Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Yalta Temptation

KYIV – The quiet period between the declaration of war in September 1939 and the Nazi blitz on Belgium and France in May 1940 is often called “The Phony War.” Since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, and began massing troops and armored columns on our eastern border, we in Ukraine have been living through a “phony peace.”

There is nothing phony, however, about the efforts we Ukrainians are now making to defend our country and our democracy. Our young men and women are volunteering for military service like never before. Our government has negotiated a standby loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund that will give us some of the tools that we need to get our financial and economic house in order. That agreement will also impose real economic pain, but Ukrainians are willing to pay the price in order to preserve our independence.

After a time of neglect, a time when we – like the rest of Europe – believed that the continent’s borders would never again be changed by force, we are also increasing our defense spending, despite our economy’s precarious state. There will be no more surrendering of sovereign Ukrainian territory. Not an inch.

Most important, despite the Russian army massed against us, we are embarking on an election campaign. Next month, Ukraine’s citizens will freely choose a new president – the best rebuke possible to Russian propaganda about our supposed failure to uphold democracy.

And yet, as Ukrainians work to rebuild our country after Viktor Yanukovych’s predatory rule, we are facing a new threat, in the form of a “peace offensive” – that old staple of Soviet diplomacy designed to undermine Western resolve. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent phone call to US President Barack Obama to seek renewed diplomatic talks, followed by a Russian white paper on how to resolve a crisis of the Kremlin’s making, is in fact a peace offensive that is offensive to peace.

Putin’s gambit is akin to the infamous Yalta Conference in 1945, where Joseph Stalin made Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt complicit in a division of Europe that enslaved half of the continent for almost a half-century. Today, Putin is seeking to make the West complicit in the dismemberment of Ukraine by negotiating a Kremlin-designed federal constitution that would create a dozen Crimeas – bite-size chunks that Russia could devour more easily later.

Of course, federalism sounds like a good thing. Devolving political power closer to where people actually live is always appealing, and usually effective. But the wellbeing of Ukrainian democracy is not what Putin has in mind; for him, a federal system is a means for the Kremlin to make political mischief and ultimately incorporate Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions into the Russian Federation. To paraphrase Clausewitz, federalism for Putin is annexation by other means.

One has only to look at the Russian proposal’s fine print: Ukraine’s new federal units would have a powerful say over “Ukraine’s foreign-policy direction.” That provision would enable Putin to try to coerce and manipulate Russian-speaking regions into vetoing the country’s European future.

Ukraine’s constitutional structure is for Ukraine’s citizens alone to decide. Russia can have no say in it – and nor should other countries, however helpful they wish to be. Ukraine is not Bosnia, where the constitution emerged out of peace talks that ended years of bloody warfare following the breakup of Yugoslavia. Nor is it Kosovo, which became independent at the same time that its governmental structures were being forged. Ukraine is a fully sovereign state, recognized as such by the world, including Russia.

To buy into Putin’s sham federalism is to accept the lies that the Kremlin has been spewing about Ukraine’s current interim government and the brave men and women who ousted Yanukovych. Putin’s factotums claim that Ukraine’s Russian speakers are under threat, but they cannot point to a single example of persecution that might bear this out. No Russian-speaking refugees from eastern Ukraine or Crimea have fled into Russia, and no Russian-speaker has sought political asylum anywhere else outside the country.

The reason is simple: there is no oppression of Russian speakers in Ukraine, and there never has been. Ukraine’s government under Yanukovych was incompetent, corrupt, and mendacious. But it was an equal-opportunity oppressor.

If there is no oppression of Russian speakers in Ukraine, there is no reason to change the country’s political structure. So should Ukraine really be forced to create a new constitutional order based on the Big Lie? What we need is a competent, efficient, and corruption-free government. And with Europe’s help and technical assistance, we will establish one.

The desire of diplomats to find a peaceful solution to Ukraine’s crisis is understandable. But the terms that Russia is demanding, if accepted by the West, would fatally undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty; worse, accepting Russia’s terms would ratify the idea that powerful countries may bully less powerful neighbors into doing their bidding, to the point of surrendering their independence.

Ukraine will stand up to the bully – on our own, if necessary. We refuse to play the part of hapless victim in future history textbooks.

Yuliya Tymoshenko, twice prime minister of Ukraine and a former political prisoner, is a candidate for president in the May election.

