World View: Russia Flip-Flops on Eastern Ukraine

World View: Russia Flip-Flops on Eastern Ukraine

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Russia flip-flops on eastern Ukraine
  • Ukraine agreement leaves many questions unanswered
  • Nigeria in shock from double attack by Boko Haram

Russia flip-flops on eastern Ukraine

In a nationally televised program on Thursday, Russia’s presidentVladimir Putin described southern and eastern Ukraine as Novorossiya,or New Russia, which had been part of the Russian Empire since the 18thcentury until the 1920s when the Soviet leadership decided “For Godknows why,” to give it to Ukraine. Putin said that he “hopes he won’thave to send troops into Ukraine,” but pointed out that the Duma(parliament) had given him the power to order an invasion of Crimea if he chooses to do so. These statements were similar to the preludeto the Russian annexation of Crimea, which was justified by ahistorical narrative, and a statement by Putin that “we have nointention of annexing Crimea.”

So it was a surprise a few hours later when Russia’s foreign ministerSergei Lavrov announced that an agreement had been reached betweenRussia, Ukraine and the West to deescalate the situation. Inparticular, the agreement called for protesters to leave illegallyseized buildings. As we reported yesterday, Russia’s ambassador to the Soviet Union said that anysuch call would be “betraying” the people of eastern Ukraine. 

Russia also backed down on the demand for “federalization,” replacingit simply with a “constitutional process.” There was no mention ofbeing unaligned, which has been code word for the Russian demand thatUkraine not join NATO. 

There are several possible reasons for Putin’s flip-flop: 

  • It’s possible that Putin is lying (again), and this may simply be a ploy to gain time before a planned invasion. This is what happened with Crimea.
  • Polls have shown that most east Ukrainians want to remain part of Ukraine, so a Russian invasion would be far more difficult than annexing Crimea.
  • The West has been a lot more unified than anyone expected in imposing sanctions. The sanctions seemed little more than symbolic, but they did result in a big outflow of foreign currency reserves, thanks to nervous investors fearing future sanctions. Furthermore, NATO has been moving some of its troops and assets closer to eastern Europe.

ABC News and Russia Today

Ukraine agreement leaves many questions unanswered

Here’s the full published text of the Ukraine agreement: 

“The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreedon initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restoresecurity for all citizens. 

All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation orprovocative actions. The participants strongly condemned andrejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religiousintolerance, including anti-semitism. 

All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seizedbuildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegallyoccupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainiancities and towns must be vacated. 

Amnesty will be granted to protestors and to those who have leftbuildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, withthe exception of those found guilty of capital crimes. 

It was agreed that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission should playa leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and localcommunities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalationmeasures wherever they are needed most, beginning in the comingdays. The U.S., E.U. and Russia commit to support this mission,including by providing monitors. 

The announced constitutional process will be inclusive,transparent and accountable. It will include the immediateestablishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to allof Ukraine’s regions and political constituencies, and allow forthe consideration of public comments and proposed amendments. 

The participants underlined the importance of economic andfinancial stability in Ukraine and would be ready to discussadditional support as the above steps areimplemented.”

The first steps that would have to be: “All illegal armed groups mustbe disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned tolegitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and otherpublic places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.” Thiswould apply to eastern Ukraine cities, but it would also apply toanti-Russian “Maidan” protesters in Kiev, who are still blockadingstreets and occupying some buildings in the capital city. There couldbe some disagreements as to who has to go first.

The issue that originally triggered the months of protests andcounter-protests was a desire by many in Ukraine to sign a tradeagreement with the European Union, something that was bitterly opposedby Putin and Russia. The new agreement removes the demand thatUkraine be “unaligned,” but it’s not clear what would happen ifUkraine decided to sign the agreement after all or to apply formembership in NATO. 

As I always like to point out, major events are brought about not bypoliticians but by masses of people, generations of people, andpoliticians are irrelevant except insofar as they implement thepolicies demanded by the people. It’s a basic principle ofGenerational Dynamics that this is always true, even in adictatorship. Whether the Ukraine agreement succeeds depends on howthe pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine and the anti-Russianprotesters in Kiev deal with it. Indeed, the pro-Russian protestersmay feel betrayed, as the Russian ambassador suggested. If they standtheir ground, then Thursday’s agreement will be totally meaningless. 

By a coincidence of timing, we may know the answer within a few days.Sunday is Easter, and this is one of those rare years when the WesternEaster coincides with the Eastern Orthodox Easter. If anything canmotivate protesters in Kiev and eastern Ukraine to end their protests,it would be Easter Sunday, the holiest day in the Christian calendar.So we may know by Monday whether the terms of the agreement will bemet by the pro-Russian protesters in east Ukraine and the anti-Russianprotesters in Kiev. Guardian

Nigeria in shock from double attack by Boko Haram

First there was Monday’s massive attack on a bus station in Abuja, thecapital city of Nigeria. ( “15-Apr-14 World View — Major terrorist explosion in Nigeria’s capital kills over 70”) Then on Tuesday, Boko Haram abducted over 100 schoolgirls from aschool in northeast Nigeria. This act is supposed to be consistentwith the meaning in the Hausa language of Boko Haram: “Westerneducation is forbidden.” But stories are spreading that there’s amuch more carnal motive and that Boko Haram are using the girls assex slaves. There have been other terrorist attacks this week aswell. 

The girls have not yet been found, and excuses and statements by thegovernment, the military and police are only infuriating the parents.Parents are beginning to ignore the police and form vigilante militiasto find them. 

In recent months, Boko Haram has changed, in that their targets have become indiscriminate. It used to be that Boko Haram bombedgovernment installations and Christian churches, but now anyone andanything can be a target, with motives that are unclear. The countryis roughly half Muslim and half Christian. For Muslims, it’s clearthat the violence is all due to Islamist extremists, but Christians donot believe that Islamists would kill fellow Muslims. The result isthat the country’s population is becoming more polarized alongChristian/Muslim lines. Deutsche-Welle andCNN

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin,Novorossiya, New Russia, Sergei Lavrov, Kiev, Easter,Nigeria, Boko Haram, Abuja 

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