called the Magnitsky Act, the State Department has already drafted a list of Russians tied to human rights abuses. The administration could promptly bar them from traveling to the United States, freeze any assets here and cut off their access to American banks.

The president also has the power under existing Syria sanctions to go after Russian individuals and institutions involved in sending arms to help President Bashar al-Assad crush the rebellion there. The administration had held back on such actions while trying to work with Russia to resolve Syria’s civil war, but if applied they could cut off certain Russian banks from the international financial system.

Mr. Obama could also sign an executive order creating another set of sanctions specifically against Russian officials and organizations blamed for creating instability in Ukraine and violating its sovereignty. In theory, that could include everyone up to Mr. Putin, but officials indicated that they would instead work their way up the chain of command.

Leaders in Europe, a region dependent on Russian natural gas and with far deeper economic ties to Russia, have expressed reluctance to go along with the toughest sanctions.

But an American order declaring a Russian bank in violation would be sent to banks around the world, forcing them to cut ties with that Russian institution or risk being barred from doing business with the American financial sector.

“My view is that Russia can be forced out of Crimea with the combination of financial sanctions plus straightforward hard diplomacy,” said Anders Aslund, a longtime specialist on Russia and Ukraine at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Still, others are more dubious, noting that Mr. Obama may not be willing to go as far as necessary without the support of allies, particularly given that it would presumably jeopardize Russian cooperation on a range of issues, including Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Middle East peace.

The precedent may be Abkhazia and South Ossetia, pro-Moscow regions that broke away from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. After Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin defied the United States and the rest of the world by recognizing their independence and left troops in place to guarantee it. The United States and Europe ultimately resumed doing business as usual with Russia.

Mr. Obama’s aides said that Ukraine was different and that they had a hard time imagining going back to a normal relationship as long as Russian troops occupied Crimea. Their first priority is preventing Russia from annexing the peninsula outright, but even leaving it as an enclave under Moscow’s control would not be acceptable, they said.

White House officials said they saw three possibilities. The first would be a Russian escalation into eastern Ukraine, one they hope Mr. Putin was signaling he would not pursue. The second would be Russia deciding to stay put in Crimea, either through annexation or through de facto rule. The third would be Russia taking what American officials call an offramp, agreeing to let international monitors replace Russian troops in the streets to guard against any attacks on Russian speakers and accepting the Ukrainian government that emerges from the May elections.

Mr. Obama said Tuesday that he recognized that Russia had natural interests in its neighbor. But he said he would not accept what he called a violation of international law.

“I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”

Mr. Obama added that Ukrainians should have the right to determine their own fate. “Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he’s not abiding by that principle,” he said. “There is still the opportunity for Russia to do so, working with the international community to help stabilize the situation.”

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The Opinion Pages|Editorial

 

A Rational Response to Ukraine’s Crisis.

 

 

The tensions over Ukraine eased somewhat after President Vladimir Putin of Russia halted military maneuvers on the Ukrainian border and declared at a news conference on Tuesday that there was no immediate need to send troops into eastern Ukraine. The conciliatory talk prompted Russian financial markets to rebound from their plunge on Monday. The markets reward peaceful behavior.

But the crisis is not over: Russia remains in control of Crimea, and Mr. Putin prepared the way for possible annexation of the peninsula to Russia when he said it was up to Crimean citizens, a majority of whom are Russian-speaking, to determine their future. The question remains what the United States and the European Union should or can do.

The Ukrainian crisis has provoked a broad range of reactions in the West, including angry demands for immediate sanctions against Russia and charges in the United States that President Obama is somehow “losing” in the confrontation to Mr. Putin and thus endangering Washington’s credibility and global leadership. Yet leadership and credibility in a crisis mean reacting coolly and rationally, not rattling sabers, or rushing into economic warfare that allies may or may not support, or painting “red lines” that the other side can cross with impunity.

A bully welcomes a slugfest, and Mr. Putin revels in claiming American conspiracies; at his news conference on Tuesday, he even described the battering to Russia’s markets on Monday as a result of American policies. But that battering and the decline of the value of the ruble were no doubt major factors behind Mr. Putin’s conciliatory tone on Tuesday.

The Russian economy is not in great shape, and Russian businessmen understand full well that the $60 billion wiped off the value of their firms on Monday was because of a needless crisis.

Mr. Putin and his countrymen must be reminded, again and again, that seizing Crimea under a blatantly concocted pretext, or taking other measures against the new authorities in Ukraine, will carry a price.

Short of war, there is little the United States can do on its own to punish Russia. It is not among Russia’s major trading partners. Europe, which does far more business with Russia, has more leverage, but also a dependence on Russian gas, and, so far, European leaders have shown little enthusiasm for economic sanctions.