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    1. CommentedDavid Donovan

      For how long will this gross ignorance of the historical truth about the Yalta Conference will continue to poison the comments of international politics

    2. CommentedJohn McDonald

      Undoubtedly, there has been a lot of Russian influence in the Ukraine lately. But is it that different from the earlier Western influence?
      In any case, there is little doubt that the majority of people in the Crimea preferred to join Russia (even if it was not 99+%).

    3. CommentedDenis Burakov

      It is hard to agree with you, Mrs. Tymoshenko, that Joseph Stalin made (!) Churchill and Roosevelt acquiesce to the division of Europe into the realms of dictatorship and democracy. Rather, Western powers pursued their own interests, whereas the Soviet butcher pursued his own. There can be no doubt that the problems that Ukrainians are facing right now are of little interest to the West, and a "phony peace" is likely to continue until the country is ripped apart by the Kremlin or handed over to another pro-Putin autocrat in Kiev.

      Many Ukrainians rightly view Europe as their last hope and, indeed, there is no other world power that can help Ukraine secure its democratic future. But the European Union is too weak to confront Putin's dictatorship at the moment and too burdened with economic challenges to offer substantial support. You may overthrow a corrupt president, but you can hardly sustain democracy in an autocratic geopolitical environment without a clear domestic agenda.

      It is often said these days that Europe needs to help Ukraine. This is the gist of your essay too. Maybe, it is high time for Ukraine to start relying on itself and building strong institutions to avoid the Kremlin's meddling in the country's affairs? Europe will help Ukraine when Kiev can stand for itself, but at the moment you are focused excessively on a constant whine about Putin's imperialism.

    4. CommentedJohn Nick

      A state is a system of VITAL loyalties between a few groups of individuals controlling resources distribution in their own advantage. You need to strengthen the Ukrainian state by assuring the preservation of these structures and thus, their loyalty. Ukraine inherited some level of second or lower chain of state's network of chains, so indeed, you are not prepared to maturely run a state. You lack the commanding center and it's experience. If anything discernible, the first thing to do would be to get advisers from the traditional strong states. One kind of advisers would be those coming from states who ran big imperialistic successful states, british, american, austrian, turkish advisers, and an other kind of advisers you probably would want are from states who ran states evolving at some point in history, preferably recent history, similarly. Your neighbors. In every contemporary state there is a very small group of persons who really know what is going on, where we are heading, making decisions. Those are the persons you must reach in this attempt.

    5. Commentedj. von Hettlingen

      Ms Tymoshenko sees "President Putin’s recent phone-call to President Obama to seek renewed diplomatic talks" as a chilling reminder of the "infamous Yalta Conference in 1945", during which "Joseph Stalin made Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt complicit in a division of Europe".
      She warns against "Putin's sham federalism", which would divide Ukraine rather than to unite it, urging the West to be aware of supporting the "Kremlin-designed federal constitution", which would create "a dozen Crimeas" in Ukraine, allowing Russia to "devour them more easily later".
      It is undeniable that a "federal sytem" would strengthen the Kremlin's influence on the ethnic Russians in Ukraine, who, having more autonomy, could veto "the country’s European future". These autonomous regions should also serve as buffer zones between Russia and Western Europe. Just like Stalin, determined to ensure that the post-war settlement in Europe should not be a threat to the Soviet Union, Putin is now in a strong position and he uses it. On the other hand, he can't live for ever and Ukraine will outlive Putin. Nobody can predict, how the post-Putin Russia will be like. There is hope that Russia might moved forward, once he is gone.
      Ms Tymoshenko is right that "Ukraine’s constitutional structure is for Ukraine’s citizens alone to decide. Russia can have no say in it – and nor should other countries, however helpful they wish to be". But does she believe she is the right person to save Ukraine out of this political quagmire?
      Her fiery rhetoric, which made her an icon of the 2004 Orange Revolution and a talisman for Ukraine's opposition is palpable in this commentary. She and her ally Viktor Yushchenko packed the streets of Ukraine in protest at a rigged election that made Viktor Yanukovych the winner. The Supreme Court ruled in their favour, and the Orange alliance took power on a firmly pro-Western platform. No sooner had they taken over, with Tymoshenko as prime minister and Yushchenko as president, their relationship turned sour. Political paralysis prevented any effective handling of the problems that Ukraine faced.
      Tymoshenko's supporters have always seen her as a glamorous revolutionary challenging a corrupt, macho political elite. Her stinging attacks on the oligarchs who prospered under the pre-Orange Revolution rule of Leonid Kuchma boosted her popularity among Ukrainians frustrated by economic stagnation and corruption. Yet she herself became very wealthy in the 1990s. Her company - the United Energy Systems of Ukraine - made her one of the richest people in Ukraine. Like many oligarchs, she moved into politics and served in Leonid Kuchma's government in 1999-2001. But she fell out with him. After being held in prison for a month on corruption charges, she made it her goal to unseat him, launching a campaign that led to the Orange Revolution. Ms Tymoshenko is said to be a highly controversial figure. Many ask whether her presidency would be a benefit for Ukraine, if it has to shrug off its past.

