Russia’s Ukraine Invasion–The Cost

By Jay Holmes

Precisely who is fighting in Ukraine depends upon whom you ask. When Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin speaks to non-Russians, he claims the Russian-speaking Ukrainian rebels are valiantly fighting to save Russian-speaking orphans, Jews, and senior citizens from the vicious onslaught of the Ukrainian government. When Putin speaks at home, he says the Jews are plotting with Americans to overthrow Ukraine. The Ukrainian government, along with most of the rest of the planet, takes a different view. According to Kiev, the violence in eastern Ukraine is instigated by, funded by, and in part fought by Russian security forces.

 

 

Base image for Putin meme  from Agencia Brasil, wikimedia commons.

Base image for Putin meme
from Agencia Brasil, wikimedia commons.

 

From Putin’s office in Moscow, the Russian invasion must seem like a great idea. His entire campaign platform—for the next campaign, last campaign, or any campaign—is his vision of returning Russia to the former glory that, in his view, it enjoyed during the Soviet era. Many Russians don’t have the same memory of enjoying that glory, or much of anything else during that time. Unfortunately, their memories and opinions no longer count for much since Putin has consolidated his power as a New Age Stalin.

A year ago, NATO-aligned nations warned Putin that the costs to Russia for invading Ukraine would far outweigh any nationalist glory that he might obtain.

In response, Putin confidently explained to Western journalists that Europe would suffer more than Russia would from any Western-imposed economic sanctions. At that time and to this day, Putin is denying that any such invasion has taken place, or that the economic sanctions are hurting Russia. They are.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s currency and its stock market have plummeted, and energy prices have dropped like a rock. Between that and the damaging economic sanctions that Putin had so confidently laughed off, the economic outlook for Russia is much less favorable today than it was a year ago.

Given Putin’s plans for increased military spending, the Russian taxpayers can expect decreased standards of living, accompanied by decreased civil rights.

The Russian people are already experiencing a decline in the standard of living in economic terms. Along with this, Putin is intolerant of dissent, the state controls the media, and political opponents are being jailed. Apparently, Putin’s visions of former Soviet glory come down to more centralized authority, fewer human rights, and the same economic hopelessness that made life so miserable in the old regime. Welcome to the “good old days.”

 

Euro to Russian Ruble Exchange Rate Image by Gorgo, wikimedia commons.

Euro to Russian Ruble Exchange Rate
Image by Gorgo, wikimedia commons.

 

For the most part, we in the West have measured the consequences of Putin’s folly in Ukraine in terms of damage to his economy, but there are deeper and less obvious consequences that will affect Russia for decades to come.

For starters, Putin grossly overstated his support at home for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The lack of real democracy in Russia means that Putin can pretend to ignore the unpopularity of his Ukrainian adventure, but even for a skillful, self- promoting dictator, there are limits to his power. I don’t know what those limits are. Unfortunately for Putin, he doesn’t know either. He would not like to discover them, as his increasing ruthlessness could mean that if he is toppled, he could end up with a retirement plan similar to that of his old pal Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

Another price Russia is paying is that a substantial percentage of its young professionals are immigrating to the West in the wake of Russians allowing Putin to install himself as a modern czar.

That brain drain is hurting Russia. In fact, if so many Russian engineers and scientists had not left their country during the last fifteen years, Russia might not have needed to pay France to build new amphibious assault carriers for them. And now, with the sanctions, Russia doesn’t get the carriers from France. Putin wants desperately to modernize and enlarge his military, but that modernization depends on Russian engineering and scientific capacity, which has has been badly damaged by the intellectual exodus resulting from his repressive policies at home.

Russia is also paying in the form of deteriorating relations with Scandinavian countries.

Last week, Sweden suggested to its partners in the Nordic Defense Cooperation that they do two things. First, that they raise the status of cooperation from the current minimal form by establishing an actual Nordic standing task force to deal with growing aggression from Russia. Second, that deeper military coordination and cooperation be extended beyond Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark to include Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

 

Nordic Defense Cooperation Countries Image by S. Solberg J., wikimedia commons.

Nordic Defense Cooperation Countries
Image by S. Solberg J., wikimedia commons.

 

The bad news for Russia is that it didn’t take more than a few hours for the Nordic members to enthusiastically agree to Sweden’s suggestions. But that’s not all. Sweden has suggested that the combined force that they create should be available to integrate in NATO operations. So in effect, Putin has achieved what Western diplomats could not achieve with half a century of their best efforts–he has managed to get Sweden to join a Western alliance against Russia.

These developments are all consequences of Putin’s adventurism in the Ukraine, and they are all precisely the sorts of developments that Putin was hoping to avoid.

In an alternative scenario, Putin would be capable of seeing beyond 1986.

It is a view that would leave Russia without enemies in Europe. It would be a country where the aspirations of so many of its brightest young people would not include relocation to London or Paris. In that alternative paradigm, Russia could pick up a phone and ask Sweden if it could send a submarine to Swedish waters, and Sweden would say “yes,” because Russia would be a modern nation with a modern foreign policy and friendly relations with its neighbors.

That Russia would experience a better standard of living, greater scientific and cultural achievements, and far better national security. The NATO nations would be happier for it and would enjoy all the advantages of real cooperation between Russia and the West. But that’s the alternative paradigm and a view that Vladimir Putin will not entertain, because such a view would place the interests of the Russian people above his own desire for absolute political power.

The scope of Russia’s lost opportunities is spectacular to behold, but until new leadership arrives, Putin’s dingy Stalinist Cold War reality is all that we can expect for that country and its unfortunate neighbors. Proof that you can take the boy out of the Cold War, but you can’t always take the Cold War out of the boy.

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Related Posts

France–At the Crossroads of Russia and NATO

How Putin is Having His Way with the West

Dances with Bears–The Putin/West Waltz

Ukraine in Crisis:  Vladimir Putin and the Power of Gas

Timeline of Ukrainian Turmoil–Part Two, 2001 – Present

It Didn’t Start Last Week–Timeline of Ukrainian Invasions

 

 

At the Crossroads of NATO and Russia

By Jay Holmes

Friday, November 14, 2014 might end up being an important date in Western history—not for what happened on this day, but rather for what didn’t happen. The French government failed to deliver the new Mistral class helicopter carrier to the Russian Navy.

 

FS Mistral Amphibious Assault Ship in Toulon Harbor Image by Rama, wikimedia commons.

FS Mistral Amphibious Assault Ship in Toulon Harbor
Image by Rama, wikimedia commons.

 

On December 24, 2010, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the sale of two French Mistral class ships to the Russian Navy. The contract was signed on January 25, 2011, with a delivery date for the first helicopter carrier, the Vladivostok, in October of 2014 and the second ship, the Sevastopol, to be delivered in 2015. Two more ships of the same class were then to be constructed under license in Russia. The price of the contract for the first two ships was 1.37 billion euros. This, of course, represented thousands of jobs for the troubled French economy.

In what was likely a well-rehearsed press briefing, Russian reporters asked Russian General Staff member General Nikolai Makarov why the ships would not be built in Russia where Russian workers could benefit from the project. General Makarov stated that the reason for purchasing the French design, rather than Russian, was that “Russia would require another ten years to develop technologies” that could match the Mistral class capabilities and that the Russian Navy did not want to endure that delay. In answering the question, he effectively confirmed the concerns of the US and some of its NATO members.

When the contract was announced in 2010, US Republican senators, led by John McCain, sent a letter of protest to the French Ambassador to the US. NATO member states Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia also protested against the sale. During his visit to Paris on January 8, 2011, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed US concern over the substantial military technology upgrade that the French were exporting with the sale of the Mistral class ships to Russia. When questioned by journalists, Gates’ representatives stated that, in spite of US concerns, there was nothing that the US could do to block the sale of the Mistral ships to Russia. France had anticipated the complaints and ignored them. The construction proceeded on schedule.