The measures that have been suggested — exclusion from the Group of 8, selective sanctions and travel bans — would not alone cause much pain. But the consequences of isolation take a toll over time. With every new demonstration of Mr. Putin’s authoritarian and expansionary tendencies, whether it was the invasion of Georgia in 2008 or the imprisonment of the Pussy Riot members in 2012, the West has become more wary of doing business with Russia. In a conversation with Mr. Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she was unsure whether Mr. Putin was in touch with reality. That, from the leader of Europe’s most powerful economy and one of Russia’s biggest trading partners, cannot be heartening for Mr. Putin, and certainly not for Russian businessmen.

These are exactly the buttons Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are pushing — threatening further isolation if Mr. Putin does not back down, and cooperation if he does, while rallying allies and pledging substantial assistance to the new authorities in Ukraine.

 

Closing the door to any further dealings with Mr. Putin, as hard-core cold-warriors want Mr. Obama to do, would not serve any purpose. Russia has already announced that it is ending discounts on the sale of Russian gas to Ukraine, and it could make life even more difficult for its bankrupt neighbor. But at his news conference, Mr. Putin said he felt a sympathy for the longing of the Kiev crowds to throw out a corrupt regime, and he insisted that Russian and Ukrainian soldiers “will be on the same side of the barricades.”

If he meant all that, then he must agree that the optimal conclusion to the crisis would be the election of a balanced Parliament and a universally accepted president in Ukraine, which would also reassure Russians that their ties to Ukraine, including Crimea, won’t be severed.

The United States and its European allies must prepare contingency plans for any escalation of Russian aggression or for the unilateral annexation of Crimea. The Europeans will have to overcome their reluctance on sanctions and form a common front with the United States. But, at the same time, they should reassure Mr. Putin that the West appreciates Russia’s historic ties to Ukraine and has no interest in turning Kiev against Moscow. So far, Mr. Obama is on the right track.

 

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The Opinion Pages|Op-Ed Columnist – The New York Times

 

Why Putin Doesn’t Respect Us

 

 

Just as we’ve turned the coverage of politics into sports, we’re doing the same with geopolitics. There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. We vastly exaggerate Putin’s strength — so does he — and we vastly underestimate our own strength, and ability to weaken him through nonmilitary means.

Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.

So Putin is now fighting human nature among his own young people and his neighbors — who both want more E.U. and less Putinism. To put it in market terms, Putin is long oil and short history. He has made himself steadily richer and Russia steadily more reliant on natural resources rather than its human ones. History will not be kind to him — especially if energy prices ever collapse.

So spare me the Putin-body-slammed-Obama prattle. This isn’t All-Star Wrestling. The fact that Putin has seized Crimea, a Russian-speaking zone of Ukraine, once part of Russia, where many of the citizens prefer to be part of Russia and where Russia has a major naval base, is not like taking Poland. I support economic and diplomatic sanctions to punish Russia for its violation of international norms and making clear that harsher sanctions, even military aid for Kiev, would ensue should Putin try to bite off more of Ukraine. But we need to remember that that little corner of the world is always going to mean more, much more, to Putin than to us, and we should refrain from making threats on which we’re not going to deliver.

What disturbs me about Crimea is the larger trend it fits into, that Putinism used to just be a threat to Russia but is now becoming a threat to global stability. I opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War, when Russia was at its most democratic and least threatening. It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.

 

For a long time, Putin has exploited the humiliation and anti-Western attitudes NATO expansion triggered to gain popularity, but this seems to have become so fundamental to his domestic politics that it has locked him into a zero-sum relationship with the West that makes it hard to see how we collaborate with him in more serious trouble spots, like Syria or Iran. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is engaged in monstrous, genocidal behavior that also threatens the stability of the Middle East. But Putin stands by him. At least half the people of Ukraine long to be part of Europe, but he treated that understandable desire as a NATO plot and quickly resorted to force.

I don’t want to go to war with Putin, but it is time we expose his real weakness and our real strength. That, though, requires a long-term strategy — not just fulminating on “Meet the Press.” It requires going after the twin pillars of his regime: oil and gas. Just as the oil glut of the 1980s, partly engineered by the Saudis, brought down global oil prices to a level that helped collapse Soviet Communism, we could do the same today to Putinism by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead. I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).

You want to frighten Putin? Just announce those steps.

But you know the story, the tough guys in Washington who want to take on Putin would rather ask 1 percent of Americans — the military and their families — to make the ultimate sacrifice than have all of us make a small sacrifice in the form of tiny energy price increases. Those tough guys who thump their chests in Congress but run for the hills if you ask them to vote for a 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax that would actually boost our leverage, they’ll never rise to this challenge. We’ll do anything to expose Putin’s weakness; anything that isn’t hard. And you wonder why Putin holds us in contempt?