    6. CommentedE Burke

      Putin is not a perfect messenger of our Lord because there are no perfect messengers as we are all unrighteousness. Putin is a flawed messenger of the Word - but a messenger he is. A global powerful leader however is exactly what is needed to counter satin's minions who rule the west which is the new evil empire building their new Tower of Babel in the form of the New World Order. People of faith throughout the world need a powerful leader who will not be intimidated in a fight against the pharasies and money changers of this new world order. Now only The Lord truly knows what is in Putin's heart but this is certainly not the first time that God has chosen flawed messengers and leaders to spread His Word and fight the forces of Satin - where to begin: Abraham a liar ("Sarah's my sister"), Jacob a thief and a liar, Moses a murderer among other things causing God to deny his entrance into Israel, David an adulterer and murderer, Solomon a pride filled power monger, Peter a pride filled coward denier or Our Lord - as we're the other 10 original faithful deciples (judas obviously excluded thus 11), Paul a murderer prior to his conversion, and list goes on - only One was righteous and perfect and that is our Lord in the flesh. So why not Putin as he appears to fit the bill - a flawed and sinful man but one ready and able to carry the Word of The Lord - why does God choose such obviously outwardly flawed leaders to fight the forces of satin because it then becomes more apparent that it is NOT the human leader but God through such flawed sinners which then makes it apparent to those willing to see that it is God leading the fight through his faithful against the forces of darkness - Remember for Christ is the way, the truth and the light - what other global leader is standing courageously against the evil pagans of the west - so may God bless Putin in this fight and at the same time help him to repent for his many sins (including that of Christian persecutor (Saul before he was St. Paul) murderer as a KGB agent, pride-filled, etc.) but through faith in Christ alone who died for our sins he is redeemed.

    7. CommentedHenrik Ørsted

      I do not see where there is Russian propaganda. The Ukraine is the poorest nation in Europe, as one can easily gauge from The World Bank's data. Whoever rules in Ukraine has to come clear about this-and this includes Ms. Tymoshenko- Ukraine at the same time the most corrupt countries in Europe according to data from transparency international. It is not about Russia, it is about the Ukrainian people being their own worst enemies.

        CommentedVidvuds Beldavs

        The two linked points - most corrupt and poorest in the EU - are what the Association Agreement with the EU was all about and why the people demonstrated, resisted and then revolted. Whoever rules in Ukraine has to make this the priority of the nation. It is significantly about Russia. Russian coercive economic pressure has also been highly corrupting over many years at top levels which has frozen reforms.

    8. Commentedcaptainjohann Samuhanand

      Dear Yulia, Is it not Ukraine has been suckered by NATO expansionism. just as Georgia was done in?Who has lost and who has gained? Ukraine has lost territory but also they have to undergo the pain the increased Gas prices. Russian Militarism has been rekindled which may be along term threat to To its neighbors.Now Ukraine is building its own self defense force in a robust manner as you say. But the ultimate gainer in this is the Military Industrial complex of USA which will sell its ware to you. there is no end to the appetite the Gnerals and Brass will demand. this is the tragedy created by NATO expansion without actualy exopanding.

    9. CommentedJohn Brian Shannon

      Hi Yuliya,

      On March 16, 2014 a referendum was held in Crimea to let citizens whether to join the Russian Federation or to restore the 1992 constitution.

      96.77% of Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation.
      2.51% of Crimeans voted to restore the 1992 constitution.
      0.72% of votes were invalid.


      The citizens of Crimea spoke with an overwhelming democratic voice indicating their preference to join Russia.

      Whether you or I, or anyone in the West, the East, the South, or the North, agrees or disagrees with their decision, it is their decision to make. And they made it.

      My best wishes go out to the people of Ukraine.

