EAST VIEW PRESS BLOG
5/29/2014 4:22:48 PM
Letter From the Editors: April 14-20, 2014
Issue #16 Letter From the Editors
Issue #16 Table of Contents
Geneva Talks Lost in Translation; Sugar-Coating Russia’s
Bitter Economic Pill
As chaos continues to sweep southeast Ukraine, Western leaders met with
representatives of Russia and Ukraine in Geneva, the city that has come to
signify fruitless negotiations of late. In an eerie parallel to the Syria
talks, which many experts have called a dead end, the negotiations on Ukraine
also failed to reach a breakthrough. However, on paper, the parties managed to
release a joint statement that calls for the disarmament of armed groups, the
liberation of occupied government buildings and greater autonomy for Ukraine’s
provinces. Of course, Kiev and Donetsk were quick to interpret this coup of
diplomacy each in its own way – Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrei Deshchitsa
stated in Kiev that the document’s demand for occupiers to leave illegally
seized buildings does not apply to the protesters in Kiev (yes, the rallies are
still going strong!), ruffling feathers in Donetsk. Representatives of
southeast Ukraine’s self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic also accused Kiev
of violating the agreement by continuing to persecute pro-Russian activists of
the “Donetsk resistance,” writes Kommersant.
now? Who are the winners and losers of the much-anticipated Geneva talks? Are
there any to speak of? According to Vedomosti, the real winner is US Secretary
of State John Kerry – not only did he manage to avoid taking on too many
obligations, he also cornered Russia, which officially represents the “Donetsk
resistance” in these talks. The world is watching, and if Moscow can’t get the
pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to comply with the talks, it would appear
either weak or unwilling to use its purported influence with the resistance.
resistance does not show any sign of backing down – more government buildings
were captured in the town of Slavyansk, forcing official Kiev to declare an
antiterrorist operation in the east. At the same time, Ukrainians across the
country, including the restive southeast, are getting fed up with the
government’s inability to stop the unrest, writes Nezavisimaya gazeta. Even in
Donetsk, people are forming militias to keep out the “little green men,” as the
uninvited (and unidentified) guests stirring up trouble in the region have been
analyst Vladimir Fesenko believes one way to relieve tension would be to hold a
nationwide referendum at the same time as the May 25 presidential
election. This would include addressing the issue of federalization. Of course,
even if the central authorities do decide they are ready for a compromise, who
would they negotiate with, the expert wonders? Southeastern Ukraine’s protests
are frustratingly scattered and disorganized, lacking a central figure.
If there is a silver
lining in the Ukrainian crisis – and that’s a big if – it’s that NATO has gotten a new lease
. According to Aleksandr Golts, the identity crisis the alliance
went through following the breakup of the Warsaw Pact has been resolved for the
One crisis that has yet to
be addressed is the dire
state of the Russian economy
. Economic Development Minister Aleksei
Ulyukayev blamed the decline in investment on Russia’s measly economic growth
rate – notching just under 1%. Accounting Office head Tatyana Golikova had
even more bad news – many of Russia’s regions are behind in implementing
President Putin’s famous May decrees (which called for, among other things,
increased social spending and steady economic growth of 5% to 8% per year). The
only silver lining Golikova offered: Some regions are actually ahead of
schedule in implementing the May decrees. But will that be enough?
East View Press
5/28/2014 9:29:01 AM
Current Digest of the Russian Press #16 (April 14-20, 2014)
Westinghouse to Supply Ukraine With Nuclear Fuel for Russian-Made Reactors.
New Kiev authorities extended Westinghouse’s contract to supply fuel to the country’s Russian-made reactors until 2020. But are safety concerns the last thing on everyone’s minds?
$5 Billion Deal With China Bolsters Russia’s Eastern Vector.
In an effort to move its new Great Silk Road project forward, Beijing has signed an agreement investing $5 billion to develop Russia’s Far East in exchange for cargo transit. Will access to Russia’s Northern Sea Route revolutionize China’s trade exports?
