inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #51 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Tue 8 Apr 14 15:44
    
First, I think it was a mistake of NATO officials to make these
comments - member states can. But NATO implies military, and there is
no role NATO will play in this  period - so it is a false promise and
meaningless.  If Russia moves into eastern Ukraine, NATO members might
do more to harden their defenses, and that might be what NATO means
(which is something Moscow would not want).  But generally for NATO to
comment is like pooring gasoline on the fire - I think its a mistake. 
Better read is SECSTATE Kerry and comments from German officials - who
have signaled that we can go with the status quo - but if Russia does
intervene further then the sanctions will escalate.  This is what Kerry
means when he says we would match 19th century actions with 21st
century responses.  I believe they are serious about a willingness to
ratchet up economic pain on Russia, especially the Germans.  If so, we
would be well served to be prepared for economic costs as Russia could
simply absorb sanctions, or it could strike back on them.  Still, Putin
is also agreeing to meetings with the interrum gov't in Kiev, along
with EU and Kerry next week.  So my own sense is they are now showing
they can stir instability in east, to create leverage - and that they
would rather do that than actually intervene militarily as that would
be both operationally, politically, and economically problemmatic. 
That said, it is also possible that things in the east could get out of
control - though today they seemed to calm somewhat.  I'm not alarmed
by pictures of fights in the Ukrainian parliament - that has happened
frequently, actually, relatively speaking over the years.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #52 of 133: Angie Coiro (coiro) Tue 8 Apr 14 23:54
    
>>If so, we would be well served to be prepared for economic costs as
Russia could simply absorb sanctions, or it could strike back on
them.<<

The "we" in this case meaning NATO - all members across the board - or
the US in particular?

Earlier in our conversation you talked about the long game for the US
and NATO - "The trick over the long term will be to gradually find ways
to see Putin decoupled from his public's desire to be seen as
respected and important in the world.  That his reckless behavior is
doing damage to that."

It may sound contradictory to that goal, but in the short term - can a
way be found to let Putin save face while decelerating? The Russians
can't be persuaded overnight that he's acting contrary to their
interests. How can NATO and/or the US cater to his desire to keep his
public image intact while still reaching compromise?
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #53 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Wed 9 Apr 14 06:16
    
If there were a true tit-for tat sanctions escallation it would ravage
both the Russian economy and the Eurozone.  And if the Eurozone goes
back into significant recession, that will damage the global economy,
ours as well.  So in addition to Russia being a weak country with
nuclear weapons, this is also a major reason to seek de-escalation.

It is also why they are in fact trying to signal off-ramps for Putin. 
And their main concern is not Crimea, its ensuring he chooses to not
go further into eastern Ukraine.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #54 of 133: Angie Coiro (coiro) Wed 9 Apr 14 11:46
    
This NYTimes analysis sees military aggression as possible, but only
if the "real goals" of Russia aren't met:

<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/world/europe/russia-plotting-for-ukrainian-i
nfluence-not-invasion-analysts-say.html>

Sean, Igor - can you address the competing views of what stronger
governorships, less centralized power would mean for Ukraine? 
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #55 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Wed 9 Apr 14 12:37
    
Long and short of that is that it would mean a de-facto veto over
national affairs for Russia via influence in the decentralized
"federal" areas - i.e. both on national policy, but especially on
foreign alignments.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #56 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Wed 9 Apr 14 12:41
    
This is, I should add, one thing I think that the Russians will not
get - but something they too will give up if we and Kiev agree to a
permanent neutrality/non-NATO status for Ukraine.  I personally believe
that is a no-brainer since we have zero intentions of ever putting
Ukraine in NATO in any event and there is zero support for it within
NATO which requires complete consensus to even put considering it on
the agenda. That is a decision Ukraine ultimately has to take, it
should not be forced on them by anyone, but it would be, I think, in
everyone's mutual interest, especially if they can pursue EU gradual
association.  This gives Putin a face saving way out, we lose nothing,
gain stability, and Ukraine can focus on its economy.  

But the flip side of it is - would Russia accept a foreign country
saying it had to make constitutional changes and give other countries a
de-facto say in their foreign policy alignments?  Of course not. 
Meanwhile, we would never tolerate any other power putting their
military influence right up into our backyard either...
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #57 of 133: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Wed 9 Apr 14 22:08
    

There are now media reports that Ukraine has halted the transit of
Russian gas to the West.

If the Russians do invade, I suspect that Ukraine could blow up the
pipeline in a hundred places or more- the gas pipeline equivalent of
the old "MAD" nuke standoff.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #58 of 133: Igor Karpov (karpov) Wed 9 Apr 14 22:59
    
I could not find anything similar to these reports. 
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #59 of 133: Igor Karpov (karpov) Thu 10 Apr 14 01:50
    
<54> Sean, I suppose that Ukraine should be a federal state from the
very start. Maybe we would not have a confrontation like the current
one then.
I hope that federal system would allow people in different areas of
Ukraine to live according to their views and their culture. If we are
so different, why to pretend we can easily live together?