      Regards, John Brian Shannon

        CommentedJohn Brian Shannon

        Dear DE LAFAYETTE,

        I agree with your comments and both Russia and Ukraine should seek clarification on these matters in international court -- and the sooner the better, before other powers begin to 'play' the existing situation to their advantage.

        Whatever an international court rules on these matters, both sides should act speedily to implement any and all decisions.

        A very good day to you, JBS

        Commentedde Lafayette


        But the Ukraine should also go to an international court (like at the Hague) and ask that it be compensated financially for the loss. It owes Rosneft about $12B for the provision of gas, and that would be a tidy sum for purposes of compensation.

        Let's also not forget that oil/gas prospection has taken place in the Western Baltic, so any off the Crimea should also be protected by an international ruling in the matter.

        It would be difficult for Russia to disregard Ukrainian claims since the court could allow the Ukraine to recuperate damages by seizing Russian assets in, for instance, Europe. The Russians might be wise to negotiate a mutual settlement to the question.

    10. CommentedJefford Hilder

      If challenging the post glasnost paradigm of pro west states is truly what Putin is doing then he has obviously failed at his own ambitious plan. After all one does not cause a shift in political and social identity and alliances by rolling in with masked soldiers and tanks rather the contrary is true. Many comments have over thought the issue and whizzed straight by the simple truth... simply the annexation of large chunks of Ukraine is a Heist... it's daylight robbery not some politically or ideologically driven stance for truth, justice and the Russian way. Someone else here noted the he had changed from Russia's CEO to a fully fuelled nationalist leader... personally I don't think he's changed at all he's still CEO and that the actions in the Ukraine are simply a Gordon Gecko 80's style hostile take over done with a Soviet KGB lack of finesse. Putin has no interest in Ukraine as a whole just the bits that have some strategic importance to his goals even if some of his actions are only done to mask or to provide a veil of pseudo legitimacy. Pure and simple the window of opportunity opened and he stepped in and took what he wanted, enough to secure it and that which was necessary to mask his true intentions... his nationalism rhetoric included. Putin should change his name to Ronnie Biggs-Putin for his role in what is nothing more or less than the "Great Ukraine Robbery".

    11. CommentedVidvuds Beldavs

      Mr. Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine in a fair election. He also was prepared to fulfill the overwhelming desire of the people of Ukraine to sign the Association Agreement with the EU at the Vilnius Summit in November, 2013. 315 out of 349 parliamentary votes were cast in favor of the agreement with the EU reflecting the desire of the people of Ukraine from all regions including Crimea to live in a normal country, free of corruption. There was no division by ethnic origin. Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Tatars, Jews, and all others were in agreement. Then Vladimir Putin applied pressure on Yanukovych to oppose the will of the people of Ukraine and to reject the Agreement with the EU. He threatened to bankrupt the country, unless it did what Putin wanted. Yanukovych was instructed to be firm, but his resources to suppress the people were limited. The army could not be trusted to turn against the people leaving only the Berkut, largely from Sevastopol. In the tragic results that followed the primary responsibility is with Vladimir Putin and not with the President of Ukraine. Yanukovych was corruptible, but without extreme external pressure, he was loyal to Ukraine.

        CommentedHenrik Ørsted

        I doubt that Yanoskovych, the mystery poisoner of Viktor Yushchenko was elected in a fair election. But as all Ukrainian politicians, there is none who hasn't any skeletons in their closet, and this includes Mrs. Tymoshenko. Ukrainian politicians need to learn to treat each other with respect and dignity. For the outside world the regular brawls in the Ukrainian parliament are just a sign that Ukraine has the status of a banana republic.

    12. CommentedYuriy Gorodnichenko

      Here's a related point

        CommentedHenrik Ørsted

        If just the commentators could make their points "poignantly " in this forum instead of providing links to wacky web pages.

    13. CommentedRE Mant

      Is this woman trying to tell us she's a Communist?

        Commentedde Lafayette

        Doubtfully. But she is not a pauper either.

        Some put her Net Worth at 290M euros, but it is difficult to have any verifiable information on the matter.

        Google her name and see for yourself. There is damn little to be found on the subject.

    14. Commentedde Lafayette

      Ms Timoshenko may like to rail against the Russians, but the greater problem lies not with Putin but internal to the Ukrainian nation.

