The Kiev government should undertake no more shelling of its own citizens

 

It was good news that at last the Kiev government and the pro Russia separatists in east Ukraine agreed a ceasefire and decided they needed to talk to each other. Reports suggest at least 2500 people have been killed so far in this civil war, and many more have been cast out of their homes as the two armies fight it out in built up areas.

The Kiev government needs to learn some hard lessons of democracy quickly if it is to win back its citizens and restore its authority and its badly damaged reputation. The first lesson is in a democracy we sort out our differences by arguments and votes, not by shells and bombs.

The second lesson is a government needs to respect minorities within its country and treat them fairly. Achieving a majority of votes or seats in Parliament does not entitle you to ignore or repress the minorities. If people wish to speak Russian in  Ukraine they must be free to do so.

The third lesson is that whilst the majority view on particular policies and actions can prevail, there needs to be general consent to the machinery of government. Minorities need to accept the system for making and changing policy and for making and changing governments. If a significant geographical, or 0ther minority no longer thinks it can work within the constitutional structure of the state, the majority does have to look at the structure.

Instead of trying to convert this civil war into an EU and NATO versus Russia conflict Kiev needs to seek to calm things down and tackle an agenda of how government can be remodelled to restore the faith of most people in the east that a Kiev government can look after them as well, or create a regional government that handles the main issues they are worried about. I have no time for rebels who fire on their own government, nor for rebels who rely on Russian support to fight a civil war. The Kiev government needs to make sure more people in the east see no need to behave in this violent and undemocratic way. Shelling them does not help. They may need to give people in the east a vote on how they wish their future government  to be structured. The Kiev government reluctance to trust the people is serving to undermine consent for the state. The Kiev government above all needs to protect and stand up for the many people in the east of their country who want to live in peace and are neither on the side of Russia nor the EU.

 

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37 Comments

  1. Old Albion
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    And the EU needs to stop sowing the seeds of discontent in non EU countries.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      I agree this needs to be added on to JR’s very sensible piece.

      It is however sometime impossible to talk or negotiate when someone is just bombing & shooting at you. It takes at lease two willing participants to negotiate anything.

  2. formula57
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Very well said! Let us hope the many state actors that have taken an interest in this conflict offer the same encouragement and tailor their own initiatives accordingly.

    (As an aside, my understanding (from the writings of a one time British ambassador in Kiev) is that there is something not quite proper about referring to that country now as “the Ukraine” rather than just “Ukraine”: I think the former would be taken to denote that the user does not think it should be an independent country.)

  3. Gary
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    how could we have guessed? Chasing isis leads to the bombing of Syria. So predicatable. Gas stops flowing west, gas must flow North. The profits are larger.

    This is wwiii

    • Tad Davison
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and not so long ago, there were votes against in both the UK parliament and in the US. I don’t much like extremists, especially ones that commit atrocities, but the governments of the UK and the US just had to get into this somehow. They needed something to happen that would hopefully bring the people on side.

      It’s interesting to see just how many conflicts have come about after atrocities that have conveniently ‘changed’ public opinion. There’s a problem with that however, as the public steadily becomes de-sensitised to them and far more sceptical as to precisely whom was really responsible. They tend these days to pick holes in ‘official’ versions of events. How good it is that the internet still provides an antidote to the narrative put out by such brainwashing institutions as the BBC.

      Tad

      • Gary
        Posted September 11, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Sanity has broken out, at least in the UK and Germany. They are refusing to conduct airstrikes in Syria. That is most welcome.

        This seeming unstoppable march to war by an elite group in an age of potential nuclear obliteration is a policy of literal insanity. For God’s sake, what are these people trying to do ?! There is nothing that cannot be negotiated, but it appears a clique of deranged people want war. They are determined to push Putin past the point of no return. The demonization of Putin to the mind of any sane person is comedic, if it wasn’t so dire. Is this their ultimate goal ? :

        “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
        who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
        who rules the World-Island controls the world.”
        (Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 194)

        Let’s hope this news from the UK and Germany is real and takes hold. We need calm people of intelligence to take charge of this. ALL our solutions lie in trade , prosperity and mutual respect. THAT takes real skill.

        Reply I am glad that what I and some others said yesterday in the Commons debate on the Middle East and responded to by the Foreign Secretary had some impact. I urged them not to bomb.