On February 27, 2014, when the Russian flag was hoisted over the Ukrainian parliament in Crimea, the pending transfer of the Mistral ships to Russia quickly became a much more serious problem to Ukraine, to NATO member states, and to Sweden. With a planned delivery date of October 15 looming on the horizon, the US and NATO quietly stepped up pressure on the French government to halt the sale of the high tech Mistral ships. The French quickly complained that they would have to reimburse Russia the 1.1 billion euros already paid for the ship construction, and that it would cost France over a thousand jobs.

Members of the US Congress responded that NATO should purchase the two ships for use by the NATO Standing Force Atlantic and NATO Standing Force Mediterranean. NATO was slow to respond, but after a few weeks, they decided that they lacked the funds and mechanism for making such a purchase. In reality, if the UK and the US cooperated, an offer to purchase the ships at their original sales price could be made within days. France would have no doubt as to the validity of the offer, but that does not mean that France would easily agree.

In less public communications, the Russian government offered, in general terms and without producing a contract, to make further substantial warship purchases from the French shipyards if France delivers the two Mistral ships. Russia is also in a position to quietly make a variety of generous financial offers to the French government or to members of the French government. I am not aware of what other offers have or have not been made.

 

 

In response to pressure from its fellow NATO members, France delayed the projected delivery date to November 14 with the condition that a cease-fire and a permanent political solution be in place by then.

Only days before the deadline, Vladimir Putin did what he always does best. He hurt Russia. On November 10, 2014, Australia deployed warships to shadow Russian warships that had approached the Coral Sea. On November 13, the Russian ships were in the Coral Sea, where they approached, but did not enter, Australian territorial waters.

This bit of Putinism was in response to the announcement by the Australian government that at the G-20 meeting, they would confront Vladimir Putin about the fact that Russian forces had shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014. Thirty-eight Australians were killed in that attack.

On November 12, another Russian armored column crossed into Ukraine, further escalating the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and making it more politically difficult for France to deliver the ships. The November 14 delivery date has now passed, and France has thus far declined to turn over the ships to Russia.

The Russian government responded with its traditional lack of finesse. It officially announced that it would make financial claims against France if the first Mistral is not delivered by the end of November. Less officially, but quite publicly, they have announced that the financial claims would be in the neighborhood of 3 billion euros, and that France would face “grave consequences.” France responded by stating that it would not be forced into any decisions by anyone outside of France.

In spite of what Vladimir Putin’s media machine will tell the Russian public, Russia is, in fact, in no position to deliver and “grave consequences” to France. The Russian ships in the Coral Sea are not capable of overcoming Australia’s defenses, but the move plays well on Putin-controlled state media. As for Australia, Putin doesn’t give a damn what anyone in that country thinks.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin contemplating the  "grave consequences" he would like to deliver. Image by www.kremlin.ru.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
contemplating the “grave consequences”
he would like to deliver.
Image by http://www.kremlin.ru.

 

While NATO maintains that it cannot purchase the two Mistral ships from France, some interesting options are available.

In 2010, Poland expressed an interest in possibly purchasing a Mistral class ship from France. For lack of funds, no offer has been tendered. Canada, a nation that has the funds, has also expressed an interest in purchasing two Mistral class ships from France. The UK, a nation that has the funds but won’t give the funds to its navy, has not expressed any interest in purchasing a Mistral class ship. Perhaps it should. With the once mighty Royal Navy currently reduced to having no carriers in service, the purchase of a single Mistral class helicopter carrier could serve to boost the Royal Navy’s defense capabilities until the two new Queen Elizabeth carriers enter service sometime after 2016. The helicopter carrier would remain useful to the Royal Navy long thereafter.

The likelihood of the UK considering the purchase of one of the Mistral carriers is approximately equal to the likelihood that I will win the lottery. I don’t buy lottery tickets. Since the US is expected to pick up the slack from the Royal Navy, and since there is next to no Canadian navy afloat from which to pick up any slack, it is in the direct interest of the US to offer partial financial assistance to Canada or to Poland for the purchase of the two Mistral carriers. The key to getting such a deal done would be to allow the French to announce that any such arrangements were the results of inspired, avant-garde thinking by members of the French government. Neither Canada nor Poland would care who claimed credit for any such deal.

My best guess is that between now and the end of November, Vladimir Putin will not learn to act in the best interests of Russia. Russia will continue its aggression against Ukraine, and, therefore, France will want to avoid suffering the political damage that will result in supplying Russia’s invading military with a new high-tech warship. Time still remains for France and its Western allies to come to their senses and redirect the Mistral ships to an allied navy. Whether or not reason will prevail in the long term remains to be seen.

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The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Darth Vader Runs for Ukrainian Parliament

By Piper Bayard

Image from Ebay.

Image from Ebay.

 

Ukrainian “Darth Vader” Runs for Parliament

 

 

I don’t know about his stand on Putin’s invasion or light saber control, but he would definitely be responsive to terrorism.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Let’s kick off with a genuine potential apocalypse. Best article I’ve read so far on Ebola, via Tom Wyld. Six Reasons to Panic

The 12 Cognitive Biases that Prevent You from Being Rational, via Sonia Cywilko.

Celiac Disease Foundation’s 2014 Gluten-Free Halloween Treat Listvia Kristy K. James.

 

Malala Yousafzai at the Oval Office Image by US Govt, public domain

Malala Yousafzai at the Oval Office
Image by US Govt, public domain

 

Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai spoke out against the Islamic fundamentalists who would quash education. The Taliban came to her school and shot her in the head, but she survived and continued in her mission. Recently, she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in advancing education. Via neuroscientist Nsikan Akpan, What Will Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize Mean for Girls’ Education?

Lisa Hall-Wilson shares some important cautions for those of us professionals who prefer to use Profile pages rather than Fan pages. Facebook Shut Down My Profile!

USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze asks, Cyber Security Awareness:  Are You Protected?

The Issue Box is a new site where people discuss the issues on their minds without having to leave any personal information. Mark Kaplowitz tells us all about it in Big Announcement!

 

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover

 

At  A Girl and Her Kindle, USA Today Bestseller Peggy Webb tells us about Good Books and Good Friends, the writers behind RISKY BRIDES Bestsellers’ Collection. These outstanding authors generously gave Holmes and I a hand up by inviting us to include our debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, in this collection. RISKY BRIDES is now available for ebook pre-order and will release on October 21.

Some great advice from Maureen Johnson for all of you writers out there, but it really applies to all endeavors of every flavor . . . Dare to Suck!

 

 

Question of the Week:

 

 

All the best to all of you for a week of making good choices.

Why Putin Has His Way with Europe

By Jay Holmes

This past February, Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin ordered his intelligence and military services to invade Crimea in the Eastern Ukraine. Western governments loudly condemned Russia’s aggression, but practical responses have been limited to minor economic sanctions and visa restrictions against major Russian supporters of Putin.

In predictable fashion, Putin responded with symbolic bans on U.S. involvement in Russian energy development. Neither Western responses nor Putin’s counter-measures count for much in the short term. However, in the long term, Russia wants the oil and gas fracking technology that U.S. companies dominate. To get that, Putin is betting that the West will forget about Russian aggression in Ukraine as quickly as it forgot about the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

 

Poster on Rustaveli Avenue, Tblisi, Georgia, 2008 Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Poster on Rustaveli Avenue, Tblisi, Georgia, 2008
Wikimedia Commons, public domain

 

Thus far, there are striking similarities between the Georgian and Ukrainian invasions.

