Putin’s Ukraine proposal should be explored

By Jonathan Power

To its credit the Soviet Union and its successor state, Russia, has long supported UN peacekeeping, a practice that originated in 1960 in the time of UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, who evolved the concept during the great Congolese civil war when it was in danger of becoming a Cold War flashpoint.

But what Russia has never contemplated is UN troops in its own backyard. “Summoning the UN deep into Russia’s historical space is a serious step”, Dmitri Trenin, head of the Moscow Carnegie Centre, told The Economist recently.

There does seem to be a shift in Moscow’s thinking on this highly sensitive issue.

Last month President Vladimir Putin put forward a plan for the deployment of UN troops in south-eastern Ukraine. Not that he imagines their use along the Russian-Ukrainian border – that would be too much – but he wants them to divide the fighting forces inside Ukraine. Read More »

Ukraine should become a buffer state

By Jonathan Power

August 1, 2017

Now a few recent words from Jack Matlock who was US ambassador to Moscow under presidents Reagan and Bush senior:

“The Ukraine crisis is a product, in large part, of the policy of indefinite expansion of Nato to the east. If there had been no possibility of Ukraine ever becoming part of Nato, and therefore Sevastopol (the ex-Soviet naval port in Crimea) becoming a Nato base Russia would not have invaded Crimea.”

He goes on to say: “Americans have lived for nearly two centuries with the Monroe Doctrine [which forbids non-Americans to seize land or intervene in Latin America]. Why don’t we understand that other countries are sensitive about military bases from potential rivals not only coming up to their borders, but taking land which historically they have considered theirs.

These are extremely emotional issues – issues that are made to order for any authoritarian leader that wants to strengthen his rule”. In a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Lukin, vice-president of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adds a point: “It was only a matter of time before Russia finally reacted to Western encirclement”.

Matlock’s final point is that, “You have almost a clique in Washington that just can’t look at any atrocity in the world without wanting the US to get involved militarily.” [Despite Iraq and Libya which are falling to pieces, perhaps to be followed by Afghanistan.]

Matlock was the top Soviet expert in the Reagan Administration before he became ambassador. His great predecessor in this role, George Kennan, went to his grave warning that an expansion of Nato would be totally counterproductive.Read More »

Will Ukraine hold referendum on NATO membership?

By Jan Oberg

Here is the background to an interview in which I question the validity of the opinion poll that President Poroshenko refers to as an argument for holding a referendum on NATO membership for Ukraine.

There are strong indications that it is a commissioned research, financed by neo-cons at the International Republican Institute, IRI, in the US of which Kiev mayor and Poroshenko ally, Vitali Klitschko is member of the international advisory board. IRI is funded by, among others, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which is believed to be close to CIA.

The video interview, details and links here.

TFF PressInfo # 389: Ukraine as the border of NATO expansion

And why Russia doesn’t have to be a threat to the West

By Jan Oberg

TFF Series ”The New Cold War” # 7

If the Ukraine conflict is the centerpiece of the new 2nd Cold War, it is essential to ask: What really happened? What did NATO countries do to cause it? What did Russia do to cause it?
And – if you live in the West, in particular: Did we really have to end in this situation given Russia’s significant weakness over 25 years?
This article argues that the superior West could have played its cards differently and it’s time for self-critical soul-searching and just a little living yourself into the shoes of the other.
If peace rather than war is your true aim.

There was a beginning and a framework

The Ukraine conflict has a 25-years history. Instead of dissolving NATO, the alliance was expanded. Relieved from there being a Soviet Union and a Warsaw Pact, the alliance went as fast it could to do all it wanted. Remember, a series of WW III scenarios has been written in which that war would start with some uncontrollable event in Yugoslavia. Now it could be chopped up – freely and without risk. Serbia was bombed and Kosovo carved out without a UN mandate whatsoever (1999).

How did they think about that in the Kremlin at the time, one must wonder?

Clinton literally did not give a damn about all the promises made to Soviet leader Gorbachev by US leaders such as Bush, James Baker and German leaders including Hans-Dietrich Genscher. (Yes, they were not written down but confirmed by those involved and present).

He began the expansion of NATO in 1994 – in Georgia (see what I refer to elsewhere in this series). All around a Russia on its knees Americans were placed in the offices of prime ministers, defence and foreign ministers – I saw it myself in former Yugoslavia – and met CIA people in Croatia disguised as humanitarian workers. And had a long conversation with the representative of the US in Tblisi in 1994. Historical moment!

