The Widdershins

Remain Calm, Etc. : Game of Thrones

Posted on: April 24, 2014

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  Things are happening in the Ukraine at a rapid pace.  I freely confess that, despite being a child of the Cold War, I do not have enough regional knowledge or savvy to walk us through any discussion.  Therefore, we have asked our DYB to update us on this geopolitical nightmare, and he has graciously agreed to do so.   ChatbluPutin Bully

It has now been one month since Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine and ran into Russia’s welcoming arms.  After a hastily arranged vote, overseen by armed men without any country’s insignia (at the time Putin declared the armed men were not Russian.  After all, he smirked, you can buy a soldier’s uniform in any costume shop), the public voted overwhelmingly to secede.  The Crimean government claimed that turnout was over 95% and that of those 83% voted to join Russia.  This is a little odd considering Ukrainians make up about 25% of the Crimean population and Tatars – very much not friends of the Russians – 12%.  I always thought Russians had superior math skills and perhaps this proves everyone else has been doing it wrong this whole time.  Still, Putin eagerly declared the election legitimate and quickly accepted Crimea back into the Russian fold.  The UN decried the vote as a sham.  And new report by the UN found “killings, torture and arbitrary arrests in the buildup to the March referendum that led to its annexation by Russia.”

They said they heard numerous reports of vote rigging in the March 16 referendum, when residents of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to unite with Russia, and expressed concerns about the conditions under which the vote took place, citing harassment and abductions of journalists and activists who were opposed to it, as well as the presence of armed militias.

Some of the journalists and activists who disappeared have since been released, but had been tortured, the report said.”

And Putin also finally admitted in his annual marathon Q&A on Russian television that the uniformed soldiers were Russian after allSo what?  You want to make a federal case out of that?  How else can you ensure a fair and balanced vote if not by presence of your own armed militia?

With Crimea essentially gone the situation in the Ukraine is not improving.  Putin is a master destabilizer.  His forces (he says they’re not his, but see what he said about the soldiers in Crimea wearing costumes, not Russian uniforms) have declared their independence from Ukraine in at least 10 towns in Eastern Ukraine.  Putin expressed his shock at the whole thing, claiming Ukraine is on the brink of a civil war.  One can only recall the immortal moment in “Casablanca” when Claude Rains can’t believe there is gambling going on in Rick’s back room.

“Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. It is scary. And I hope that everyone who is responsible for making decisions at the moment — I mean both, the current Ukrainian authorities, who we can’t consider legitimate, but these are the authorities who came to power as result of a coup — has brains to avoid driving the country to such shocks,” he said at a news conference Tuesday in Moscow.

It is really astonishing to hear Putin talk about it as if he has played no role in the fiasco.  He is pretending to remain outside of it all.  Who?  Me?  What did I do?  He is not delusional. He’s simply playing his part in destabilizing Ukraine, so he can then walk in and say his presence is essential to keep the country from tearing itself apart.  And, naturally, to protect the ethnic Russians.  The same ethnic Russians who handed out flyers to people leaving a synagogue in Donetsk – one of the towns that has declared its independence from Ukraine – ordering all Jews older than 16 years of age to register with the authorities or have their possessions confiscated.  (And for all this trouble they must pay a fee of 50 US dollars.)

 

 

So far the Ukrainian authorities have not done much to stop the pro-Russian militias from occupying public buildings and declaring their independence.  The authorities are asking them nicely and are having exactly the results you’d expect.  Of course going after them with force will leave Ukraine with the prospect of having Putin declare that ethnic Russians are being abused and require Russian military to protect them.  It’s hard to win here.  But it’s also hard to see what Putin thinks he’s going to achieve.  Yes, the Soviets have always thought of Ukraine as an extension of Russia itself.  (Putin has already started calling the Eastern part of Ukraine “New Russia.”)  And he certainly would love nothing more than to have Ukraine in its own sphere, instead of European, which is where much of Ukraine would prefer to be.  If nothing else, it would be a nice middle finger to Europe and the US, which have long tried to bring Ukraine into their fold.  (But not into NATO; contrary to what Putin keeps saying, there were no plans for Ukraine to join NATO.  Not from NATO’s side, not from Ukraine’s.)  But occupying Ukraine with Russian military would work out about as well as US’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  That would truly unleash chaos.  It would cost Russia not just blood, but also a colossal amount of money.  It is money it doesn’t actually have. Its economy, which exists only because of its reserve of natural gas, shrank enormously even before the Ukrainian fiasco and the (fairly weak) sanctions Europe and US have imposed.  Putin might be the biggest rock star of Russia today.  But when the economy shrinks to levels not seen since Yeltsin’s catastrophic rule (which the public probably remembers well), Putin’s popularity will sink along with the mood of his people.  And no amount of his media’s anti-Western/anti-gay/anti-Ukrainian propaganda will help with a cold and starving populace.  And Putin, if there is an ounce of brain matter left in his head, knows it.