        • Gary
          Posted September 11, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

          I am often critical, sometimes too critical, but it is about time that I acknowledge that in matters where calm, thoughtful statemanship is required, you and very few others stand out.

        • stred
          Posted September 11, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Dave thought otherwise, apparently.

        • Tad Davison
          Posted September 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

          The BBC’s Newsnight programme has just reported that where the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, suggested Britain would not bomb targets on Syrian soil, Downing Street has been quick to say the Prime Minister has ruled nothing out. Nice to see we have a cohesive policy on such an important matter.

          Tad

  4. Tad Davison
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    There ya go, I knew you were Foreign Secretary material and it’s good to know my faith in your ability was justified! But I’m afraid a skill for diplomacy isn’t what the west is presently looking for. A minister has to take their thirty pieces of silver, and tow the US NATO EU line, regardless where that might lead.

    I see that Obama is about to poke the Russian bear yet again in another area by vowing to bomb its ally, Syria. Mr Cameron said a few days ago that they ‘didn’t need to get permission from the Syrian president as he was a war criminal.’ I always thought a person was innocent until proven guilty, and I must have missed Assad’s massive trial in the Hague. All I’ve seen so far, is a ‘constructed and staged-managed’ chemical attack which the BBC broadcast as genuine, and a fight by Syria against an incursion that comprised some of the same people who forced the former Libyan leader from power, and look what a fantastic success that was!

    I agree with the principle that armed conflict is the last resort, and should not be the first option. The government in Kiev does indeed need to learn a few lessons, that bombing its own citizens isn’t the way forward, but I’m not convinced that the conflict hasn’t been deliberately constructed at someone else’s behest in an effort to create a context for a wider war, and that’s very disconcerting, especially since the supporters of the EU are always crowing about how it has supposedly brought peace to the continent.

    The involvement of the Cameron-led government in the promotion of the conflict in Ukraine cannot be overlooked, and the sooner we lose him and get someone who can bring ethics back to world politics, the better and the safer it will be for everybody. Little wonder so many people in Scotland want away from the UK, and his presence there yesterday is now said to have had a negative impact.

    We also need to factor-in the political orientation of some of the belligerents in Kiev who stand accused of being neo-fascists. Quite why any British government would wish to give support for such people, especially given our own history, is beyond me.

    ‘If a significant geographical, or 0ther minority no longer thinks it can work within the constitutional structure of the state, the majority does have to look at the structure.’

    Be careful with that one. We have disaffected ethnic minorities in the UK thanks to our liberal immigration laws. The difference of course, is that those in the Eastern Ukraine have been settled for much longer.

    We need to remember that those in Eastern Ukraine are ethnic Russians, so it isn’t unexpected that they wish to speak the Russian language and gravitate towards their larger neighbour. Little seems to be made of the fact that they also want no part of the EU/IMF austerity being forced upon the rest of the country. Russia offers a far better deal.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  5. acorn
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Off topic but I am spending all day on it at the moment; this for beginners. “What about a country that adopts a foreign currency?”. http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2011/12/mmp-blog-27-what-about-country-that.html .

    • stred
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      It seems ironic that the Scotnats plan to adopt the South American model for their economy when the Scots disatsrous investment in Panama lead to the UK merger and bailout in the first place.

  6. Mark B
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    When a Government starts killing its own people just because they wish to impose their authority over them, you have completely lost your right to govern legitimately in their name.

    It is very easy to pen a piece, no matter how noble it may seem, from the safety of a UK address. It is something entirely different to expect people who were trying to kill each other, to sit down and talk about the future together. It took us over 25 years with Ulster and, a fair push from across the Atlantic. And even today, members of our kind host Party and their nearest and dearest still harbour bitterness for the harm those who carried out wicked acts in the name of freedom.

    There is no denying Russia’s role in all this. But neither should we forget the EU’s !!!

    The problems for the Ukrainian government are many. They have a number of very unsavory people in and amongst their ranks. People who support an ideology many thought were buried in the ruins of Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg.

    Are we in the UK so unwise as to allow such people into our country via the Freedom of Movement the EU / EAA allows, and ferment unrest here ?

    Sadly, we are no longer masters of our own house. Our kid host may fool himself and still cling on to the notion that a once proud and successful democracy (sic) still remains Sovereign. But when you give away your foreign policy and allow open borders, you cease to be a nation, let a lone sovereign.

