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« Reply #15 on: Mar 18, 2014, 05:54 AM »

Pig Putin's excuse for a referendum is wrong: Crimea isn't Kosovo – at all

Moscow and its defenders have been eager to throw a precedent back in Washington’s face. Time to call bull
Daniel W Drezner, Monday 17 March 2014 13.45 GMT   
Contrarians and critics of American foreign policy like to play a game called Less Hypocritical Than Thou. The rules are simple:

Rule No 1: seek out the narrative about a global crisis triggered by some “bad” international actor;

Rule No 2: point out the ways in which the US has done the very same thing at some point in recent history;

Rule No 3: stress the need to perceive world politics from another point of view;

Rule No 4: revel in the hypocrisy of your intellectual adversaries.

This is a fun game, especially when many pundits and officials elide obvious parallels between the crisis of the moment and recent American history. And it’s certainly been easy to play Less Hypocritical Than Thou with respect to Ukraine. When John Kerry said earlier this month that, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext”, it did not take long for social media to hoot with derision at the unironic echoes of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Less Hypocritical Than Thou seems even easier to play after Sunday’s Crimean referendum, in which votes came in overwhelmingly for joining Russia. The Ukrainian version of the game is:

Rule No 1: observe consensus about Putin as a bad, bullying actor;

Rule No 2: bring up Kosovo!

Rule No 3: point out parallels between Kosovo and Crimea;

Rule No 4: revel in the hypocrisy of your intellectual adversaries.

From Russia Today decrying American hypocrisy to to Vladimir Putin citing the “well-known Kosovo precedent” in a post-vote phone call with President Obama, the US approach to Kosovo’s independence has been the go-to case for highlighting American hypocrisy.

The parallels seem pretty obvious: not entirely unlike Crimea, Kosovo was an autonomous republic with a majority of citizens that belonged to an ethnic minority. And the ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo feared Serbian repression, just as Russians living in Crimea feared the newly-empowered Ukrainian nationalists that has assumed power in Kiev.

But there is a difference: in Kosovo, the US was supporting a region that had declared independence a decade after suffering systematic abuse and painstaking negotiations for autonomy. Right now, Moscow and Washington are arguing over what is very much the jerry-rigging of a referendum on independence – despite no evidence of abuse, no opportunity for peacefully negotiating change, all in direct contradiction of international law.

Let’s count the ways why Moscow and its defenders are sighting false precedent and taking tu quoque-ery too far:

What was the role of using force?

In 1999, without any United Nations imprimatur, NATO used lethal force to thwart Serbian actions in that autonomous republic, killing hundreds on the ground. Russia acted more stealthily and peacefully in Crimea, effectively taking control of the peninsula with nary a shot being fired.

Advantage Moscow, it would seem.

Except that Kosovars could point to a legitimate, documented trail of Serbian abuses before they declared independence. The US could point to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1199 (with Russia voting in favor) and note with concern “the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Serbian security forces and the Yugoslav Army which have resulted in numerous civilian casualties”.

In contrast, Russia acted unilaterally in Crimea – and officially, the Russian government still denies that Russian troops are the ones controlling the territory.
What was the pathway to independence?

In Kosovo, NATO’s actions left a de facto independent state. Nevertheless, Kosovo took its route to independence after nearly a decade of frustrating negotiations that tried to accommodate Serbian and Russian interests.

The Crimean referendum, mind you, was planned less than two weeks after Russia seized control of the region.

Stepping back, the big difference between Kosovo and Crimea is that the US only took action after giving diplomacy numerous chances. (Today, the sanctions are coming.) Russia, on the other hand, has chosen to occupy first and negotiate later. Cynics might argue that the outcomes have been the same. But process matters in foreign policy, and Russia’s process has been a shambles.

None of this is to say that the United States is free of hypocrisy, or that critics of US policy toward Kosovo didn’t warn that something like this would happen. Defenders of Russia’s actions in Crimea can make a case that the United States opened the door to such actions – it’s just not a terribly convincing one.

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« Reply #16 on: Mar 18, 2014, 05:57 AM »

Ukraine: a local crisis with global repercussions

In today's multipolar world, events in Ukraine may well reverberate as far away as Afghanistan and North Korea

Ian Black, Monday 17 March 2014 13.43 GMT   

If international relations are a seamless web, then the crisis over Russia's actions in Ukraine risks entangling other knotty current issues – from efforts to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, through the continuing carnage in Syria to wider disarmament ambitions.

For all the echoes of cold war days in the standoff over Crimea, its repercussions could affect some of the toughest problems of today's multipolar world, in which US power is perceived as being in retreat and Barack Obama has been criticised at home and abroad for a reluctance to use force and failure to act decisively.

Given the current tensions, it seems highly likely that wider US-Russian co-operation will become harder. That matters: without agreement between Moscow and Washington, a deal would not have been possible after last year's Syrian chemical weapons crisis, which briefly threatened a dangerous escalation of the war. And Syria's agony is still far from over.

Looking ahead, without Vladimir Putin's goodwill Obama may well find it far harder to manage the complex logistics of the long-awaited withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

On another sensitive front, analysts have warned that Iran may feel emboldened by the confrontation between Russia and the US, because so much depends on their collaboration. "From the Iranian point of view," commented George Friedman of the Stratfor consultancy, "the US urgency to make peace [with Iran], along with Russia's interest in impeding Washington's progress, could temporarily boost Tehran's leverage in talks with Washington."

Israel, which is concerned to maintain its own (undeclared) nuclear monopoly, and which is deeply suspicious of the western rapprochement with Tehran, appears worried. A Jerusalem Post correspondent warns: "Putin may strike back at western responses to his Ukrainian moves – such as trade sanctions and kicking Russia out of the G8 – by actively undermining US and western policy regarding Iran, or working against the current diplomatic process with the Palestinians."

Russia, some US officials reportedly fear, may even move to torpedo a final deal on the Iranian nuclear dossier by striking its own bilateral energy agreement outside the negotiating framework of the P5 + 1 (the five permanent members of the UN security council, plus Germany). But Sadeq Zibakalam, of Tehran University, doubted the row between Russia and the west would benefit Iran because, he said, Moscow's position was weakening.

Asian commentators have suggested that if the US and Europe allow Russia to take over Ukraine unchecked, North Korea and China are also likely to behave more aggressively in future.

The crisis looks like good news for Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad. It will surely lessen the already slim prospects of pressure from Moscow – his most important international supporter – to make any significant concessions to the rebels fighting to overthrow him.

Putin's insistence that Russian forces in Crimea are in fact Ukrainian "volunteers" echoes the crude propaganda of the Syrian war. And hopes that the Geneva II talks would map an exit strategy to end the conflict had, in any case, faded before Ukraine blew up.