I love the idea of bilingual state where Ukrainian and Russian
languages are equal without any reservations but if Lviv want to speak
exclusively Ukrainian, I don't care. Let them speak Ukrainian. If
Crimea wants speak only Russian, let them speak the language they want.
If Western Ukraine tends to be Catholic, and the Eastern regions are
Orthodox, why not?

But I don't want anybody imposing their language or their values.

And if eventually we find out that two parts of Ukraine still can't
tolerate each other this could give us a change to split apart
peacefully, as Czechoslovakia did.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #60 of 133: Angie Coiro (coiro) Thu 10 Apr 14 20:37
    
Intriguing scenario, Igor. Do you see that as realistically possible? 

Sean, Sen. John McCain has been very verbal this week, slamming the
President for not supplying arms to Ukraine, and wrassling with Kerry
at a Senate hearing over the extent of the sanctions:

<http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-crisis/kerry-vs-mccain-sharp-words-fl
y-senate-hearing-n74896>

<http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/europe/202850-mccain-blasts-administra
tion-amid-latest-russian-aggression>

Excerpts:

>>At a Senate hearing, McCain lashed out at Kerry for only imposing
limited sanctions against Russia and for suspending Russia, not
removing it, from the group of international powers known as the G-8.

“My hero Teddy Roosevelt used to say talk softly and carry a big
stick,” McCain said. “What you’re doing is talking strongly and
carrying a very small sick. In fact, a twig.”

McCain, R-Ariz., also laid into the administration for not giving
Ukraine weapons to defend itself against Russia. He called it “the
logic of appeasement.”<<

>>Ukraine needs defensive weapons, McCain said, such as protective
equipment, spare parts and other supplies to defend itself against
Russia. 

“By withholding military assistance, the Administration may think it
is reducing the risk of further conflict. In fact, the opposite may be
true: This decision will appear to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin
as yet another sign of weakness, which may only invite further
aggression,” he added.

McCain called the latest events by demonstrators in Ukraine “deeply
troubling” and said they appear to be right out of Putin’s
“playbook.”<<

It's not new for McCain and the GOP to gripe about Obama's "weakness".
And obviously, your ideas on de-escalation might not dovetail with the
scenario he sees playing out. Beyond that - any thoughts on his
specific comments? How much company does he have? (Unless he's being
all mavericky again.)
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #61 of 133: Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 10 Apr 14 20:45
    


sort of an ill-formed question: have read so much in the last few years
about the oligarchs (i'd call them kleptocrats, but whatever), mafiya,
money-laundering in the west, corruption of all kinds in putin land --- that
i have been wondering about non-state actors/what would benefit them in this
mess/how much their concerns are driving is going on.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #62 of 133: Igor Karpov (karpov) Thu 10 Apr 14 22:25
    
>>Intriguing scenario, Igor. Do you see that as realistically
possible?<<

I don't know. I believe it was possible before all recent events.
Maybe now the tension is too strong and it's too late.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #63 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Fri 11 Apr 14 05:08
    
Hi All,

Sorry I missed these comments last night.  On McCain - honestly, I
don't think he carries much weight.  He is deeply out of touch with the
foreign policy "mood" of the country if we look at polls, and he seems
to fail to understand that it is is assertive posturing that is
largely feeding isolationist trends at home.  There are, nonetheless, a
wide range of ideologically driven sentiments on what we should be
doing in Ukraine that have driven our policy right up to where it is at
today - mainly by neoconservatives, but also by liberal
internationalists too.  They do not stop to question their policies,
and personally speaking I think there is very little accountability in
Washington for being consistently wrong, as Sen. McCain has been. 
Interestingly though he also doesn't represent growing views in the
Republican party on foreign policy which is increasingly driven by the
Tea Party.

Additionally, McCain's policies would do serious damage to the
existing consensus in NATO as to how to approach this conflict, as most
allies would recoil at this approach.  Moreover, even just
practically, the kinds of weapons assistance he is talking about can't
just be thrown in somewhere - they require training and experience with
them.  Finally, it ignores the fact that we have no treaty obligation
to Ukraine and that this approach would feed right into Putin's
narrative about the very nature of the crisis.

