Multilateral Agreement on East Ukraine Situation Gives Peace a Chance – Post by G. Stolyarov II

Multilateral Agreement on East Ukraine Situation Gives Peace a Chance – Post by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 17, 2014

I am immensely relieved that a deal among the governments of Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union has been reached in an effort to avert violence and de-escalate the increasingly troubling crisis in East Ukraine. (See the Washington Post article by Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan, describing the deal. Also see this article from BBC News.) While the deal does not resolve all of the outstanding key issues of contention among the parties (the various territorial and policy disputes), it is a tremendous step in the right direction in denouncing the use of violence, rejecting bigoted mindsets such as anti-Semitism and exclusivist nationalism more generally, offering those who have not committed violence a chance to return to civilian life unscathed, and holding all sides to the promise to disarm and marginalize violent militants. I have written previously that war would be the worst option for Ukraine and the world in general. Any agreement that takes us even a small step away from war and toward a civilized, peaceful resolution is a welcome development in defense of a bright, cosmopolitan future of advancing technology and rising living standards for all – instead of meaningless carnage and destruction.

If Vladimir Putin’s regime was indeed behind the arming and organizing of the insurgents in the Donetsk region, then Russia’s accession to this deal can be expected to be followed by the disempowerment of the insurgency. If the havoc wreaked by the separatist uprising cannot last without Putin’s assistance, then withdrawal of that assistance would hopefully restore a semblance of peace and safety for civilians.

3 thoughts on “Multilateral Agreement on East Ukraine Situation Gives Peace a Chance – Post by G. Stolyarov II

  1. Yes, yes, peace in our time! Such a relief that Herr Putin agrees.

    Three important facts, easily verified:

    1. There has been no threat to ethnic Russians or Russian speakers in Ukraine, and no threat to Russia, nor was the anti-Yanukovych movement fascist or anti-Semitic.

    2. Russian military personnel have been involved the takeovers in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

    3. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that the breakup of the Soviet Union was legal and that Ukraine has legal status an an independent country.

    While this deal was being signed, Vladimir Putin conducted a press conference in which he re-affirmed his right to invade Ukraine and made the claim that most of Ukraine actually is Russian territory given by the Bolsheviks to Ukraine (“Novorossiya”). He also admitted, for the first time, something he has repeatedly denied up until now — Russia’s military was involved in the seizing of Crimea.

    If you’d like, I can also give documentation that the Kremlin already has had similar destabilization operations going in the Baltics, where Putin has also claimed “Russians” are persecuted and threatened.

    In truth Putin created the international crisis himself, singlehandedly. Lavrov then negotiates a “compromise,” while Putin reserves a “right” to invade if it doesn’t work out. His special forces continue to operate in Ukraine, so it won’t work out, and he can blame the “banderites” and claim he was forced to invade. Russian news media have continued to lie about what is happening in Ukraine, broadcasting the claim that nascent civil war and ethnic cleansing of “Russians” is underway.

    That’s what we should call “giving peace a chance?”

  2. Dr. Steele,

    I will respond to your points on both this thread and the previous thread on my article “War is the Worst Choice for Ukraine and the World”.

    1.While Putin’s propaganda clearly exaggerates the extent of persecution of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and most of the anti-Yanukovych movement was neither fascist nor anti-Semitic, it is still true that both Svoboda and Right Sector clearly are dangerous nationalist bigots. They cannot be ignored, especially as Svoboda forms a non-negligible component of the new government, and Right Sector thugs have become such a problem that the new government itself has had to deal with them through force (see this BBC story about the justified killing of the infamous ultra-nationalist thug and sadist Oleksandr Muzychko, who previously butchered and mutilated Russian civilians in Chechnya, at the hands of Ukrainian police). This is why the Geneva Statement was correct to condemn bigotry on all sides. Svoboda is perhaps even more troubling because it has a political presence, and even its representatives in the Rada have personally engaged in violence and intimidation. See this New York Daily News article and video of Svoboda Rada members beating up the head of Ukrainian television and forcing him to sign a resignation statement – simply for disagreeing with the ultra-nationalist line. Also see this Huffington Post article and video of the brutal beating of Oleh Tsarev, a legitimate Ukrainian Presidential candidate who supports economic association with Russia but is opposed to Ukraine’s breakup or to Russian occupation. The mobs do not care about nuances such as those, and the thugs that comprise Right Sector and are goaded on by Svoboda have no respect for freedom of speech or civil disagreement. They need to be sidelined and penalized in much the same way as the violent separatists and provocateurs on the pro-Putin side do. The key to understanding this situation is that any attempt to cast it as black versus white, unblemished good versus rampant evil completely misses the complexities and strains of ugly, historically rooted hatreds present within each side. That said, I think that Turchynov and Yatseniuk can be reasoned with and are an improvement over Yanukovych. They should be recognized by Russia as legitimate, but they also need to crack down on Svoboda and Right Sector and adhere to a course of tolerance and accommodation for the liberties of all of Ukraine’s peaceful citizens. This internal housecleaning in Ukrainian politics would be a key component to de-escalation and to the maintenance of Ukraine’s territorial integrity (as it would give people in the East less of a reason to call for secession).

    As always in such situations, the truth is somewhere in between what both sides’ propaganda machines would lead us to believe.

