We post here an article written by a Ukrainian professor at the ANU, Marko Pavlyshyn, about the current crisis in his country. It was published originally in the AFR. I know very little about the Ukraine except that the terrible nuclear disaster at Chernobyl occurred in that country.
Firstly, I hope Putin’s ironic response to the British/US arming the Ukraine about another Cuban missile crisis do not result in more fallout for Cuba and Venezuela with even harsher blockades imposed by the US government. The existing blockades are hurting the poor in countries that are already impoverished. Putin is no friend of the Cuban revolution, he is a bully, an ex KGB agent and an ultra Nationalist. The Cuban revolution was built on internationalism as is evidenced by the Cuban doctors being nominated for a Nobel prize for their efforts in helping the poor countries suffering during the Covid pandemic.
I do recall Putin’s response when he was rebuffed by the G20 summit when it met in Brisbane in 2014. He placed Russian warships off the coast of Queensland. So Putin is a bully boy. The Australian Minister for Defence, Peter Dutton, is no better. Dutton was called out, by former Prime Minister Keating, as a ‘dangerous personality’ because of his bellicose support of the US over China and now the Ukraine.
I think it worthwhile to consult this map I have drawn up to understand the geopolitics of Eastern Europe and Asia. Just looking at the map, I see little chance of the Ukraine become a member country of NATO. It is highly unlikely Germany will wish to stop the flow of Russian gas down the NordStream pipeline under the Baltic Sea. The Ukraine is not really part of Europe or the North Atlantic; it is part of Asia, linguistically, ethnically, and culturally.
Here is an impressionistic account by a Ukrainian source (who speaks the language) of what happened during since the Orange revolution in 2004. [If there are any historical inaccuracies please comment down below.]
A Ukrainian source, Martin, said: “After the flight of Yanukovych in February 2014, the speaker of parliament, Oleksandr Turchynov became acting president, and the government began to sort out the confusion in administration. It was clear, however, that most people and most parliamentarians wished for an independent Ukraine, for it not to be a client state of Putin’s Moscow nor indeed of any Moscow government.
Unlike Latvia, Lithuania & Estonia, who, as it were, had a big party on the day of independence, then on the second day started applying to be members of the EU, and on the third day started applying to be members of NATO, Ukrainians & their governments in the 1990s & 2000somethings had not wished to be closely aligned to the EU or NATO. Rather, they hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States would function as the USSR was supposed to function — as a co-operative of independent republics, led inevitably (because of its size), by Russia, but not dominated by it.
Furthermore, in 1992 “Ukraine possessed the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. It had inherited 175 long-range missiles and more than 1,800 warheads after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Following two years of talks between the United States, Russia, and Ukraine, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced a breakthrough on January 10, 1994. Ukraine had agreed to remove all nuclear weapons from its soil in exchange for assurances that Russia would respect its sovereignty.” Ukrainians hoped for a ‘peace dividend’ which would enable them to spend little on defence and to develop without being embroiled in any great power entanglements.
On the night after Turchynov began acting as president, Putin held a long meeting with his security chiefs, and said (methinks the next day) something like, “First we’ll finish the Winter Olympics [being held at Sochi] then we’ll settle Ukraine.” True to his word, after the Olympics, Russian forces expanded into Crimea where Ukraine had (unwisely) leased a major Soviet naval base to the Russian Federation.
“Armiia, Mova, Vira (military, language, faith)”
Personally, I do not like the motto promulgated by the President of the Ukraine, Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko, who eventually succeeded Yanukovych, that being: “armiia, mova, vira (military, language, faith).” Poroshenko was President of the Ukraine (2014 – 2019). Martin, a Ukrainian source, says this is not a call to arms but is an appeal for independence from both NATO and Russia.
