Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Carrot and Stick

Good can yet come of the downing of MH17.  The deaths of 298 people at the hands of Russian-commanded, financed and armed terrorists do not have to be in vain.  In order for this to happen, the leaders of the West, and in particular Europe, need to rise above their usual approach of muddling through and show some true leadership for once.

The missile attack has brought home to the world the fact that Putin is not just Eastern Europe's problem (and who cares about them anyway...).  In fact, he presents a threat to all nations.  As well as the threat to civilian aircraft, he also has his sights on territorial expansion to, and perhaps across, NATO borders to the west.  He has been and is corrupting Western European politicians, to the point where it is unclear where the foreign policy of certain Western European capitals is being written.

Russia is on the back foot now, however.  She can no longer claim that the "separatists" (actually GRU-commanded militia) are somehow independent from her or are acting to "defend their families" .  The focus of the World is once again on Eastern Ukraine.

There's a big chance here for the West.  By offering Putin a graceful way out, the West could secure a cleaning-up of the map of Europe, with the massive security benefits that will accrue from it.  By "cleaning up" I mean the removal of Russian forces & proxies not only from the Donbass, but also from other European territories illegally occupied by Russia - Crimea, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

A "carrot" needs to be devised which Putin could show to his people as some form of success and to cover the losses of these forward military positions.  Elements of this carrot could include

  • The insertion of international peacekeepers to replace departing Russian troops and provide any protection the local population may think it needs.
  • Providing a form of autonomy (including language rights) to the implicated regions (NB without giving the regions a veto over national political issues)
  • Bringing Russia back into the G8 and other international bodies
  • A promise to allow visa free entry to Europe once technical requirements had been met.
  • The possibility of a free trade deal with the EU
  • etc.
Given the domestic political situation in Russia, however, such a carrot on its own may be insufficient to move Putin off his current belligerent course.  He needs to understand that there is a very big stick out there which will be used if he doesn't quickly withdraw all Russian forces to behind Russia's internationally accepted borders.  The stick could include elements such as
  • Rapid NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, including the deployment of significant forces on their territories.
  • Tough sectoral sanctions which would put the Russian economy into a depression.
  • Publication of Putin's assets held around the world (this measure alone could lead to the Russian population rising up against him, once they realise how much he has stolen)
  • Squeezing Transnistria out of existence (with political will this is possible)
In order to seize this historic opportunity we need, however, to see real leadership, a quality that is in deparate short supply among modern politicians.  Where is the Churchill, the Lincoln or the Mandela of our time?  Is Euromuddle all that we have to rely on?  Will we leave Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as the only voice seriously holding the Russians to account?

Who will stand up for Europe and seize the opportunity this day presents?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Everything but

So what should the West do about Russia's invasion of Ukraine?

It's clear that direct military intervention would be very dangerous, given that Russia is armed to the teeth and has nukes.  That doesn't mean, however, that the West should sit on its hands, as it did with respect to Georgia in 2008.  In Vladimir Putin the world faces an acute threat to its security.  He must be humiliated sufficiently that his own people decide to get rid of him.

Here's some things that should be done:

1.  NATO troops should secure the hinterland of Ukraine, allowing the Ukrainian Army to deploy on the front line.  NATO airpower should be moved from Afghanistan to the Black Sea.  This will dissuade Moscow from further adventures (e.g. trying to create enclaves in the East or around Odessa).

2.  With NATO troops in place, Transnistria should be squeezed out of existence (e.g. by sealing the border).  This will eliminate the threat to Ukraine's back.

3.  Stiff sanctions should be placed on Russia.  These should target the leadership (e.g. through travel bans and banking restrictions).  They should also target Russia's oil and gas exports and inwards investment.  Russia needs to be starved of the wherewithal to keep its military machine running.  I appreciate that this will hurt the Russian people, but I don't see an alternative.

4.  Russian propaganda broadcasts need to be blocked in the Black Sea region.  I know that sounds like clamping down on free speech, however we are in an emergency situation here, and it is important that citizens aren't fed a diet of lies and mis-information.

5.  Russian membership in international organisations (WTO, G8 etc.) should be suspended where there are grounds to do this (e.g. WTO suspension is likely justified by Russia's frequent politicised bans on its neighbours' produce)

6.  FIFA should move the 2018 world cup to another host.  If they fail to do this, democratic nations should boycott it and organise an alternative tournament elsewhere.  Putin should not preside over another major international sporting event.

7.  Efforts to diversify energy sources in Europe (e.g. renewables, shale, pipelines from the Caspian & North Africa) should be redoubled.

If you have other ideas, please enter them as comments.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Security Guarantees Given to Ukraine

As part of a deal for Ukraine to relinquish the nuclear weapons it had inherited from the Soviet Union, certain security guarantees were given to Ukraine under the 5 December 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.  According to Wikipedia:

Russia, the UK and the USA undertake to respect Ukraine's borders in accordance with the principles of the 1975 CSCE Final Act, to abstain from the use or threat of force against Ukraine, to support Ukraine where an attempt is made to place pressure on it by economic coercion, and to bring any incident of aggression by a nuclear power before the UN Security Council.

Following recent events in Ukraine and more specifically in the Crimea,  the UK and the USA are now obliged to bring Russia's threats of force, economic coercion and incidents of aggression to the UN Security Council.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A guide for Russian commentators on Euromaidan.

This is a nazi:

This is a terrorist:

These are Euromaidan protesters:

Hopefully now you'll be able to tell the difference.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Stopping Putin

It's got to stop.

In Georgia he invaded on a flimsy pretext and attacked a constitutional, democratic government, grabbing territory and installing massive, menacing military capability in Abkhazia & South Ossetia.

In the north Caucasus he props up the nasty little regime of Ramzan Kadyrov and has foreigners skiing on the graves of Circassians killed in a 19th century genocide.

He is trying to destabilise Moldova and derail its European accession plans by generating discontent among the Gagauz, by having his Transnistrian puppet make mischief, and apparently by trying to bribe members of the pro-Europe governing coalition to switch sides.

In Syria, he is arming and defending the regime of Bashar al-Assad, creating and feeding the bogeyman of Al-Qaeda to deflect the West from taking more decisive action against the mad and genocidal Syrian government.

Now in Ukraine, he pays Yanushenko 2 billion euros, who then begins a bloody, Tienanmen-style crackdown on the pro-civilisation protesters in the Maidan, possibly initiating a civil war that will have terrible consequences for the region as a whole.

The international community needs to realise (and quickly) that Russia has started a new cold war.  Unlike the first cold war, this one is not declared.  Unlike the first cold war, the West has few defences in place, having been lulled into a false sense of security.  Unlike the first cold war, there is no stale-mate along an iron curtain, but instead a series of creeping advances by Putin's forces (be they military, diplomatic or economic).

The tendency of western leaders is to avoid conflict and seek peaceful, negotiated outcomes.  While laudable, that is what Putin is counting on.  Take a mile, then surrender a few inches to appease international opinion.  Then take another mile, cede a few inches.  Then repeat, again and again.

Putin needs to be stopped.  He needs to be publicly humiliated so that the Russian people will see him for what he is.  Losing Ukraine to the civilised World would do the trick, I think.