In 2008, Georgia, like the Ukraine of 2014, was expanding its economic and cultural ties with the West while reducing its trade with Russia. That year, Putin quickly seized Georgian territories where there was a significant Russian speaking population. Then he moved more military assets to the Georgian frontier than Russia needed for the intended operations. The propaganda campaign projected an image of Putin’s wild popularity across all segments of Russian society and total approval of his aggression in Georgia. Georgia seemed to be on the brink of complete absorption by Russia.

The West enacted economic sanctions and demanded that Russia withdraw. Putin then announced that his army was withdrawing from Georgia, but, in fact, his army enforced an annexation of Georgian territory. Once it appeared that the crisis was de-escalated, the West quickly rescinded the economic sanctions. Putin got what he wanted and suffered nothing for forcibly annexing part of Georgia.

In Ukraine, we see Putin once again employing this same basic strategy that worked so well in 2008. The Ukrainian people made it clear that they did not want closer economic and political alliances with Russia in exchange for promised Russian financial aid. Protests mounted, and the Russian backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia. Russia responded by sending special forces to invade and seize Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

In response, the West enacted mild sanctions against Russia.

Putin deployed more Russian military assets to the Ukrainian border areas than were needed to take the Crimea and then he asked for and received permission from the Russian parliament to invade all of Ukraine. The propaganda campaign in the Russian media created an image of a nation of one mind and soul ready to invade and annex more Ukraine territory, or even the entire country.

 

Canstock 2014 Bear Market

image from Canstock

 

Underneath Russia’s bravado, we saw the Russian stock market take a major nose dive.

This forced Putin to use ten billion dollars in Russia’s reserves to prop up the Russian currency and avert a credit crisis. Because Putin was certain that the sanctions were temporary, he likely predicted the economic impact of Ukraine invasion and calculated it as a bargain price for the purchase of Crimea.

As the situation in Ukraine appeared to be escalating beyond the Crimea, the U.S., Poland, and Romania asked their European allies to agree to increased sanctions. Most of the E.U. opposed the increased sanctions, so nothing meaningful happened. It became apparent to Ukrainians that many of their European neighbors were not willing to lose profitable business agreements with Russia in order to support them.

About thirty-three percent of Europe’s fossil fuel imports are from Russia. If we add in the ISIS crisis in Iraq, the energy picture has to concern European governments. Even those nations that do not directly import gas or oil from Russia would see steep price increases if Russian fuel imports stopped. That reality undoubtedly figures enormously into Europe’s unwillingness to support Ukraine by enacting meaningful economic sanctions against Russia. Conversely, with fracking operations now in place and growing in the U.S., the U.S. is becoming a significant gas exporter, it is easier for the U.S. to risk economic boycotts against Russia.

One of the most visible and controversial touchstones of the economic conflict of interest for the Western world regarding Russia’s Ukrainian invasion is a pending ship building contract between France’s STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire and the Russian Navy.

In 2011, the Russian Navy contracted and partially funded the building of four high-tech amphibious warfare ships. With the Russian annexation of Georgian territory fresh in their minds, France’s Western allies voiced opposition to the deal because most Western governments did not want to improve Russia’s ability to invade their neighbors. One ship is near completion, and the second is partially constructed. The first ship is due for delivery in October of this year.

 

Shipyard at Saint-Nazaire Unaltered image by Pouick44, wikimedia commons

Shipyard at Saint-Nazaire
Unaltered image by Pouick44, wikimedia commons

 

In addition to four powerful amphibious warfare ships, Russia will gain significant upgrades in electronic warfare systems from the French equipment installed on those ships. France benefits in that the one billion, six hundred million Euro payment from Russia fuels approximately a thousand French jobs. With France’s continuing high unemployment rates, the Paris government is reluctant to abandon the work and refund Russia its deposit.

The U.S., Poland, the U.K., and Ukraine appropriately and frankly criticized France’s ship deal with Russia. Predictably, Putin responded by saying that he looks forward to placing large orders for more naval ships from France once these ships are delivered.

On June 30, 2014, four hundred Russian sailors arrived in Saint-Nazaire for training on the shipboard systems. If and when the Russian sailors are given full access to the newer military systems and technologies, France will have allowed major warfare technologies to transfer to Putin’s navy at a time when Eastern Europeans are frantically trying to improve their security against Russian aggression.

The U.S. has suggested one easy way out for France. Rather than lose the financial value of the contracts with Russia, it could lease the two ships already under construction to NATO to be employed by NATO’s Standing Force, possibly in the Black Sea.

Thus far, Europe has been ambivalent to that idea. If Europe can cooperate amongst itself and with the U.S. enough to prevent the transfer of the French naval warfare technology to Russia, it would be a major achievement for European cooperation and security, but it would not address the deeper underlying problems.

Europe is facing major economic problems and has been relying heavily on large doses of political P.R. driven denial.

Take the U.K. as a simple case. The U.K. is the largest producer of oil and the second-largest producer of natural gas in the European Union. Production from U.K. oil fields peaked around the late 1990s and has declined steadily since then. Domestic production of natural gas is also steadily declining. Although once a net exporter of natural gas, the U.K. now imports more natural gas from Norway each year. Norway is limited in how much and how fast it can increase its gas exports to the U.K. The U.K. is also importing oil from Russia. Soon, the U.K. will have to drastically cut its natural gas consumption or find more import sources. This likely means sharp price increases for gas consumers in the U.K.

Four days ago, I had a polite conversation about the U.K.’s energy needs with a respected economist from London. He assured me that, “We can get most of the gas that we need from Norway, and recent discoveries show that in the future we can get all the gas we need from fracking.” He was unconcerned about the U.K.’s current energy dilemma.

 

Unaltered image by Battenbrook wikimedia commons

Unaltered image by Battenbrook
wikimedia commons

 

Fracking comes with serious environmental concerns.

France and Romania have already outlawed the practice. In light of these concerns, how much fracking will occur in the U.K., and how fast can it can it become a reality? Not fast enough to avoid increased prices at the pump and increased vulnerability to Russian aggression.

The U.K. is just one example of how European nations must juggle conflicting priorities in dealing with both Russian aggression against Europe and the usual turmoil in the Middle East. The U.K.’s powerful E.U. partner Germany, following initial indignation, has been somewhat muted in condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Germany is the one Western European nation that is not on the fast track to bankruptcy, and it cannot afford to ignore its major trade agreements with Russia.

We could go on, but why depress our European readers?

The fact is that North America and Europe must find the political courage to openly face the economic and energy questions that so greatly affect the future of Western civilization. A public that is unaware of energy issues cannot effectively demand that European and North American governments formulate policies that their citizens are willing to accept. Those policies shape how Europe can respond to Russian aggression. As long as the E.U., the U.S., and Canada limit their cooperation to lip service, Eastern Europe will remain at risk of further Russian invasions and energy blackmail.

Dances With Bears — The Putin/West Waltz

By Jay Holmes

On February 23, 2014, with the help of ethnic Russians in Crimea, Russia’s special forces and intelligence services stepped up their pro-Russian campaign to a degree that signaled that a Russian invasion and that annexation of the Crimean region was likely to occur. Emboldened by Russian military support, pro-Russian protesters in the area became more violent and more demanding.

During the last three years, national sentiment in Ukraine has shifted toward closer ties with Europe. How and when, not if, Ukraine would enter the European Union was the topic of daily debate in Ukraine. While Europeans, including most Ukrainians, were forging those closer ties, the infamous Dancing Bear of Moscow, Vladimir Putin, began to formulate a very different view of Ukraine’s future.

