The Ukrainian government decides to parade its weakness

The fabled fight back against “terrorists” ground to a halt amidst popular peaceful protest yesterday. Armoured vehicles had to stop and some were “captured” by unarmed civilians who disagreed with the Kiev government. Flying fast military jets overhead is a not a great way to win back the trust and support of the population.

At the peace talks today the West needs to be realistic. The current Ukrainian government cannot police the whole country or command the loyalty and support of all for the present political arrangements. The Ukrainian government should not fire on its own unarmed people, and has to accept that many of those who disagree with it are peaceful protesters, and these people support the armed personnel who occupy some of the key official buildings. The country has to be won back by words and by votes, not by bullets.

The danger now is the creation of various unofficial armed militias and a further break down in law and order and central government control. If Ukraine minus the Crimea is to be saved as a state it now needs a leader who can emerge, win the election, and unite the country behind a suitable system of government. The Russians have a point when they recommend a more federal state with more rights to independent decision taking in the Russian speaking parts of the country. The current regime does not have the trust of the Russian speakers, and needs to address this issue. If they do not want a federal solution, they have to show what can work better.

The West pressed too far without the means or intent to back up the western looking regime who took over. These things are best done by democratic elected politicians leading change and understanding the different viewpoints in their own country. The Ukrainian regime is showing just how easy it is to lose unity and a feeling of belonging to a state. At the peace conference the UK should make clear it does not want the interim Ukrainian government provoking the Russian speakers and their friends in Russia more or resorting to force in a way which promotes a civil war, just as it is opposed to Russian troops intervening from across the border.


  1. Brian Tomkinson
    April 17, 2014

    JR: “These things are best done by democratic elected politicians leading change”
    Try telling that to the anti-democratic EU which played a significant part (along with the USA) in fomenting unrest and the overthrow of the elected President rather than waiting for democracy to take its course.
    JR : “At the peace conference the UK should make clear it does not want the interim Ukrainian government provoking the Russian speakers and their friends in Russia more”.
    Unlikely to hear that from your colleague, the increasingly insufferable and bellicose, Hague. He must be one of the worst Foreign Secretary’s in history.

    1. zorro
      April 17, 2014

      Insufferable and bellicose are indeed words to describe Mr Hague’s actions…..I don’t know why he doesn’t challenge Mr Putin to a judo match to get rid of some of these pent up frustrations before a drinking match. Jaw jaw is better than war war….


  2. Ex-expat Colin
    April 17, 2014

    I had to laugh (sort of) the other day when a report alleged that a group in Ukraine had asked for Nigel Farage to assist them. Cause for more pints ?

    Putin knows the Ukranian people much better than the US/UK/EU/NATO (I deleted the word). In that he knows that only a few Ukranians(?) are truly war mongers, as most other places. The ordinary people need to find their own way. Financially its a big mess and the EU are on the wrong end of this in particular. We shall see.

    Yes, somebody needs to emerge who has the where with all to get it right. Farage is not going to get out of the pub anytime soon as regards that. They’d likely need the Iron Lady right now.

    Any chance of telling NATO to shut up and pull our military back from what is very rather confrontational.

    1. Jennifer A
      April 17, 2014

      The BBC,

      “EU backed government troops have shot demonstrators who have done little more than thrown petrol bombs …”

      Nah. Thought not.

    2. zorro
      April 17, 2014

      NATO is desperately searching for a reason to justify its existence….


  3. Antisthenes
    April 17, 2014

    A federal solution is not unreasonable and Putin however much you dislike the man it is a sensible proposal as it does tackle immediate problems however it does store them up for the future. UK devolution has lead to a Scottish referendum on independence and no doubt the demand will be by Eastern Ukrainians that they be allowed at some point in the future to do the same. Kiev should not be fearful of that unless they know that future Ukrainian governments will be just as bad as previous ones. Putin I suspect is putting forward this idea in the belief that it will eventually lead to the East leaving the western part of Ukraine legally and joining Russia. He can be thwarted in his plan if a democratic, non corrupt, competent and inclusive government is installed in Kiev as Russia under Putin has not much of that. The EU for a change can be some use here by insisting that reforms (they and IMF will be bailing them out so have considerable leverage) are made so that Ukrainian governments do act fairly to all their citizens and enact laws that ensure honesty at all levels of society especially government.

    1. Denis Cooper
      April 17, 2014

      Yes, well, I recall this from early February:

      “EU commissioner calls for Ukraine accession promise”

      “The EU commissioner who, over the past five years, tried and failed to get Ukraine to sign up to pro-EU reforms has said only the promise of accession can change former Soviet states.”