It seems a long time since the famous "reset" of US-Russian relations early in Obama's first term. Progress then included the "new start" treaty to reduce nuclear weapons, and Russia's membership of the World Trade Organisation. The White House also hoped for enhanced co-operation with the Kremlin over North Korea, Afghanistan, trade, and military-to-military engagement.

Arms control experts warn now that the outcome of the Ukraine standoff will have an impact on nuclear nonproliferation. International security assurances were central to persuading Kiev to agree to get rid of its nuclear arsenal in 1994, under the terms of that year's Budapest Memorandum.

Moscow, it is worth recalling, pledged then "to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine", and "to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine".

If Washington and London fail to stand by that commitment now, it would clearly discredit the idea of such assurances. However, or whenever, this crisis ends, the ripple effect will be felt far beyond Ukraine's borders.

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« Reply #17 on: Mar 18, 2014, 09:19 AM »

Originally published March 18, 2014 at 5:42 AM

After Crimea, world anxious about next Pig Putin move

With Crimea in Russia's pocket, the world anxiously awaits the Pig's next move.



With Crimea in Russia's pocket, the world anxiously awaits Vladimir Putin's next move.

Beyond the prize of the Black Sea peninsula, a picture is emerging of what the Russian president ultimately wants from his power play: broad autonomy for Ukraine's Russian-speaking regions and guarantees that Ukraine will never realize the Kremlin's worst nightmare -- joining NATO.

The big question is whether Putin is willing to invade more areas of eastern Ukraine to achieve these goals.

In a televised address to the nation Tuesday, Putin said that Russia doesn't want a division of Ukraine. At the same time, he cast Ukraine as an artificial creation of the Soviet government that whimsically included some of Russia's historic regions.

Putin's speech made it clear that he wants the West to recognize Russian interests in Ukraine.

For the West, it all boils down to a tough dilemma over compromising with Moscow to avert military conflict or taking a hard-line stance and risking a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin has sent clear signals he could take extreme measures if he doesn't get his way on keeping Ukraine out of NATO and ensuring that Ukraine remains in Russia's political and economic orbit.

Sunday's referendum in Crimea, which overwhelmingly supported joining Russia, has also raised fears that Ukraine's eastern provinces could try to hold their own independence votes.

Protesters have seized administrative buildings in several eastern cities and hoisted Russian flags over them. Some clashed with supporters of the Kiev government, raising the danger that the Kremlin could use such violence as a pretext to send in troops.

The volatile situation plays to Putin's chief stated reason for military intervention in Ukraine: protecting ethnic Russians across the former Soviet empire. He has vowed to "use all means" to do that in Ukraine.

The Russian military has also conducted a series of massive war games alongside the 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) border between the two countries in an apparent demonstration of its readiness to intervene.

"Putin is prepared to keep on pushing," said Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if he moves into other points into eastern Ukraine."

While the West has ruled out a military response, some in Russia have struck a bellicose tone. A Kremlin-linked TV host ominously reminded viewers of his weekly news program Sunday that Russia is the only country capable of reducing the U.S. to "radioactive ashes."

The rhetoric by Dmitry Kiselyov, who is seen as a Kremlin mouthpiece, seemed to convey a grim warning to the United States and its allies that the Russian leader would stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Council of Foreign and Defense Policies, an association of political experts, said European Union and U.S. sanctions wouldn't stop Putin.

"If they want a (economic) war, so be it -- this is the current thinking in Moscow," said Lukyanov.

Putin has held regular conversations with President Barack Obama and other Western leaders -- and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Secretary of State John Kerry for six hours of talks in London last week -- with no visible result.

On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement outlining its vision of a deal:

-- Broad autonomy for Ukraine's regions that would turn the nation into a federation and would be approved by a nationwide referendum.

-- The ministry suggested that Ukraine's neutral status must be guaranteed by Russia, the United States and the EU and sealed by the U.N. Security Council, with the implicit goal of preventing Ukraine's membership in NATO.

Oleksandr Chalyi, former first deputy foreign minister of Ukraine, said the underlying cause of the conflict was Russia's concern that Ukraine would join NATO. He urged the U.S. government to agree to Russia's proposal to guarantee Ukraine's neutrality.

In a conference call hosted by the Wilson Center in Washington, Chalyi offered this scenario for defusing the conflict: "In the next days, the next hours, Russia receives a very clear message from Washington and Brussels on their proposals on the Ukrainian future: permanent neutral country with international binding guarantees."

Hill of the Brookings Institution said NATO wouldn't repeal its decision to keep the door open for future Ukraine membership.

"That's not going to happen," she said. "I don't see that NATO would do that."

It all means that many believe the two sides are staring at a deadlock that could potentially explode into violence.

"The Russians have now made the situation impossible with two demands: One demand is territorial change through the use of force. That is what just happened in Crimea," said Francois Heisbourg, an analyst at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research think tank. "The other demand is something which is actually quite unheard of in international practice since the end of the Second World War, and that is the demand by an outside power to make Ukraine into a federation."

Lukyanov said Russia's imminent annexation of Crimea would make it hard for the West to negotiate any compromise -- but that the Kremlin apparently expects unrest in eastern Ukraine eventually to push Washington and the EU into striking a deal.

"The economy will keep deteriorating, and the political situation will grow more radical," he said. "Turning it into a federation could be the only way to make the country functional."
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« Reply #18 on: Mar 19, 2014, 05:18 AM »

03/18/2014 06:02 PM

Ticking Timebomb: Moscow Moves to Destabilize Eastern Ukraine

By Uwe Klussmann and Matthias Schepp

It's not only in Crimea where Russian President Pig Putin is playing with fire, but also in eastern Ukraine. The majority of the people in the economically powerful region speak Russian and reject the new government in Kiev.

The pensioner Oxana Kremenyuk limps as she passes by the House of Culture in a small village in eastern Ukraine. As a young woman, she used to dance here. Today the stucco is crumbling and the windows are broken. "The people in Kiev are driving our country into civil war," she says. "These good-for-nothings should be slaving away the way we do here." Kremenyuk receives a pension of about €90 ($125) a month. In order to ensure there is food on the table, she keeps 10 chickens and a pig.

Kremenyuk's village of Maidan, with its three dozen homes, is a peaceful place in a gentle, hilly landscape. The village is 378 kilometers (235 miles) -- but also worlds apart -- from the Maidan in the capital city of Kiev, the Independence Square that has become known around the world since the start of the revolution. Most of the village's homes have fallen into a state of disrepair and young families moved away long ago. The people living here don't think much of the revolution taking place in the western part of the country.

Three-Quarters in East Reject Popular Revolt

In the eastern part of Ukraine, with several large cities including Donetsk, Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk, polls show three-quarters of those surveyed rejecting the popular revolt in Kiev. Between 70 and as many as 90 percent of the residents in this region say that Russian, and not Ukrainian, is their primary language. In Kharkiv, locals threw eggs at Vitali Klitchko, one of the protest leaders.