Base image from Agencia Brasil.

Base image from Agencia Brasil.
wikimedia commons

 

Prior to February of 2014, as these tensions played out in Ukraine, Western nations were relying on two basic strategies. The strategy pursued by most Western nations ranged from “Where is Ukraine?” to “How soon can they join the EU?”  The US pragmatically pursued a more focused policy—the “I hope that all goes well and nothing bad happens in Ukraine.”  Once a Russian invasion of Crimea was imminent, the West quickly reacted with new strategies. Most European nations seemed to be relying on the US to “do something.” The US responded by upgrading its own strategy to “Gosh, I really, really hope nothing bad happens in Ukraine.”

On February 28, 2014, the not-so-sneaky Russians did their best impersonation of a “sneak attack” in Crimea. All the West’s best hopes and wishes had not prevented the obvious. US President Obama (a.k.a. Dances With Bears) and other Western leaders quickly announced that there would be “consequences” for Russia in response to their invasion of Ukraine. Predictably, Putin responded by claiming that Crimea belonged to Russia all along. He then reminded Europe that they like Russian gas supplies.

As expected, the “consequences” promised by the West have been mild.

Base image by Elizabeth Cromwell, GNU Free Documentation License, wikimedia commons

Base image by Elizabeth Cromwell,
GNU Free Documentation License,
wikimedia commons

Moderate economic sanctions and a list of Russians who will not receive US entry is all it amounted to.  Across Western Europe, the political rhetoric varied from near silence to mild displeasure. Putin is probably thrilled by this lack of a coordinated response on the part of the West.

Since February, Russia has officially annexed Crimea and continues to orchestrate, supply, and partially man protests and riots in Eastern Ukraine. Russian mechanized forces are staged along the Russian Ukraine border.  So now what?

On May 7, Vladimir Putin gave a televised speech to the Russian people. The speech was the usual double talk that we can always count on Putin to deliver. Here is a small, translated excerpt of Putin’s speech. “We must look for ways out of the situation as it is today. We all have an interest in ending this crisis, Ukraine and its people above all. Thus I say that we all want the crisis to end as soon as possible and in such a way that takes into account the interests of all people in Ukraine, no matter where they live. The discussion with Mr. President showed that our approaches to possible solutions to the crisis have much in common.”

Putin meme i don't always invade a foreign country

When he said “Mr. President,” Putin was referring to the visiting president of Switzerland. As far as his claim that they share “much in common,” it’s true in the same sense that the chicken and the fox might momentarily share the same hen house. In case you wonder, the translation is the official translation to English done by the Kremlin media office. As usual, Putin sounds semi-conciliatory, and as usual, his words don’t mean much except to the Russian public. In the same speech, Putin directly contradicted his own foreign minister by claiming that he supports the upcoming May 25 elections in Ukraine as “a step in the right direction.”

Fortunately, most Western leaders are responding to Putin’s speech with muted skepticism.  A few Putin admirers and the occasional innocent have welcomed Putin’s speech as a turning-point in the Ukraine crisis. Putin’s military dispositions on the Ukraine border and his country’s ongoing operations in Eastern Ukraine are a very clear measure of Putin’s actual intentions. In light of that, the West should formulate a united response to Russian aggression. That response should include increased economic sanctions.

Thus far, the economic sanctions have had a small negative impact on the Russian economy. If those sanctions are increased and continue in force, the impacts will be far more significant. Russia has significant foreign debt in the form of bonds. As the trade value of those bonds continues to drop and interest rates rise, Russian companies will find it difficult to finance growth. That will drive up unemployment to levels that will not keep Russians happy with Vlady the Dancing Bear.

Thus far, one positive development has occurred as a result of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Europeans, especially Eastern Europeans, have prioritized finding new sources of natural gas so they can avoid dependency on Russia. This will include the delivery of liquefied petroleum gas from the USA to a new port facility in Lithuania. Let’s all hope that the facility is well designed and safely operated. Don’t buy a vacation home in that neighborhood. New gas supplies will not be prepared quickly. It will take several years to make a sizeable impact in the European gas supply, but there is now more cooperation than ever before in the energy planning of Western states. It’s about time.

So here is my best guess for the near future in Ukraine. Putin is not going to relinquish Crimea—not this month, or any month. Russia will likely not launch an all-out invasion of Eastern Ukraine. Putin has taken the measure of his geopolitical dance partners in the West. He does not want full-scale cooperation against Russia by the US, Canada, and Europe. Russia could all but eliminate the strife in Eastern Ukraine by withdrawing its military and financial support for pro-Russian Ukrainians and by ending its clandestine operations in Ukraine. However, in all likelihood, Russia will continue to direct a smoldering conflict in Eastern Ukraine while pretending to be “seeking peace.” The uncertainty and chaos in Ukraine suits his purposes. From Putin’s point of view, it keeps the West “on the edge” without causing a more harsh Western response.

In my view, the best way for the West to help the Ukraine is to avoid vague threats and present a united front with well-enforced economic sanctions against Russia. That bear dances well, but all bears must eat, and the Russian bear has a big appetite that feeds on cash from U.S. and Western banks. Reasonable sanctions won’t wrestle the Crimea from Russia, but they can prevent Russia from invading and seizing a third of the remaining Ukraine without firing a shot.

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Dances with Bears — The Putin/West Waltz

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Putin Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

By Piper Bayard

Always trying to outshine Stalin, aren’t you, Vlady?

Let me put this in perspective. Putin is invading Ukraine based on the argument that because there are Russian speaking people of Russian heritage in that country, Russia has the right to go in and protect the interests of those people. By that reasoning, we can expect the Mexican army to be setting up camps through the Southwest any day now.

Ah, well. Once Yasser Arafat won it, there were no surprises left.

Vladimir Putin, Dove of Peace image by premier.gov.ru

Vladimir Putin, Dove of Peace
image by premier.gov.ru

See our previous response to the notion of Putin and Peace Prize in the same sentence at B&H Nobel Peace-Through-Ironic-Laughter Prize Nominations.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Proud to say our Monday post, Ukraine Crisis: Vladimir Putin and the Power of Gas, was Freshly Pressed this week. A big welcome to all of our new subscribers!

It Didn’t Start Last Week — Timeline of Ukrainian Invasions

Timeline of Ukrainian Turmoil — Part Two, 2001 – Present

Ukraine in Crisis: Vladimir Putin and the Power of Gas

The Cliffside Rose

The Cliffside Rose

The Cliffside Rose Flash Fiction Contest — Vote Now! When Holmes and I stumbled across this rose on the side of a cliff in the middle of a secluded desert on the day after Valentine’s Day, we challenged our readers to explain this oddity using the words “Dixie,” “witness protection,” and “cheese grater.” We have eight outstanding entries who are vying for your vote. Come by and enjoy the yarns they have spun in an effort to win a copy of DOWN AND DEAD IN DIXIE by USA Today bestseller Vicki Hinze.

I had the honor of guest posting at New York Times bestseller Allison Brennan‘s Murder She Writes site this week. In James Bond vs. The Spook, I share a few things I’ve learned about real covert operatives since I started working with Holmes.

Is this the real Holmes?

Is this the real Holmes?

Recently, numerous bloggers participated in August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest 2014. Three of my favorites are What are Your 21 Layers of Beauty? by Jenny Hansen, Beauty: A Matter of Mind Over Matter by Kassandra Lamb, and Inspiring Beauty Quotes: A #BOAW3 Wrap-Up, Part II by August McLaughlin.

Like Detective Fiction? Thank the Metropolitan Police Act by K.B.Owen at Misterio Press.

Yoga IS for Everyone. A Short Guest Series, Part 2 by Christine Moore.