      So looking at this just from a British perspective, here we have an EU Commissioner, a Czech, saying that to get the Ukrainians to behave properly we must promise them not just the removal of any remaining restrictions on trade with Britain, but also:

      1. Subsidies from British taxpayers.

      2. Their say in how Britain is governed.

      3. The automatic right to come and live and work in Britain.

      And he is supported in that by the President of Romania.

      So can we hope that the British government will refuse to make any such promise?

      Of course not; there has been and still is strong, automatic and unthinking cross-party support for enlargement of the EU, no matter what damage that might do to the people of this country, and the habitual government practice of not asking the British people what they think about EU enlargements has now been formalised in the fine print of Hague’s “referendum block” law.

      1. ian wragg
        April 17, 2014

        Dennis, this is because we are ruled by a bunch of (fools ed) who have signed up to Agenda 21 and belong to the Bilderberger Group.
        They must provide a constant supply of cheap labour so the multi nationals can pay taxes at their country of choice. Northern Europe will be the welfare provider for the rest of the world. Thankfully people are wakening up to the agenda and starting to rebel.
        As for that (word left out ed) Hague posturing all over the place, I bet Putin is in stitches listening to him now we have little or no military,

        1. Jagman 84
          April 17, 2014

          Indeed. With the extent of the UK military cuts, it is not “you and who’s army’, rather ‘you and what army’! £42 Bn would be better spent on defence of the realm than on HS2.

  4. Max Dunbar
    April 17, 2014

    ‘The Ukrainian regime is showing just how easy it is to lose unity and a feeling of belonging to a state’.
    It will be interesting to see how events in Ukraine and Russia develop as Britain heads in a direction that has some parallels to the conflict there. The decision on whether the UK remains united or not will be made by a tiny proportion of the British population within the geographical area known as Scotland but by people, many of whom are incomers from abroad. Recent immigrants to Scotland will have a vote at this referendum provided that they are registered on the Voters Roll in time. If the vote is for secession, then a very large number of people who do not accept the result may resort to pushing for further break-up within Scotland either democratically or, failing that, non democratically. The Orkney and Shetland islands are obvious candidates. The border areas, one of which has the sole Tory MP, may also wish to go with England.

  5. forthurst
    April 17, 2014

    A journalist followed a group of Ukrainian marines from their base in the Crimea back into Ukraine. The basis on which some had opted to stay in Crimea and enlist with Russian forces and some to return to Ukraine was not on the basis of who identified as Ukrainian and who Russian but where their families lived, and the final partings amongst the marines were cordial. The jounalist, travelling in a bus full of marines asked, “OK, but what if there’s a war between Russia and Ukraine? You may be forced to fight against your fellow soldiers.”, to which a marine replied, “That’s what we’re most afraid of, fighting against our guys.” and another continued, “Yes, we hope there’ll be no war. We are all Slavs, the brothers.” (Vice News: Russian Roulette: the Invasion of Ukraine (Despatch 19).

    “The West pressed too far without the means or intent to back up the western looking regime who took over.”

    The ‘West’ backed a minority of hotheads and extreme Russophobes; such a regime will never be able to bring together those who neither in language culture or perceived ethnicity were very far apart; they can only cause a civil war.

    The ‘West’ now needs to mind its own business and set its own house in order by addressing the democratic deficit which has produced autocratic government, by design, in both the EU and the USA.

  6. Lifelogic
    April 17, 2014

    Indeed, let us hope a peaceful democratic solution can still emerge.

  7. MickC
    April 17, 2014

    A very sensible and reasoned piece.

    The US inspired coup failed, and it is now having a hissy fit -supported by the UK government and media (but not the people).

    Hague is making a fool of himself and the UK by his pomposity and overt subservience to the USA; possibly he does not understand that the Ukraine is not an area of UK interest, and that his efforts would be best directed to looking after the UKs true interests. They are not the same as those of the USA and EU-and never have been.

    Making threats which back Putin into a corner is first order stupidity. If he backs down, he will be finished. His replacement is unlikely to be as tolerant of the West’s adventurism in Russia’s backyard. The consequences for the UK would be extreme.

  8. Julian
    April 17, 2014

    I agree with the article and would add this question:
    Too what extent are Western European governments prepared to do without Russian gas and to what extent can Russia bear loss of revenues from Gazprom?

  9. margaret brandreth-j
    April 17, 2014

    words alone didn’t ever win anything;words have to connect with warmth and action of either a passive nature or to be seen to be gently corrective.

  10. Denis Cooper
    April 17, 2014

    “At the peace conference the UK should make clear … ”

    That’s if the UK is actually present at any peace conference to be able to make anything clear, rather than being “represented” by the EU in the form of Ashton.