After the Crimean peninsula, eastern Ukraine has become the second powder keg in the conflict with Russia -- only it is a much larger one than the former. At the end of last week, the government in Moscow put the fuse on display.

After at least one person died and dozens were injured in clashes between friends and opponents of Russia in Donetsk, the foreign minister in Moscow warned: "Russia is aware of its responsibility for the life of compatriots and citizens in Ukraine and reserves the right to take these people under protection."

At the same time, the Kremlin again began mobilizing tank and artillery units. Some 4,000 men marched near the Ukrainian border and para-troopers also performed drills. It would be difficult to make a threat more clear.

In Kiev, politicians seemed to react helplessly. On Thursday, the Ukrainian parliament voted to establish a 60,000-strong National Guard. On Facebook, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote: "We will mobilize the guard in a very short time. It will protect the border and maintain order in the country. This is our answer to the foreign destabilization happening in the country."

But given that Maidan fighters associated with the radical "Right Sector" are also expected to join the guard, Moscow state television promptly scoffed, "They shouldn't call the troops the national guard, but rather the nationalist guard. These are the same people who shot at police in Kiev. They will follow any order to strike down pro-Russian protests in Kharkiv or Donetsk."

Will Conflict Split Ukraine?

Indeed, the conflict could ultimately split Ukraine -- with the east turning to Moscow and the west to the European Union. If that were to happen, it's possible the new government in Kiev would lose the part of the country that is most important economically because the coal mines and the steelmaking plants of the east comprise Ukraine's economic heart. The large firms are highly dependent on Russian orders. Ninety percent of Russian nuclear power plants, for example, are equipped with turbines from the Kharkiv-based high-tech firm Turboatom.

When it comes to the geo-political power-play for Ukraine, the ace up Putin's sleeve is the east, not Crimea. It would be easy for him to light the fuse there, even without a military operation.

His intelligence service agents could simply continue to prod protesters there. In order to eliminate any doubts that Kiev, Brussels and Washington might have had about Moscow's determination, Putin conducted a major maneuver at the end of February that involved 150,000 soldiers, 880 tanks and 90 fighter jets.

Konstantin Zatulin, director of the Institute of CIS Countries, claims that the Russians wouldn't even have to invade for eastern Ukraine to disintegrate. He believes that the people of eastern Ukraine will refuse to accept the political results of the revolution in Kiev, that they will create their own power structures and sabotage the national presidential election planned for May 25. "I don't think that Kiev will succeed in maintaining control over the east for long," Zatulin says.

Hawks in Moscow are hoping that rage will continue to grow among coal and steelworkers. If their good salaries and social benefits are placed at risk, they could quickly form a front against the government in Kiev.

'God Have Mercy on the New Government'

Toppled ex-President Viktor Yanukovych had barely fled to Russia, but he was already threatening, "if the workers in Donetsk rise, then God have mercy on the new government in Kiev."

In addition, Moscow is openly betting on destabilization. Part of its effort to aid this process includes the financing by the Kremlin of so-called patriot clubs and pro-Russian associations in Ukraine. During the protests in Kharkiv and also some in Donetsk, voices of firebrands shouting "Russia, Russia," could be heard -- people who had been bussed in from neighboring regions in Russia. The watches they wore showed the time in Moscow, not that in Kiev.

Among the groups involved is the Eurasian Youth Movement, headed by Aleksandr Dugin of Russia. Dugin, the son of a general, has enjoyed a remarkable rise under Putin's regime. Back in 2000, he had to receive people coming to meet with him in a narrow back room. In the past, Dugin served as the chief ideologist for the since banned ethno-nationalist National Bolshevik Party, a right-wing political grouping.

Today his treatises are published in Kremlin-aligned tabloid newspapers that have circulations in the millions. "Putin is on his way to becoming the leader of the real free world," Dugin writes. "It is only Putin who decisively confronts American hegemony. The Russian president is a bulwark against Washington's policy of installing puppet governments around the world through bloody coups."

As the head of the Center for Conservative Studies, he has even advanced to become a professor at the respected Moscow State University. His youth movement has been collecting money for a "true popular revolution in Ukraine" for weeks now. He has called on the Russian-speaking population in his neighboring country to blockade the buildings of Ukraine's SBU intelligence service and to "arm themselves and organized self-defense forces." Under the slogan, "Send tanks to Kiev," the youth movement has also been propagating a military intervention in eastern Ukraine.

The case of Kharkiv demonstrates the simplicity with which Moscow's auxiliaries can trigger a region's descent into chaos. Opponents of the West-oriented Kiev government already organized a pro-Russian conference in Ukraine's second-largest city in February. Mikhail Dobkin, the former governor the region around Kharkiv served as their leader.

On the same day, his opponents, supporters of the Kiev Maidan movement, with the aid of right-wing radical hooligans from the local football club, occupied two stories of the governor's headquarters, the region's administrative seat. They included pro-European students wearing metal-rimmed glasses, but also many men with clubs, helmets, bullet-proof vests and even a few with firearms. They said they wanted to "topple the governor."

In the hallways, the activists spread out sleeping bags on the red carpet. The occupiers' intellectual leader, poet and novelist Serhiy Zhadan, whose works have also been published internationally, proudly showed off the field kitchen they had set up in the lobby. "There's a wary, but also peaceful coexistence in the building," Zhadan said before pro-Russian protestors recaptured the two floors just one day later. Zhadan has been in the hospital ever since with a head injury.

Locals Don't Know Who Is Leading

The leaders in Kharkiv have changed in recent weeks with such frequency that many of the 1.4 million residents no longer know who is actually in charge -- not to mention whether it is someone from Moscow or from Kiev.

Two weeks ago, the new government in Kiev placed Dobkin under house arrest. Justice officials also ordered Gennady Kernes, the popular mayor of Kharkiv and one of Dobkin's most important allies, to Kiev. Prosecutors have accused him of unlawful deprivation of freedom, torture and making a death threat. "I am innocent and a victim of political revenge," Kernes claims.

Moreover, the new leaders in Kiev are doing little to integrate their Russia-friendly opponents in the east. On its second day of rule, the government introduced a law aimed at eliminating Russian as an official language -- as if the country didn't have more important problems. Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov didn't sign the law in the end, but the damage had already been done, with many Russians in the country feeling threatened.

'It Will be Easy to Bring People to the Boiling Point'

At the beginning of March, Pavel Gubarev, the head of the pro-Russian People's Militia of Donbass, declared himself the "people's governor" of the Donetsk region. Shortly before his arrest by the Ukrainian domestic intelligence agency, the Security Service of Ukraine, Gubarev met with SPIEGEL reporters in a conspiratorial apartment in downtown Donetsk and explained his plans for annexation into Russia.

"Many people write to me that they want to defend their homes against the fascists in Kiev. They have pistols, machine guns, protective shields, baseball bats and helmets," the leader said. "It will be easy to bring the people to a boiling point. They hate the Ukrainian oligarchs and their political minions."