When so many of us are tired of winter, it helps to be reminded of the beauty. Crystallize – Lindsey Stirling Dubstep Violin Original Song.

Campaign Style Question of the Week:

All the best to all of you for a peaceful week.

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Bayard & Holmes

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Putin Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Ukraine Crisis: Vladimir Putin and the Power of Gas

By Jay Holmes

If we are to have any chance of understanding the present dynamic of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, we must look to the history of the region and its people. In Part One, we followed the Ukraine Timeline from the founding of the first Ukrainian city in 907 A.D. through the ascendance of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, a.k.a. Stalin 2.0. In Part Two, the Timeline continues up to the present Russian invasion. Today, we look at current situation and what it means to Europe and the West.

Kiev Protestors February 18, 2014 image by Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com.jpg wikimedia commons

Kiev Protestors February 18, 2014
image by Mstyslav Chernov
Unframe.com
wikimedia commons

The crisis in Ukraine is the product of many factors. Russian speaking pro-Russian citizens populate the Crimea and other areas of Ukraine. Putin is using this most effectively to satisfy the centuries-old Russian imperial ambitions to expand southward. Russia has well equipped military forces based in the Crimea by treaty with the Ukraine — a treaty that many Ukrainians no doubt deeply regret today. Ukraine shares borders with Poland, Romania, and Moldavia, which are all becoming more “Europeanized” and more “Western-looking” with each passing year. Unfortunately for Ukraine, they also share borders with Russia and with her pro-Putin police state ally, Belarus.

A clear majority of Ukrainians have rejected the police state values of Russia and Russian allies. They have made it clear that they want to be part of Europe. On the surface, this is evidenced by the Ukraine’s attempts to forge a trade agreement with Europe. That trade agreement included provisions for basic human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary. Vladimir Putin remains opposed to that trade agreement and opposed to those basic human rights because such basic human rights make it more difficult for him to operate as a dictator in Russia and to achieve his goals for the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union.

The Crimea and the region of Ukraine that lies between Russia and the Crimea are of immense value to Putin. If he is able to annex or control those areas, Russia and any members of the Eurasian Customs Union will then have direct access to the Black Sea and hence the Mediterranean. Part of Putin’s timing in taking over the Crimea has to do with the weather. Historically, the winter has meant a decrease in military operations in and by Russia. In a reversal of that trend, Russia now prefers to conduct as much of its military operations in Ukraine while the weather is still cold.

Russian Gas & Oil Pipelines Through Ukraine map by Victor Korniyenko, wikimedia commons

Russian Gas & Oil Pipelines Through Ukraine
map by Victor Korniyenko, wikimedia commons

That’s because Ukrainian gas supplies come from Russia. Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, Moldavia, and Turkey all get between 64% and 100% of their natural gas supplies from Russia.  Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Romania receive between 14% and 48% of their natural gas supplies from Russia.  Those natural gas supplies are more critical during colder months. That basic fact of European life gives Russia important leverage over any European response to its actions in Ukraine.

Given Putin’s naked expansionist ambitions and Western Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas and Russian oil, Putin may be boldly aggressive in Ukraine. Responses from the West will range from muted to lame “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will not be without a stiff price.” However, Russia has been trying for a thousand years to rule the Crimea and the greater Ukraine. In spite of ruthless genocides and unbridled brutality, it has never succeeded in the past, and it’s unlikely that the Ukrainian people will bend to Russian will regardless of support or the lack thereof from the West.

Vladimir Putin is telling his audiences in Russia and in Ukraine that Ukraine’s anti-government protestors are led by a Jewish conspiracy. He is simultaneously telling everyone outside of Russia and Ukraine that the protestors are dangerous anti-Semite Nazis. They are neither. The protestors in Ukraine are a broad coalition of diverse affiliations ranging from women’s rights groups and lesbian and gay rights groups to right-wing Ukrainian nationalists. What they share is a desire for Ukraine to be free of Russia and for its citizens to enjoy basic human rights.

Putin may see a victory for himself in Ukraine, but should he be unlucky enough to pursue and achieve that victory, the results will make the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan resemble a picnic compared to dealing with the Ukrainians and their sympathizers in the West. Putin will undoubtedly make his best effort to gain as much territory as he can and as many Ukrainian concessions as he can without instigating a full-scale war in Ukraine.  If he miscalculates, the price will be steep for Ukraine, but it will also lead to a severe decline in the Russian economy, which might further erode Putin’s popularity at home.

March 2, 2014 Protestors against Russian invasion: "Crimea is Ukraine." image by BO CBo6ona, wikimedia commons

March 2, 2014
Maidan protestors against Russian invasion:
“Crimea is Ukraine.”
image by BO CBo6ona, wikimedia commons

An overwhelming majority of Ukrainians has made it clear that they want independence from Russia, human rights, and membership in the European community. Their demands are reasonable. For the sake of the Ukrainians as well as Russians and Europeans, let us hope that the power-thirsty Russian dictator does not overplay his hand.

Special Thanks to photographer Mstyslav Chernov of Unframe Photographers for the amazing photographs he made available at Wikimedia Commons. Please visit the Unframe Photographers site at Unframe.com and Mstyslav Chernov’s site at MstyslavChernov.com for more outstanding documentary photos.

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Bayard & Holmes

Ukraine Crisis: Vladimir Putin and the Power of Gas

Ukrainian Conquest Part Two: 2001 – Present

By Jay Holmes

As the storm breaks over the Eurasian steppes, the world is busy wondering how far Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, a.k.a. Stalin 2.0, will go in his invasion of Ukraine. To make a guess at that, it’s essential to understand the history that shapes today’s events. In Part One, we began a timeline of the of Ukraine’s violent past from the country’s beginnings at the turn of the 10th century through the ascendance of Vladimir Putin to the office of President of Russia in 2000. In Part Two, we continue that timeline through the current Russian invasion.

Ukraine Timeline:

2001 A.D.

In February, the European Union calls for an investigation of the murder of investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze. Opposition demonstrations allege that President Kuchma was involved and call for his impeachment. President Kuchma denies the allegations.

2002 A.D.

Mass protests occur in Kiev and other cities in September demanding the resignation of President Kuchma.

U.S. officials release recordings in which President Kuchma is heard selling early-warning radar systems to Iraq. On the same tapes, Kuchma is heard ordering an official to “deal with” journalist Georgiy Gongadze.

Kiev demonstrations demanding Kuchma’s resignation grow in size and intensity in November. President Kuchma responds by sacking the prime minister, Anatoliy Kinakh. Viktor Yanukovych is appointed Prime Minister. Yanukovych pledges to fight poverty and corruption and to work toward integration into Europe.

2004 A.D.

Prime Minister Yanukovych wins the November presidential election. Western observers report widespread vote rigging. Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko launches a campaign of mass street protests. Many of the protestors dress in orange, and the movement is dubbed the “Orange Revolution.” The Ukrainian Supreme Court later annuls the election results.

Orange Revolution, Nov. 22, 2004 image by Gutsul, wikimedia commons

Orange Revolution, Nov. 22, 2004
image by Gutsul, wikimedia commons

Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko tops the polls in the re-run election in December. Yanukovych resigns.

2005 A.D.

In January, Yushchenko is sworn in as President of Ukraine.

Parliament overwhelmingly approves his nominee for prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, in February.

President Yushchenko announces in March that the suspected killers of journalist Georgiy Gongadze are in custody. He also accuses the former authorities of a cover-up.

Yushchenko dismisses the government of Yulia Tymoshenko in September, and Yuriy Yekhanurov is appointed prime minister.