  7. Denis Cooper
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    From the start this has been a conflict involving the EU and NATO and the US acting together, as what I describe as the EU/NATO/US “troika”. The US has resumed an aggressive stance towards Russia, rightly or wrongly, and NATO is above all its military instrument, the “iron fist”; while the EU still lacks sufficient military capability to secure its new territories and needs the US and NATO for that purpose, but it can provide the civil government once a new territory has been secured militarily; it is a kind of “velvet glove”, even though in this country we may not see it like that.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely Denis!

      I have been saying for ages – years – that they are spoiling for an unnecessary fight. The US is doomed, it is sinking into an abyss of debt which is going to be nigh impossible to repay and this is their way to reassert their authority and dominance. Countries are subsequently ditching the dollar, and the de-Americanisation is a consequence of their imperialist expansionism. Slowly, people are getting wise to them.

      The EU doesn’t work either, and is hanging on to the US coat tails hoping to get a few crumbs that fall from the table. They are still going to impose more sanctions on Russia tomorrow, despite their own admission that the recently-negotiated ceasefire is holding.

      Syria is now saying that any bombing of their territory is a violation of international law (not that such a thing ever stops the US or Mr Cameron) and is an act of war.

      This present situation could well assume a momentum of its own, and is similar to the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. Interestingly, Khrushchev, under immense pressure, wrote a teletype message to Kennedy to the effect that (going from memory), ‘Mr President, you ought not to pull on the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, or that knot will become so tight, that even he who tied it, won’t be able to untie it.’

      These Washington neo-cons and neo-liberals are nuts, and our own lily-livered government is going along with it!

      Tad

      Reply The dollar has recently been rising. The US economy has many strengths including cheap energy, great technology, and an enterprising workforce.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted September 11, 2014 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        John,

        I agree the US has cheap energy, great technology, and an enterprising workforce. But it’s also got a neo-classical economic system, a fiat currency, and subsequent eye-watering levels of debt that effectively enslaves the very people it was supposed to emancipate. I believe it might have been Voltaire who once said of paper currencies, that one day, they revert to their true value – nothing at all. Whilst others still have faith that the US can make good on its debts, fine, but were the day to dawn when it can’t and that faith dissipates, then we’re all in trouble. Accruing yet more debt brings that day ever closer.

        So how much gold is there in Fort Knox, does anyone really know?

        When was it last audited?

        I really do feel for the American people, they are some of the best in the world, but they are saddled with a rotten system that is slowly eroding their living standards, especially those of the middle class, whilst an elite creams off the top and gets fatter every day. And it’s very easy to find experts these days who’ll back up my claim that the US economy is unsustainable long term because of the way it’s rigged.

        Tad

  8. Andyvan
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Kiev is only obeying it’s Washington masters. It is Washington that encouraged and financed the Ukrainian (pro EU side ? ed) in order to push NATO bases closer to Russia and provoke conflict between the EU and Russia. They are the ones that have (contriibuted to? ed) not only Kiev’s leadership but most of Europe’s as well. Why else would Merkel, Cameron and all the others go along with the ludicrous lies that the US government spews out and have repeated by our media? The US empire is in decline and the last thing they want is a European Union that is friendly with Russia. Divide and rule just as they do across the globe with their constant creation of enemies- al-Qaeda, Iran, Iraq, Libya now ISIS and Russia. It’s not the Kremlin or Kiev we should worry about but somewhere a lot further west.

  9. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    British people have a referendum. Apart from a couple of eggs, even Mr Salmond has not yet started a shooting match. We are, after all, Brits!

    The Russians, are of course British too. That is why they should also have a referendum which will be (apart from a few people like the Mayor of Tower Hamlets) conducted fairly and impartially. The Ukrainians (being British) will also form orderly queues and enter the ballot area calmly clutching their (free) pencils having signed in with the two impartial and very polite and friendly staff.

    Because the Ukrainians have no history of Nazi atrocities, there will be no neo-Nazis strutting about talking about the next pogrom or anything like that. The Ukrainian government, democratically elected after the last very peaceful revolution, attended by the High Representative of the European Union, will send their three top people (including one woman, Mme Timoshenko, of course), to stand on soap boxes to preach that Unity is Strength.