The investigation into Gubarev is being led by the Ukrainian chief prosecutor in Kiev, a member of the nationalist Svoboda party. Gubarev's supporters have pledged militant protests to free the "people's governor."

Gubarov has already given his marching orders for the fight: "Not one step back!" It's a slogan well-known to people in the region. It originates from an order given by Josef Stalin to Soviet soldiers on July 1942 in their battle against the Nazis.

Translated from the German by Daryl Lindsey

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« Reply #19 on: Mar 19, 2014, 05:19 AM »

Hillary Clinton: Putin Wants to Rewrite Europe Boundaries

by Naharnet Newsdesk
19 March 2014, 06:39

Former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Tuesday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of attempting to "rewrite the boundaries" of post-World War II Europe.

It came as Putin signed a treaty claiming the Black Sea region of Crimea as Russian territory, as Ukraine warned the showdown had entered a "military stage" after soldiers were killed on both sides.

The treaty signing was conducted at lightning speed in the Kremlin in a defiant expansion of Russia's post-Soviet borders that has plunged relations with the West to a new post-Cold War low.

"We've got to do a better job in supporting the government in Kiev, we've got to do a better job in getting Europe to do more for themselves when it comes to energy so they're not dependent," said Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate.

"It's an effort by Putin to rewrite the boundaries of post-World War II Europe," Clinton, also a former U.S. first lady, told a conference organized by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, to applause.

"I hope there's not another Cold War, obviously nobody wants to see that. Primarily, it's up to Putin."

Clinton, who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2008, added: "The rationale that Putin uses (in Crimea) -- that they were ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, that they've always been part of Russia -- it could be extended not only to other parts of Ukraine but also to other parts of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Transnistria.

"There are a lot of places where there are ethnic Russians and Russian speakers."

Asked whether she would run for the White House, Clinton replied: "I haven't made up my mind, besides I feel a deep sense of commitment to my country and its future. I feel an obligation to do all I can for the children of my country."

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« Reply #20 on: Mar 19, 2014, 05:57 AM »

The Pig's message to the west: Russia is back

In address to adoring MPs, president makes clear the Ukraine crisis is a sign that Russia will no longer take things lying down

Simon Tisdall, Tuesday 18 March 2014 15.01 GMT   
Vladimir Putin likes to take his kit off in public. But Tuesday's exhibition of naked power by Russia's president at a joint parliamentary session in Moscow was delivered fully clothed before a conservatively suited audience of officials and adoring, applauding fans dressed up as MPs.

Speaking at a white rostrum amid flags, flourishes and gold leaf, a dapper-looking Putin's message was clear: after years of being cheated and dissed by the western powers, Russia is back. The US and friends could like it or lump it. But as the Ukraine crisis showed, Russia would no longer take it lying down.

Putin spoke primarily about Crimea, whose cause was "sacred" and whose return to the Russian fold was justified, democratic and legal. But his broader theme was that Russia was finally standing up for its rights nearly a quarter of a century after the Soviet collapse.

Russia was fully aware of the possible negative consequences in its relations with the west of Crimea's annexation, he said. But in handing over the region to Ukraine in 1954 like "a sack of potatoes", Nikita Khrushchev had erred, and now that wrong was being righted.

Crimea's independence, declared on Monday, lasted precisely 24 hours. Sugaring the pill, Putin went out of his way to placate the Tartar minority, which largely boycotted Sunday's referendum, promising equal language rights, acknowledgement of Stalin-era injustices, and full rehabilitation into a "common homeland".

The Tartars, he said, were back where they belonged – an assurance those with longer memories may find alarming.

He also pledged support for a strong, prosperous Ukraine, claiming Russia was not planning to rescue ethnic Russian minorities in "other regions after Crimea … we don't need that". This may come as a relief to politicians and pundits proclaiming a new cold war – if they believe him, that is.

At the same time, Putin directed some trademark insults at the new government in Kiev, whose leaders he said had seized power in a coup last month using "terror, violence and pogroms". These people were neo-Nazis, nationalists, antisemites and anti-Russians whose antecedents could be traced back to Adolf Hitler. "There is no one to negotiate with [in Kiev]. I'm not kidding." Following this undemocratic putsch, Russia could not possibly have left Crimea "in the lurch". To do so would have been treachery.

And anyway, he said, Crimeans had a right to self-determination, just like the people of Kosovo or any other aspiring independent nation. He did not mention Scotland. Luckily for Alex Salmond, there are not many distressed ethnic Russians on the Upper Clyde.

Putin is no orator. His delivery is wooden. His expression rarely changes. A smile seems like a concession. Even when his words grow angry and accusatory, his face remains impassive. This surface lack of feeling, concealing deep resentments, has a chilling effect.

While his address to the Duma covered a wide range of issues including relations with the US and Germany, it was in large part a 50-minute whinge, a disappointed man's whine about life's unfairness and a historical determinism that boomeranged on its most devout adherents.

Putin is a master of the politics of grievance. The sudden collapse of the Soviet Union meant that "millions" of Russians had gone to bed in one country and woken up in another. The Russian motherland – the rodina – had been divided, then preyed upon by its enemies.

It was "inconceivable" that Russia and Ukraine should have been separated, he said, but that is what had happened. The ill-fated Commonwealth of Independent States was supposed to hold the former Soviet lands together, but it had been betrayed.

The western powers led by America had wilfully destroyed the power balance of the bipolar world. "The west believed it was entrusted by God to decide the fate of other peoples," he complained. They used pressure and coalitions to get what they wanted, and if they did not, they ignored the UN security council and used military force.

This is what had happened in 1999, when Belgrade, capital of Russia's ally Serbia, was bombed by Nato. Something similar had happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Because of western exploitation and manipulation, the Arab spring had become the "Arab winter".

Russia itself, meanwhile, had been "cheated and deceived" as Nato steadily expanded eastwards, the US pursued missile defence plans, and issues such freer trade and visa liberalisation were delayed.

Putin's bitterness and bile poured out unchecked, mixed up with an apparently bolstered but unfounded confidence that the US and the EU are virtually incapable of beating back Russia's new cross-border assertiveness.

Western countries claimed Russia had broken international law by intervening in Crimea, he said. But this was sheer hypocrisy – another glaring example of the double standards displayed by the US and others. "It is good they realise international law still exists. Better late than never," he said.

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« Reply #21 on: Mar 19, 2014, 05:58 AM »

Putin condemns western hypocrisy as he confirms annexation of Crimea

Russian president makes speech laced with bluster and anger at west, saying Russia has been 'cheated again and again'

Shaun Walker in Simferopol, Tuesday 18 March 2014 13.59 GMT   
Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Crimea on Tuesday in a searing speech to assembled political elites in Moscow shot through with angry rhetoric about western aggression and hypocrisy.