2006 A.D.

In January, Russia briefly cuts gas supplies to Ukraine after a long fight over gas prices. Moscow says its reasons are purely economic, but Ukraine is certain that the cut-off is politically motivated.

Viktor Yanukovych’s party tops the polls in parliamentary elections for prime minister in March. Faced with a deadline to accept Viktor Yanukovych’s nomination or call new elections, President Yushchenko agrees that his rival can become prime minister. Yekhanurov is out.

2007 A.D.

In September, parliamentary elections result in pro-Russian parties gaining a small majority.

Yulia Tymoshenko is appointed prime minister for a second time in December in a coalition with President Yushchenko’s party.

U.S. President George W. Bush & Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko White House photo by Eric Draper

U.S. President George W. Bush & Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
White House photo by Eric Draper

2008 A.D.

In March, Russia’s state-owned natural gas company Gazprom and Ukraine agree to a contract to supply Ukraine’s industrial consumers directly, temporarily ending a long fight over gas supplies.

In October, a global financial crisis causes a sharp decline in world demand for steel. Steel is a major Ukrainian export item. The value of Ukrainian currency plummets, and foreign investment in Ukraine dries up. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) offers Ukraine a loan of $16.5 billion (£10.4 billion) to help it weather the storm.

2009 A.D.

January talks between Russia and Ukraine about unpaid bills and gas prices collapse, and Russia stops all gas supplies to Ukraine. This causes gas shortages in southeast Europe. A week later, Ukraine and Russia sign a 10-year deal on gas transit, and supplies are restored.

That December, Ukraine and Russia sign an agreement on oil transit for 2010. Europe had been concerned that supplies would be cut off again.

2010 A.D.

Viktor Yanukovych is declared winner of second round of presidential election in February. His main rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, refuses to accept the result, alleging fraud.

Tymoshenko resigns in March after a no-confidence vote, and President Yanukovych appoints Mykola Azarov to succeed her.

In April, Ukraine agrees to eliminate its stockpile of weapons-grade nuclear material ahead of the Washington Nuclear Security Summit. It also extends an agreement on Russia’s lease on the Black Sea fleet base at Sevastopol in Crimea for 25 years in return for cheaper gas imports.

The Ukrainian Parliament votes to abandon any plans for NATO membership in June.

In July, international media freedom watchdogs criticize a Kiev court’s decision to cancel the allocation of broadcasting frequencies to two privately run TV channels.

The IMF approves another $15 billion (£9 billion) loan for Ukraine in August, subject to the government curbing subsidies for utilities bills.

In October, the Ukrainian Constitutional Court overturns limits on presidential power that were introduced in 2004.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych image by Pavol Freso, wikimedia commons

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
image by Pavol Freso, wikimedia commons

President Yanukovych vetoes a tax reform in November that had prompted thousands of business owners and opposition activists to protest in city centers nationwide. The reform was part of austerity measures demanded by the IMF as a condition of the bailout approved in August.

In December, Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko are charged with abuse of state funds. Both deny the charges and say the accusations are politically motivated.

2011 A.D.

In March, Ex-President Leonid Kuchma is charged for involvement the 2000 murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze. He denies any part in the killing. In the same month, the Ukraine government fails to pass a pension reform bill and also increases the watering down of gas price. The IMF puts its $15 billion bailout on hold.

The main suspect in the Gongadze killing, former Interior Ministry official Olexiy Pukach, goes on trial in April. According to prosecutors, he had confessed to strangling and beheading Gongadze. He claimed to have received his orders from Kuchma.

In October, a Ukrainian court finds former Prime Minister Tymoshenko guilty of abuse of power over a gas deal with Russia in 2009 and sentences her to seven years in prison. European governments view her arrest and conviction as a political ploy inspired by Vladimir Putin and his cohorts within the Ukrainian government. The E.U. warns Ukraine of “profound implications.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin image by www.kremlin.ru

Russian President Vladimir Putin
image by http://www.kremlin.ru

2012 A.D.

Ukraine postpones a summit of Central and East European leaders in Yalta in May after several leaders boycott it over the mistreatment of Yulia Tymoshenko in prison. Others boycott the Euro 2012 football championship.

In July, a new law makes Russian the regional language. Protestors demonstrate in anger. Police in Kiev tear-gas them.

In October, the first parliamentary elections since President Yanukovych came to power in 2010 see a decisive win for his governing Party of Regions and a surprise boost for the far-right Freedom Party. Observers from the U.S. and the E.U. claim that the poll was seriously tainted.

2013 A.D.

In February, the European Union gives Ukraine a deadline to meet conditions for the planned trade agreement. At a meeting in Brussels, Ukraine President Viktor F. Yanukovich said he believed that the outstanding issues  could be resolved by November 2013.

The European Court of Human Rights rules unanimously in April that the arrest and detention of Yulia Tymoshenko in 2011 was illegal and unjust.

November 21 –Yanukovich’s government abruptly rejects a trade agreement with the European Union on grounds that it would damage ties with Russia. The Ukrainian Parliament also rejects a bill that would have allowed jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to leave the country. A few hundred pro-Ukrainian, pro-democracy protestors enter Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the Kiev equivalent of Independence Square.

November 24 – About 100,000 protestors occupy Maidan to voice their anger over what they see as Yanukovich selling out the Ukraine to Russian President Vladmir Putin’s government. Large protests occur in other Ukraine cities as well.

November 30 – Riot police brutally attack demonstrators at Maidan.

December 1 – The violence prompts public outrage in Ukraine and some concern around the world. Pro-democracy activists occupy Kiev city hall and establish a tent camp at Maidan.

December 11 – Thousands of riot police storm Maidan but are unable to clear out the protestors. The police retreat after a few hours. Protestors are emboldened, and additional groups reinforce them.

December 8 –Over 800,000 active protestors gather on the streets of Kiev. Thousands more man support centers to handle communications and protect injured protestors in hospitals from being kidnapped by police or Russian agents. An angry crowd topples and smashes a statue of Lenin, Kiev’s most prominent monument to the communist leader.

December 14 – Pro-Russian protestors are bussed into Kiev. Their numbers are about one tenth those of the anti-Russian mainstream protest movements. There is evidence that Putin is directly funding and supporting the “pro-Russian” groups. The pro-Russian protests dominate the Russian government controlled media.

December 17 – After a series of meetings between Yanukovich and Vladimir Putin, Moscow announces that it will to lend $15 billion to Ukraine and slash the price it pays for gas.

2014 A.D.

Kiev Barricade Jan. 4, 2014 image by Александр Мотин, wikimedia commons

Kiev Barricade Jan. 4, 2014
image by Александр Мотин, wikimedia commons

January 16 – Yanukovich’s allies in parliament ignore the Ukrainian Constitution and pass bills to outlaw most forms of street protest.

January 19 – Some of the more radical Ukrainian activists barricade Grushevsky Street, which runs from Maidan to the parliament.

January 22 – Police shoot and kill two protesters. A third protestor dies after falling from a colonnade on Grushevsky Street. The police deny responsibility. During the following week, several activists are abducted and tortured by police. One is killed. Yanukovich and his cabal deny knowledge of the kidnappings, but only he and the Russians claim to believe his denials.

January 24 – Protesters occupy the Agricultural Policy Ministry close to Maidan and announce the seizure of local government buildings in several cities in western and central Ukraine.

January 28 – Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigns, and the anti-protest law is rescinded. Opposition leaders refuse to form a new cabinet under Yanukovich.

January 29 – Parliament passes an amnesty bill promising to drop charges against all those arrested during the unrest if protesters agree to leave government buildings. The opposition rejects its conditions.

