Tag Archives: Europe

Jews and the Pogroms in the “Bloodlands” After World War I

(A review here of Timothy Snyder’s superb history, “The Bloodlands”; image at top of the post: “Abraham Manievich: Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev, 1919, The Jewish Museum, New York City”.)

The chaotic, brutal and often murderous aftermath of World War I in Eastern Europe and the Balkans is largely unknown, indeed unwritten about, in the English-speaking world. Here are extracts from an article at the NY Review of Books on three books that point out precursors to the Holocaust in Poland and Ukraine:

Rehearsal for Genocide

Magda Teter

Three recent books conclude that the anti-Jewish pogroms following World War I help to explain what would take place a generation later.


Legacy of Blood: Jews, Pogroms, and Ritual Murder in the Lands of the Soviets

by Elissa Bemporad

Oxford University Press, 238 pp., $78.00

International Jewish Humanitarianism in the Age of the Great War

by Jaclyn Granick

Cambridge University Press, 404 pp., $39.99

In the Midst of Civilized Europe: The Pogroms of 1918–1921 and the Onset of the Holocaust

by Jeffrey Veidlinger

Metropolitan, 466 pp., $35.00

The war in Ukraine has simultaneously forced to the surface and upended the memory of a history that had fallen into oblivion. The past, we see once more, can be reinvented and reinterpreted. In 2014 Slava Ukraini became the slogan of an independent, westward-looking Ukraine, when the Euromaidan protests resulted in the ousting of its president, Viktor Yanukovych, and his flight to Russia. In 2018 it became the official greeting of the Ukrainian army. Since February 24 of this year it has become a worldwide cry of solidarity.

Yet its roots lie in post–World War I violence. Ukrainian nationalists hollered “Glory to Ukraine” not only in their fight for independence but also during horrific massacres of Jews in 1918–1921 that killed over 100,000 people, possibly even as many as 200,000, sometimes wiping out entire Jewish populations in towns and villages. The shout was then taken up in the 1930s and 1940s by far-right Ukrainian nationalists, who were implicated in anti-Jewish and anti-Polish attacks and in collaborating with the occupying Nazi forces. Although banned by the Soviet authorities, it survived among émigrés in the West…

Three recent books excavate this century-old story and shine light on its lasting importance. Elissa Bemporad’s Legacy of Blood: Jews, Pogroms, and Ritual Murder in the Lands of the Soviets looks at the memory and consequences of this violence in the Soviet Union. Jaclyn Granick’s International Jewish Humanitarianism in the Age of the Great War examines the rise of nongovernmental humanitarian mobilization in response to World War I and its savage aftermath—a mobilization aided by the ascendancy of the United States and its Jewish community. Jeffrey Veidlinger’s In The Midst of Civilized Europe: The Pogroms of 1918–1921 and the Onset of the Holocaust offers an account of the brutality in the years that followed World War I in Eastern Europe and argues that it created conditions for the mass murder of Jews a generation later during World War II.

What all three books show is that the Great War did not end in November 1918. In the east, in the territories that are now in Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus, bloodshed not only continued but intensified, as multiple factions sought to establish new countries on the ruins of empires that “in a stunning development,” Veidlinger says, “had crumbled in just a few days.” Ukrainian nationalist groups fought for an independent Ukraine while clashing over their visions of what it would be, having to face both Bolshevik and White Russian forces from the east and, from the west, Polish troops seeking to reestablish an independent Poland. As each group embraced different ideas of loyalty, belonging, and citizenship, Jews were caught in between—trapped as permanent outsiders, unable to fit into the newly fashioned nation-states [emphasis added].

Just days after the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, Polish soldiers arrived in Lviv, a multiethnic city with significant Polish and Jewish populations, and a Ukrainian minority amounting to just under 20 percent, to claim it for Poland. The city, whose name changed according to the political powers that controlled it—Lwów, Lemberg, Lvov, and Lviv—was, as Veidlinger puts it, “the linchpin of the multinational state” envisioned by Marshal Józef Piłsudski. He dreamed about reinstating Poland to “the historic borders of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth,” a vast multicultural polity that had been wiped off the maps of Europe in 1795, after its final dismemberment by the Habsburg Empire, Prussia, and Russia. But on November 1, a few weeks before the Polish troops’ arrival, one of the Ukrainian national groups had already announced in Lviv “the establishment of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic,” raising the blue-and-yellow flag over the city hall, to the ire of the Polish population.

Faced with a conflict between Poles and Ukrainians, the Jewish community in Lviv sought to remain neutral, a move that rendered it vulnerable to attacks from both sides. On November 22, soon after the Polish troops had taken control of the city, Jewish self-defense groups were disarmed, shops were looted, and, according to a 1919 report, “all who resisted were brutally assaulted or shot, and many women and girls were outraged,” an early-twentieth-century euphemism for rape [emphasis added]. The violence lasted three days, leaving at least seventy-three and perhaps as many as 108 Jews murdered and 443 wounded.

The Lviv/Lwów pogrom was a turning point. It targeted a specific group that had been uninvolved in the struggle; it was organized and destructive, and, Veidlinger shows, militarily sanctioned—“instigated by armed soldiers in the line of duty rather than by roaming gangs of ruffians or local discontents.” Most importantly, the massacre took place “not during the three-week conflict between Polish and Ukrainian forces over control of Lviv but rather after Polish soldiers had secured the city.” Jews thus were not “collateral damage” of a military operation but rather “were deliberately slaughtered [emphasis added].”..

The pogroms of 1918–1921 differed significantly from previous pogroms: these massacres were approved and largely perpetrated by troops and people in positions of authority. Moreover, since the Ukrainian People’s Republic had proclaimed support for minority rights (a model later adopted by the Allied powers in the treaties with Poland and other newly emerging countries), including the recognition of Yiddish as one of the country’s official languages, the attacks were especially alarming. They demonstrated “to the Jews of Ukraine and to the world that even a government established on the principle of minority rights and national autonomy could not protect Jews from violence.” Finally, pogroms in towns like Dubovo (near Cherkasy), Fastiv, and Proskuriv, where whole communities were wiped out in a matter of hours or days, made it possible to imagine genocidal murder.