The Russian president summoned the federal assembly, which includes both houses of parliament and all key political leaders, for an extraordinary session in the Kremlin's St George Hall.

Putin delivered an hour-long speech laced with patriotic bluster and anger at the west, whose politicians he said "call something white today and black tomorrow".

He was frequently interrupted by applause and at the end of the speech signed documents together with the de facto leader of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov – who came to power after seizing the local parliament at gunpoint last month – to absorb the territory into Russia.

Putin recognised Crimea as an independent state late on Monday evening, making it easier to incorporate into the Russian Federation than if it were still Ukrainian territory. Kiev has said it will never give up its claim to Crimea, but is unable to respond to Russia militarily due to the huge disparity in their respective martial forces.

Ukrainian politician Vitali Klitschko, who will stand in presidential elections in May, called on Tuesday for Ukraine to sever diplomatic ties with Russia.

Announcing the suspension of joint naval exercises with Russia and of export licences for military items to Moscow, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, said Putin had chosen the "route of isolation". The US vice-president, Joe Biden, said the world had rejected Russia's "flawed logic" and threatened further sanctions.

"In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia," said Putin, who added that ethnic Russians had found themselves isolated from the motherland when the Soviet Union collapsed, both in Crimea and elsewhere.

"Millions of Russians went to sleep in one country and woke up living abroad, as a national minority in former republics of the union. The Russian people became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, split-up nation in the world."

Putin aired a list of foreign policy grievances going back to 2000, saying "we were cheated again and again, with decisions being taken behind our back", and insisted that it was ludicrous to claim the precedent of Kosovo – which was recognised by the west as an independent country following its secession from Serbia – as unique.

"How would our colleagues claim its uniqueness? It turns out because during the Kosovo conflict there were many human casualties. What, is that supposed to be a valid legal argument?" he asked.

With the annexation of Crimea considered a fait accompli, Kiev and the west are now looking with anxiety to eastern Ukraine, where a number of protests by elements of the Russian-speaking population have ended in violence and led the Russian foreign ministry to speak about the possible necessity of "defending" Russian speakers there.

"Don't believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea," said Putin on Tuesday, going some way to allaying those fears. "We do not want a partition of Ukraine. We do not need this."

However, he reiterated his belief that Moscow feels the Kiev government is illegitimate, and also referenced long-held Russian fears of encirclement by the west.

"I do not want to be welcomed in Sevastopol by Nato sailors," said Putin, speaking of the Crimean port where Russia's Black Sea fleet is based. The city has special status within Crimea, and officially, Russia will welcome two new nations into its fold: Crimea, and the city of Sevastopol.

In Crimea itself, thousands gathered in Sevastopol to watch Putin's speech on a big screen in the main square and broke into the Russian national anthem when it was over. In the Crimean capital, Simferopol, men on ladders removed the large gold Ukrainian-language lettering on the regional parliament.

It is expected that in the coming months Crimea will switch to the rouble and introduce Moscow time and the Russian visa system. Russia will begin ratification of the treaty to formalise Crimea's annexation within days.

The grab of Crimea went ahead despite the US and EU announcing sanctions against several top Russian officials on Monday. On Tuesday the foreign ministry responded angrily to the sanctions and said reciprocal measures would be introduced.

"Attempts to speak to Russia in the language of force and threaten Russian citizens with sanctions will lead nowhere," said the ministry's statement.

"The adoption of restrictive measures is not our choice; however, it is clear that the imposition of sanctions against us will not go without an adequate response from the Russian side."
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« Reply #22 on: Mar 19, 2014, 06:08 AM »

Crimea: The Pig's imperial act

The historic atrocities in Crimea were committed by Moscow, which slaughtered tens of thousands of Tatars

Guardian G logo
The Guardian, Tuesday 18 March 2014 21.58 GMT          

So it has happened. Crimea has been annexed. A strutting Russian president sealed the fate of the once-autonomous Ukrainian republic with a speech to parliament yesterday in which he sought to wrap himself and the Black Sea peninsula together in the flag of his country. It was a bravura performance from Mr Putin, largely free of the ad hoc ramblings he indulged in at his press conference on 4 March, but nevertheless filled with purple rhetoric.

Without apparent irony he invoked his namesake St Vladimir in Russia's cause. It was in Crimea, Mr Putin said, that Vladimir, the Grand Duke of Kieff and All Russia, acquired the Orthodox Christian roots that would spread throughout Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It was in Crimea that the noble Russian soldiers lay in graves dating back to the 1700s. It was Crimea that had given birth to Russia's Black Sea navy, a symbol of Moscow's glory. In his people's hearts and minds, he said, Crimea had always been a part of Russia.

Quite how, then, his dimwitted predecessor Nikita Khrushchev had managed to hand it to Ukraine in 1954 was unclear, but that act had been a "breach of any constitutional norm" and could thereby be ignored. And by the way, Mr Putin intimated, Moscow had only failed to raise the issue of Crimea's sovereignty during previous negotiations with Ukraine because it hadn't wanted to offend its friendly neighbour. Now the west had cheated on a range of issues – Nato's expansion into eastern Europe, the "coup" in Kiev, the unnecessary prolonging of discussions over visa waivers for Europe – Russia felt inclined to accept a willing Crimea back into the fold.

So the self-justifications went on. There have been few clearer-eyed critics of Soviet-era propaganda than Milan Kundera, who once wrote that "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Watching members of the Duma wildly applaud Mr Putin, the phrase felt newly appropriate. In the modern struggle of memory, we should recall that when Mr Putin was asked two weeks ago if he considered that Crimea might join Russia, he replied "No, we do not." We should recall his assertion that the troops without insignia on Crimea's streets could have bought their Russian uniforms in local shops. And we should remember Kosovo.

Mr Putin made much of the parallel between Kosovo's secession from Serbia and Russian actions in Crimea. In fact the differences between the two cases are stark. In Kosovo in the 1990s, a majority ethnic Albanian population was being persecuted by the government of Slobodan Milosevic. The region's autonomy had been revoked, ethnic Albanians had been ousted from government jobs, their language had been repressed, their newspapers shut, and they had been excluded from schools and universities. By late 1998, Mr Milosevic's ethnic cleansing was reaching a climax: Serbian army and police units were terrorising and massacring groups of Albanians in an outright attempt to drive them out. The Kosovans' plight was the subject of intense diplomacy, which was rebuffed by Mr Milosevic's government.

In Crimea, by contrast, despite Mr Putin's characterisation of the emergency government in Kiev as "anti-Semites, fascists and Russophobes" whose tools are "terror, killings and pogroms", there have been no pogroms, little terror, no persecutions of Russian-speaking citizens bar a bid, now dropped, to rescind Russian's status as an official language. The historic atrocities in Crimea were committed by Moscow, which starved and slaughtered tens of thousands Crimean Tatars in the 1920s, before deporting them en masse in 1944. Almost half the deportees died from malnutrition and disease.