    That is how British People have acted throughout history. The Russians whether or not they have a Ukrainian accent, are exactly the same.

    Reply: It is easy to ridicule democracy and peace, but we only achieve both if enough people speak up for them and try and achieve them. Are you suggesting we go to war to “settle” Ukraine?

    • bigneil
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      reply to reply – ” It is easy to ridicule democracy and peace, but we only achieve both if enough people speak up for them and try and achieve them” – -The people of this country want democracy and peace – but with govt policy of open door mass immigration-and Cameron’s constant lies to us, designed to destroy England and the English as a nation, Mr Cameron is doing his best to stick us in the most undemocratic creation ever. I really think you are in the wrong party John, as I don’t believe you want to see this country/nation wiped off the map.

    • Stephen Berry
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply:

      I think Mike Stallard is, in his own dry fashion, warning against blithely applying British standards on democracy all around the world. The west and east of the Ukraine have strong historical reasons for not trusting each other and the events of the last six months mean that they now have something else to add to the list. Some matters simply cannot be easily resolved by a vote.

      Given the passions which nationalism typically arouses, I think we can say that the Scottish referendum has, on the whole, been conducted in a good spirit. But could John put his hand on his heart and say that the British government could call a referendum in Northern Ireland, confident that it too would be conducted in the same peaceful and responsible manner?

      A responsible foreign policy should recognise the anger which certain issues arouse locally and not be so darn eager to get involved.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    John, you advocate an idealistic approach, and in that sense to be applauded.

    But you also say you have no time for “rebels who fire on their own government, nor for rebels who rely on Russian support to fight a civil war”. So just how do you suggest a government should respond to those bearing arms against it and for whom a democratic approach is a sign of weakness?

    For democracy to be able to work, first you have to have the rule of law.

    But achieving the”ideal” democracy is no guarantor of everlasting peace.

    Reply You try talking to those who would rebel with arms. That’s what we ended up doing so in Northern Ireland. I learned from that experience.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Re reply.

      I do not think Northern Ireland is a good precedent. We spent years talking and getting nowhere.

      It is my understanding that the Nationalist only decided to put their weapons beyond reach when their organisation was compromised by infiltration.

      And there are still nationalists who are inclined to violent means to achieve their aims.

  11. Bert Young
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I was very pleased to read your comments yesterday specifying the need to have the English control their own affairs . It is one thing to have the interference of the EU in the management of our country and another to allow the Scots a disproportionate voice and vote . I sincerely trust that the protest you made will gain support and cause a reversal of the promises made by the 3 leaders yesterday . If the Scots want “out” so be it , meanwhile making offers that could not be voted through the House is dancing on thin ice .

  12. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    And the EU went in there and conducted business on our (my) behalf. Default agreement by being an EU member state. I resent that.

    The Kiev government contains some seriously disturbed members. State something about the Ukraine Army that’s true/bad and your’e told to kneel before that Army. Medieval to say the least!

    Seems to be plain sailing now that Putin has been brought to heel? Unless the EU/Kiev government changes dramatically I don’t think Putin will remain at heel. Just need to get the sanctions dropped and the EU locked in its box, then binned.

    Your efforts Mr Redwood in Parliament yesterday was very much welcomed.

    • stred
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      After the latest punch up in the Ukrainian Parliament, they decided to ban the Communist Party and their MPs. They only had about 12% of the vote, but now have no representation. We have a similar arrangement with new and minor parties by FPTP.

  13. ian wragg
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    But of course we are in the same position as Ukraine albeit at the behest of the ruling elite. We are being pulled in a direction which we don’t want to go and maybe we will have to resort to violence to restore democracy.
    With the 3 main parties importing 500,000 poorly skilled foreigners each year and bribing the with our assets I can only see trouble brewing in the future.
    Maybe if Scotland votes NO next week we will have another N.I situation on our borders.
    We really do get the politicians we deserve.

  14. lojolondon
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    John, I think this is what happens when a coup occurs – the President of Ukraine was not elected, he overthrew the last President at the urging of the EU. Having come into power illegitimately, he feels threatened by democratic means and needs to exert his authority by force.
    The EU, shamefully, were the root cause of the situation, so now keep supporting him despite his obvious wrongdoing, brought into focus by the mocking questions from the Ukraine yesterday to the UK – why not just bomb the Scots who want to vote ‘yes’ – after all, that is what is happening there, and the UK/EU are supporting the Ukraine in this action!