In Proskuriv, the forces of the Directory, headed by a twenty-five-year-old former agronomist named Ivan Semosenko, were told to protect the Ukrainian army’s reputation so it would not be “sullied by looting and theft” and take an oath, promising that “they would kill ‘from the old to the young’ but not steal.” They were good to their word. When Jews offered money to save their lives, they were reportedly told that, having “received an order not to rob, but to kill,” as one witness recalled later, “they didn’t need money, just Jewish souls.” Within four hours, between nine hundred and 1,200 Jews were killed. The events in Proskuriv were so shocking at the time that they were compared to the Armenian genocide of 1915–1916 [emphasis added].

In Fastiv, over a few days in September 1919, nearly two thousand Jews were said to have been murdered—some burned alive, trapped in locked homes and synagogues that were then doused in kerosene and torched. Others fled the town, and still thousands of others were wounded or died of disease. Later estimates put the death toll at eight thousand.

…“At the end of World War I and in the midst of the Polish-Soviet war,” Ukrainian nationalists, Poles, the White Army, and the German armies “equated the Bolsheviks and the Jews,” Bemporad writes, “labeling Bolshevism as a quintessentially Jewish doctrine”—that is, “‘foreign,’ ‘other,’ and ‘evil.’” In Pinsk, which was, as Granick writes, “in the combat zone between Poland and Russia, Polish soldiers stormed a gathering of Jews who were organizing the distribution of Passover food provided by [the] JDC [Joint Distribution Committee],” a Jewish American relief agency formed in 1914. The soldiers, assuming it was “a meeting for subversive, Bolshevist purposes,” shot thirty-five Jews and arrested many others.

The belief in Judeo-Bolshevism held by all these anti-Bolshevik forces, each fighting to realize its distinct and clashing political goals and ideologies, was galvanizing and deadly [emphasis added]. The fact that the Bolsheviks did indeed stop anti-Jewish massacres only deepened this pernicious conviction and, Bemporad shows, was what “ultimately enticed so many Jews to fight on the side of the world Revolution, to wage a war against counter-revolution, and to forge an alliance with the Soviet state. The pogroms made Jews Soviet.”..

Thousands of Jews moved to major cities across Eastern Europe, making small-town, traditional Jews more visible and alien. Many cities could not sustain the influx. Jews and their status became an issue in the negotiations in Paris. According to Granick, “The refugee problem became a Jewish problem”—one that was exploited, in the interwar period, by xenophobic nationalists and demagogues like Hitler.

So although the anti-Jewish atrocities of 1918–1921 may be a forgotten genocide, absent “from history textbooks, museums, and public memory,” they were widely known at the time, both in the region and in the West. The Soviet authorities designed their commissions to research and prosecute the perpetrators, and on September 8, 1919, The New York Times said an American commission would go to Ukraine to report to President Woodrow Wilson on the pogroms; the ominous lede stated that “127,000 Jews have been killed and 6,000,000 are in peril.”..

Approaching the history of World War I and its aftermath from three different vantage points, Bemporad, Granick, and Veidlinger each conclude that the shocking anti-Jewish assaults of 1918–1921 help to explain what would take place a generation later. The “unprecedented” scale of destruction and “the performativity of violence against Jews” can now be seen, Granick argues, as a “bridge” to the Holocaust. According to Veidlinger, the pogroms and what they stood for became “an acceptable response to the excesses of Bolshevism,” leaving a heritage of social tolerance for killing Jews. In 1941, therefore, when the Nazis invaded the territories of what is today Ukraine, they were able to mobilize the local population to do their dirty work, since it “had become inured,” he says, “to bloodshed and primed to target Jews in ethnic violence [see this post: “Hitler’s Ukrainian Executioners“] .” Furthermore, the connection between Bolshevism and Jews, as well as the nexus of anti-Semitism and opposition to Soviet rule discussed by Bemporad, made the atrocities of World War II less shocking…

The stories Bemporad, Granick, and Veidlinger tell in their very different books remind us how much our world is an heir to the violent legacy of World War I. Yet they also show, as the war in Ukraine underscores, that perhaps we do not have to be trapped in this past. Slava Ukraini is no longer a slogan of the perpetrators of anti-Jewish violence; it is a slogan of a country defending liberal democratic values, whose president is a descendant of Holocaust survivors.

Magda Teter

Magda Teter is a Professor of History and the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies at Fordham. She is the author, most recently, of Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth. (June 2022)

UPDATE: From a very acute observer of the Canadian and international scene:

Related posts on the Holocaust itself:


Jedwabne: A Murderous July 1941 Polish Pogrom–and God?

A Great Book From a Romanian Jew, Mihail Sebastian: “Journal 1935–1944: The Fascist Years”

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

How Europe got Richer than Asia

Exploit Africa and Africans as the Middle Ages were winding up. From an article at the Ottawa Citizen:

Author places Africa, Africans at the centre of modernity

“Where does anybody get the idea that the West was built by Europeans? It’s an amazing act of distortion or delusion. The labour came, clearly, from people from Africa.”

Andrew Duffy

Former New York Times foreign correspondent Howard French says Africa and Africans do not get the credit they deserve for the making of the modern world.

In a two-hour address to Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, French made the case that West Africa’s gold propelled the search for similar riches by the rulers of Portugal and Spain, who bankrolled the age of discovery.

What’s more, French argued, African slaves in the New World enriched Europe to such an extent that its development vaulted ahead of the rest of the world, where it has remained [emphasis added].

Profits from the forced labour of more than 12 million African slaves in the lucrative sugar cane industry were astronomical.

“This is the era when Europe first starts to diverge in wealth from other parts of the world, always having trailed India and China for a long string of centuries,” French said. “This is when the West was created [emphasis added].”

Until 1820, he noted, four out of every five people brought across the Atlantic came from Africa.

“Who do you think built the West?” he asked. “Where does anybody get the idea that the West was built by Europeans? It’s an amazing act of distortion or delusion. The labour came, clearly, from people from Africa.”

Those slaves, many of whom perished under murderous conditions on sugar and cotton plantations, made North America economically viable and prosperous, he said.

French’s two-hour address Monday night was based on his sweeping new book, Born in Blackness, which explores 600 years of history: from 1471 to the Second World War [a review here].

His book places Africa and Africans at the centre of that history, which begins with gold.

After the emperor of Mali, Mansa Mousa, went on a pilgrimage to Mecca with 18 tonnes of pure gold in 1324, word of those riches spread to a Portuguese prince, Henry the Navigator, who went in search of the source of that gold along the West African coast in the 1430s.

It was this search for trade with Africa, not Asia, that launched the age of exploration [emphasis added], French said.