The bad Christians, the Orthodox, were the Serbs and Russians and Greeks – all should be antagonized and the good guys in Yugoslavia were those who had been on the fascist side in WWII – the leaderships in Croatia, Muslims in Bosnia and the Kosovo Albanians. The Serb minority that had lived 400 years as a minority in the Croatian republic were, in the common Western discourse, invaders masterminded by strongman Slobodan Milosevic – whom Clinton without hesitation called the new ’Hitler of Europe’.

Ukraine was – and remains – what its name says: the border areas (like Krajina in Croatia). This is where NATO can establish itself as little as Chruschev could get away with deploying nukes in Cuba – considerably further away from the US, but anyhow.

Imagine – with a little bit of empathy (not necessarily sympathy) how Washington would react if today Putin’s Russia was 12 times stronger militarily than the alliance-free US (NATO dissolved 25 years ago) and tried with his alliance of 27 other members to make Canada or Mexico the 29th member. Perhaps most people in the US and Europe would have some sympathy for the negative reaction of Washington. Rand remember, Trump wants to build a wall to Mexico…

The main reason, it is stated again and again, in the Western press, NATO and other political circles is: Ukraine and Crimea. The lie about Putin’s aggression on Ukraine is told so many times that it is becoming the truth. Just see these two recent articles by Newsweek as two of hundreds of articles.

Here’s the chosen story in politics and media alike

The narrative is simplified beyond recognition and goes like this:

Putin (there is always just one top guy in Western eyes and it is one leader at the top like Milosevic, Mohamed Farah Aideed, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khaddafi, al-Assad) is a bad guy and you know that because out of the blue his suddenly annexed Crimea. By that he changes the borders of Europe and then he gets his disguised soldiers into Eastern Ukraine – a Ukraine that we, in contrast to Bush Senior, care very very much about today.

We care so much about it that Read More »

Ukraine, a frozen conflict

By Jonathan Power

It’s two years since a mass of demonstrators brought down the centrist government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

We don’t hear much about Ukraine these days, mainly because the foreign journalists, not having too much to do – and often being freelance and therefore only paid by the number of lines they get printed – have gone home or to other hot spots.

Most of the news these days comes out of the Washington-based IMF that repeatedly warns that the economy of Ukraine teeters on the brink and that corruption remains so deep and widespread that it is difficult, to say the least, to get good economic decisions made. Often the government appears to be checkmated by an unsympathetic parliament where the representatives of the oligarchs, who prefer the status quo, wield their power.

To compound the problems – which will surely continue even if Russia, the EU and the US find a common political and military solution – fighting in the east has now resumed. Fortunately, the main truce, agreed at Minsk a year ago by the heads of government of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, is maintained and these short flare-ups tend to happen every couple of months.

Winding the clock back to two years ago, the demonstrators in the Maidan,Read More »

Making peace arrive in Ukraine – bring in the UN

By Jonathan Power

September 15th 2015.

On the last day of last month right wing demonstrators, mostly from neo-fascist movements, hurled themselves against the police in Kiev’s Maidan square, the same place where in February 2014 a more heterogeneous group of demonstrators effectively ousted President Viktor Yanokovych. A grenade was thrown and three people died and 120 were hospitalized, mostly policemen.

In an address to the nation President Poroshenko blamed the clashes on nationalistic forces, calling their actions “a stab in the back”. Finally the Western powers raised a voice of condemnation, although over the last year they have made little criticism of the rightist militias and parties.

That is perhaps because it would interfere with their narrative – that the demonstrators that overthrew Yanukovych were of a liberal, democratic hue. The overwhelming majority were. But the ignored fact is that the people who led the crowd and fired the bullets when the demonstrations turned ugly were these very same rightists.

Some of the leaders of the neo-Nazi organisations, especially Svoboda, went on to be appointed to senior positions in government and parliament.

The BBC’s Ukraine correspondent, David Stern, reported on September 1st: “The explosion in Maidan comes weeks after another armed incident involving volunteer militia with ties to the extreme right – a shoot out between members of the so-called Right Sector and the local police in south-western Ukraine. Although the militias have been nominally integrated into government structures, many wonder how much control Kiev actually exercises.”