February 10, 2014 Maidan Protestor plays piano atop burned Berkut bus image by BBnaCeHKO, wikimedia commons

February 10, 2014
Maidan Protestor plays piano atop burned Berkut bus
image by BBnaCeHKO, wikimedia commons

February 16 – Amnesty is granted to detained protesters after activists agree to vacate some occupied buildings and streets. The ability of the protestors to negotiate the deal and follow up on their promises indicates that they are highly organized.

February 18, 2014 Barricade line between interior troops and protestors image by Mstyslav Chernov of Unframe.com wikimedia commons

February 18, 2014
Barricade line between interior troops and protestors
image by Mstyslav Chernov of Unframe.com
wikimedia commons

February 18 – Police block protesters from marching on parliament to demand constitutional reform. Riots erupt. About twenty-five people are killed, including seven policemen, and hundreds are injured by brutal police attacks. The police fail to dislodge the protestors, and some of the protestors become more violent in response to the police aggression.

February 18, 2014 Kiev Protestors class with interior troop officers image by Mstyslav Chernov at Unframe.com wikimedia commons

February 18, 2014
Kiev Protestors class with interior troop officers
image by Mstyslav Chernov at Unframe.com
wikimedia commons

February 19 – The encamped protestors on Maidan remain defiant, though they are surrounded by riot police. Protesters retake some government buildings in Western Ukraine and reject Yanukovich’s authority. Yanukovich and the protestors agree to a truce.

Kiev protestors dismantling brickstone pavement to use for self-defense February 19, 2014 image by Mstyslov Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com.jpg wikimedia commons

Kiev protestors dismantling brickstone pavement to use for self-defense
February 19, 2014
image by Mstyslov Chernov at Unframe.com
wikimedia commons

February 20 – The truce dissolves. Violence increases in Kiev. The death toll in 48 hours of clashes rises to approximately 80 people. About 500 are wounded. Videos show uniformed snipers firing at protesters holding home-made shields. European Union foreign ministers fly in to try to broker a deal. Russia announces it is sending an envoy.

February 21 – President Yanukovych signs a truce agreement with opposition leaders that was negotiated by foreign ministers from France, Germany, and Poland – an attempt to form a new national unity government. The deal includes constitutional changes to return powers back to parliament and early elections to be held by December. Violence continues in Kiev. In Western Ukraine, protesters occupying government buildings remain defiant, refusing to recognize the Kiev authorities.

February 18, 2014 Protestors arming themselves with paving stones image by Mstyslav Chernov of Unframe.com wikimedia commons

February 18, 2014
Protestors arming themselves with paving stones
image by Mstyslav Chernov of Unframe.com
wikimedia commons

February 22 – Protesters take control of the presidential administration buildings. President Yanukovych leaves Kiev. He is reported to be in Kharkov in the northeast. Parliament votes to remove him from power and sets elections for May 25. Yanukovych appears on TV to insist that he is still President of Ukraine. His arch-rival and opposition leader, Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is freed from prison and travels to Kiev. Many of the protest leaders hope that she will serve as a unifying pro-independence/pro-European figure for the various protest groups.

February 23 – Parliament names speaker Olexander Turchynov to be Interim President. Turchynov is a close associate of Tymoshenko. Turchynov tells the Ukrainian parliament that they have until Tuesday to form a new unity government.

February 24 – The Turchynov-led Ukrainian government issues an arrest warrant for Yanukovych.

February 26 – Members of the new Ukrainian government appear before the pro-democracy demonstrators. The Berkut Police Unit, which was responsible for deaths of protesters, is disbanded. Russia sponsors rival protests in the Crimea.

March 2, 2014, Simferopol, Crimea Soldiers without insignia guard buildings image by E. Arrott, Voice of America

March 2, 2014, Simferopol, Crimea
Soldiers without insignia guard buildings
image by E. Arrott, Voice of America

February 27 – Pro-Russian gunmen in uniforms without unit or national badges seize key buildings in the Crimean capital of Simferopol. Their equipment is clean and up-to-date. They lack the appearance of anything like a “home-grown militia.” Yanukovych issues a statement through Russian media saying he is still the legitimate President of Ukraine. Putin and some Russians believe that he is. Many non-Russian Ukrainians and international observers believe that the gunmen are Russian Special Forces and the precursor of a Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

February 28 – Soldiers in uniforms lacking unit and national identities take over Crimea’s main airports.  At his first news conference since escaping from Ukraine, Yanukovych, now in Russia, continues to pretend that he is President of Ukraine. Ukraine’s Central Bank limits daily foreign currency cash withdrawals to 1,000 Euros.

U.S. President Obama warns that there will be costs to the Russians for any military intervention in the Ukraine. The president does not explain what those costs will be.

March 1 – Russia’s parliament approves President Vladimir Putin’s request to use Russian forces in Ukraine. Ukraine’s Acting President Olexander Turchynov puts his army on full alert.

Pro-Russian rallies take place in several Ukrainian cities outside Crimea. Western countries express alarm over the Russian deployment. U.S. President Barack Obama holds a 90-minute telephone conversation with Putin, urging him to pull forces back to bases in Crimea. Putin says Moscow reserves the right to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Putin seems to be using the same playbook with the same propaganda campaign that Adolf Hitler used to occupy Eastern Czechoslovakia in 1938. Nazi Germany subsequently invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. Let us hope that Vladimir Putin doesn’t prove to be quite as maniacal a dictator as Adolf Hitler was.

March 2, 2014 Protestors against Russian invasion: "Crimea is Ukraine." image by BO CBo6ona, wikimedia commons

March 2, 2014
Protestors against Russian invasion: “Crimea is Ukraine.”
image by BO CBo6ona, wikimedia commons

March 2 – Russian forces continue to deploy in combat kit and surround Ukrainian military facilities in the Crimean peninsula. Russian Secret Police attempt to coerce and blackmail Ukrainian leaders in the Crimea to shift their allegiance away from their central government to Russian-backed elements in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Naval Chief announces that he has transferred his allegiance to Russia.

Critical events continue to occur at a rapid pace. In Part Three, we will look at the complex dynamic of the forces at play in Ukraine and what Putin’s invasion means to the West.

*Special Thanks to photographer Mstyslav Chernov of Unframe Photographers for permission to use his amazing photographs that he made available at Wikimedia Commons. Please visit the Unframe Photographers site at Unframe.com and Mstyslav Chernov’s site at MstyslavChernov.com for more outstanding documentary photos.

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Bayard & Holmes

Timeline of Ukrainian Conquests: Part Two

It Didn’t Start Last Week–Timeline of Ukrainian Conquest

By Jay Holmes

This week, the Western media has, in a fashion, been covering the political crisis in Ukraine with growing interest. While the storm over the steppes has been brewing since November 2013, it has grown to crisis proportions during recent weeks. The growth and severity of the crisis has been sudden, but it has in no way been accidental.

Critical events are occurring at such a rapid pace as to render any published analysis out of date by the time even the speediest editors can post it. Nonetheless, the outcome of the conflict in the Ukrainian Republic will have far reaching consequences for Ukrainians and for much of the Eurasian continent. To a lesser, but still significant degree, secondary political and economic consequences will be felt across the world.

Though the media reporting usually presents the Ukraine in its own vacuum, outside factors have heavily influenced the present situation. One of the most influential outside factors has been Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, a.k.a. Stalin 2.0.

Vladimir Putin image by premier.gov.ru

Vladimir Putin
image by premier.gov.ru

As complicated as that may sound, the reality is even more complicated. To better understand the present conflict in Ukraine, we need to consider the long and complex history of the region. While the current situation is violent and threatens to become more violent at any moment, the previous centuries in the region were even more violent. For the sake of brevity, let us look at a timeline of the critical events in Ukrainian history that are shaping today’s conflict.

