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Posted on Apr 30, 2014 in Eastern Europe, Foreign Policy Issues, President Obama, Ukraine and Crimea | 0 comments

Brinkmanship at the border-Ukraine and Russia

The litmus test that is Transdniestria didn’t change over the week. Still Orange. Stable but remains at a high level of tension. Things are more uncertain at the Eastern edge of Ukraine, where Russian troops are still poised, making just enough incursion noise to produce a roller coaster of oil prices in Europe. Inside eastern Ukraine the situation is even more tense as new cities are added to the list of those where vigilante groups, presumed to be acting with Russian support, if not direction, have taken over local government buildings and police offices. Indeed, in an irony of no mean proportion, the independence of some of these groups may pose more of a threat than if they were under complete Russian control. This is because if diplomatic efforts led to a ratcheting down of the takeover threat by Russia, controlling these insurgents would be a trickier proposition. This past week saw an attempt by Ukrainian forces to oust the rebels from at least two cities. This in turn,...

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Posted on Apr 23, 2014 in Eastern Europe, Foreign Policy Issues, Ukraine and Crimea | 0 comments

Transdniestria-a litmus test of Russian colonial expansionism

Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), otherwise known as Transdniestria (TD) is a breakaway region of Moldova, just to the north and west of the Black Sea port city Odessa in the Ukraine. In Moldova, with only 5.8 percent ethnic Russians, this sliver of land from the Dniester River, encroaching on the city of Bender on the other side of the Dniestria, has a majority of its population ethnic Russians. Bender was part of the former Bessarabia Socialist Republic in the Soviet Union (USSR). They have come into the news following the absorption of Crimea into Russia as they’ve asked for a similar status. Russia, acquiescing to TD’s vociferous requests to join it, will likely be kept as a bargaining chip only. Such a move would signal the most extreme of colonial expansionist intentions and surely would lead to some sort of military confrontation, which I doubt Russia wants. Moldova itself, was a Socialist Republic in the USSR and has been part of Romania in the past. Today, there is a...

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Posted on Apr 17, 2014 in Eastern Europe, Foreign Policy Issues, President Obama, Ukraine and Crimea | 0 comments

Russia and Ukraine What It’s Really About: Diplomatic Challenge for Obama

It is a widely held belief that the West has no real military options to prevent Russia from moving on Eastern Ukraine. Which is not to say that they couldn’t cause one heckuva Alka-Seltzer headache for Putin—even on the military front. Weapons, financing, and even “military advisers,” could require too many shots of vodka in all of those Alka-Seltzers to make any such move by Russia, if not unthinkable, at least quite uncomfortable to seriously contemplate. And that is not even considering the cost of economic and political sanctions that are all but a certainty should Russia move to take over Eastern Ukraine. And yet, the steps taken so far, are eerily familiar: An ethnic Russian population takes over government buildings, Russia concerned for the safety of those ethnic Russian Ukrainians should a civil war begin, Russian military in place to “protect” those ethnic Russians. Why would Russia risk all of this, especially in the aftermath of the “good feelings” left by the enormously costly Sochi Olympics? First of...

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Posted on Mar 31, 2014 in Eastern Europe, Foreign Policy Issues, President Obama, Ukraine and Crimea | 0 comments

Russian troop movement at Ukrainian border-what does it mean?

Negotiations with Russia over the Ukraine are reaching a critical junction. Putin’s call to Obama, which lasted an hour, is encouraging. Obama reiterated, reportedly in the clearest of terms, the need to protect Ukrainian sovereignty. As a first step, he demanded that Putin remove troops massed at the Western Russian border with the Ukraine. They agreed that further negotiations should be between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. This they proceeded to commence the next day. Following the first meeting between them, Kerry publicly reassured Ukrainian leadership that he wouldn’t make any agreements without first consulting them. It is crucial that Secretary Kerry be firm in his demand for a withdrawal of, or significant reduction in forces at the border while at the same time reassuring the Russians of a full hearing of their demands. Although Putin is likely to retain many troops there, to serve as leverage in negotiating with the Ukrainians, if he complies with demands to stand down some of his...

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Posted on Mar 25, 2014 in Eastern Europe, Foreign Policy Issues, Ukraine and Crimea | 0 comments

Focus shifts to the eastern Ukraine after Crimea takeover.

Following the takeover of Feodosia, the third and final Ukranian military base on Crimea, taken within the past few days, Interim President Olexander Turchynov has pulled the last Ukrainian troops out of Crimea. The annexation by Russia, which began on March 16, is now a fact. The focus at once turns to the eastern Ukraine, which borders on western Russia. In this area of the Ukraine, ethnic Russians predominate and Yanukovych, the now overthrown leader of Ukraine, is in exile, so to say, still claiming to be its only legitimately elected President. Russia’s initial claim that their actions in Crimea were to protect their “compatriots”–ethnic Russians– rings ominously for the similarly composed eastern Ukraine. Tensions have mounted First the Russians held “military exercises” near their eastern border with the Ukraine. Now those troops have been reinforced with considerably more manpower. Putin has said that he wouldn’t invade the Ukraine, but even as he said this was increasing military forces along the border. Historians would be forgiven if he or...

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Posted on Mar 18, 2014 in Eastern Europe, Elections-Non-U.S., Foreign Policy Issues, President Obama | 1 comment

Crimea has voted; difficult and clever negotiations with Russia are called for.

 As expected the Crimean vote went overwhelmingly for joining Russia. Russia has recognized the independence of Crimea, but as of this writing, it hasn’t yet absorbed it into The Russian Federation. The recognition of the separation of Crimea from the Ukraine would seem to point towards Russia, indeed, annexing Crimea.  The fear now is a Russian move into the heavily ethnic Russian Eastern Ukraine. Perhaps they will try and negotiate taking Crimea for not moving into Ukraine. But very hawkish voices are being heard inside Russia.  Meanwhile on Crimea we are on the other side of self-determinationism. Clearly Crimea never became fully integrated into The Ukraine. And just as clearly they want to join the Russian Federation. This raises the old issue of Separatism vs Nationalism. If the vote certifies Crimea’s independent state status, then how can Russia, in good conscience, keep arguing that Chechen should not be allowed to secede from Russia? If self-determination was the ruling criterion then a goodly part of Indonesia would separate. We fought a...

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