“If the word Africa appears at all in these narratives, it appears in the form of a geographic obstacle that has to be overcome,” he said. “The Portuguese obsessions was, in fact, completely bound up in questing for discovery in Africa.”

In 1471, Portugal established Europe’s first African outpost at Elmina, in modern-day Ghana, to trade for gold. Within five years, French said, 30 per cent of Portugal’s national revenue came from that single trading partner…

French also noted that São Tomé, an island off the coast of Central Africa, is absent from most history books even though it was the site of the most important economic innovation “in the history of the modern age prior to the industrial revolution [emphasis added].

It was on São Tomé, he said, that the Portuguese discovered the perfect climate for growing sugar cane. Sugar was then a rare and exorbitant luxury item.

It led, French said, to the development of the plantation, an economic model that would enslave millions of Africans while powering European colonialism. French called the plantation system “a prison-industrial labour camp” where people were worked to death as part of a business plan. A slave typically lived five to seven years on a sugar plantation.

The same monstrous business model would later be exported to the New World, he said, where it dominated wealth creation in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1630, England took over the island of Barbados, he said, and within two decades its slave plantations were generating so much wealth that it set the country on the road to becoming an imperial power. Barbados alone produced more wealth for England than Spain received by looting the New World of gold, he said.

“This is the start of British empire [emphasis added],” French argued.

The French used the same model to exploit Guadeloupe, Martinique and, later, Saint-Domingue in what is now Haiti. It would become the source of one-third of all of France’s external trade revenue, French said…

Fluent in French, Mandarin, Spanish and Japanese, he is the author of five books and is now a professor at the Columbia Journalism School in New York City.

In other words, where the surplus, er, capital came from to spur economic progress after centuries of stagnation.

An earlier post wherein Prof. French points out, in another book, China’s neocolonialism in Africa, the exploitation now headed eastward:

A Million Chinese in the Dragon’s African Empire

And a post on other aspects of African slavery:

Slavery–Don’t Forget the African Sellers and the Berbers and Arabs

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Ukraine Crisis: No Canadian LNG Exports, or, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

Further to this recent post,

Europe over an LNG Tank–Pity None Available from Canada

now an article by the estimable Heather Exnot-Poirot, a specialist in the Arctic and in indigenous peoples (her website here), at the Calgary Herald:

Opinion: We could’ve been a contender: Canada has missed the boat on LNG opportunities

As the West prepares for the possibility that Russia will invade Ukraine this winter, maintaining natural gas supply to Europe is a key consideration. To that end, the Biden administration has been co-ordinating with Qatar and Australia to prepare additional liquified natural gas exports to get the continent through this season. Are you wondering why Canada, the world’s fifth-largest producer of natural gas, is not being mentioned?

Due to a series of unfortunate market and political events, Canada has zero LNG export capacity globally. Every unit of natural gas exported by Canada goes to the United States via pipeline. And that inability to participate in the global LNG market has proven to be a terrible economic, environmental and security mistake.

Canada saw major growth in natural gas exports to the United States in the 1990s and 2000s. But the US shale revolution in the 2010s — the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that saw the Americans significantly expand their oil and gas production — meant that Canada’s biggest, and only, customer needed much less of our product. This turned producers’ eyes to LNG. With North America now swimming in a surplus of natural gas, liquefying the product would allow them to export to overseas markets, like Europe and Asia, where there was still strong demand.

And this is where the two countries’ paths diverge. In the United States, LNG export capacity went full steam ahead, increasing from less than one billion cubic feet per day in 2015 to 10.8 billion at the end of 2020. To do that, they built seven LNG export facilities, with five more under construction and an additional 15 approved, and are on track to become the world’s top global exporter [emphasis added]. The value of those exports is spiking amid record natural gas prices, and here they have a nice trick: buy Canadian natural gas at lower North American prices, and sell it overseas at higher Asian and European prices.

Canada has taken the opposite approach: do nothing. Of 24 proposed projects since 2011, only one is under construction: LNG Canada in Kitimat [emphasis added]. One other, Woodfibre LNG in Squamish, is expected to begin construction this year. The rest are in various stages of mothballing. Canada has turned down tens of billions of dollars in revenue — much of which would have accrued to First Nations, thanks to their substantial equity positions in these resource projects — in the name of reducing global supplies of fossil fuels. For some, this is considered a huge success [emphasis added].

Enough time and events have passed to consider the consequences of Canada’s failed LNG strategy. Beyond the lost government royalties, First Nations revenues, and jobs in Canada, a lack of global supply has led to soaring energy prices, sparking inflation and an affordability crisis.

Fertilizer plants have been shuttered because of the high cost of natural gas, a major feedstock in nitrogen-based fertilizers, which has put the squeeze on farmers worldwide and led to higher food prices.

Meanwhile, Russia has gained tremendous leverage over Europe, its biggest supplier of natural gas, tying the West’s hands in the face of aggression in Ukraine.

But if those sacrifices are seen as acceptable to climate activists in Victoria, Vancouver and Ottawa, consider that the policy of constraining natural gas supply has also failed in its biggest objective, the environmental one. Because of a lack of cleaner-burning fuels such as LNG, coal burning for power generation is booming [emphasis added]. The International Energy Association expects record global coal consumption between 2022-24, led by China, the biggest would-be customer of LNG from B.C.

All things being equal, B.C. LNG would be amongst the cleanest on the planet, due to the lower-CO2 composition of Montney natural gas; widespread electrification of upstream operations like drilling and processing; and the use of green power from B.C.’s hydro-driven electrical grid. It is to the environment’s detriment that consumers have had to resort to other suppliers.

Critics will argue that weak global LNG prices were the real culprit in dampening Canadian LNG export capacity. And to some extent that is correct. But it doesn’t explain how the U.S. set itself up to be the top global exporter and we still don’t export a drop, despite starting in the same place a decade ago. Protests, legal delays, regulatory burdens and a general lack of social licence did that.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Canada’s decision to stay out of the LNG market may not have created the global energy crisis, but it certainly has exacerbated it. We might want to consider the unintended consequences of our climate and energy policies next time.

Heather Exner-Pirot is a senior policy analyst at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

Plus an earlier article at the Globe and Mail‘s business section:

Canada has the natural gas, but can’t get LNG to Europe

Just your normal Canadian economic FAIL these days, failures with many different underling reasons–one post:

Lithium and Batteries for EVs look like just another Canadian Hi-Tech Pipedream

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Putin vs Ukraine and the West? When will Europe Wake Up?