The oligharchs in Ukraine have sway - one is going to run for
president - a chocolatier if I recall rightly.  And one of the
wealthiest has been setting himself up as a broker in the eastern
parts.  Ultimately, Ukraine would have to dis-assemble this corrupt way
of doing business if it wants our $25 billion or so in loans it will
need to just get through this year.  Those will be deeply destablizing
to the country, but have to be done.  Anti-corruption, not
anti-Russian, was the primary initial cause of the protestors.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #64 of 133: Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 11 Apr 14 08:12
    
wrt the oligarchs, i had just been wondering how -they- want things to play
out, whether it's the russian ones or the ukrainian ones.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #65 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Fri 11 Apr 14 16:05
    
Ah, well they tend to want things to play out in ways that protect
their money.  There are a mix in Ukraine, as I understand it between
those that lean west and towards Russia - but that the ones that lean
towards Russia also would go west if their money was threatened.  As to
Russia, they are tight in with Putin now, but in a few months that
could well change if he plays his cards badly.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #66 of 133: Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 11 Apr 14 16:14
    
right. just having read how much $ has been laundered thru the brit banking
system, idly wondering if this ends up having ukraine-associated policy
consequences.

anyway, we shall see
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #67 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Fri 11 Apr 14 16:32
    
I'd have to recheck it but its my recollection that the British were
very concerned that sanctions not hit on Russia that would finance
problems in the City of London.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/15/ukraine-crimea-sanctions-
russian-investment-london

That said, if things did significantly escalate on sanctions my guess
is London would be there - and Germany would be too.  That said, I
think they also all hope very much to avoid that.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #68 of 133: searchlight casting (jstrahl) Sat 12 Apr 14 20:59
    
Whoever sends out memos to keep things under control didn't do a good
job today.
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-12/liberation-southeast-ukraine-has-begu
n-says-crimea-vice-premier
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #69 of 133: Angie Coiro (coiro) Sun 13 Apr 14 00:04
    
Things do look increasingly messy:

<http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/13/world/europe/ukraine-crisis/>

Anything unexpected here, Sean? Have any specific lines been drawn
that this is threatening to cross?

The CNN story brings in this hint of what life is like on the scene:

>>Avakov posted: "Anti-terrorist operation has started in Slaviansk.
It is managed by Anti-terrorist Center of the Security Service of
Ukraine. All the law enforcement agencies of the country are
participating. God speed! "

He added later: "Tell all civilians to leave the center of town -
don't leave your apartment, or go to the window. Separatists opened
fire on the special forces without negotiations."<<

Sad.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #70 of 133: Igor Karpov (karpov) Sun 13 Apr 14 03:43
    
Amazingly, the minister has a bad habit to communicate with the
citizens via Facebook. Though he's not the only one.

He wrote that 'government' forces has at least one SBU officer killed
and few injured. The other side supposedly has suffered casualties but
no details. It is reported that the commandos destroyed one checkpoint.
Assault weapons, including grenade launchers, was used.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #71 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sun 13 Apr 14 04:58
    
Nothing especially surprising - the west has pretty clearly indicated
there is nothing it can or will do to stop these trends in Eastern
Ukraine - other than to make clear it sees Putin's hands in it and that
the punishment for escalation by Putin will be much more signfiicant
economic pain and a closing of the offramps that have been hinted at
for him so for.  I continue to believe that, to the extent these things
can be controlled (as they are very fluid) Putin would likely
preference seeing this kind of instability persist but without
large-scale intervention knowing the overstretch operationally it would
entail, and the economic risks associated.  Goal is to set terms for
discussion in long-term status of Ukraine so if that is the case, then
no, no real surprises so far...
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #72 of 133: searchlight casting (jstrahl) Sun 13 Apr 14 10:52
    
Putin knows nothing will be done, even if he sends his army over the
border. Europe needs Russia's energy far more than Russia needs the EU.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #73 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sun 13 Apr 14 11:26
    
That's mostly right, I think - except that last part - Russia needs
the market to sell the gas to - they really need to that money back
into their economy, especially with the combined capital flight and
risk of other sanctions - its the main think keeping their economy
afloat, and allowing them to finance debt.  If they lose the European
market that would send their economy into a tailspin.  It would
however, as you also point out, reep havoc on the European economy at a
very fragile time for the Eurozone "recovery" - which hangs still on
the balance in the ongoing serious problems in places like Greece and
Ireland (even though both are financing on open markets, a mild breeze
of instability would send both reeling) - and, if the Eurozone goes
back into recession it would hae a serious impact on our recovery.  So
the incentives are still there for de-escalation - but the situation is
fluid and its possible we could end up in a sanctions war that no side
wanted but a chain of events that got out of control led to....
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #74 of 133: searchlight casting (jstrahl) Sun 13 Apr 14 17:38
    
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-13/ukraine-mobilizes-military-gives-ulti
matum-russia-slams-escalation-criminal-yanukovi

Reportedly due to the fatal clashes with security forces, Ukraine's
government has given the occupiers of public buildings in Eastern
Ukraine till 9AM local time tomorrow (2AM EDT, 11PM PDT) to give up or
else its military forces will go in.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #75 of 133: Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Mon 14 Apr 14 04:20
    

Sean, digging around on the internet they say Russian capital flight
doubled recently.  I would think there would be regulations to limit
capital flight.

How does capital flight work in Russia? (or at least one or 2
examples)

Is there any index as to what has happened since the Ukraine crisis
with Russian capital flight? 

What motivates Russian oligarchs?
Is there any short/mid/long term profit for them in Putin's current
moves?
  

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