As Moscow takes a historic bite of Ukraine, Mr Putin would rather the world misremember Kosovo, or discuss the legality of the US-led invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan. The world has debated those wars before and should do so again. Today, let us see Russia's move for what it is: an illegal, neo-imperialist act.
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« Reply #23 on: Mar 19, 2014, 03:44 PM »

Hi Rad, Steve, Skywalker, Daniel ...

I was looking for the natal chart for the Russian Federation which formed upon the collapse of the former Soviet Union.  I found this data in Wikipedia:  

“In the night of 25 December 1991, at 7:32 P.M. local time, after former President Gorbachev had left the Kremlin and the Russian authorities had taken over control of the complex from the now-former Soviet authorities, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin, and the Russian tricolor was raised in its place. This historic event marked the end of the Soviet Union in the eyes of the world.”

I’m not sure if this is the correct natal chart to use for Russia, there may be others, however this one does make sense. This is the chart for this date and time in Moscow:

Steve referred to collective dynamics existing in Germany that allowed for the sociological phenomena of Hitler's rise to power. Essentially, a nation that felt powerless and victimized because of the economic conditions that were imposed by the Versailles Treaty at the end of WWI. Those feelings within the German collective were manipulated by Hitler who promised recovery and empowerment of their national 'essence' and ‘superiority’, and through the creation of scapegoats: the Jews, Gypsies, and others.

This is similar in some way in the Russian case, as Steve pointed. The fall of the Soviet Union occurred because of several reasons of course. Within these, a bottom-line reason relates to deep structural failures of their own system: the South Node in the 11th House in Cancer ruled by the Moon in Virgo, inconjunct Saturn in Aquarius in the 6th House which is the ruler of the North Node with Neptune and Uranus all in Capricorn.  

These are symbols of the traumatic collapse of ‘ideals’ of an utopic society, in which however the ideals and their philosophical basis were at odds with the real society itself-Neptune/Uranus in Capricorn conjunct the North Node, the Moon, ruler of the 12th House, in Virgo, Jupiter in Virgo in the 1st House.
With Pluto being in the 4th House Scorpio, squaring the Ascendant, the South Node in the 11th House ruled by the Moon in the 1st House, and Jupiter in the 1st House Virgo trine to Mars in the 5th House Sagittarius, the prior structure had kept on working as an imperial war-machine, ie. through ‘black and white’ ideologically based confrontation of larger powers, ie. the USA, and dissemination of the ideology through invasion of other countries.    

That the collapse of the former Soviet Union led into further social trauma by means of the types of economic policies that were imposed on the country, ie. ‘shock therapy’ is also indicated in these same symbols. According to Wikipedia “These policies were based on the neoliberal "Washington Consensus" of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),World Bank, and U.S. Treasury Department”. This was 1991 during the George H.W. Bush government. The policies were implemented by Russian economists (mainly Yegor Gaidar as per Wikipedia), however direct advice from US agencies and economists was also provided in the early 90’.
The South Node in Cancer, ruled by Moon in Virgo, is conjunct the US Jupiter, Venus and Sun in the US 2nd House. The US South Node in Aquarius in the US 9th House is conjunct the Russian Saturn, and square to the MC Taurus cusp.  

The types of consequences of these policies were the same as in every country in which the neo-liberal ‘shock therapy’ has been implemented (as Naomi Klein details in relation to various countries in The Shock Doctrine). In the case of Russia (Wikipedia):  

“a major economic crisis, characterized by 50% decline of both GDP and industrial output between 1990–95. The privatization largely shifted control of enterprises from state agencies to individuals with inside connections in the government. Many of the newly rich moved billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight.[80] The depression of the economy led to the collapse of social services; the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed.[81] Millions plunged into poverty, from 1.5% level of poverty in the late Soviet era, to 39–49% by mid-1993.[82] The 1990s saw extreme corruption and lawlessness, the rise of criminal gangs and violent crime”.

“The partial results of liberalization (lifting price controls) included worsening already apparent hyperinflation (…) This resulted in the near bankruptcy of much of Russian industry. The process of liberalization would create winners and losers, depending on how particular industries, classes, age groups, ethnic groups, regions, and other sectors of Russian society were positioned. Some would benefit by the opening of competition; others would suffer. Among the winners were the new class of entrepreneurs and black marketeers that had emerged under Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika. But liberalizing prices meant that the elderly and others on fixed incomes would suffer a severe drop in living standards, and people would see a lifetime of savings wiped out. With inflation at double-digit rates per month as a result of printing, macroeconomic stabilization was enacted to curb this trend. Stabilization, also called structural adjustment, is a harsh austerity regime (tight monetary policy and fiscal policy) for the economy in which the government seeks to control inflation. Under the stabilization program, the government let most prices float, raised interest rates to record highs, raised heavy new taxes, sharply cut back on government subsidies to industry and construction, and made massive cuts in state welfare spending. These policies caused widespread hardship as many state enterprises found themselves without orders or financing. A deep credit crunch shut down many industries and brought about a protracted depression.”

Putin has been appealing not only the Russian nationalism (as Hitler did), he has also directly promoted a sense of their nation facing obstacles created by the West and specifically by the US. (this is also similar to Hitler’s). The synastry symbols speak of ideologic basis which are connected with the nature of the economic reforms upon the fall of the USSR, as a cause for underlying resentment. Promoting such type of resentment by Putin of course involves manipulation and duplicity, because of him being neo-liberal and capitalistic, ie. self-interest oriented, to the extreme.
If we look at a composite chart between the US and the Russian Federation, it may not look very   auspicious in the current context that the combined Pluto in the 6th House is the focus of a T-square with Uranus in Pisces and Mars in Virgo, Mars being the ruler of the combined South Node in Aries. Transiting Pluto is now at 13°46 Cap, approaching the combined 7th House cusp which is at 15°11’ Capricorn.

In the synastry, the Mars are in direct opposition. Transiting Pluto is conjunct the Russian Uranus/Neptune in the Russian 5th House, ruling the 7th and 8th Houses, and Neptune/Uranus are conjunct the North Node, which is squared by the north node of Mars in Aries in the 8th House. Transiting Uranus in Aries in the Russian 9th House is squaring the Neptune/Uranus, and transiting Saturn, which is conjunct Pig Putin’s Ascendant and square his natal Pluto, is conjunct the Russian natal Pluto in Scorpio in the 4th House, ie. dynamics which are very similar to those occurring when Hitler induced victimization based on existing social powerlessness, and promoted a necessary ‘expansion’ of Germany.

God Bless, Gonzalo
« Last Edit: Mar 19, 2014, 04:00 PM by Gonzalo » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: Mar 20, 2014, 05:49 AM »

Hi Gonzalo,

I want to thank you for looking into all in the way that you have.