Julian French-Lindley opens this piece with a horrifically graphic account of the start on an all-out war begun by Russia and follows with three scenarios as to how the current crisis may go. He then discusses the X factor of the PRC and the dilemma presented by ongoing major threats in both the Indo-Pacific and Europe. The following in his conclusion:

Frozen War: The Whiff of Munich?

Ukraine, Europe and the fall of Singapore

Eighty years ago today British Imperial and Dominion forces surrendered to their Japanese conquerors.  It was perhaps the worst British military defeat in history.  Much has been written about the fall of Singapore and the incompetence that led to it. The real reason was that by 1942 Britain was heavily engaged in multiple theatres from the Atlantic to North Africa and was simply unable to defend the eastern Empire [and Australians have never forgotten and have relied on the US for security back-up ever since–see this piece at the Australian Strategic Policy Instute]… 

Singapore became a metaphor for decline and marked the real beginning of the end of the British Empire which by 1942 had become a hollowed out façade of power. Ukraine? In late 2010, I sat on a podium next to British Minister of Defence Philip Hammond at the Riga Conference. In my hand was an empty tube of Pringles crisps (chips in American) which I held upside down. David Cameron and Hammond had just slashed the British defence budget right in the middle of a major campaign in Afghanistan in which British forces were engaged in perhaps the most dangerous province, Helmand. The empty tube was to demonstrate the fate of European defence if Western European powers continued to load tasks onto their hard-pressed armed forces whilst slashing their budgets.  Five years ago I made a short movie for the Johann de Witt Conference in Rotterdam to demonstrate to the politicians and others present what a major war in Europe would look like.  Last year, I published a major new Oxford book Future War and the Defence of Europe which warned of just such a crisis.That Putin is even contemplating such a war – frozen or hot – is due in no small part to the strategic illiteracy of too many Western European leaders. Yes, there was the 2008-2010 financial and economic crisis and, yes, we have just faced the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is the disastrous pieties of the post-Cold War which for too long Britain, France and Germany have clung to, which has led Europe into this new age of danger which has just dawned.  It is the profoundly mistaken belief to which for too long political leaders have clung that geo-economics will trump the dark side of geopolitics.  That they need recognise only as much threat as they thought they could afford politically or financially. It is the absence of leadership in Europe which has created the opportunity for Putin to impose his fiat on other Europeans. One can only hope that if Russia does force such a dreadful war upon Ukraine it would finally begin the long overdue bonfire of strategic illusions that has underpinned the denial which has afflicted Western Europe and its leaders. 

The West will not intervene with force in Ukraine but Putin must be seen to pay a heavy price and that means real sanctions and the strengthening of NATO’s defence and deterrence posture so that there is no Alliance bluff Putin can also call. If President Putin succeeds in destroying Ukraine do not for a moment think his ambitions will stop there. Ukraine may be not be the whiff of Munich, but it has the scent of Singapore. It is time for democracies to stand firm, and together.

Plus a related post from September 2021 also based on a piece by Mr French-Lindley:

NATO, the EU and the US in the Not-So-Brave New World after Afghanistan (note UPDATE)

British strategic analyst Julian Lindley-French (his rather impressive “About me” is here) takes on Western European elites in his latest piece. You will note that Canada receives (deservedly in the circumstances) no mention at all; I would hold that what is said about those Euro elites applies to ours in spades…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Europe over an LNG Tank–Pity None Available from Canada

Another of the Globe and Mail’s excellent foreign correspondents reports from Rome–excerpts (another story in the “Report on Business” that could well be in the main news section):

Europe, fearing war, scours the planet for LNG, but not enough is available to cure the energy crunch

Eric Reguly European bureau chief

Europe is suddenly obsessed with liquefied natural gas, a minor but growing source of imported fuel that could play a key role in keeping the lights on if a Russian invasion of Ukraine triggers a sanctions battle.

Energy-starved Europe is already scouring the planet for LNG shipments to build its gas reserves and try to stop already painful prices from climbing even more. But energy analysts say there is no way Europe would be able to find enough LNG to meet its demands if Russia were to eliminate, or even reduce, gas exports.

“Even before the Russia-Ukraine geopolitical tension, the global LNG market was very tight,” said Jack Sharples, a research fellow with the gas research program at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, in an interview. “We in Europe are not suffering from a physical shortage of gas at the moment, though we are aware that if any particular source of supply were to falter, we would find it difficult to replace it.”

*Canada has the natural gas, but can’t get LNG to Europe [see also tweet at bottom of the post]

LNG is largely an American, Qatari and Australian export phenomenon [emphasis added]

Canadian LNG, he said, would be welcomed in the European and Asian markets. So far, only one Canadian export project, LNG Canada, in Kitimat, B.C., is under construction [see the recent story here, production supposed to start around 2025, and note the problems with some First Nations with construction of the associated Coastal GasLink pipeline]. “If more Canadian projects were to receive the green light, they would find markets with no problem,” he said. “The displacement of gas, a fossil fuel, in the world economy will take decades.”..

Europe, including Britain, is highly dependent on imported gas to meet its energy needs – from heating homes and factories to generating electricity and producing ammonia-based fertilizer. Last year, Europe imported 84 per cent of the gas it required, a third of which came from Russia, its biggest single supplier (Norway is No. 2, followed by Algeria). Most of the gas arrives through pipeline [emphasis added]. According to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, less than a fifth comes in the form of LNG.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is far more dependent on Russian gas than the rest of the continent. It typically buys 50 per cent or more of its imported gas from Kremlin-controlled Gazprom [emphasis added], the world’s largest stock market-listed gas company, making it Gazprom’s single biggest client.

Were Russia to invade Ukraine, gas would land at the centre of the sanctions campaign…

There simply is not enough LNG worldwide to solve Europe’s problem if a gas war breaks out with Russia. Germany, alone among the big European economies, even lacks an LNG import terminal, suggesting the country took the view that Russian gas would be forever reliable and cheap.

While LNG production and exports are increasing – the United States became the leading exporter of the fuel in December [emphasis added], although Qatar is expanding production quickly, too – most of the world’s LNG plants and import terminals are operating at capacity or close to it.