    • stred
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      The deposed president would have had to face an election within a few months of todays date. Was it worth all the death and destruction and should those guilty of subverting the due democratic process face prosecution? The deposed president may (have allegations to answer ed)

  15. English Pensioner
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I think that the EU has considerable reponsibility for the present situation in Ukraine. They have apparently spent over £300 million there in the last six years, say 50 million a year. All aimed at getting Ukraine “on-side”, presumably in the hope that one day they might join the EU.
    Looked at from the Russian point of view this is EU encroachment into their sphere of influence, and if they are paranoid, a belief that the EU Empire is trying to acquire more territory, just like Hitler and Napoleon in previous generations.
    I was always taught to look at the other side’s point of view, and if one does it is hard not to reach the conclusion that both the EU and Russia are equally to blame, for what has happened; the EU for stirring up the initial revolution and Russia for trying to defend the status quo.
    Yet another reason for getting out of the EU unless one believes that this new EU Empire should replace the British Empire!

    • lojolondon
      Posted September 11, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      We all know that £300m isn’t a massive amount as far as things go, but I still find it annoying we are cutting back at home, while giving the EU £15B a year and they are blowing it on buttering up the neighbours in the hope of expanding their territory…

  16. Bran
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Regrettably it appears that elements of the central government’s forces are continuing to shell certain areas in Novarussia. Seeing how little control Kiev has on some of these then it is perhaps not surprising. Equally the EU pre-announcement of further sanctions on Russia if the cease-fire fails seems to me to be stupid and a direct incentive for them to ensure that it does fail.

  17. zorro
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    All eminently sensible and realistic – and all this could have been achieved by the Ukrainians over time if the US/EU/NATO machine had not interfered. This, like the conflict in the Middle East is all about resources, dependency, and the US wish to always be predominant and stop the European powers and Russia getting too economically inter meshed …..

    zorro

  18. Max Dunbar
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t been to Ukraine but what I do know from conversations with eastern Europeans, particularly the older ones, is that the Russians are feared and dreaded. Most of these countries have not had democracy since before WW2 and some of them have never had it at all.
    When the German Army invaded Ukraine in 1941 they were hailed as liberators by most of the population and the churches which had been closed or destroyed were re-opened. Later, disillusionment set in with the occupation and the communists infiltrated commissars and the ‘resistance’ into German occupied areas to foment armed insurgence. Needless to say it was the innocent who paid the price.
    This hatred of the Russians may explain some of the stories of Ukrainian Neo-Nazi fighters who allegedly sport SS runes on tattooed arms but my guess is that it is exaggerated by the press for sensational purposes.
    Suffice to say that Ukrainians do not just distrust the Russians, they dislike and fear them. They would therefore like to remove all ethnic Russians from their soil by force and, having been tricked time and again in the past, deem democracy which requires a degree of trust to be unhelpful. Their leader Konovalets was assassinated by the Russians in the late ’30s using an explosive box of chocolates; beware Greeks (Russians) who bear gifts!

    Reply There are also Russian speaking Ukrainians who are pro Russia, and many Ukrainians who are neither pro the EU nor Russia but just want to live in peace.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply: I agree that it is not clear cut in Ukraine and never can be in civil war but in general eastern Europeans fear Russia with good reason.

  19. ian
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    More sanctions from eu start on the 12 th sept on rassia USA still gun ho and the british cabinet. A lot of this has to do with scotland wanting to leave the union also migration and QE, economy problems. That why the yes is bigger than thought. Well done to all politician and the establishment and cos the elite.

  20. ian
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    All out fight coming for MARIUPOL and ukraine pressing to join NATO to start war on russia. I can see why the scots want to be independent. What a few bob to going to war.

    Reply NATO has made quite clear they are not going to war with Russia over Ukraine.

  21. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    So the Ukraine retains sovereignty but cannot exercise it. It sounds to me as if Ukraine and Russia should be seeking to govern a region of south east Ukraine in the way that Northern Ireland is governed.

    That is what the UK should be advocating if it wishes to be consistent. Alternatively, it could rip up the Good Friday Agreement, cede the Bogside and much of Fermanagh & North Tyrone to the Republic, and kick Republicans out of Northern Ireland.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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