ukraine and foreign policy

<preface explanation for article:




Let me get this straight.ukraine police


Ukraine is experiencing the largest street protests since their ‘Orange Revolution’ <which supposedly marked the first real democracy breakthrough after the dissolving of the soviet union>, police are beating the crap out of protesters/demonstrators on the street and one of the largest new democracies in the world is being torn in two by a well reported corrupt government trying to figure out where to go in the future between tying itself to Russia or the EU.



The top headline in world news in the USAToday?


Uruguay OKs first national marketplace for marijuana



While a truly democratic government teeters … hundreds of thousands take to streets in protest at decision to back away from EU integration … no one appears to be caring <at least in the USof A>.

Simplistically … Ukraine is not only being challenged internally … but externally as they get pulled in half by Russia and the EU.



It would be easy <too much so> to simply suggest that the protests demonstrated once again how divided Ukraine is, with the southern and eastern regions largely supporting closer relations with Russia, while the west and most of the center focus on European integration.


Here is a truth.

Ukraine has always been complex.


This year is the 1,025th anniversary of the formation of Kievan Rus <the assemblage of east Slavic tribes under Christianity> and a strong reminder that many Slavs still see Kiev as Russia’s mother city <way before Moscow or even St. Petersburg assumed that role>.


And the eastern part was under the Russian tsars.

And the split between Orthodoxy and Catholicism created further divisions.

And Galicia <western Ukraine> was part of the Austria-Hungary empire up to WW1.

The ethno-linguistic divideAnd Crimea is a very important military asset for Russia <and remembers a long struggle to attain>.


It is a very big <geographically, population & economically> country … things are mixed <but, frankly, homogenous nation states are not really the norm globally>.


Anyway … demographics and history aside … here is the complexity <as I see it>.


Twenty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine’s independence the reality is that the country’s economy is almost equally linked to Russia and the EU.

–          Its trade turnover with the EU is exactly the same as its turnover with Russia.

–          It’s trade deficit, exporting less than it imports, is exactly the same with the EU as with Russia.


To me it seems logical that Ukraine should be allowed to co-operate with both sides. Yet … Ukraine is constantly being asked <demanded> to choose.


The EU has consistently told Ukraine that even to sign an association agreement with the EU <full membership is not being offered> would not be compatible with being part of the Eurasian Union <let’s just call that Russia>.



I was there in 2004 during the Orange Revolution and it was exhilarating and scary at exactly the same time: < >



In one way I am extremely pleased that the country seems extremely determined to gain a true identity. The EU issue is simply an emotional <and economic> excuse to bring the issue to the forefront.

In another way I am extremely disappointed because even after 20 years it is a ‘democratic country’ where hundreds of millions of dollars are routinely stolen and where corruption faces everyone everywhere.

Unfortunately deep corruption and governing issues abound in Ukraine … as with most ex-Soviet states.


As Ukraine staggers down the road I uncovered an outstanding editorial about the Ukraine situation:


The Great Ukrainian Knife Fight: Walter Russell Mead

The knife fight over Ukraine continues; the west is still waving baguettes and making hollow speeches about democracy and the rule of law. The Russians understand that the odds are against them in Ukraine; a brittle state resting on a crumbling economy and facing long term demographic decline doesn’t have a lot of advantages in foreign policy disputes. But Russia cares much, much more about Ukraine than either Brussels or Washington, and it is both much more focused and much less scrupulous as it looks for ways to make its victory stick.


This is one of three great geopolitical stories unfolding in Eurasia at the end of 2013. One is the Iranian march to regional domination as the Shi’ites gain the upper hand in the Syrian war and the United States relaxes sanctions on triumphant Tehran. Another is the latest step in China’s “cabbage strategy” of building out new layers of military and legal insulation over disputed territory near its maritime frontiers. And the third is the fight over whether Ukraine will tilt decisively toward either Moscow or the EU.


For the Kremlin, this is do or die. If Ukraine heads west, Putin is a flop and his national strategy for Russia to recover its great power status is toast. Russia will have failed decisively as a major world power and will inexorably join the other ex-imperial powers like Britain and France in the second division of the world power league.


If the Central Powers (China, Russia, Iran) win all three of these contests, the worldwide balance of power will change. The United States and its allies will be seen as having lost their nerve and their edge; from the Balkans to Southeast Asia, from the Arctic Ocean to the Bay of Bengal, smaller powers will begin to recalibrate their foreign policies. Many will tilt away from the perceived losers in the great game and align themselves with what to many will now look like the rising powers.


In every case, the economic and military forces favor the United States and its allies. In every case, western strategic cluelessness handed enormous advantages to weaker adversaries. Nowhere is this more true than in Ukraine, where western fecklessness has handed Putin the opportunity of a lifetime. He is fighting against the odds here, but Putin is fighting for his life, or at least for the heart of both his foreign and domestic political program. One interesting point now to observe: will China throw Yanukovych (and Russia) a financial lifeline in the form of some loans that quiet the bond markets. The weakest point in the loose alliance of revisionist powers is their lack of cohesion. China’s response to Yanukovych will tell us something about how united the revisionists really are.