Europe still imports the vast majority of its gas by pipeline, so even if global LNG supplies were to rise suddenly, there is no guarantee the extra shipments would overcome the continent’s energy shortages. In 2019, total U.S. and Qatari exports of LNG to all markets was less than the amount of gas exported by Russia to Europe.

The European energy crisis will trigger the construction of LNG import terminals. Germany has at least two proposals that could get under way soon, after years of delays…

That tweet (second one):

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Serbia Stiffs Rio Tinto (Dominic Barton Chair) over Lithium Mine

(Caption for photo at top of the post (note also Chinese company named on banner), from a Deutsche Welle story: “Serbia’s ruling party has changed its mind about a proposed lithium mine following large protests”.)

Further to this post at which the Rio Tinto mine in mentioned,

PRC Investment, or, “hell on Earth” in Serbia

now the Balkan country stands up to at least one foreign investor–excerpts from a Reuters story:

Rio Tinto has few options to save Serbia lithium mine, none good

Rio Tinto has only bad options as it tries to salvage its US$2.4-billion Serbian lithium project after the country’s leaders bowed to environmentalists and cancelled it last week.

The Anglo-Australian miner could sue the government, a step likely to fail and further antagonize Belgrade, or bet that pro-mining politicians emerge victorious in April parliamentary elections, a result that would embolden opponents.

The mining titan has little experience charting where to go next.People inside Rio said that while they were aware of the political tensions around the project, the government’s decision to pull the plug was a surprise that left the company scrambling for a strategy on how to proceed.

With elections looming, Belgrade halted the project after widespread protests against the mine, dashing Rio’s hopes of becoming a top 10 lithium producer [emphasis added].

The miner, which said it has always complied with Serbian laws, is reviewing the legal basis for the decision…

If the decision is upheld by a new government, it could prompt Rio to walk away without taking further action, legal experts also said.

The miner has spent US$450-million already on prefeasibility and other studies, according to its project fact sheet…

The Serbian project was slated to be Europe’s biggest lithium mine, producing 58,000 tonnes of refined battery-grade lithium carbonate a year, enough to power one million electric vehicles…

In Serbia, the best case scenario is Rio Tinto gets its licences back after the April elections. The populist ruling coalition, led by the Serbian Progressive Party, has seen its 2020 election majority eroded over its backing of mining in Serbia [see post noted at start of this one]

One wonders how much of the mine’s output might have gone to China. And poor Dominic Barton, freshly minted chairman of Rio Tinto, hot off his gig as Canadian ambassador to the PRC–a post on that:

Dominic Barton, Canadian Prince of Cashing-in Compradors, and Conflict of Interest (note “UPDATE”)

Plus a post on Canada and lithium, note first “Comment”:

Why No National Security Review of Purchase by PRC SOE of Canadian Lithium Mining Company?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

PRC Investment, or, “hell on Earth” in Serbia

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Activist groups in Zrenjanin have been pressing the authorities to release information about the size of the factory, its technology and its likely impact on the environment. Credit…Marko Risovic for The New York Times”.)

Further to this post based on an article by the same reporter,

PRC Buying Serbia, or, Belt and Road–and Bondage?

the NY Times‘ bureau chief for East and Central Europe (based in Warsaw) returns to the country for this major article–excerpts :

Some belt. Some road. One suspects this photo at the end of the article was included for its black humour value:

A murder of crows near Zrenjanin. 

A murder of crows near Zrenjanin. Credit…Marko Risovic for The New York Times

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Ukraine: The Mis-shapen Mental Maps within Russia and the US/NATO, or…

…as a friend with wide international experience puts it: “A very sensible curse on both your houses perspective.”

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Ukrainian reservists attend a military exercise at a training ground near Kiev. Photograph: Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA”.)

Further to this post,

What to do? Bad Vlad Putin vs Ukraine (and Georgia), NATO, US

now excerpts from an article at the Irish Times (which led to my friend’s comment above):

Delusion on all sides has paved way for Russia-Nato standoff

Tragedy of Ukraine crisis is how both sides seemed trapped within self-defeating policies

Gerard Toal [Virginia Tech prof, twitter: @Toal_CritGeo]

Accompanying Russia’s posture of war is fevered rhetoric about Ukraine as an aggressor state. Russia decries Nato infrastructure, weapons, training and military exercises in Ukraine.

Late last week, Russia released a proposed draft treaty of what it sees as a desirable new security order for Europe. Viewing it as a gun-point demand for a Russian sphere of influence, Western and Ukrainian officials immediately rejected the proposals.

Russia is behaving like a bully toward Ukraine. But why? What happened to the dream of Europe whole, free and at peace at the end of the Cold War? How did we get from that hopeful new dawn to the sobering prospect of military invasion in 21st-century Europe? The short answer is this: security delusions on all sides paved the way, delusions that are now on a dangerous collision course…

The…Minsk Accords [their provisions elucidated upon at this post: “Finlandization of Ukraine? (Note UPDATE)“] were designed to ensure that Russia’s proxies would influence the geopolitical orientation of Ukraine. It has not worked out that way. Indeed, in all instances, Russia’s military actions polarised states it hoped to influence, driving them to deepen ties with Nato. What aggrieves Moscow today about the creeping Nato-isation of Ukraine is partly of its own making [emphasis added].

The security delusions of the Nato West are more difficult to recognise. After the Cold War, the alliance decided to expand not disband. Nato’s “open door” policy allowed former Soviet republics like the Baltic States to join the alliance. Veteran Soviet security officials, like the conspiratorial-minded Putin, were forced to accept that their Cold War enemy was now at the border. Nato, of course, did not see it this way. It argued that all states have a sovereign right to choose their own defence orientation. Further, they claimed, Nato is not a threat to any power. Rather, it is a civilisational alliance advancing security and freedom.

Critics, most prominently an aging American diplomat George Kennan, saw Nato expansion as a fateful error and predicted it would strengthen the hand of hardliners within Russia. He was right. The insecurity that Nato expansion was designed to address only redoubled insecurity as Russia rebuilt its power and reacted.

Claiming Nato is not a threat to anyone is a delusion. Nato does not get to define Russia’s security perception. Presuming that expanding a military alliance to the border of an insecure great power advances security is delusional [emphasis added]

Admitting Ukraine into the Nato procurement system, training its troops, building Nato-standard infrastructure, and supplying advanced weapons to its forces without grasping that this may inflame Russian insecurity is also delusional thinking. It is living solely within one’s benevolent view of oneself [emphasis added].