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 (photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
(photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters)

 

Putin Goes to War

By David Remnick, The New Yorker

02 March 14

 

ladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country’s power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He thought that he would achieve this by building an Olympic wonderland on the Black Sea for fifty-one billion dollars and putting on a dazzling television show. It turns out that he will finish the season in a more ruthless fashion, by invading a peninsula on the Black Sea and putting on quite a different show—a demonstration war that could splinter a sovereign country and turn very bloody, very quickly.

Sergei Parkhomenko, a journalist and pro-democracy activist who was recently detained by the police in Moscow, described the scenario taking shape as “Afghanistan 2.” He recalled, for Slon.ru, an independent Russian news site, how the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in 1979, under the pretext of helping a “fraternal” ally in Kabul; to Parkhomenko, Putin’s decision to couch his military action as the “protection” of Russians living in Crimea is an equally transparent pretext. The same goes for the decorous way in which Putin, on Saturday, “requested” the Russian legislature’s authorization for the use of Russian troops in Ukraine until “the socio-political situation is normalized.” The legislature, which has all the independence of an organ grinder’s monkey, voted its unanimous assent.

Other critics of Putin’s military maneuvers in Ukraine used different, but no less ominous, historical analogies. Some compared the arrival of Russian troops in Simferopol to the way that the Kremlin, in 2008, took advantage of Georgia’s reckless bid to retake South Ossetia and then muscled its tiny neighbor, eventually waging a war that ended with Russia taking control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In a recent Letter from Sochi, I tried to describe Putin’s motivations: his resentment of Western triumphalism and American power, after 1991; his paranoia that Washington is somehow behind every event in the world that he finds threatening, including the recent events in Kiev; his confidence that the U.S. and Europe are nonetheless weak, unlikely to respond to his swagger because they need his help in Syria and Iran; his increasingly vivid nationalist-conservative ideology, which relies, not least, on the elevation of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had been so brutally suppressed during most of the Soviet period, as a quasi-state religion supplying the government with its moral force.

Obama and Putin spoke on the phone today for an hour and a half. The White House and Kremlin accounts of the call add up to what was clearly the equivalent of an angry standoff: lectures, counter-lectures, intimations of threats, intimations of counter-threats. But the leverage, for now, is all with Moscow.

The legislators in the Russian parliament today parroted those features of modern Putinism. In order to justify the invasion of the Crimean peninsula, they repeatedly cited the threat of Ukrainian “fascists” in Kiev helping Russia’s enemies. They repeatedly echoed the need to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine—a theme consonant with the Kremlin’s rhetoric about Russians everywhere, including the Baltic States. But there was, of course, not one word about the sovereignty of Ukraine, which has been independent since the fall of the Soviet Union, in December, 1991.

If this is the logic of the Russian invasion, the military incursion is unlikely to stop in Crimea: nearly all of eastern Ukraine is Russian-speaking. Russia defines its interests far beyond its Black Sea fleet and the Crimean peninsula.

Marina Korolyova, the deputy editor of the liberal radio station Echo of Moscow, told Slon.ru, “I am the daughter of a military officer who went in with the troops that invaded Czechoslovakia, in 1968. Today’s decision of the President and the Federation Council—I feel the pain personally. It is shameful. Shameful.”

It is worth noting that, in Moscow, the modern dissident movement was born in 1968, when four brave protesters went to Red Square and unfurled a banner denouncing the invasion of Prague. Those demonstrators are the heroes of, among other young Russians, the members of the punk band Pussy Riot. This is something that Putin also grasps very well. At the same time that he is planning his vengeful military operation against the new Ukrainian leadership, he has been cracking down harder on his opponents in Moscow. Alexey Navalny, who is best known for his well-publicized investigations into state corruption and for his role in anti-Kremlin demonstrations two years ago, has now been placed under house arrest. Navalny, who won twenty-seven per cent of the vote in a recent Moscow mayoral ballot, is barred from using the Internet, his principal means of communication and dissidence. The period of Olympic mercy has come to an end.

It’s also worth noting that, in 1968, Moscow was reacting to the “threat” of the Prague Spring and to ideological liberalization in Eastern Europe; in 1979, the Kremlin leadership was reacting to the upheavals in Kabul. The rationale now is far flimsier, even in Moscow’s own terms. The people of the Crimean peninsula were hardly under threat by “fascist gangs” from Kiev. In the east, cities like Donetsk and Kharkov had also been quiet, though that may already be changing. That’s the advantage of Putin’s state-controlled television and his pocket legislature; you can create any reality and pass any edict.