East View Press
5/21/2014 3:45:00 PM
Current Digest of the Russian Press #15 (April 7-13, 2014)
Transnistria Pulls Out of Territorial Resolution Talks, Hopes to Join Russia.
Inspired by the Crimea’s example, Transnistria backed out of talks aimed at resolving its ongoing conflict with Moldova. Instead, the disputed territory announced it wants to join Russia. Will Russia heed the call?
Russian Airborne Troops Hold Arctic Defense Drills.
Russia’s Airborne Assault Forces stepped up exercises in the Arctic, conducting search-and-rescue operations and air patrols this week. How far is Russia willing to go to defend its interests in the polar region?
East View Press
5/19/2014 10:18:42 AM
Letter From the Editors: April 7-13, 2014
Issue #15 Letter From the Editors
Issue #15 Table of Contents
uprising in eastern Ukraine appears to be gaining lots of momentum, but
little traction. A self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic this week asked
Russian President Vladimir Putin to mobilize Russian troops to protect Russian
speakers in eastern Ukraine from the new “fascist” government in Kiev.
Pro-Russian activists and self-described people’s militias have seized regional
administration buildings in several southeastern provinces and are demanding
the federalization of Ukraine, if not the complete independence of southeastern
Ukraine from Kiev. Although the separatists are quite vocal about their cause,
analyst Vitaly Kulik says the movement is not monolithic and has little
political support from local government officials. Nezavisimaya gazeta writes
that the pro-Russia movement is asking more than Russia is prepared to give,
becoming a liability rather than an asset for the Kremlin. How far is Moscow
willing to go to support the pro-Russia cause?
there may be signs that Moscow and Washington are taking baby steps toward each
other on the Ukrainian issue (Moscow is hinting that it may recognize the
results of a May 25 presidential election in Ukraine, and the US is
suggesting that federalization might not be such a bad idea for Ukraine),
Russia seems to have taken a giant step away from Europe after its PACE delegation walked out
of a high-level session. None of the Russian delegation’s draft resolutions
were adopted, prompting the slighted Russians – who accuse the West of
“cold war” rhetoric and behavior – to threaten to break off all ties with
PACE for at least the remainder of the year.
attributes the new round in the “ongoing” cold war (in his opinion, the cold
war did not end with the collapse of the USSR) to the West’s unremitting
efforts to impose its will on Russia, which has incurred Moscow’s righteous
wrath. Accordingly, what we are witnessing now in Ukraine is the result of a
years-long buildup of tension between Russia and the West stemming from
conflicting geopolitical interests – specifically, the West’s efforts to
coax Ukraine into its fold and Russia’s efforts to reel it into its CIS
truly are witnessing a rekindling (or continuation) of the cold war, a front
line is certainly the post-Soviet space, where Putin has been seeking greater
Russian influence for years. Elkhan Nuriyev posits
that the West’s unbalanced and uncoordinated policy there is giving Putin a
freer hand to pursue his interests in Russia’s backyard. What exactly are those
interests? To recreate – at least psychologically – the boundaries of
the Soviet Union? In Nuriyev’s opinion, Russia is using frozen conflicts in the
post-Soviet space to maintain a state of “managed instability,” allowing it to
manipulate regional politics in its favor. A case in point is the frozen
conflict in the unrecognized republic of Transnistria, which
hopes to follow the Crimea’s example and become part of the Russian Federation.
the West may have been keeping a relatively low profile in the CIS, NATO is now citing
Russia’s actions in Ukraine as grounds for bolstering its defenses in Eastern
Europe and returning to a policy of containing Russia. You can probably guess
how that went over in Russia. Hey, maybe that could help Putin rationalize
Russia’s military development of the Arctic, where Russian AAF paratroopers
this week completed a chilly parachute jump high
above the Arctic Circle. Well, if relations with the West get too frigid,
Russia always has China to lean on for economic and political support. Or does it?