…In seeking greater territorial security Russia has pursued a policy of undermining the territorial integrity of neighbouring states. Its imperialistic habits and attitudes endure…

The West appears trapped by its fixation on the principle that all states have the sovereign right to choose their own military orientation [Does Mexico? Canada?]

Many in the West are also fixated with Munich and appeasement [emphasis added. see my thoughts at the end of this post], Yalta and spheres of influence. This desire for historically selective moralised analogies betrays a desire to purify the present into simpleminded categories of good and evil. More disturbingly, it also propels desire for righteous action. Violence is soon easily justified.

While the overall picture looks grim, let us hope that this crisis is a spur to serious negotiations and, out of these, a good enough compromise. Ukraine is a desperately poor country whose people have been victimized by embedded corruption and oligopoly since the Soviet collapse [emphasis added, see this post: “How many Ukrainian Nations? Or…“]. They deserve better that to be a sandbox for a proxy war between Russia and the West. As we extend them solidarity and support in this hour of anxiety, let us also acknowledge the prevailing security delusions that got us here.

Then, for a recent British hard-ass view of Putin, the conclusion of a post by Julian Lindley-French:

CHRISTMAS ESSAY: Putin’s Sphere of Fear

December 20th, 2021

To conclude, the West must not sacrifice the longer-term for false security in the near term.  Western leaders cannot and must not avoid the fundamental principle/tension in this crisis between the democratic belief in sovereign freedom and Russia’s determination to re-assert a sphere of fear around its borders. If North Americans and Europeans are weak now they could well pay a terrible price in future, particularly those living east of the Oder-Neisse line. As such they might well remember the words of Thucydides in The Melian Dialogue. “The strong do what they have the power to do, and the weak accept what they have to accept”.  We are better than that!

Happy Christmas!

To which I responded with this message to few friends:

Very much ringing alarm bells. Russian army details interesting [at the post, not quoted]. If Putin could set up a real northern front from Belarus the Ukrainian defensive perimeter would be hopelessly extended (like Poland 1939).

I wonder about the underlying Weltanschaung though. It seems very much back to the Munich paradigm. But is Putin really an ideological fanatic like Hitler, with dreams–and plans–for massive conquests remaking and controlling Europe?

One can argue I think that Putin more resembles Mussolini–an opportunist, revanchist hyper-nationalist but one whose grasp and plans when acting independently were realistically grounded and not almost boundless. A man who knew what he wanted but was careful about the risks he ran for a long time. On his own not a threat to the overall European system. He wanted all sorts things to give Italy a leading role–along with others–but no more. (It must be said though Putin has a much more capable military.)

Lindley-French and others are arguing that if one gives Bad Vlad any significant element of what he wants we will be on some inevitable downward ramp to perdition and humiliation as after Munich.

But might not offering Putin some real satisfaction over Ukraine (it stays out of NATO, no NATO combat forces or offensive missiles stationed there, secure autonomy for clearly delineated Russophone eastern areas)–combined with no Russian veto over NATO military activities within members on its eastern flank and a rapid stand-down of Russkie forces on the border–be worth trying to see what kind of vozhd Bad Vlad is? Make a real effort to see if there is any decent deal to be made.

Refusing even to consider possible concessions, if the Russian ambitions are not welthistorisch, seems over-principled to me. And, as even Lindley-French concedes though trying to blame Russia [again earlier in his post], Ukraine is no paragon of a European state for which to go to the ramparts. Mourir pour Mariupol? Instead time for some hard-headed old school congressing à la Vienne? Or Berlin? Of course without doing so quite so obviously.

And if that deal is there the Germans could invite Putin back to the 2022 G7–dig the Schloss 😉:

Photograph of Schloss Elmau in Bavaria.

Bit of er, diplomatic cynicism that.

UPDATE thought: Russians of course have a long history of being invaded from the west, see this 2015 article:

Russia and the Curse of Geography

Want to understand why Putin does what he does? Look at a map.

…In the past 500 years, Russia has been invaded several times from the west.

So, despite the reality regarding NATO intentions these days, Russians must always have in mind that things do change; tomorrow may be much different from today. Those borders are inherently a concern to be de-threatened to the extent possible, regardless of the quite possibly evanescent present situation.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

What Foreign Interference? Or, how Would we like the Russkie Embassy Helping Fund a Canadian Newspaper?

(Caption for photo at top of the page: “After the Kyiv Post was shuttered in November, war correspondent Ilia Ponomarenko and other journalists from the publication created the Kyiv Independent.ANTON SKYBA/The Globe and Mail”.)

Ukrainian politics continue to stray far from Canadian concepts of a proper democracy (note also story at the latter part of this post on the treason case just being brought against the immediately preceding president). The Canadian government’s putting funding into one part of the country’s media landscape–in fact a part that may offend and irritate the current president to whom we are at the same time giving pretty full bore support vs Russia–seems to me to be rather conflicted, but typical, Canadian foreign policy virtue signalling. Does the government, through its meddling in internal Ukrainian affairs, actually expect to achieve anything useful and concrete? And to what extent is it playing,as it so often does, to a diaspora in Canada? (See, e.g., this post: “PM Justin Trudeau Continues to do his Best to Bugger Up Relations with India, esp. with Sikh Votes in Mind“.)

Excerpts from an article at the Globe and Mail:

How the shuttering of the Kyiv Post fuelled a journalism rebirth in Ukraine

Mark MacKinnon Senior International Correspondent


…as the day [Nov. 8] unfolded, it became clear that the newspaper’s owner had decided to shutter a publication that had made its name delivering English-language news about Ukraine’s tumultuous politics to the outside world. The Kyiv Post, at least the muckraking publication Mr. Ponomarenko knew, was no more. All 30 of the newspaper’s editors and reporters were fired.

But that wasn’t the end of the Kyiv Post, nor the careers of its former staff. After a three-week shutdown, owner Adnan Kivan relaunched the publication online with a new chief executive officer, a smaller staff and a new focus on producing advertising-friendly stories. Its former staff, meanwhile, moved even more quickly to launch an online publication of their own, the Kyiv Independent.

They vow to continue their investigative work even without the support of a wealthy owner. “We failed at saving the Kyiv Post, so we decided to save its values and its team,” said Mr. Ponomarenko, who reports on the Ukrainian military for the Independent, just as he did for the Post.