I am dubious of this explanation given the entanglement of Ukrainian governments with Western powers and my suspicions about the Bidens and the Clintons. As Gore Vidal said: “The United States is a one party state with two right wings.” Both Biden and the Clinton’s have a long history of being war mongers having supported wars and US interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and now in the Ukraine and the South China Sea. Biden became stridently against the Vietnam war only when he realised it was lost [Washington Post].
But more than that was the Bucharest Summit in 2008 where both the Ukraine and Georgia were welcomed to join NATO. Article 23 read: “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.” There is no way Russia was going to accept NATO expansion to its western border. Putin himself said, Georgia and Ukraine becoming part of NATO is a direct threat to Russia.
Here is how Martin, a Ukrainian source, translates the slogan by President Petro Poroshenko who was more sympathetic to the West than his predecessor:
Petro Poroshenko came to office after obtaining 54.7% of the votes in the first round, thereby avoiding a ‘run-off’ election. He would wish his slogan “military, language, faith” to be understood as:
(Military) Ukraine needs to modernise its armed forces so that they offer effective defense, offering at least strong resistance to any invader;
(Language) Ukrainian language and culture need to be nurtured across the country, rather than being thought of, as they are in some parts, as quaint relics to be brought out for special occasions. (Almost all Ukrainian-speakers in Ukraine are fluent in Russian, and many use Ukrainian mainly at ceremonial occasions.)
The third word of the slogan, ‘Faith‘, was and is more problematic.
At one level it refers to building the trust of people in state institutions, sadly depleted after the Yanukovych years. It also refers to building confidence that the Ukrainian people and their institutions can act (cf Sinn Fein). But it can also refer to religious faith. Ukraine since independence has had freedom of religion. The main tradition is Orthodoxy. There is concern among Catholics, Protestants and others that to establish the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as a state church might lead to a whittling away of freedom of religion. However, I should stress that Ukraine since independence has had freedom of religion without an established church, and there is no prospect of the situation changing in the near future.”
Regardless of what Petro Poroshenko meant he is no longer in power and the Ukraine is currently accepting military aid from NATO and the US. This could wreck the Ukraine because Russia has already taken back, Georgia and the Crimea.
Australia has no business supporting NATO arming the current government of the Ukraine.
Eastward expansion of NATO
Professor John John Mearsheimer says that the Ukraine crisis is the West’s fault. He states:
The first (reason) is NATO expansion. And in many ways, the most important, and I’ll talk in some detail about that in a second. But as you all know, since the Cold War ended, starting with the Clinton administration, we have been moving NATO eastward toward Russia’s border. And the Russians have said, this is an absolute no, no. [See Map below]
The “Second (reason) is EU expansion. EU expansion is all about integrating Ukraine economically into the West, the way we are in the process of integrating Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Baltic states, in to the west. And of course, we’re doing that with NATO as well. These are two sets of institutions, NATO military institution, the EU and economic institution. And the idea, again, is to take Ukraine, peel it away from Russia make it part of the West.“
The Orange Revolution – We all love democracy
The third part of the story is fostering an orange revolution. This is all about promoting democracy. In Ukraine, and in other places. As you all know, the United States runs around the world, trying to topple regimes and put in their place democratically elected regimes. And for almost all of you, me included, it’s hard to be against promoting democracy. We all love democracy. But if you’re Vladimir Putin, or if you’re part of the leadership in Beijing, when the United States talks about democracy promotion, that means toppling your regime.” – Professor John John Mearsheimer .
1 Feb 2022
Negotiations: Getting the West to Do Russia’s Work?
On Thursday 27 January Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany commenced a new round of talks within the so-called Normandy Format with the aim of de-escalating the crisis-level tensions ignited by Russia’s massing more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s northern and eastern border and in occupied Crimea on the south. The sides agreed to respect the ceasefire that is supposed to have been in place all along, and to reconvene for further talks in two weeks.
This might sound like a step in the right direction, signalling negotiations that lead to a new understanding and make an invasion less likely. But the talks might well also become a gateway to giving Russia what it wants without a shot being fired.