Meanwhile, the world should not underestimate Putin’s will to win, and he is using every lever he can find, and taking advantage of every error his opponents make as he goes all out to preserve Russia’s hopes of returning to the top of the world power league.


A lot of news stories that flare up in the headlines are much ado about nothing. This one is the real deal: Ukraine is making history in 2013.




While we focus on EU versus Russia … the main issue to the people is all about changing the way that the country is managed <or mismanaged>.

People are going to the streets of Ukrainian cities mainly because they want to take a stand against the existing practices of Ukrainian power … which does not in any form or fashion show respect to Ukrainian people and democracy.

From my perspective what is happening in Ukraine is not really about money but rather a battle for the right to work in normal business environment, to have freedom of information and right to express views.

In other words.

This is a true battle for democracy <in its growth stages>.


Many people presume those are things EU offers and Russia does not.

Sometimes it is as simple as that.


Sometimes it is really simple.


–          This is about government and democracy.

Ukrainians do have problems with governance. But remember, that it is a young state with only 22 years being on its own.


–          This is about investment and money.

Ukraine is a huge country, with plenty of resources <both physical and human> which would have strong competitive advantage regarding cheaper than European but equally skilled labor and unfulfilled capital markets. Think about it. What other country as close to European borders as Ukraine … with 45million potential consumer market and a good educated population offering labor sometimes cheaper than Chinese is a better investment opportunity?


–          This is about maximizing potential <resources>.

In fact Ukraine is a rich country. But unfortunately internal corruption is not taking advantage of it. The country is being stifled and stagnating. There are a few people who not only own the big businesses but also extremely politically influential. It appears on the surface that the EU association would be a good attempt to break out of this situation and maximize the country’s potential.



Sometimes it is that simple.A disabled protester stands on Independence Square in Kiev

It does seem simple when looking at the situation on why the EU versus Russia.


Joining the EU implies some standards regarding corruption, independence of justice, absence <or lessening> government intervention into industries and at least some regulation on existing oligarchs. I seriously doubt that Ukrainians expect the EU to be perfect. I assume they just hope it will be better than that under the guidance <I use that term loosely> of Russia.



I will go back to one of my original points.

Why make Ukraine choose?

The choice will split them.

Why not let Ukraine work within both stuctures?


Am I being naïve?




But we seem to decide things in black & white and good vs. evil when sometimes there are truly situations in which someone should be permitted to choose a gray option. Kind of a mixed menu approach.

That scares people because it hasn’t been done before.


I would note that being scared is not an excuse for not trying to do what is right.


Regardless <part 1>.


I sometimes believe we in the US have been brainwashed into thinking Russia as some sort of backward nation. They are not.

They simply have a different ideology on growth, government, economics and certain freedoms. They do represent a viable choice for countries to align with.


Regardless <part 2>.


We need to remember.

Ukraine is actually something similar to Russia.

They were one of the core countries of the soviet power.

I say that because current Ukrainian society is more and more displeased about the ruling elite in Ukraine … it doesn’t matter if it’s about Yuschenko or Yanukovich … they are losing faith in their government. The population feels little control over its future and is unhappy with in its present state. This makes them look to the past all the time.

And the past includes Russia.


By the way … that’s a common belief system in post-imperial countries.

I say all that because … if we <America … the poster child of rebellion for self government & democracy> don’t show them why they should look to the future … who will?


Regardless <part 3>.

Sometimes I just don’t understand our priorities when it comes to what we pay attention to, what we care about … and how we think when it comes to things outside of America. Heck. Sometimes I wonder that about things inside of America.


In the end I imagine this is about American Foreign policy.

Most Americans are not thinking about Syria or Ukraine or China <specifically … they just have a general bad feeling> at all.

Most Americans are simply stuck in their own personal daily grind.

And while many Americans bitch & moan the lack of leadership globally … it appears the numbers show most people do not want US to actually take the actions to be a leader:


–          Over half of the U.S. citizens believe that the United States should not interfere in the affairs of other countries <source: Pew Research: America’s place in the world>. Over the nearly 50-year history of the poll on this subject … this number of people has never taken this adamant position.


–          52% of the respondents agreed that the U.S. should deal with its own problems and not interfere in the affairs of other countries. 38% have the opposite view. 10% of the respondents were unable to answer this question.


–          Only 17% answered yes to the question whether the United States became more influential and powerful in the last ten years. 53% answered this question in the negative.


–          70% of the Americans said that the United States was not as respected as before. These sentiments have been around for a long time. The current number is only 1% lower than in May of 2008 <Bush not Obama>.



It is unfortunate.


We should care about Ukraine … just as we care about Syria <or the middle east> … just as we care about China.



Go to Ukraine. Visit Kiev. Maybe you will care then.

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Written by Bruce