I spoke with Georgy Kasianov, the head of the Academy of Science’s department of contemporary Ukrainian history and politics, in Kiev. “It’s a war,” he said. “The Russian troops are quite openly out on the streets [in Crimea], capturing public buildings and military outposts. And it’s likely all a part of a larger plan for other places: Odessa, Nikolayev, Kherson. And they’ll use the same technique. Some Russian-speaking citizens will appear, put up a Russian flag, and make appeals that they want help and referendums, and so on.” This is already happening in Donetsk and Kharkov.

“They are doing this like it is a commonplace,” Kasianov went on. “I can’t speak for four million people, but clearly everyone in Kiev is against this. But the Ukrainian leadership is absolutely helpless. The Army is not ready for this. And, after the violence in Kiev, the special forces are disoriented.”

Just a few days ago, this horrendous scenario of invasion and war, no matter how limited, seemed the farthest thing from nearly everyone’s mind in either Ukraine or Russia, much less the West. As it happens so often in these situations—from Tahrir Square to Taksim Square to Maidan Square—people were taken up with the thrill of uprising. After Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev, the coverage moved to what one might call the “golden toilet” stage of things, that moment when the freedom-hungry crowds discover the fallen leader’s arrangements and bountiful holdings—the golden bathroom fixtures; the paintings and the tapestries; the secret mistress; the lurid bedrooms and freezers stocked with sweetmeats; the surveillance videos and secret transcripts; the global real-estate holdings; the foreign bank accounts; the fleets of cars, yachts, and airplanes; the bad taste, the unknown cruelties.

The English-language Kyiv Post published a classic in the genre when it reported how journalists arriving at the “inner sanctum” of the mansion where Yanukovych had lived in splendor discovered that he had been cohabiting not with his wife of four decades but, rather, with—and try not to faint—a younger woman. It “appears” that Yanukovych had been living there with a spa owner named Lyubov (which means “love”) Polezhay. “The woman evidently loves dogs and owns a white Pomeranian spitz that was seen in the surveillance camera’s footage of Yanukovych leaving” the mansion.

But that was trivia. Masha Lipman, my colleague in Moscow, sketched out in stark and prescient terms some of the challenges facing Ukraine, ranging from the divisions within the country to the prospect of what Putin might do rather than “lose” Ukraine.

Putin’s reaction exceeded our worst expectations. These next days and weeks in Ukraine are bound to be frightening, and worse. There is not only the threat of widening Russian military force. The new Ukrainian leadership is worse than weak. It is unstable. It faces the burden of legitimacy. Yanukovych was spectacularly corrupt, and he opened fire on his own people. He was also elected to his office and brought low by an uprising, not the ballot; he made that point on Friday, in a press conference in Rostov on Don, in Russia, saying that he had never really been deposed. Ukraine has already experienced revolutionary disappointment. The Orange Revolution, in 2004, failed to establish stable democratic institutions and economic justice. This is one reason that Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister, newly released from prison, is not likely the future of Ukraine. How can Ukraine possibly move quickly to national elections, as it must to resolve the issue of legitimacy, while another country has troops on its territory?

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a liberal Russian politician who no longer holds office, said that the events were not only dangerous for Ukraine but ominous for Russia and the man behind them. “It’s quite likely that this will be fatal for the regime and catastrophic for Russia,” he told Slon.ru. “It just looks as if they have taken leave of their senses.”

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Head of the ALDE faction Guy Verhofstadt (The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Parliament), and Mikhail Kasyanov Co-Leader of People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS) – on the escalation of the situation in Crimea:

“Putin has recklessly taken a step that has put Russia on the brink of war with a friendly country, Ukraine. Russia dropped the pretence of being a good neighbour and became a military aggressor.Putin’s justifications for the Russian military intervention are flimsy – no one is going to attack the Russian population living in the Crimea or in the eastern regions of Ukraine.Moreover a legitimate Ukrainian government of unity has assured all of its citizens of strict performance of their duties to protect the population, regardless of ethnic or linguistic identity.

The main reason for this senseless act is the reluctance of the Russian authorities to recognise the Ukrainian people’s sovereign right to decide their own destiny. And now Putin is trying to stifle freedom, not only in Russia itself, but also in the neighbouring country.

We demand that Putin immediately abandon his intentions of using Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine. We urge the Russian authorities at all levels to stop provocative actions leading to incitement to conflict in Ukraine. We remind the Russian authorities of their obligations under the Budapest Accord of 1994 to act as a guarantor of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and we deplore ongoing arrests in Russia of

peaceful demonstrators that came out in large numbers to protest against military intervention.”

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