East View Press
5/15/2014 9:40:27 AM
Letter From the Editors: March 31-April 6, 2014
Issue #14 Letter From the Editors
Issue #14 Table of Contents
Political Dominoes, Sandboxes and Crumbling Castles: More
Than Child’s Play on Eastern Front
With a fast-track presidential race
gearing up in Ukraine, the electoral field is already narrowing: Early favorites
Vitaly Klichko and Sergei Tigipko have dropped out, leaving front-runners Yulia
Timoshenko (a foregone conclusion, despite her earlier disavowals) and an
unlikely newcomer: oligarch-turned-activist Pyotr Poroshenko. According to a
much-publicized joint statement by diplomatic leaders John Kerry and Sergei
Lavrov, Russia may honor the results of that election. Meanwhile, however,
Ukraine has struck back at Russia by suspending military-technical
cooperation. Or has it? Ukraine’s acting foreign minister, Andrei
Deshchitsa, says military cooperation is not really frozen – that’s just
speculation. Yet another wrinkle: Belarus is suddenly unveiling economic cooperation
plans with Ukraine. Belarussian experts argue that with military cooperation
officially off the table between Russian and Ukraine, Belarus is stepping in
to fill the vacuum – possibly even with Russia’s blessing, some say.
of military cooperation, now that Russia has annexed the Crimea, top military
brass say the deployment of nuclear weapons on the peninsula may be the next
step. Experts as diverse as émigré economist Sergei Guriyev,
political analyst Aleksei Malashenko and PR specialist Vladimir Frolov foresee dire political and economic
consequences of Moscow’s aggressive moves: Western economic sanctions
threaten to grow more crippling, and Russia is becoming increasingly isolated.
Guriyev says that the sanctions will create an economic pressure cooker among
Russia’s elite; he hints that this tension may well have political repercussions
as well – even to the point of rebellion against Putin. Boris Kagarlitsky
counters this idea by framing the sanctions as a stimulus for Russia’s
financial and business sectors to develop the long-ignored domestic economy. In
the wake of the cancellation of the G‑8 summit in Sochi, Malashenko portrays
the other seven countries as kids in a sandbox, now building their castles
meantime, castles are crumbling elsewhere. Sergei Strokan, Boris Makarenko and
Sergei Oznobishchev draw telling analogies between the current Ukrainian unrest and the
“Arab Spring” of the last few years. The general pattern, they say, goes
like this: Popular protest movements gather strength, which is then harnessed
by (relatively) well-organized and strongly motivated political forces, often
observes that the separation of the Crimea might touch off a domino effect in
other heterogeneous countries – and the momentum has already started in
Transnistria, where some politicians have already said they would like the
region to become part of Russia. The only viable alternative, says Lukyanov, is
federalization. The question is: If a country composed of markedly different
regions decides to “hold on loosely” and give local goverments greater
autonomy, does that ultimately hasten its disintegration or make the nation
more resilient to change? The game of political “Red Rover” is definitely not
and Found in Translation. In Aleksei Malashenko’s opinion piece, he says it’s not
smart for Russia to justify its actions in the Crimea by comparing them to the
West’s partition of Yugoslavia. He writes: “Why should Malchish-Kibalchish
compare himself to Malchish-Plokhish?” If your reaction to this pearl of wisdom
is a befuddled “huh?” then you’ll understand why we spent a while puzzling over
this expression. Not even all Russians of the present day understand it: The
allusion is to an early Soviet-era tale by Arkady Gaidar, which portrays two
boys during the Russian Civil War – one a self-sacrificing Red supporter,
the other a traitor. We tried out various contrasting pairs – including
“good cop and bad cop” (which we decided was misleading: such cops are
generally on the same side) and “Goofus and Gallant” (which we felt was too lighthearted
an analogy from a children’s comic strip) – before eventually settling for
the elemental pair “hero and villain.”
East View Press
5/12/2014 8:43:59 AM
Current Digest of the Russian Press #14 (March 31-April 6, 2014)
New Slovak President May Complicate Bratislava’s Relations With Russia.
Amid increasing calls for greater energy independence in Europe, Slovakia has always been a reliable partner for Russia’s energy policy in the region. Find out why the election of Andrej Kiska may change all that.
US Says It Has No Immediate Plans to Admit Georgia, Ukraine Into NATO.
