Tag Archives: Crimea

No, Critics Declare in Response to Trump, Now Is Time to Give Occupied Golan Heights Back to Syria

“I still remember some people telling me during the last election that Trump would be tougher on Israel than Clinton. Lol.”

By Eoin Higgins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-21-2019

An Israeli soldier in the Golan Heights, 2006. (Photo: David Poe, Flickr)

Critics on Thursday swiftly condemned an announcement by President Donald Trump that he believes the U.S. should recognize Israel’s claim over the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory Israel has illegally occupied for over half a century.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the president said on Twitter, “which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Continue reading

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‘Extremely Concerned’ World Leaders and Experts Implore Trump and Putin to Preserve Nuclear Treaty

Alongside warnings withdrawal from INF would be “stupid and reckless,” one signatory to open letter said conflict “should be resolved through the treaty, not by abandoning it.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-30-2019

Photo: kremlin.ru

Elected officials and experts from more than 40 countries have sent an open letter to U.S. President Donald, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and various other world leaders imploring them to preserve the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, from which the Trump administration has said it plans to withdraw, despite warnings that doing so “would be stupid and reckless.

While welcoming progress on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, the letter (pdf) emphasizes alarm over the “erosion” of the INF Treaty; war games and nuclear weapons development the United States ditching the Iran nuclear deal; and “unresolved conflicts between Russia and the West including over Crimea and Syria and between nuclear armed states in other regions including South Asia and the South China Sea.” Continue reading

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Ukraine’s eastern front: a Trump card in a bigger game?

Everybody wants better relations between Russia and the west. But leaders in Moscow and DC could throw Ukraine under the bus to get them.

By Ian Bateson. Published 1-31-2017 by openDemocracy

Photo: @datensuche/Twitter

Last week, as I traveled around Ukraine’s eastern front, I found myself talking to soldiers stationed there. The new US president was a regular topic of conversation. “What’s with your new president? He seems unstable,” said one Ukrainian soldier before opening a gate to a hill-top military base. Another, examining our American passports at a checkpoint, asked us what we thought of him, and then threw in his own opinion that Trump is a “rare piece of shit”.

Others have responded more diplomatically. “If Trump is for democratic values and if his work is aimed at helping the development of democratic countries, then he will support Ukraine,” said Viacheslav Filin, commander of Ukraine’s 46th battalion, known as the Donbas Battalion. But for all of Trump’s talk about putting “the people” in charge, he isn’t very interested in promoting democracy at home or abroad as he dams the flow of information and enacts policy by executive orderContinue reading

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What is the nature of the “Ukraine crisis”?

New evidence throws light on the origins of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

By Andreas Umland. Published 11-15-2016 by openDemocracy

OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine, March 2015. Photo: OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine, March 2015. Photo: OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Over the past few weeks, Russia-watchers have been intrigued by a leak of emails sent and received by the office of Vladislav Surkov, an official adviser to president Putin.

The Surkov Leaks, which have renewed discussion around Moscow’s involvement in the pseudo-civil war and emergence of “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine, confirm once more that the armed conflict in the Donbas is, to large extent, a Kremlin project. The conflict is merely one part of Moscow’s broader policy of undermining the Ukrainian state after the victory of the Euromaidan revolution in February 2014. Continue reading

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NATO and Russia ‘War Games’ Not Games At All

The nature and scale of ongoing exercises suggest ‘Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia.’

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-12-15.

At the opening ceremony of a NATO exercise in Latvia this June. (Photo:Latvijas armija/flickr/cc)

At the opening ceremony of a NATO exercise in Latvia this June. (Photo:Latvijas armija/flickr/cc)

War games conducted by Russian and NATO forces go far beyond the hypothetical, raising the specter of a very real conflict on the European continent, a new study warns.

According to the European Leadership Network (ELN), a think tank based in London, “[o]ver the last 18 months, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the relationship between Russia and the West has deteriorated considerably”—at least in part due to war games that feed a “climate of mistrust.”

ELN’s report, Preparing for the Worst: Are Russian and NATO Military Exercises Making War in Europe more Likely? (pdf), analyzes a Russian ‘snap exercise’ in March involving 80,000 military personal from bases all across the country, and NATO’s Allied Shield set of war games conducted on air, land, and sea in June, which involved 15,000 personnel from 22 countries.

Though both sides “may maintain that these operations are targeted against hypothetical opponents, the nature and scale of them indicate otherwise: Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia,” the authors write.

NATO’s activities, for example, are “clearly intended to simulate the kinds of operations NATO forces would need to engage in, in the context of a military crisis or confrontation with Russia somewhere in the Baltic region,” the report reads, while the scale and geographical distribution of Russia’s drill “means it could only have been a simulated war with U.S.-led NATO.”

“We do not suggest that the leadership of either side has made a decision to go to war or that a military conflict between the two is inevitable,” the report continues, “but that the changed profile of exercises is a fact and it does play a role in sustaining the current climate of tensions in Europe.”

The exercises also indicate “what each side sees as its most exposed areas,” ELN states, with NATO concentrating its activities in the Baltic States and Poland and Russia focusing primarily on the Arctic and High North, the seaport city of Kaliningrad, occupied Crimea, and its border areas with NATO members Estonia and Latvia.

While Russia and NATO both insist that their moves are defensive in nature, the authors argue that war games can be easily perceived “as provocative and deliberate aggravation of the crisis.”

To “defuse or at least minimize the tensions” between the world powers, the report recommends increased transparency and communication around scheduling of exercises; “restraint in terms of size or scenarios used in exercises;” and—most grandly—the immediate commencement of “conceptual work” on a new treaty limiting deployment of specific categories of weapons.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Ukraine’s Unity Day

Every January 22 marks Unity Day in Ukraine. How did the country celebrate this year?

In Kiev, the Ukraine government is calling for a truce. The prime minister, Arseniy Yatsunyuk, laid wreaths at a ceremonial rally and called attention to the continuing turmoil.

“I believe that the Unity, reunification of Ukrainian lands, which took place in 1919, will have its future – we will return Crimea, and control over Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian military aggression, which is supervised by the Kremlin, won’t be successful and it will fail, like all the past occupations and aggressions against Ukraine,” stressed the Head of Government. Continue reading

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There Will Be Costs

As President Obama spoke these words in reference to Russia’s decision to ramp up their presence in the Crimea, “There will be costs,” we could not help but note this to be perhaps the understatement of the day.

Image By Peter Fitzgerald (:Image:Ukraine regions map.svg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image By Peter Fitzgerald (:Image:Ukraine regions map.svg) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Our assessment comes not necessarily through agreement with the US stance on the Ukraine matter, but rather in observation of the fact that the costs the Ukraine has before it now are staggering in both complexity and implementation. As the new government moves through its parliament to set the course for the future, the choice they make will come with costs to them.

Crimea has had a sense of autonomy prior to these developments in Kiev. A home for a Russian naval base, Crimea’s population is over 60% ethnic Russian. Many do not speak the Ukraine language, but hold roots to their history of when the Ukraine, and Crimea in particular, were part of the U.S.S.R. They do not wish any of this to change. They view the developments in Kiev as negative, and fear the changes will result in policies that will change their way of life against their will.

United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to the G8 Summit dinner following their bilateral meeting in Ireland on 17 June 2013. Photo by Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to the G8 Summit dinner following their bilateral meeting in Ireland on 17 June 2013. Photo by Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Russia has always viewed the Crimea as “theirs” and has continued to hold this position since the 1994 Budapest Agreement they signed with the Ukraine. The Budapest Memorandum is a treaty concerning the nuclear disarmament of Ukraine and its security relationship with the US, the UK and Russia. In return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons to Russia, the signatories agreed to respect Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty, among other things. Russia now views the protection of the Black Sea Fleet, their naval unit located in Crimea, as both a responsibility and a right. It is highly unlikely this attitude will change. They have now authorized military action in Ukraine, not limiting actions to the Crimea region.

Former Ukraine President Yanukovich has surfaced in a press conference from within Russia, stating that he has not relinquished power and is still the legitimate ruler of Ukraine. The international community has not responded to his claims, but he has turned to his friend, Putin, asking for Russian support in overthrowing the “bandits” that have seized control of the parliament in Kiev. Arrest warrants have been issued for both Yanukovich and his son,  Oleksandr, by the Ukraine government after documents found trace nearly $67 billion in assets stolen from the country while in power.

At this time, assets in foreign banks have either already been frozen or in the process of being frozen, as the international community responds to these serious charges based on clear evidence. The Guardian reports this is “in response to a request from Kiev targeting the fortunes of up to 20 of the Yanukovych clique. Yanukovych’s family, his former prime minister and former chief of staff all have substantial properties, businesses, and bank accounts in Austria. The foreign ministry in Vienna said assets were being frozen. But the details were leaked to the Viennese press before being implemented, leaving it unclear whether the assets had already been shifted.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine is challenged with finding a way to move forward that allows acceptance by the international community as well as the diverse population within the country. Most observers, including the EU, are encouraging ties be made with the west, meaning the EU and the US. Crimea and Russia see ties to the east as the only correct path forward. Ukraine’s military has been placed on high alert and the new president has stated that military action from Russia would force the Ukraine to sever ties with them. Ukraine has appealed to NATO and the UN for assistance.

Events in Kiev on 2-18-14. Photo By Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com/ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Events in Kiev on 2-18-14. Photo By Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com/ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We tend to agree with those who say it might be possible for the Ukraine government to accomplish ties to both, in the interest of maintaining the country’s unity and to stabilize the geopolitical climate in the region. This does not need to be an “either-or” decision.

We want to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin, who states his action are not a violation of any law or agreement but are being taken to bring calm to the Crimea at their request. Russian citizens and troops threatened in Ukraine (Crimea region), need armed forces’ protection, he claims. We also can not ignore the similarities in language and in action taken now to those taken prior to the war with Georgia not that long ago.

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