God Bless, Rad
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« Reply #25 on: Mar 20, 2014, 06:16 AM »

Hi everyone,

Gonzalo thanks for posting the charts.

What struck me, besides Putin and the immediate danger he poses, is the way Russians have been used and abused, specially women and children. When I saw that Pluto/Venus in the Fourth house in Scorpio and the Nodal axis of the Moon in the 11th/5th houses plus the Moon in Virgo in the 1st, it automatically reminded me of the human trafficking and prostitution that Russia is known for.

From Wikipedia:

A 2006 report by World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe funded by the Canadian government and supported by six United Nations agencies and the International Organization for Migration reported that the sexual exploitation of children, child trafficking and sexual violence towards minors is increasing and that Russia is becoming a new destination for child sex tourism[citation needed]. The report adds that some studies claim approximately 2 to 2.5 percent of Moscow's sex workers are minors.
Russia is a major source of women trafficked globally for the purpose of sexual exploitation [6][7] Russia is also a significant destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation from regional and neighboring countries into Russia, and on to Europe, Asia and North America. In Tel Aviv the number of brothels skyrocketed from 30 to 150 between 1996 and 2001—largely because of an influx of Russian prostitutes into Israel.[8]
The International Labor Organization estimates that 20 percent of the five million illegal immigrants in Russia are victims of forced labor, which is a form of trafficking. There were reports of trafficking of children and of child sex tourism in Russia. The Russian government has made some effort to combat trafficking but has also been criticized for not complying with the minimum standards for eliminating it.[9]
A large case of forced prostitution and mass murder was uncovered in 2007 near the industrial town of Nizhny Tagil. A gang of pimps had abducted girls and forced them to work as prostitutes in their brothel, killing the ones who refused. A mass grave with up to 30 victims was found.

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« Reply #26 on: Mar 20, 2014, 07:14 AM »

Hi Skywalker
Yes, and what other types of business could be Putin be connected with because of his Pluto square the Asc/Dsc axis in Scorpio/Taurus, with Venus 12th House Scorpio square Pluto opposed Jupiter in Taurus in the 6th, squaring the Leo South Node and trine to Mars in the 2nd which rules his 5th House, etc ? .. that's the feeling I got when looking at Pig Putin's chart ...

Other fact I feel is very important to note in Putin's chart with all the 11th House Libra with Lucifer and Neptune/Mercury there, squaring Uranus in Cancer in the 8th House which rules his 3rd House South Node in Aquarius, Pluto squaring the nodes ... is that he is and probably will continue to create extreme 'division' an polarization in opinions between people on a large scale, and confrontation between people who were united before this, which by itself is debilitating. Quite satanic thing because of being based on lies and manipulation of truth.

God Bless, Gonzalo       

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« Reply #27 on: Mar 20, 2014, 07:49 AM »


Considering Mars in the Second house in Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter in Taurus and relative to his Pluto/S.Node on the MC I would say that natural resources is his business and that can also include people in many forms. Also with Gemini on the 8th house and Mercury/Lucifer in Libra his business would involve intelligence and information about people and who they were connected to etc. He was KGB after all.

With Pluto and the South Node on the MC it really shows his Soul´s desire to be on top of the pyramid of control and power just as Hitler was with his Saturn in Leo in the 10th house. Where they both seem to have their identities intertwined with the nations identity and, having their conscious and not so conscious security needs attached to the fate of their nation and consequently on their own influence/power within that very structure or nation.

When looking at the chart you posted for Russia, with Pluto on the Uranus/Neptune conjunction, really anything could happen as there is a huge evolutionary need for change, structural change as it is in Capricorn and seems intimately connected with his own role as his Sun is also being squared by transiting Pluto at the same time. So it seems to boil down to another power hungry Soul being forced to re-evaluate it´s position in the world and let go of some of that desire for control and power, in order for the whole to benefit and evolve. That would be the beneficial route but we will see what the collective and personal choices will be.

All the best
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« Reply #28 on: Mar 21, 2014, 08:08 AM »

Pig Putin: Ethnic Russian Nationalist

By Kimberly Marten
March 19 at 12:36 pm

The following is a guest post from Columbia University political scientist Kimberly Marten


There are two ways to talk about a Russian person or thing in the Russian language.  One way, “Rossisskii,” refers to Russian citizens and the Russian state.  Someone who is ethnically Chechen, Tatar, or Ukrainian can be “Rossisskii” if they carry a Russian passport and live on Russian territory.

Up until now that is how Russian President Vladimir Putin has always referred to the Russian people.  Even the rather aggressive pro-Pig Russian youth movement of a few years back, Nashi (or “ours”) — with its summer camps, mass calisthenics rallies, and ugly jeering at opposition politicians — was always careful to use the word “Rossisskii.”  While some critics like Valeria Novodvorskaya portrayed Nashi as if it were some kind of updated version of the Hitler youth, the group in fact never took on an ethnic slant.

That all changed on Tuesday.  In his Kremlin speech to the two houses of the Russian parliament, Putin made a fateful choice.  Instead of sticking to the word “Rossisskii,” he slipped into using “Russkii,” the way to refer in the Russian language to someone who is ethnically Russian.  The Pig said, “Crimea is primordial “Russkaya” land, and Sevastapol is a “Russkii” city.”  Pig went on to say, “Kiev is the mother of “Russkie” cities,” in a reference to the ancient city of Kievan Rus’.  (This reference must have grated on the ears of Ukrainian nationalists; as scholar Andrew Wilson points out, the historiography of Rus’ is fraught with the question of contested national origins.)

When speaking of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Pig added, “Millions of ‘Russkii’ went to sleep in one country and woke up in another, instantly finding themselves ethnic minorities in former Soviet republics, and the ‘Russkii’ people became one of the largest, if not the largest, divided nation in the world.”

The Pig thereby signaled a crucial turning point in his regime.  He is no longer simply a Russian statist, an old KGB man who wants to recapture Soviet glory, as Brookings analysts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy argued in their fascinating 2013 biography.  Instead the Pig has become a Russian ethnic nationalist.

It is no longer far-fetched to think that Ukraine might go the way of the former Yugoslavia, as German journalist Jochen Bittner argued in Tuesday’s New York Times.  The possibility of ethnically motivated violence there looms on the horizon.

But the Pig's speech Tuesday indicates that Russia itself might be headed in that direction, too.  The Pig may be tempted to go the way of Slobodan Milosevic, the communist leader of the Yugoslavian region of Serbia who, as Chip Gagnon contends in his award-winning book, suddenly jumped on the nationalist bandwagon to ensure a political future for himself as the Cold War wound down.  In the Pig's case, the cheering crowds who greeted him at the Kremlin Tuesday night must be a relief after last year’s widespread coverage of corruption associated with the Sochi Olympics.