Meanwhile in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, authorities are gearing up for new elections on May 25th.  So far the leading candidate for Presidency appears to be the billionaire Petro Poroshenko, the Chocolate King owner of a massively successful confectionary manufacturing group.  Poroshenko largely subsidized the Maidan protestors with supplies, which has already led to pro-Russian forces to accuse him of staging the entire coup so he can be President.  This is when they are not blaming the US of staging the coup, when they are not blaming Europe of staging the coup, when they are not blaming neo-Nazis of staging the coup.  My mother said on Russian television they were speculating that the US intended for the coup to take place in 2015, but somehow the plan got away from them.  Don’t ask because I can’t explain what that means either.  The boxer Vitali Klitschko, who initially intended to run for office himself, has since declared that he will support Poroshenko instead.  Yulia Timoshenko, former darling of the Orange Revolution and President who spent years in prison on legitimate charges but politically motivated prosecution for corruption, is running too. (The man who put her there was Victor Yanukovich – who fled Ukraine but insists from his safe house in Russia that he is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine – was found to have a personal palace with his own private zoo, lake, large collection of expensive cars and a golden toilet.  But these are just details.)

And in a meeting in Geneva (in the same hotel where in 2009 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once gave her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov the infamous “Reset” button) Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the US came together to try to stabilize the situation and were wildly successful at being laughably pointless.  Although I suppose we can at least be grateful that they didn’t throw shoes at one another.  After the meeting Russia has continued to provoke, Ukraine continues to be helpless, Europe continues to worry how it all affects their demand for Russian gas, and the US is worried about how best to stay out of the whole thing.  One thing we know for sure: Ukraine is mighty sorry they gave up their nuclear weapons in 1994.  After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine ended up with a stockpile of more nukes than the UK, France and China combined.  But they agreed to give up the nukes and shipped them back to Russia.  Russia, the US and the UK then signed the Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances promising that all countries would respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  It would appear that that Memorandum might need a new reset.

This is an open thread.

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13 Responses to "Remain Calm, Etc. : Game of Thrones"

Dear God, what a mess. At times it seems as though a two state solution would be best, but I suppose that it would also weaken the European-leaning territory as well.

Excellent post, DYB. Thank you!

I’ve been following the Ukrainian crisis mainly through coverage in The Jewish Daily Forward. They’ve done some very credible reporting on the situation, imho. Here’s a article on the flyers ordering Jews in Donetsk to register:

http://forward.com/articles/196864/the-real-truth-about-those-anti-semitic-flyers-in/?p=all

Pro-Russian fascists? Seriously?

I have no idea what’s going to happen with this mess. I saw that Obama had said add’l sanctions are “teed up”, whatever that means. I’m not going to badmouth him because i don’t know what else we can do. We could, perhaps, send in another ship or two into the Black Sea for a show of force. Also, I did read that the sanctions are having some effect. A lot of money has been moved out of Russia and the ruble is down in value.

Oh and D, thanks for doing this! Your insight into the situation has been invaluable for us!! 🙂

@6: Amen/

Oh now this is lovely:

…BIRMINGHAM NOAA WEATHER RADIO IS BROADCASTING ON A LIMITED BASIS…

THE BIRMINGHAM NOAA WEATHER RADIO TRANSMITTER…BROADCASTING ON A
FREQUENCY OF 162.550 MHZ…IS NOW WORKING ON A LIMITED BASIS.

A TEMPORARY ANTENNA HAS BEEN INSTALLED. HOWEVER…THE TEMPORARY
ANTENNA IS CLOSER TO THE GROUND AND OPERATING AT LOWER POWER. THIS
MEANS THAT AREAL COVERAGE AND QUALITY OF RECEPTION…INCLUDING
TONE ALERTS…WILL LIKELY BE REDUCED. A PERMANENT FIX MAY NOT
OCCUR UNTIL ON OR ABOUT MAY 3RD.

And the SPC in Oklahoma is saying we’ll have a good chance of severe weather toward Sunday and Monday, I believe it is. I’ll say this: when that tone goes off on the WX radios, you can’t ignore it; it’s waay too loud.

DYB, thanks so much for posting this. I’m just popping in for a second so I’ll have to read this later, but I truly appreciate your insights.

Fredster, hope all is well with you. Ice is your friend in situations like a bummed knee.

Prolix said: Fredster, hope all is well with you. Ice is your friend in situations like a bummed knee.

True, and don’t forget the Aleve to go with it!

DYB, many thanks for your work clarifying this terrible event.

Also want to thank DYB for his post. I agree with chat in #1…Dear God what a mess! I hope the Ukrainians can weather this. Putin is a monster.

Fredster, hope you are better today!

annie@11: Just trying to keep off the leg and keep it and the knee elevated for now and that is B-O-R-I-N-G. LOL!

Putin is a monster. The thing about him is he’s not an idealogical monster. He’s not religious, but he welcomes religion into the Russian government because the Church makes it easier to control the masses. The Church backs him completely.

I’m doing some work on a documentary about the Sochi Olympics and gay rights right now and it’s fascinating and heartbreaking to hear the interviews with young gays in Russia. They are seen as terrorists by the state. All violence against them is seen as legitimate. All this is coming from Putin. And the older generation backs him.

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