Despite Ukraine crisis and Georgia’s diligent work to meet NATO membership requirements, US announced the Alliance will not expand to include it at this time. How will this affect Tbilisi’s foreign policy?
East View Press
5/5/2014 2:21:18 PM
Letter From the Editors: March 24-30, 2014
Issue #13 Letter From the Editors
Issue #13 Table of Contents
Eavesdropping on Ukraine’s ‘Orange Princess’ and Russia’s
Declaration of Independence
Scandal in Ukraine usually revolves around leaked tapes of
secret conversations. This week was no exception, when an excerpt of a phone call
between former PM Yulia Timoshenko and Party of Regions Deputy Nestor Shufrich
surfaced online. In it, the “orange princess” says it’s time to “grab our guns
and start shooting those damn Russians along with their leader.” Surprisingly,
the revelation made few waves in Ukraine. According to expert Konstantin
Bondarenko, Ukrainians have grown weary of these leaks, which have happened
with tedious frequency since the days of Leonid Kuchma (remember the leaked
Melnichenko tapes, used as evidence to implicate the former Ukrainian president
in the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze?).
Yevgeny Shestakov says the
recorded conversation may have been leaked by Timoshenko’s supporters in order
to take nationalist votes away from right-wingers like the Svoboda party and
Right Sector. After all, according to Vladimir Fesenko, Ukraine’s
Russian-leaning southeast wasn’t going to vote for her anyway, so no big loss.
Speaking of which, rallies
calling for the return of ousted president Viktor Yanukovich swept across
southeastern Ukraine this week. Yanukovich’s latest press conference in
Rostov-on-Don, where he implied a swift return to Kiev, may have inspired the
crowds. So is Russia done annexing parts of Ukraine, wonders Vladimir Mukhin?
Or is it going to forge ahead and annex other restive, pro-Russian regions, as
well? Quite possible, since the Kremlin has not yet achieved its desired
objectives, he concludes.
Desired or not, the Kremlin’s
Crimean (mis?)adventure has cost Russia membership in the Group of
Eight. EU sources differ on the details – French Foreign Minister
Laurent Fabius says Russia was booted from the club, while his aide and German
Chancellor Angela Merkel say Russia’s membership was merely suspended. Since
the G‑8 has no procedure for stripping a participant of membership, no wonder
the other players are left scratching their heads. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta,
this latest attempt to punish Russia falls flat. The G‑8 (wait, make that the G‑7)
is hardly the privileged club it used to be – its members are increasingly
losing political and economic influence to the developing nations in the Group
Tokyo, however, decided to
err on the side of caution. While it went along with the US-proposed sanctions
against Moscow, Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said he hopes to welcome Russia back to the
G‑8 one day. Tokyo also chose to tread carefully regarding sanctions, so as
not to do any long-term damage to Russian-Japanese relations, Nezavisimaya
Will the sanctions have
their desired effect, wonder experts in the second set of features?
Russia is the world’s fifth biggest economy, argues Russian State Duma Deputy
Vyacheslav Nikonov – it won’t be easy to economically cripple it without
serious collateral damage to the global economy. Sanctions are a sign of
weakness, writes former Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov. Analyst Fyodor
Lukyanov goes further, saying that despite its best efforts, Russia never
managed to build a strategic partnership with the US anyway – now, it is
acting truly independently for the first time.
East View Press
5/1/2014 8:41:21 AM
Current Digest of the Russian Press #13 (March 24-30, 2014)
Ukraine Crisis Gives NATO New Lease on Life.
With NATO troops slated to leave Afghanistan in 2014, many
started calling the Alliance an anachronism. But with the Crimea crisis
threatening to spill over into other parts of the CIS, NATO is stepping up
collective security measures. A new lease on life for the Alliance?
Could China Play Role of Mediator in Resolving Crisis in
During a meeting with US President Barack Obama, Chinese
President Xi Jinping stated China could play a role in resolving the US-Russia
stand-off that emerged in the wake of the Ukraine crisis – does China have what
it takes to resolve the Moscow-Washington stand-off?
East View Press