The main gripe of the protestors is that Read More »

Frontline Ukraine: Appallingly, we in the West have been more misled than the Russians

By Jonathan Power

“The Ukrainian Armed Forces logbook recorded 77 violations on 9 July, while the Russian Federation Armed Forces logbook recorded 115. Both sides attributed a smaller proportion of ceasefire violations to the Ukrainian Armed Forces”, reports the Organisation For Security And Cooperation In Europe (OSCE) which has been charged with monitoring the cease-fire, and includes Russia as a member.

“Not once but now twice – once last week – one of the Ukraine Maidan regime’s allied parties, the neo-fascist Right Sector (RS), has claimed responsibility for the 2nd May, 2014, terrorist pogrom in which 48 activists opposed to the Western-backed Maidan regime in Kiev were killed; most of them burned alive as Ukrainian ‘nationalists’ shot at them, tossed three Molotov cocktails into their building and sang the Ukrainian national anthem.”, writes Gordon Hahn today, a highly respected expert on Ukrainian and Russian affairs.

So who is right and who is wrong?

Of course the first quote above simplifies a horrifically complicated situation and is only true for one area. Nevertheless, this snapshot shows that the Russian observers can be fair. As I write both sides – the Ukrainian government’s army and the Russian-supported rebels – are fighting flat out to take control of Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine – again reported on by the OSCE.

Although many areas of the East are quiet the cease-fire negotiated by President Vladimir Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande is in danger.

Politically, the situation appears to be almost stalemated. Read More »

How to end the war in Ukraine

By Jonathan Power

According to BBC World in a broadcast yesterday morning its considered opinion is that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels battle US-backed Ukrainian forces, is working. There are still too many skirmishes, too many guns and mortars being fired but the big guns are largely silent. President Vladimir Putin said the other day that both sides have been guilty of transgressing the cease-fire.

Both the Russians on one side and the US and Nato on the other have been playing with fire with their support of the two sides. And who suffers?- the ordinary inhabitants of the eastern provinces. However pro-Russian they were before all the fighting began they are now largely convinced the rebels killing in their name no longer represent them. The businesses they work for or own are working at half power or less. Unemployment has soared. Homes have been decimated. Pensions are unpaid. Hospitals find it increasingly hard, struggling to deal with extra patients and a curtailed drug supply.

In Moscow, among thinking people, it has become clear that Russia should have no interest in taking over large swathes of Ukrainian territory Read More »

UN peacekeepers to Ukraine – Yes!

Jan Oberg

By Jan Oberg

Deployment of UN peacekeepers should be agreed with both sides of Ukrainian conflict, says Lavrov — RT Russian politics.

Ukraine has – wisely – suggested that UN Peacekeepers be stationed in Eastern Ukraine. Russia’s foreign minister sounds positive.

That is important and good news – the most constructive for a year.

To get the UN peacekeepers into the conflict zone has been one of TFF’s proposals since the fighting broke out.

In October 1991, TFF was also the first to suggest that the UN be deployed to Croatia. It actually was a few months later thanks to Cyrus Vance, the former U.S. Secretary of State, who in his role as mediator was working on exactly that when he received our report and we then met him a late evening in Belgrade.

Conclusion: Never give up constructive pro-peace proposal-making. One day they do become relevant – when people find out that violence was not such a brilliant idea.

TFF PressInfo # 314: From preventing to making peace in Ukraine

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

Lund, Sweden, March 13, 2015

If the parties continue this way, there will be no peace in Ukraine but probably war in Europe. With a little out-of-the-box thinking, we could move in a safer direction.

You’ve heard everybody involved in the Ukraine conflict solemnly declare that there is no military solution.

And what do they all do? Right, they militarise the situation further, use bellicose language, speak bad about each other, take provocative steps, use propaganda and flex their military muscles. It’s thoughtprovokingly thoughtless.

These men – sorry, but the are all men – who are competent in war and other violence run our world. They are conflict and peace illiterates embedded with MIMACs – Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complexes – which exist in both Russia, EU, NATO and the U.S.

It’s not about evil – they are probably all good spouses, nice to their children or grandchildren and enjoy literature, painting or music in their few hours of leisure. But the system they operate inside is as evil as it is dangerous for us all, for the world’s future.

Their problem – and thus your and my problem – is that they just don’t have a clue about peace-making. No education, institutions or advisers in civilian conflict-management.

And since they lack that they fall back on the convenient but proven illusion that peace will come if we just force “the other” to back down.

And since there is no lack of (tax payers’) money to fund weapons (only to fund social and cultural development) and these weapons are on the government shelves that’s what they use – instead of their intelligence and empathy. 

Far fetched?

If you think so, take a look at these facts:Read More »