    2. While I acknowledge that Russian military personnel were involved in Crimea, and most likely in Eastern Ukraine, it seems that their involvement in the latter case is much less all-encompassing than you seem to suggest. If Putin had completely controlled the insurgency, then, after the signing of the Geneva Statement, he could have simply said, “Insurgents, back down,” and the People’s Republic of Donetsk would have been no more. Now, though, Denis Pushilin, the head of the Donetsk protesters, is saying that “Lavrov did not sign for us” – meaning that he is really acting on his own at this point. I think now is the time for Putin to make a decisive statement urging the protesters to vacate all occupied buildings, but it may not have any result if the protesters are mostly upset locals. Russian special forces may have given them organizational and logistical assistance, but that does not necessarily mean that Russian special forces could convince them to leave and disarm even if Putin wanted them to. Besides, Putin cannot directly force protesters to leave if he does not control them already. For him to do so would mean taking the exact action we want him to refrain from: sending more Russian military forces to East Ukraine.

    One other point: I would not be surprised if CIA agents are also active in Ukraine, especially given John Brennan’s recent “secret” visit. Both major powers are using their covert influence in any way they can: the Russian operations are simply more obvious and crude, and the propaganda has been blunter and less refined (very typical of the contrast between Russian and US foreign-policy propaganda).

    3. While I have no doubt that Putin wishes the USSR had remained intact and would like to see a resurgence of Russia’s control over Ukraine (and anywhere else he can get it safely), his pragmatism would outweigh that ideological desire. His rhetoric is mostly aimed domestically, to score points with elderly Russians who bemoan the loss of the “glory days” of the USSR. Putin is mostly a calculating opportunist, and he will get away with any extension of influence that he would consider safe, but he has already nearly exhausted his ability to do this. He will not risk his political security and war with NATO just to grab a bit more land. At most, he will continue to instigate local disturbances which, while tragic and threatening to the people involved, need not escalate into a global conflict unless the West reciprocates with its own belligerence. Putin may be evil, but he is not stupid. He is running out of steam and becoming more cautious by the day; he is mostly looking to save face and present any outcome as a victory to his own people – or else he risks losing his hold on power.

    On Russian language: While it is recognized in Ukraine’s constitution currently, it does not have equivalent official status. This does not really matter for day-to-day purposes, but it would be an easy symbolic victory to give Putin in exchange for substantive concessions (pulling back troops, recognizing the new Ukrainian government as legitimate, supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine minus Crimea). No harm can come from this gesture.

    On sanctions: The free-market arguments includes the recognition that sanctions almost never harm the regime in power; they always harm ordinary civilians and rally them around the hostile regime. As Mises put it, “Wars, foreign and domestic (revolutions, civil wars), are more likely to be avoided the closer the division of labor binds men.” Mises also said that military conflicts “are an outgrowth of the various governments’ interference with business, of trade and migration barriers and discrimination against foreign labor, foreign products, and foreign capital.” To the extent that Åslund departs from this understanding, he is sacrificing free-market principles to his desire to undermine Putin and Russia.

    Severing the international division of labor only makes it easier for the targeted regime to rally its people around it against the “external aggressor”. This has been a common tactic of Soviet regimes throughout the history of the USSR. Sanctions would only enable this tactic to be used once again and would fortify Putin’s hold on power. (Of course, neoconservative hawks in the US would relish this situation as well, as their own hold on power and influence here depends on continuing to manufacture an external enemy to keep the US populace focused outward rather than on reforming the bloated, unsustainable federal budget and curtailing the influence of politically connected military contractors and “security” agencies that are really meant to intimidate Americans.) In short, sanctions would mean Putin wins, neoconservative rent-seekers in the US win, and civilians in Russia, Ukraine, and the US lose. Moreover, how do you imagine sanctions against Russia would affect civil liberties in the United States? Do you really think that ordinary Americans would be left unscathed and unmolested amid the next wave of fear of “the other” and the heightened ludicrous security theater that would almost immediately arise? Boston had been turned into a war zone a year ago, just because of paranoia over what two violent but utterly incompetent Chechen nationalist fools might do next. I only shudder to think of the turnkey totalitarianism that would be imposed in the US in the event of any serious escalation of the standoff with Russia.

    This is why every effort from the West right now must be aimed at defusing tensions in every way possible. Give Putin a way to save face, implement measures needed for Ukraine to remain intact (minus Crimea, which is a lost cause and would have been a thorn in Ukraine’s side anyway), marginalize the militants, and allow saner, more civilized parties on all sides to gain the upper hand.

    Gennady Stolyarov II

  3. Well, it looks like my characterization of Right Sector is incontrovertible now. Even as the Ukrainian military justifiably put its operations on hold this weekend, Right Sector thugs attacked and killed at least three protesters near Slovyansk (see this ABC article).

    If the Ukrainian government wishes to defuse this situation, it needs to crack down on the provocateurs that claim allegiance to it yet who terrorize the people and undermine any prospects for peace and disarmament. The pro-Putin separatists have not occupied new ground or initiated violence since the Geneva Statement was signed; they could have been persuaded to leave by OSCE monitors, were it not for this provocation by Right Sector, deliberately aimed at fomenting nationalist hatreds and triggering a backlash from the ethnically Russian population.

    Turning the Ukrainian forces against Right Sector and completely dismantling that horrendously thuggish and illiberal group would be the best choice Turchynov and Yatseniuk could make – and it would be the best signal they could send to Putin that it would be in his interest to actually support Ukraine’s current government and territorial boundaries.

    Gennady Stolyarov II

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