      It has a political class that is unfit to rule a democracy. It was a stroke of personal luck and great machination that Ukrainian petro-oligarchs were able to mimic their Russian counterparts-in-crime. In effect, they ripped-off the Ukrainian people by cornering a market for petroleum products, the source of which was almost uniquely Russian in origin.

      Now, having made their riches, they think that they can (worse, should) run the Ukraine. Perhaps, out of sheer folly, the Ukrainians will think similarly. After all, the Russians find their oligarchs contemptuous but there is no revolution boiling in the streets. Ditto the Ukraine, which may be happy to have, at least, rid itself of Youkanovitch – but seems totally unprepared as to what to do next.

      We have come to learn that Youkanovitch was basically a crook, having started his dishonest career young and with a jail sentence. That he became president of the Ukraine is unthinkable given his background. Are Ukrainians so simple-minded as to allow yet another of their oligarchs obtain the presidency.

      The answer seems to be in the affirmative. Here we go again … !

        CommentedHenrik Ørsted

        Not as unthinkable, I can think of other two politicians who have served prison sentences before they turned into megalomanic dictators. Hitler is dead, Erdogan is incumbent.

        Commentedhari naidu

        Wecome my old friend!
        Your point is well taken. The fundamental problem with Kiev is that it was never a nation-state..even after Orange Revolution. Which explains why the issue of political leadership is so difficult (compared to the Balkans). On top of it, the intelligence agency is infiltrated by Putin's clan.

    15. CommentedJean-Louis Piel

      I agree totally with what she wrote.
      I love this sentence: "To paraphrase Clausewitz, federalism for Putin is annexation by other means." So right.
      I suggest that all the Western countries adopt this simple action: for all the citizens or residents of Russian Federation if they want to have a visa to the West they need to sign near their visa this sentence: "I recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine - Crimea is part of Ukraine."
      This will be put on all the passports of any member of CIS and on all documents - private or not - business or not.

      If the person or the company refuses to sign that, he will not get visa or will not be able to sign a contract and he will have the risk to be banned and that his assets in the West will be freeze.

      The second proposal is that the sanctions from the West needs to continue until Crimea will become part of Ukraine again. Sanctions could be announced on a weekly basis - starting with 1,000 close allies of Putin - ban and freezing assets - and 1000 of Russian companies as Gazprom a, all the main banks, etc. To go up 80 millions Russian citizens - only 80% Ethnic Russian ( Russian Orthodox ) but not the Islamist Russian.s who will be authorized to come - and the student below 25 years old.

      Last we need to put three time more forces than Russia, near the borders of Ukraine. We need to help Ukraine as much as we can militarily. We must have no fear to start a war against this Russia because it will be the only way that this Russia starts a war against not only us.
      Putin is starting this war to stay in power because he is so scared of the democratic will of the Ukrainians. Their incredible courage make them for ever the heroes of all European citizens. They fought for our common values, for our common freedom.

        CommentedEdward Ponderer

        We have a world-wide complex fractal of majorities wishing to dominate minorities, and minorities wishing to separate out--and dominate their own minorities. Would the the Ukrainians want to hold Crimea that does not wish it (Ukrainians didn't flee the Ukraine under Russian domination either). On the other hand, what of the preservation of the Tarter’s and other’s rights in the Crimea--was there a vote on that? [Hard to believe the quoted referendum of 97% support quoted from Wikipedia. One doubts the representation at the polls by non-Russians, perhaps out of fear?

        And what of the EU's past and present history? How did all those English speaker's end up in "The Falklands" -- that British "Crimea" 10,000 miles away and smack next to Argentina? And when will France and Spain be giving the Basque People their independence? And there is much else to point out in Europe and world-wide.

        We must ultimately deal with this as one complete puzzle of globalization, and in some realistic round table that fairly weighs all concerns and hears all voices--lest one-sided moves of great injustices occur. Like what? Take this for instance:

        "...only 80% Ethnic Russian ( Russian Orthodox ) but not the Islamist Russian.s who will be authorized to come..."

        Is mass discrimination on the basis of religion a way to bring justice to the world? But, how can we be sure to even operate this method efficiently--perhaps some Orthodox Christians will lie about being Islamists. I'm afraid the Sudanese, from their vast experience in the South, are much better at separating out the hidden Christians than Amerticans would be.

        CommentedHenrik Ørsted

        Your suggestions are even a greater violation of human right other than what is happening in Ukraine already. I can do without Krim War 2.0-