Ukraine roundup

I’ve just got time for a quick roundup of the latest developments in Ukraine.

First, and most importantly, the Supreme Court has suspended publication of the election result while it considers the case brought to it by Yuschenko. This is probably more routine than a sign of any clear intent on the part of the Court, but it does indicate that they’re taking the complaint seriously and are not dismissing it out of hand, as happened with a case Yuschenko brought earlier in the week, I believe.

Also, according to The Periscope, Kazakhstan, China, and Armenia have recognized Yanukovych – probably unaware of the Supreme Court decision to not decide today.

Second, the EU/Russia summit took place today, though there doesn’t seem to be anything concrete coming out of that yet. The official report from the summit is here (pdf file) and it’s more interesting in what it doesn’t say about Ukraine. Note that almost every other issue mentions refers to the EU and Russia jointly agreeing whereas Ukraine was merely the subject of an ‘exchange of views’. I think we have to wait for a statement from Solana (or possibly Barroso or Balkenende) to find out more. On the same note, Solana’s address to the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday can be foung here (also a pdf)

The situation in Ukraine itself appears to be developing into a standoff – Victor and friends keep posting at The Periscope and it seems to be following the same pattern as the last couple of days – rumours of movements of troops and miners, coupled with announcements of official support for Yuschenko from various locations. The latest news is that the Deputy Economy Minister has resigned and said he is ‘with the people’ and rumours are that Yanukovich is trying to make sure he has the loyalty of the rest of the Cabinet, particularly energy ministers. Maidan continues to post reports of military commanders stating they are with Yuschenko.

The protest in Independence Square continues, of course, while strikes are taking place across the country in support of Yuschenko.

There are also reports that Lech Walesa has tried to negotiate, but hasn’t achieved anything. He’s supposed to be holding a press conference around now, but there are no reports yet.

Via Harry, PORA now have an online petition up which they’re asking people to sign.

And quickly around the blogs – something new from Neeka, Le Sabot has photos and background.

Update: (Tobias 18:11 CET) One more night to come up with a solution. In other good news, after having been approached by numerous government officials as well as cnocerned citizens, lieutenant-general Mykhaylo Kutsyn, officer in chief of the Western Operational Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stated that ?[his] actions are directed towards unquestioning fulfillment of the law and Constitution of Ukraine and [he] officially declare[d] that divisions of the Western Operational Command will not fight their own people.?

That is certainly good news. Although I am not at all familiar with the Ukrainian military organization – I assume, given the East-West cleavage, it would be important to get a similar stament from the other Operational Commanders. (via Maidan.net)

Update: (Tobias, 19:24 CET) Jamie of bloodandtreasure has a useful link to a Ukrainian military guide at globalsecurity.org.
Apparently, Ukraine has three regional military commands, Western, Northern, and Southern (see this map). Kyev is situated in the Northern military command.

Update: (Tobias, 21:17 CET) The showdown may have begun. Victor Katolyk reports that, following a “declaration of truth” by several hundred Ukrainian television employees, several tv stations have begun broadcasting “real” news. While several hundred Policemen appear to have pledged allegiance to the people, and former Deputy Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko apparently declared the beginning of a seige of Presidential Administration, Cabinet of Ministers, and the Parliament, there are also reports of pressure on Supreme Courst judges and their families to rule in favor of Mr Yanukovich.

While Russian President Putin, speaking at the EU-Russian summit in The Hague, remained firm that the victory of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was “absolutely clear”, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende finally clearly rejected the results as forged: “The election did not meet the international standards. Therefore the EU is not able to accept the result.” Maidan.net reports that the European Parliament will hold an emergency session devoted entirely to the situation in Ukraine next week.

It could become a serious problem that President Putin has gone further than even the Ukrainian administration in “ruling out” any kind of negotiation and accusing the West of stirring violence in Kyev. Moreover, for the moment, Russia seems not concerned about developing an exit strategy, but is fueling the flames – according to EUbusiness.com, “the president of the foreign affairs committee of the State Duma lower house of parliament, Konstantin Kossachev, also made clear on Thursday it was time for Russia to defend its territory, after a period of letting the West ‘back such or such a leader of such or such a country of the post-Soviet space, as long as they were pro-Western and therefore anti-Russian'”.

Such an official statement about Ukraine being Russian property will likely be counterproductive should it become widely known in Ukraine.

Update: (Tobias, 22:33 CET) The FT wonders if Ukrainian Oligarchs, who have supported Yanukovich and clearly stood to gain from his victory, are now beginning to think about hedging their bets.

Most remain wedded to Mr Yanukovich, especially the barons of his political heartlands in the industrialised Donetsk region. But a few are beginning to wonder whether Mr Yanukovich still offers the best protection for their interests.

Many are also coming under pressure from employees who are openly supporting Mr Yushchenko – putting up posters in factories and workplaces and taking time off for demonstrations.

Update: (Nick 0005 CET) The Times has a map showing the breakdown of the votes in the elections

Suspicion and divided loyalties

Perhaps the most damaging effect of 9/11 and all that has followed will be its role in making divided loyalties one of the most dangerous things a person can have. From the beginning, while the ruins of the World Trade Center were still burning, any effort to hold non-trivial positions about terrorism and Islam were attacked. People opposed to the war in Iraq were branded as terrorist supporters, people unimpressed by a programme of reform in the Middle East imposed at the end of a gun were castigated, people who asked questions about whether there was more to things than “they hate us for our freedom” were branded as traitors.

