Thursday, 1 May 2014

Crunch month

May will be a hot month in Ukraine, whatever the weather. 

The war of nerves

The Kyiv government is looking wimpish at the moment, especially compared to macho Moscow. In the east it is behaving like Gandhi* while the "little green men" and their gopnik friends are acting like terrorists. This is partly down to the uncertain loyalties of the security forces in the "pro-Russian" regions". More importantly, I imagine Washington is advising Kyiv to avoid giving Moscow any pretext for intervention and telling it to hang on until the end of the month when elections will grant it legitimacy. But by then the Kyiv government's inaction might have discredited it in the eyes of voters.

There's a lot in the diary before we get to the end of the month though and, remember, Moscow can't keep its army on alert on the Ukrainian border indefinitely. You can certainly expect a furious war of words to blow up on 9 May about the "Great Patriotic War". It's "Victory Day" in Moscow, but only "Memorial Day" in Lviv Oblast. Expect Russian journalists to be sniffing round Western Ukraine for the slightest mention of Bandera and the UPA so they can whip themselves into a frothing fury about the "Neo-Nazis" in Kyiv. The media will contain lots of jingoistic polemics in which World War Two began in 1941 and the only member state of the Soviet Union was Russia.

Then we have the European elections on 22 May, when European Far Right parties will do pretty well and receive warm congratulations from Putin.

Blurred lines

Kyiv is probably following Washington's advice but do Obama and Kerry have a plan?  Again, May will show us. The latest sanctions were pretty weak. The case against stronger sanctions is the need to keep something in reserve in case Russia actually invades Ukraine. Exceptionally tough sanctions might even encourage Putin to go ahead and send the tanks in anyway. Is this a red line or another Syrian-style blurred line? Does Obama's foreign policy amount to anything more than "not being George W. Bush"? Ultimately, not being Nixon didn't work out too well for Jimmy Carter.

Eat yourself fitter

Putin's Russia is like a morbidly obese man who thinks he can cure himself by eating even more,. Moscow hopes land grabs will solve its internal problems. After all, it's worked so well in the past in Russia. As Napoleon (allegedly) said, all great empires die of indigestion. What is the mission of the Putin empire anyway? To achieve international pariah status and create an impoverished rust belt from Volhynia to Vladivistok?

The good European

It's a real tragedy that the "bad European" Lech Kaczynski died at Smolensk four years ago while the "good European" (and Gazprom's little helper) Gerhard Schroeder is celebrating his 70th with a special friend from the Kremlin. Kaczynski's "political incorrectness" with regard to Russia and Germany now look likes factual accuracy. Talking of diplomacy, word is Brussels' stocks of "grave concern" are dangerously low and may run out before the end of the month.

*Update: OK, so they appear to have ditched the Gandhi act this morning (Friday).

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