  11. Bryan
    April 17, 2014

    No chance unless William ‘how important I am’ Hague is made to stay at home!

  12. Lindsay McDougall
    April 17, 2014

    The first thing that needs to happen in order to calm things down is for the Ukraine to acquire a legitimate Government by holding elections – in which ex-President Yanukovich should be allowed to stand.

    It would be useful if during that time the Lisbon Treaty was repealed by all EU Member States and Herr von Rumpy Pumpy, Baroness What’s-her-name and the idea of a European standing army were to be sent packing. I don’t suppose that it will happen.

    1. stred
      April 18, 2014

      Bearing in mind the £30 billion that has been nicked and the evidence found in the presidential palace, it would be a good move for Vlad to offer to prosecute him and , if found guilty, hand him over. This, in return for regional government and keeping NATO out would be a good result all round. Any prospective president should bear this in mind.

      1. Lindsay McDougall
        April 18, 2014

        Thanks for that, Stred. Taking things a bit further, I see the outline of a possible deal:

        – Elections to be held under the present Constitution, with a lifetime of one year for the elected Government
        – Results to be published not only nationally but by region
        – Ukraine not to be further partitioned but transfer of Crimea to Russia to be confirmed
        – Ukraine not to join NATO
        – Ukraine not to be offered full EU membership, just a Norway style deal (this is necessary because of the threat to Russian security caused by the Lisbon Treaty)
        – A new constitution to be agreed during the year of grace and fresh elections held
        – Ukraine free to negotiate other, non-EU, trade deals

        There is an alternative – thirty years of strife, as in Northern Ireland.

  13. Denis Cooper
    April 17, 2014

    Off-topic, JR, but this should interest you:

    As I understand, once this EU Directive has been transposed into UK law the Treasury will no longer be allowed to give the Bank of England a blanket guarantee against losses when it acts as the lender of last resort to commercial banks, which could potentially lead to either commercial banks going bust unnecessarily or to the Bank of England itself going bust.

    But the amazingly thing is that this was more accidental than intentional; the Bank of England picked up some problematic wording in the Directive, but too late to get it changed with certain countries not wanting to re-open the text of the Directive, even though the EU Parliament had drafted a suitable amendment.

    If this was just a domestic UK law then even if it had been passed it could easily have been amended to remove that very serious defect once it had been noticed, but as it’s an EU Directive we are stuck with it unless and until enough of the other countries agree to another Directive to amend it; that is, of course, unless the UK Parliament decides to break the EU treaties by refusing to transpose that defect into our domestic law.

    1. Mark B
      April 18, 2014

      And it is things like this, I rally against.

      When you are a passenger on a bus that is going over a cliff, you can ring the bell all you want but, unless the other passengers agree with you, the bus will not stop. The bus, or herd, continues over the cliff, to its doom regardless.

      Collective suicide.

    2. Lindsay McDougall
      April 18, 2014

      That last half sentence says it all, Denis. If we don’t have respect for European Law, we can break our chains at any time. “There must be 50 ways to leave your lover.”

      1. APL
        April 19, 2014

        lindsay McDougall “There must be 50 ways to leave your lover.”

        Or, in this case, leave the creature that has it’s fangs embedded deep in the jugular.

      2. Denis Cooper
        April 19, 2014

        No need for 50 ways, just Article 50.

  14. The PrangWizard
    April 17, 2014

    It is a matter of concern to me that the head of NATO went on TV yesterday and threatened that there would be more military activity surrounding the whole of western and southern Russia, from the Baltic to the eastern Mediterranean, “more planes in the air, more ships on the seas, and more troops on the ground”. If it had to be done, it could be done without a big fanfare, which will look foolish and weak if it doesn’t amount to much.

    The question now is, what will Russia do? We must wait and see. It could be, and may well be, nothing. If so, NATO will say that is because of their action and will claim ‘victory’. Longer term it may well prove to have been a mistake, done simply to boost Western egos in the short term. It’s only natural that Russia may look further into what is needed to defend and protect its national pride. It is certain they will modernise their naval and air strength in the Crimea.

  15. zorro
    April 17, 2014

    Although this is a dangerous situation, there is one good thing coming out of this. That is how inept the EU is in its machinations to try and push beyond the Urals. There have so many political miscalculations and poor analysis employed. I do despair at what advice (if any) the politicians are receiving.

    It really does expose the lack of depth of our politicians compared to the astute, mature attitude displayed by Putin and Lazrov, and that includes what happened over Syria. Not the FO’s most glorious hour at all, they are just not thinking it through properly.


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