It turned out that Nov. 8 was the opening salvo in a battle over not just the fate of the Kyiv Post but the standards of journalism in a country where powerful oligarchs control almost all major media outlets.

The Canadian government has waded into that fight, offering more than $200,000 to support the upstart Kyiv Independent [emphasis added].

Ashley Mulroney, the director of the Ukraine Development Program at the Canadian embassy in Kyiv, said the promised grant, which will be distributed via the European Endowment for Democracy, was “part of broader Canadian support for free media and democratization in Ukraine [but what if that is not what the current government wishes in these media cases?].”

The original Kyiv Post, which was founded as a free weekly in 1995, always had more influence than income. Its English-language coverage of the pro-Western revolutions of 2004 and 2014 – as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbas region – was read widely by the diplomatic and business communities, as well as the vast Ukrainian diaspora in Canada and the United States.

The reporters considered it part of their job to counter Russian propaganda, which regularly portrays Ukraine as a country that collapsed into chaos after the 2014 revolution that ousted the Kremlin-backed government of Viktor Yanukovych.

…the fight isn’t only with Russia. The old Kyiv Post, led for the past 14 years by editor-in-chief Brian Bonner, held up Ukraine’s young democracy to Western standards, exposing corruption and incompetence wherever it found it. Mr. Bonner, who was fired along with the rest of the newsroom on Nov. 8, said the Kyiv Post’s scrappy reporting brought it into conflict with every Ukrainian government it covered, including the current administration, headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky [emphasis added].

Mr. Zelensky has tried to present himself to Western governments as a reformer, and Mr. Bonner says the Kyiv Post’s critical coverage of his administration was seen as undermining that message. He said he believes the government started leaning on Mr. Kivan, a real estate mogul whose holdings are mostly in the Black Sea port of Odessa. Mr. Bonner says Mr. Kivan, a Syrian-born businessman ranked by Forbes as the 42nd-richest person in Ukraine, came to see owning a crusading media outlet as more trouble than it was worth.

“The President’s office denies it, the prosecutor’s office denies it, Kivan denes it – but I know we were under pressure,” said Mr. Bonner, who also served as the paper’s chief executive officer until his dismissal. “The Kyiv Post survived [former presidents] Kuchma, Yushchenko, Yanukovych and Poroshenko but died under Zelensky [emphasis added–yet the Canadian government seems fully supportive of the current president]. That was a huge surprise to me.”..

The battle between the two publications is a bitter one. Former staff say the new Kyiv Post makes a mockery of the brand by watering down the reporting to appease its owner and avoid offending the government..

The fight is something of a David and Goliath story. The Kyiv Post not only has the established brand, but a newly reinforced advertising department and a spacious year-old office in the centre of Kyiv.

The staff of the Kyiv Independent, meanwhile, work from home or cafés scattered around the capital. While the new publication’s supporters work to deliver promised funding, its 30 employees have gone without salaries since its launch…

Follow Mark MacKinnon on Twitter: @markmackinnon

Meanwhile the security apparatus of President Zelensky is going after his immediate predecessor–again by the Globe and Mail’s Mark MacKinnon:

Ukraine investigating former president Petro Poroshenko for high treason

Ukrainian authorities have placed former president Petro Poroshenko under formal investigation for high treason, accusing him of financial links to the Russian-backed militia that controls the country’s breakaway Donbas region.

In an announcement posted to its website on Monday [Dec. 20], the State Bureau of Investigation said Mr. Poroshenko was accused of treason and of “facilitating the activities of a terrorist organization.” The Ukrainian government says the Russian-backed forces that control the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk are “terrorists.”..

Mr. Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party said he was out of the country Monday on an official trip to Poland and Turkey. Oleksander Turchynov, a senior party official, said in a statement that the investigation was part of a “systematic campaign” waged by Mr. Zelensky against Mr. Poroshenko. Mr. Turchynov said the allegations would “turn into a farce just like all the previous ones.”..

Doesn’t seem to me that Ukraine these days has yet to approach anything like the Canadian idea of a decently functioning democracy.

Broader and very relevant posts, almost all you wanted to know about Ukraine’s relations with Russia today:

How many Ukrainian Nations? Or…

What to do? Bad Vlad Putin vs Ukraine (and Georgia), NATO, US

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

What to do? Bad Vlad Putin vs Ukraine (and Georgia), NATO, US

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “A Russian army soldier takes part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, on Dec. 10, 2021. Russian troop concentration near Ukraine has raised Ukrainian and Western concerns of a possible invasion that Moscow has dismissed.The Associated Press”.)

The Russian president is really pushing things. Some of his demands are OTT de trop (“…treaty with the United States would prevent Moscow and Washington from deploying nuclear weapons outside their national territories [submarines?]”; no non-national NATO troops in eastern European members [see below]). On the other hand, if Putin is serious about wanting to make a real deal and not just looking for an excuse to quash Ukraine and put it under de facto Russian control, there is a simple deal to be made by international agreements that:

1) affirms that Ukraine and Georgia (and Belarus?) will not be invited to join NATO (symbolically hard but in fact many Euro members do not want them in); and

2) establishes real autonomy for Russophone eastern areas of Ukraine–but not on terms that give the Kremlin a direct and intrusive role in those areas that effectively gives Russia “paramountcy” (to use the old British Raj term) over Ukraine.

Not an easy trick in practice, unfortunately. And one would tacitly have to agree to simply staying silent on the Crimea.

First, from an article at the Globe and Mail:

Russia has set out demands that NATO will have to refuse

Mark MacKinnon Senior International Correspondent

As the West looks for ways to defuse tensions amid a massive Russian military build-up around Ukraine, the Kremlin continues to raise the stakes.On Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry published a pair of what it called “draft agreements” – one between Russia and the United States, the other between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – that set out its demands for ending a crisis that Russia created by amassing military might near its borders with Ukraine for the second time this year. But while U.S. President Joe Biden has signalled his willingness to listen to Moscow’s security concerns regarding the expansion of the NATO military alliance, the proposed treaties contain clauses that seem impossible for Mr. Biden and other NATO leaders to agree to.Delivered before any formal talks between the Kremlin and its adversaries, at a time when Russia has an estimated 100,000 troops – in addition to 1,200 tanks and 330 warplanes – within range of Ukrainian territory, the documents read more like a list of ransom demands than a genuine negotiating position.

Both documents were reportedly delivered Wednesday [Dec. 15] to Karen Donfried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, during her visit to Moscow.