Whatever is said at the talks, the most significant fact about them is who is taking part, and who is not. The United States and the United Kingdom, which have consistently helped Ukraine with defensive weaponry and diplomatic support, are not party to the discussions. Both countries have made tough statements about the costs Russia will bear if it invades. France and Germany have been lukewarm at best. Germany has been unwilling to rule out opening the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the event of a Russian invasion and has refused to allow Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia to put their German-made weapons at Ukraine’s disposal. Many in Kyiv see Germany’s offer to send Ukraine 5000 military helmets as a form of mockery.
Parties to the Normandy Format talks have agreed that the starting point for negotiations should be the Minsk Accords, whose goal was to stop the fighting in Eastern Ukraine and to find grounds for a peaceful settlement. Neither the first agreement, signed in Minsk in 2014, nor Minsk II (February 2015), succeeded. The war, in which Russia actively supports its proxies with its own active-service personnel, materiel and money, has continued as a generally low-intensity conflict with occasional flare-ups ever since. The death toll to date is 14,000. The internally displaced number 1.5 million.
The terms of Minsk II have not been implemented – fortunately for Ukraine, for they are a threat to Ukraine’s security and stability and, indeed, its sovereignty. Under Minsk II Ukraine would be forced to change its constitution, conferring special status and broad autonomy on the parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that Russia controls through its puppets, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. This special status would include the right to form local militia units and to engage in “cross-border co-operation” with regions of the Russian Federation.
Effectively, implementation of the accord would create a Russian-controlled province in Ukraine which, however, would be represented in Ukraine’s parliament. As critics of Minsk II in and outside Ukraine have pointed out, Russia would be able to destabilise or paralyse the country at times of its choosing. Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the EU and NATO, for which currently there is broad political and popular support, would be stymied. The prospects of Ukraine remaining a functioning democracy, a daily proof that authoritarianism is not the only pathway for countries in the post-Soviet space, would be eroded.
In December 2021 the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, prepared a meticulously researched and documented set of reports on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The first of these, titled “Strategic Misdirection: An Alternative Framework for Understanding Russia’s Play in Ukraine,” argues that Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin may have put in place the components of an imminent threat of invasion without in fact intending to invade at all. The purpose of staging the plausible semblance of a threat may be to entice Europe and the US into diplomatic negotiations intended to de-escalate the conflict – extracting, as the price of Putin’s not doing what he had no intention of doing anyway, concessions that correspond to what he wanted to achieve in the first place.
The report’s authors note that the economic cost of a conventional war and occupation would stretch the capacities of the Russian economy. The human cost of the war and of combating the fierce insurgency that Ukrainians would direct against the occupier would be likely to stir discontent even in an authoritarian state with controlled media. A serious war would require an information campaign preparing the population to expect and accept sacrifices and deaths. To date there has been no such campaign. For these reasons, the report argues, full-scale war may not Russia’s primary aim.
If the outcome of the Normandy Format negotiations is that France and Germany push Ukraine into accepting anything like the terms of Minsk II, Vladimir Putin will have won. Moreover, his victory will have been handed to him by the very Europe that Ukraine so ardently yearns to join. He will have brought Ukraine into Russia’s orbit, scoring a major symbolic victory over the West, which will again have proven that it will not defend democracy if that defence involves inconveniences, like endangering the gas supply.
If, on the other hand, the West shows firmness and solidarity, and refuses to be hoodwinked into believing that a geopolitical defeat is a diplomatic victory, the Russian Federation can fall back on the military option.
That is why the West must do two things simultaneously: use the resources of diplomacy to obtain a peace that strengthens, rather than jeopardising, Ukraine’s sovereignty; and emphasise the costs in the form of sanctions and diplomatic isolation that it will impose, should Russia invade.
Marko Pavlyshyn, Emeritus Professor of Ukrainian Studies, Monash University