Tariq Ramadan wrote a piece in Wednesday’s New York Times which must be read in this light. The key paragraph – the statement of where he stands – appears at the end:

I believe Western Muslims can make a critical difference in the Muslim majority world. To do this, we must become full, independent Western citizens, working with others to address social, economic and political problems. However, we can succeed only if Westerners do not cast doubt on our loyalty every time we criticize Western governments. Not only do our independent voices enrich Western societies, they are the only way for Western Muslims to be credible in Arab and Islamic countries so that we can help bring about freedom and democracy. That is the message I advocate. I do not understand how it can be judged as a threat to America.

But it is not that hard to see the threat in it. To encourage western Muslims to at once see themselves as having a place in the West and a role in the Islamic world is tantamount to asking them to divide their loyalties. To all too many people right now, divided loyalties are a synonym for treason. The charge of divided loyalties is an old one, and a very damaging one. It was once the most mainstream charge that people made against Jews. To see it revived today – against Muslims in Europe, against Mexicans in the US by the likes of Samuel Huntington, and yes, against Jews in many countries – is very, very troubling.
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What’s It All About Alfie?

Well I suppose it’s better to end the week on a bang rather than a whimper, so here I go with another of those posts. What really ended the week on a high note (or should I say a low one) was the US labour market. And since I am arguing that the euro-dollar parity is being driven at the moment by US labour market data, this news can only mean one thing: more upward pressure on the euro. Which makes me only want to re-iterate, and even more strongly, that an important opportunity was wasted yesterday to take some remedial action by lowering the interest rate. Remedial action which would also have supplied a much needed lifeline to Germany’s beleagured economy. But this, like so many things, was not to be.
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Free movement of labor, redux

On the previously mentioned subject of Europe’s “free” movement of labor (and the possibility of a massive influx of cheap labor from the east come EU accession time) here’s an article I wrote on the topic in November for Czech and Slovak Construction Journal (for some reason the article’s not posted online).

If you’re too lazy to read the whole thing… It talks about the onset of “EU fatigue” in the east, plus it cites a bunch of studies that discredit the fear of a massive influx of eastern workers wrecking havoc on Western European job markets. And this is really about Polish construction workers already living illegally in Berlin, not Czech IT geeks in London (nor British chefs in Prague). Enjoy.
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German Is Getting Sexy Again. Again.

The controverse reaction to Edward’s use of a French block quote in a blog that claims to be the place for intelligent English language coverage of European affairs, made me remember my first blogging conversation. It was a discussion about Germans not publishing in English and the stipulation by the Norwegian blogger Bj?rn St?rk that ??nothing beautiful or sensible should ever be written in Norwegian, if it could be written in English.? So after speaking French all evening, and in light of the above mentioned comments as well as my imminent visit to the Frankfurt International Book Fair (link in English) I felt compelled to recycle my defence of linguistic diversity as a virtue of its own right, which was first published in a slightly different version in almost a diary on February 2nd, 2003.

Bj?rn St?rk had a look around the web and was astonished by the fact that he could find relatively few European, particularly German and French, (particularly political) blogs published in English. Contemplating the deeper issue at hand – the relation of national cultures and supra-national languages – in this case English – in an age of global interaction – Bj?rn made an interesting argument concerning cultural imperialism, linguistic protectionism, linguistic economies of scale and scope as well as the advantages of publishing in English instead of one?s native language.

No doubt about it – English has become some sort lingua franca in many respects.

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Odd, But Interesting

Gregg Easterbrook of the New Republic writes:

MOSCOW LOST THE COLD WAR, BUT DREAMS OF WINNING THE GLOBAL WARMING WAR: Why won’t Russia ratify the Kyoto Treaty? It would seem very much in Moscow’s interest to do so.

The United States has dropped out of Kyoto negotiations, but most other Western nations remain in. Russia now holds the swing vote on whether Kyoto goes into effect for most Western nations except the United States. If Kyoto actually did take effect, requiring most Western nations to make dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases, Europe would inevitably end up involved in “carbon trading” with Moscow. The European Union would invest in modernization of Russian industry, in order to reduce Russian greenhouse-gas emissions; then Europe would buy the reduction credits so created. The European Union also would reduce its use of greenhouse-offender coal, substituting lower-carbon natural gas from Russia. Thus it seems Moscow and its industries would come out a winner under a Kyoto regime. Yet the Duma has been resisting ratification of Kyoto for two years, and yesterday, Vladimir Putin said he is also opposed.

Possible reason for Russian resistance–Moscow wants global warming! Much of the world might suffer, but the freezing former Soviet states might be better off. The agricultural region of Russia might expand significantly, while Siberia became reasonably habitable. If Siberia and other ice regions became reasonably habitable, global warming would effectively be expanding Russian territory by climate change, not war. And what government doesn’t want more territory?

Sidelight: Why does Germany favor the Kyoto Treaty? Not so much for greenhouse reasons but so that Berlin can shut down the country’s subsidized, politically powerful coal-mining industry. German leaders have wanted for decades to cut subsidies for coal production–even the presumably pro-labor current government wants this–because coal mined in Germany costs more than twice the world price, mainly owing to featherbedded work rules. Every move to reign in the German coal industry has been greeted by public howls. But if Berlin could blame a coal shut-down on an international obligation, and polls show the Kyoto accord is very popular among Germans, the equation would change.

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The sidelight is even odder and even more interesting. Hmm.