*Why are tensions building at the Russia-Ukraine border?

*U.S. intelligence finds Russia planning Ukraine offensive

What Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks is made clearest in the draft agreement between Russia and NATO, where the Kremlin – as it has attempted to in the past – stakes out a clear “sphere of influence” encompassing the territory of the former Soviet Union. Under the terms of the proposal, NATO members “shall not conduct any military activity on the territory of Ukraine as well as other states in the Eastern Europe, in the South Caucasus and in Central Asia.”

It’s a demand that would require Canada, the U.S. and Britain to withdraw the troops they currently have stationed in Ukraine on training missions. Canada’s 200-soldier Operation Unifier [emphasis added, official webpage here] military following Russia’s 2014 seizure and annexation of Crimea. Russia also backs a “separatist” militia that took over part of the southeastern Donbas region of Ukraine, sparking more than seven years of fighting that killed upwards of 13,000 people.

Neither of the Russia-U.S. and Russia-NATO documents contains any proposals that would resolve the fighting in Donbas. Crimea also goes unmentioned in both papers.

A separate clause in the proposed Russia-NATO treaty would see the alliance’s pre-1997 members withdraw their forces from the territories of the countries of Eastern Europe that joined after 1997 [emphasis added].

In effect, the treaty would require that NATO’s most powerful members desert allies that joined the alliance following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR. Canada would be forced to pull back a 540-soldier mission stationed in Latvia, where it heads a forward battle group [emphasis added, see “Land” section of official Op REASSURANCE webpage] that was deployed as fears rose among Russia’s neighbours following the annexation of Crimea.

The U.S., Germany and Britain lead similar “enhanced forward presence” battle groups stationed in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia, all of which share borders with Russia.

The draft agreement between Russia and the U.S. reiterates Moscow’s long-standing demand that the U.S. “undertake to prevent further eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” and to specifically guarantee that no former Soviet republics would be invited to join NATO. The language appears to specifically target Ukraine and Georgia, two former Soviet republics that have sought NATO membership since 2008.

…In a July essay, Mr. Putin argued that Russians and Ukrainians are a “single people” divided by history and that “true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia.”..

The immediate response from the White House was predictably negative. A senior Biden administration official told Reuters that the U.S. was prepared to discuss Russia’s proposals but said: “There are some things in those documents that the Russians know are unacceptable.”..

While the documents are almost certain not to win support from the U.S. or NATO,the message from Moscow on Friday was that the proposals were a take-it-or-leave-it offer. “Those two texts are not a menu from which one can pick and choose this or that. They are complementary and must be considered as a whole,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said…

If it is a “take-it-or-leave-it offer” Putin is simply not being serious, rather looking for excuses for further action. Test him out on actual substantive further talks.

Second, from the BBC mainly on dealing with the internal Ukrainian problem:

Russia-Ukraine: Can a solution be found for war in Ukraine’s east?

By Abdujalil Abdurasulov
BBC News, Kyiv

Minsk agreements

Since war in the east broke out in April 2014, more than 14,000 people have died. A deal was reached in 2015 between Ukraine’s then-president Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.That became part of what is now collectively called the Minsk agreements. They outlined a plan of how to end the conflict between Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatist forces in the troubled region in eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas.

There have since been more than 20 attempts to have a ceasefire, according to Ambassador Mikko Kinnunen, special Ukraine representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

None has lasted long and soldiers are still being killed on the front line.

Map of eastern Ukraine

His organisation is part of a Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) with Russia and Ukraine, created to implement the Minsk agreements. The ambassador believes a peaceful solution could work provided there is “political will”.

But that seems unlikely now given the current talk of a possible invasion and of Russia’s “red lines” in reaching a deal…

Stumbling blocks for Russia and Ukraine

There are fundamental differences in the Russian and Ukrainian positions. But the major dispute centres on a political settlement for the Donbas.

The two countries have “irreconcilable” views on the future of the war-torn areas in eastern Ukraine, says Duncan Allan, an associate fellow at Chatham House.

Ukraine wants to restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity while Russia, he believes, wants “to force the authorities in Kyiv to grant far-reaching autonomy or so-called special status” to eastern Ukraine [emphasis added].

But that would turn those territories into “quasi-independent mini states controlled by Russia”, and enable Moscow to have a profound influence on Ukraine’s foreign and domestic policies, Mr Allan says.

The government in Kyiv argues that special status for the rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine is already incorporated into nationwide decentralisation reform.

Russia, however, accuses Ukraine of derailing the peace process by failing to introduce that special status as well as holding local elections as required by the Minsk agreements…

Handing back Ukraine’s border

Another major stumbling block is how to implement the deal’s political provisions.

Moscow argues that the Minsk agreements clearly state the following steps: local elections and a political settlement must happen before Ukraine regains full control of its border with Russia [emphasis added].

Since the conflict broke out in 2014, Ukraine has had no access to that part of its border and Kyiv accuses Moscow of using it to send Russian troops and equipment to support separatist forces…

So, is it possible to bridge these two positions in a way that is acceptable to both sides?

Duncan Allan says no, because the views on Ukraine’s sovereignty are incompatible: “In other words Ukraine is either sovereign, which is Ukraine’s position, or it is not sovereign, not fully sovereign – and that’s Russia’s position. And there is really no middle way between those two positions.”..

However, Ambassador Sajdik [former OSCE mediator] believes compromise is possible and that Minsk is a viable solution to end the conflict. But only if there is political will, and that is something Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of not having [emphasis added].

Nevertheless they all agree it is important to continue the dialogue within the existing formats. “The alternative is something far more dangerous,” says Mr Allan.

Note this recent post based on an article with a comprehensive view of a settlement–my overall comments first:

Finlandization of Ukraine? (Note UPDATE)

Unfortunately the US foreign policy blob (see the latter part of this post on their approach to Ukraine in 2013 under President Obama: “The Blob is Back and You’re Going to be in Trouble“) and indeed virtually the whole Congress have become–not without some reason–viscerally opposed to Bad Vlad Putin’s Russia. In consequence Washington will not be willing to put any significant pressure on Kiev to make a whole-hearted effort to find a modus vivendi with Moscow actually to wind down the simmering crisis in eastern Ukraine. And without such pressure the Ukrainian nationalist bent of the Kiev government will not permit any significant concessions acceptable to Russia (concessions that some in the EU/NATO such as Germany would surely welcome)…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds