Thursday

1st Sep 2016

Opinion

On 'doing' Ukraine

  • We are not supposed to laugh at the HR/VP anymore (Photo: securityconference.de)

Ukraine is not funny. Except, perhaps, on Russian TV, but in a black way.

Last November it said the EU association treaty will force Ukrainian mums and dads to give their children for adoption to EU homosexuals. Now it is saying Ukrainians who want closer EU ties are Nazis.

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You can’t pay some people enough to say this: two anchors from Vladimir Putin’s RT news show rebelled on air. But you can pay others: RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, says she is “persecuted” by “tens of thousands of Western TV stations” for “telling another side to the story.”

The US state department even quoted Dostoevsky to say Putin is adding “two and two to make five.”

It might equally have quoted Bulgakov, a Ukrainian writer, who said “the tongue can conceal the truth, but the eyes never”

… and emailed CNN, which described the 5,500 men armed with Russian assault rifles and flanked by Russian helicopter gunships in Crimea as a “self-defence force” of concerned locals

… and emailed the FT, but with a different Bulgakov quote: “manuscripts don’t burn.”

The FT gave 958 words of copy to Vladimir Yakunin, Putin’s pal and railway chief, to tell “another side of the story” - that the EU and US work for a “global financial oligarchy” whose “aim is the destruction of Russia.”

At least he knows a thing or two about “global oligarchy.”

Russian activist Alexei Navalny has shown how Yakunin embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars of Russian taxpayers’ money into offshore funds and real estate.

Putin has put Navalny under house arrest and cut him off from the internet.

But on the internet manuscripts don’t burn.

Gosh

If Russian TV is comical, Russian, or Ukrainian, spooks also do funny.

Last month we had the Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt show. She says: “And, you know, fuck the EU.” He says: “Oh, exactly.”

This month we had the Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton show.

He says a Maidan medical volunteer, Olha Bohomolets, told him the same snipers shot both protesters and police. He adds: “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych. It was somebody from the new coalition.” Ashton says: “That’s interesting. Gosh.”

He asks if she is going to Australia. She says: “I’ve got to do more Ukraine instead.”

Paet should be more careful, even in private, how he tells stories and how he adds two and two.

Bohomolets has denied telling him the same snipers shot both protesters and police because she has no evidence.

Hennadiy Moscal, a former intelligence officer, says he has documents which indicate the order to shoot was given by the former regime’s spy chief, Oleksandr Yakymenko, and interior minister, Vitaliy Zakharchenko.

Meanwhile, we are not supposed to laugh at Ashton any more.

She built the EU foreign service. She saved Kosovo. She disarmed Iran.

Now she is “doing” Ukraine.

Some might find her homely tones in the leak endearing.

But “doing” Ukraine is vocabulary which creates an unflattering image of global diplomacy: Ashton, or Carl Bildt, as a kind of EU Tyler Brule - an FT columnist on luxury travel - flying at 30,000 feet over conflict zones, with quality leather accessories, to make vain remarks.

Did the EU just give away Crimea?

Meanwhile, EU leaders on Thursday damned Putin with analogies worthy of RT’s Margarita.

His machinations in Crimea were compared to Hitler and the Sudetenland, Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, and Khamenei’s Iran, while poor Yulia Tymoshenko and her man, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, were showered with kisses in Brussels and in Dublin.

There were EU red lines.

Putin already crossed one (so the EU froze visa-free talks). If he crosses the second one - refusing to talk to Ukraine - people like Yakunin should start moving their money from EU banks to EU banks’ Asian subsidiaries.

But the only real red line - sanctions on Putin’s banks, oil, and arms - was drawn around Crimea.

So long as he stays out of Ukraine’s east and south, there will be no economic sanctions. Instead, there will be, as with Georgia in 2008, business as usual before long.

Yatsenyuk seems to agree.

While commending Ukrainian soldiers on their restraint in Crimea, he added: “In the case of Russian escalation and military intervention into Ukrainian territory by a foreign force, the Ukrainian government will act in accordance with the constitution and laws. We are ready to defend our country.”

So … what is Crimea if not “Ukrainian territory”? Chopped liver?

It’s the kind of statement that might tempt the Maidan to start adding two and two.

Tymoshenko says she does not want to run Ukraine and that reports, which say she made a deal with Putin to get back into power if she gives him Crimea, are “anti-Ukrainian propaganda.”

On denials of seeking high office, see the conversation at 45m.35s in “Party Games,” an episode of the British TV show “Yes, Minister” where Jim Hacker becomes PM.

On Crimea denials, for one: How come Tymoshenko last weekend attended a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security Council in which she blocked any decisions on Crimea even as Putin strengthened his grip?

Two: How come Ukraine’s Tymoshenko-dominated interim government has put three people with direct links to Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s go-between on Ukraine, on its new panel on constitutional reform?

Three: Why would former president Viktor Yanukovych make a deal to stay in power until December then order snipers to shoot everybody and put the deal at risk?

Four: Yanukovych regime members have said a "third force" ordered the snipers. Could this be Putin, or Putin’s infiitrators in Yanukovych’s administration, as part of the purported Tymoshenko-Crimea deal?

So does that mean Paet was right on “somebody from the new coalition”?

It brings us back to Dostoevsky. But Ukraine doesn't add up.

Opinion

A marriage of convenience

The West has nothing to fear from the convenient meeting of the minds between Erdogan and Putin. Both countries are strictly following their strategic national interests, which sometimes clash heavily - as can be seen in Syria.

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