Ukrainian Timeline:

Circa 900 A.D.

A Ukrainian ethnic identity becomes evident in what we now refer to as Ukraine.

907 A.D.

Ukrainians found the city of Chernihiv.

While the Ukrainians see themselves as distinct, their Russian neighbors see Ukraine as a Russian hinterland. This particular hinterland is huge, has a Black Sea coast, and has better climates for agriculture than areas further north.

This particular geographic dynamic will shape the relationship between Ukrainians and Russians for the next millennia.

1256 A.D.

Danylo, King of Rus, founds the city of Lviv.

1651 A.D.

The Polish kingdom to the northwest has grown more powerful. At the Battle of Berestechko, the Poles defeat the Ukrainians.

1653 A.D.

A Russian army seizes Smolensk, Ukraine, and initiates a bloody Thirteen Years War between Russia and Poland over Ukrainian rule. In a larger sense, the Thirteen Years War does not quite end until 1670, after a long series of battles and negotiations that include Russian, Cossack (Ukrainian), Tartar, Polish, Swedish, and Turkish armies.

1654 A.D.

Poland cedes Kiev, Smolensk, and Eastern Ukraine to Russia in the Treaty of Andrusovo. The Poles and Russians rule their respective occupied areas with iron fists.

1670 A.D.

Ukraine establishes autonomy from Russia and Poland. While exerting military pressure on its neighbors, it remains under constant military threat from those same neighbors on all sides.

1744 A.D.

A measure of economic prosperity allows for the construction of the magnificent St. George Cathedral in Lviv.

St. George Cathedral in Lviv image by Robin & Bazylek

St. George Cathedral in Lviv
image by Robin & Bazylek

1746 A.D.

The Ukrainian city of Vilkovo is founded. It becomes a cosmoploitan trade center with foreign residents and a vast network of canals. It can be considered the “Venice of the Crimea.”

1783 A.D.

The Ukrainians have lost much of their territory to the growing Russian Empire. Catherine the Great orders the construction of the fortress of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula and the founding of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea headquarters.

1834 A.D.

The University of Lviv is founded.

1863 A.D.

Russia outlaws the Ukrainian language.

1890 A.D.

The first Ukrainian political party, Halytska, is formed. Its platform is essentialy Ukranian nationalism.

1905 A.D.

The ban on the Ukrainian language in Russian-occupied Ukraine is lifted.

1917 A.D.

Ukrainians establish a central parliament, the Rada, in Kiev following the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I.

1918 A.D.

Ukraine declares independence, and the Ukrainian People’s Republic is established.

1921 A.D.

The Soviet Army gains control of Ukraine and establishes a puppet state, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine.

Red Army in Kiev 1920 image public domain

Red Army in Kiev 1920
image public domain

1932 A.D.

As part of Stalin’s genocidal campaign against Ukrainians, seven million peasants are starved to death in a Soviet-engineered famine. This holocaust is not well known outside of Ukraine, but it heavily influences Ukrainian thinking today.

1937 A.D.

The Soviets carry out mass executions and deportations in Ukraine as part of Stalin’s systematic purges against intellectuals.

1941 A.D.

Nazi Germany invades Ukraine. At first, many Ukrainians view the Germans as liberators and volunteer to fight against their Soviet oppressors. Hitler misses a golden opportunity in his war against the U.S.S.R., and rather than accepting Ukrainian help against Stalin, he installs a brutal occupation in Ukraine. The Nazis murder most of Ukraine’s 1.5 million Jews between 1941 and 1944. About five million Ukrainians die fighting against Nazi Germany, both in Ukraine and in the ensuing Soviet counter-invasion of Germany.

1945 A.D.

The World War II allied victory leads to Soviet annexation of Western Ukraine lands. Fifty thousand Cossacks that had fought on the German side against the U.S.S.R. are forcibly repatriated from Western Europe to the U.S.S.R., where they are executed.

1954 A.D.

The brutal Soviet occupation of the Ukraine stirs resistance. With the help of Soviet spies in Western governments, the Soviets defeat the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

1985 A.D.

The Soviet police state begins to collapse after decades of economic ruin.

1986 A.D.

Despite the remarkable courage of firefighters, a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine explodes and sends a radioactive cloud across parts of Europe and Asia. The area remains heavily contaminated to this day.

Chernobyl 2013 image by Antanana 2013 Ukrainian Wikiexpedition to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Chernobyl 2013
image by Antanana
2013 Ukrainian Wikiexpedition to the
Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

1989 A.D.

The Ukrainian People’s Movement, the Rukh, is founded by writers and intellectuals. Their basic platform is Ukrainian independence and human rights.

1990 A.D.

The Rukh organizes a Human chain protest for Ukrainian independence, and they proclaim Ukrainian sovereignty from the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union files for political bankruptcy.

Vladimir Putin is an officer in the KGB. Ever the capable and ambitious pragmatist, he resigns his KGB position and openly goes to work for the Leningrad city government as a political adviser on international affairs. Not one to wait for the car to sink too deeply into that famous Russian mud, Putin has in fact been working for the mayor of Leningrad since the spring of 1990, while still a KGB officer. Score one for Vlady’s foresight.

1991 A.D.

Ukrainians vote overwhelmingly for independence from the Soviet Union in a referendum. Leaders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine sign an agreement, The Commonwealth of Independent States, to end Soviet rule in the region.

In December of this year, the Soviet Union officially completes its dissolution process. Fifteen separate countries are formed. At this time, Vladimir Putin is working in the Foreign Intelligence Directory.

1994 A.D.

U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin sign the Kremlin Accords, which provide for the dismantling of the nuclear arsenal in Ukraine. Leonid Kuchma succeeds Leonid Kravchuk in Ukrainian presidential elections. Ukraine signs a treaty of cooperation with NATO that provides for training assistance and joint training between Ukrainian and NATO forces.

Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton image by www.kremlin.ru

Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton
image by http://www.kremlin.ru

1996 A.D.

Ukraine adopts a democratic constitution and a new currency, the hryvnia.

1997 A.D.

Ukraine and Russia sign a friendship treaty. They reach an agreement that Russia will operate a headquarters base in Sevastopol for the Russian Black Sea fleet. Ukraine has its own Black Sea fleet separate from Russia.

1999 A.D.

On March 25, Ukrainian nationalist hero and presidential candidate Vyacheslav Chornovil dies in a car crash. Ukrainian nationalists believe that the crash is a well-designed assassination carried out by ethnic Russians in the Ukraine with the assistance of Russian state security forces. In spite of recent declines in popularity due to his pursuit of closer ties with Russia, Ukrainian President Kuchma is re-elected with strong support from ethnic Russians. Many Ukrainians today remain certain that his re-election was rigged with Russian help.

In August, President Yeltsin appoints Vladimir Putin as one of Russia’s three deputy prime ministers. Later that same month, Putin obtains the office of Prime Minister. He wastes no time. In a climate of political chaos, he orchestrates an effective crackdown on the separatist rebels in Chechnya in Central Russia. He also conducts a loud and well-filmed campaign against corruption that is likely more drama than substance. The giant public relations scheme is effective.

Boris Yeltsin and his family come under investigation for corruption charges in the winter of 1999. In December, the ailing Yeltsin steps down, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin becomes the Acting President of Russia.

2000 A.D.

Vladimir Putin is confirmed as the new President of Russia.

In Part Two, we will look at how the entanglements between Russia and Ukraine intensify when Putin struggles to keep the Ukraine from building strong relations with Europe and becoming part of the West, and we analyze the basis of the current situation and what it means to Western nations.