Nationalist bloodshed might not stop with Ukraine.  Russia is a multiethnic country that has witnessed disturbing incidents of nationalist violence over the past decade, including a huge ethnic riot in a suburb of Moscow in the fall where police appeared to side with ethnic Russians.  There are also significant ethnic Russian minority populations in most of the post-Soviet region.  Already Russian ethnic activists in the Transdniestria region of neighboring Moldova — a de facto state because of the Russian forces that have guarded its borders with the rest of Moldova since 1992 — have asked to join Russia, too.

There are limits to how far Russian ethnic nationalism could reasonably spread. As Galymzhan Kirbassov argued here in the Monkey Cage, Kazakhstan has so far balanced the Russian ethnic equation well, and ethnic Russians there are generally satisfied.  And while Estonia and Latvia have large Russian ethnic minority populations that sometimes chafe at local citizenship policies, the fact that both countries are NATO member-states limits the Pig's options there.

Nevertheless, Russia and its relationship with the outside world may have permanently changed.  The leader of a state that wields a massive strategic nuclear arsenal, controls a significant portion of the world’s petroleum and other raw materials, and holds a veto in the U.N. Security Council, has just revealed his willingness to use force on behalf of ethnic nationalism.

This was the nightmare that Western policymakers hoped to avoid when the Soviet Union collapsed.


Moscow signals concern for Russians in Estonia

By Robert Evans
GENEVA Friday Mar 21, 2014 1:03pm EDT
(Reuters) - Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at Estonia's treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority, comparing language policy in the Baltic state with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of Russian.

Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian-speakers outside its borders, so the reference to linguistic tensions in another former Soviet republic comes at a highly sensitive moment.

Russia fully supported the protection of the rights of linguistic minorities, a Moscow diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, according to a summary of the session issued by the U.N.'s information department.

"Language should not be used to segregate and isolate groups," the diplomat was reported as saying. Russia was "concerned by steps taken in this regard in Estonia as well as in Ukraine," the Moscow envoy was said to have added.

The text of the Russian remarks, echoing long-standing complaints over Estonia's insistence that the large Russian minority in the east of the country should be able to speak Estonian, was not immediately available.

But amid the growing Crimea crisis, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - which like Ukraine were all parts of the old Soviet Union - have expressed growing apprehension over Moscow's intentions.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is currently in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius as part of a trip to reassure the three countries, all European Union and NATO members, of Washington's support.

Ukraine told the rights council that U.N. experts had found no credible evidence of mistreatment of its Russian minority as alleged by Moscow -- one of whose pro-Kremlin newspapers said this week there was "bloodshed almost like in Syria" in the east of the country.

The new government in Kiev, a Ukrainian envoy declared, was reinvigorating its promotion and protection of the rights of minorities "to the highest international standards".

The envoy asked what measures could be taken to protect Ukrainian, Crimean Tatar and other minority groups in Crimea "whose rights are being violated under the Russian occupation."

Responding, the Russian delegate said there were no violations of minority rights in Crimea and minorities were not being persecuted. The new Russian-backed government there had guaranteed protection of the Tatars.

* THE PIG THINKS.jpg (6.75 KB, 300x212 - viewed 248 times.)
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« Reply #29 on: Mar 21, 2014, 08:19 AM »

Will Ukraine's neighbour Moldova be the next east-west Europe flashpoint?

Moldova's breakaway region of Trans-Dniester is supported by Russia, whose supply lines to the area run through Ukraine

Humphrey Hawksley in Tiraspol, Thursday 20 March 2014 15.13 GMT   
It's a state that lived under Moscow's aegis for decades with a leadership that favours closer EU ties and a chunk of pro-Russian territory in the east that wants to secede. But it's not Ukraine.

Moldova's perilous geopolitical situation has become more urgent in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, which appears to have deepened a 20-year-old division in Europe's poorest nation.

Pulling east is the breakaway region of Trans-Dniester, a territory of just 300,000 which fought a short war with Moldova in 1992 and is technically recognised by no country, not even Russia, even though Moscow supports it financially and militarily. Pulling west is the government in Chisinau, which is worried about what Russia might do next, not least to maintain a supply line for its troops in Trans-Dniester. Currently, this runs through Ukraine, but Moscow might now classify it as hostile territory that would have to be secured.

"First they would have to move their troops into Ukraine, which we hope will not happen," says Moldovan prime minister Iurie Leanca. "But this crisis teaches us something very important about secessionist problems. They need to be addressed and not allowed to become contagious flashpoints. Hopefully, we can now address Crimea and Trans-Dniester through international mechanisms and see light at the end of the tunnel."

Hedging his bets, though, Leanca is also trying to consolidate Moldova's status as a Nato ally, pushing for an EU association agreement as soon as possible and setting a personal, albeit optimistic, target of joining in 2019.

The two capitals – Chisinau in Moldova and Tiraspol in Trans-Dniester – couldn't be more different, the former thrumming with traffic and FM radio debate, the latter redolent of a bygone Soviet vision of monolithic order and stability.

Barely the size of a small provincial town, Tiraspol has a spotless main boulevard, named after thee date 25 October from the Russian revolution. On one side is a giant block of Soviet architecture that houses Trans-Dniester's parliament, still called the Supreme Soviet. In its forecourt stands a statue of Lenin and on the other side by the Dniester river flicker flames of a war memorial where each name of the dead is listed on a black wall – more than 800 from the 1992 war.

This week, the breakaway authorities repeated their call this week for formal membership of the Russian Federation, and on the streets people were not coy about explaining why. "It would be good," said one woman cleaning the memorial. "Our lives would be more prosperous and stable."

When explaining their support for Vladimir Putin, the handful of people willing to talk all used the Russian word – stabilnost – for stability. They felt their lives were less unpredictable than those in the EU and that they were materially better off.

"Our pensions are more than twice as those in Moldova," said a mother in a coffee shop. "And our gas is a quarter of the price."

Nadejda Kostiurina, curator of a Tiraspol museum, had no time for European high-mindedness, despite her son living in Germany. "You tell me," she challenged. "What can the EU do for me – except start a war against us?"

In Chisinau, however, attitudes are very different. On steep slopes running down to a lake is the Poiana vineyard where winemaker Sergio Galvsca has felt the brunt of the Russian backlash. In 2006, after a political row, Russia banned imports of Moldovan wine.

"We relied on it and we hit rock bottom," he said. "But it also changed our mentality for the better. We were exporting a lot of poor quality wine to Russia. Now we are concentrating on very good wine, which we hope to sell to Europe, China and rising wine markets."

With an empty glass, he knelt down by a steel drum marked cabernet sauvignon 2013. "The EU gives us hope," he continued. "When we join, we will buy more land and grow more vines."

He opened the tap and poured the cabernet. "The 2013 harvest was not so good. There was a lot of rain so the body is not so strong." He handed over the glass. "But try it. Tell me if we can sell to Tesco?"
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