Posts Tagged ‘VLADIMIR PUTIN’

LONDON, October 21 (RIA Novosti) – The ASEM summit in Milan cruelly exposed the illusions EU leaders hold about the Ukrainian conflict, and not for the first time

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Ever since the February coup in Ukraine, the EU’s leaders have held to two assumptions: First, that the crisis in Ukraine is a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and second, that they can bend Russia to their will by applying pressure on it to achieve the outcome they want in Ukraine. This outcome would entail the complete restoration of Kiev’s undiluted political control over the whole country, including the rebellious regions in the east (even the EU leaders quietly acknowledge that Crimea is lost to Ukraine forever).

These two assumptions blind the EU leaders to reality. Since they insist on seeing the conflict as one between Ukraine and Russia, they deny the reality that the regime in Kiev that they are supporting came to power through a violent, unconstitutional coup, which is behind the current conflict.  As a result, they refuse to see that this is not a conflict between Ukraine and Russia but an internal conflict between Ukrainians, between the people of eastern Ukraine who opposed the February coup and the ultra-nationalist, Russophobic regime in Kiev and the political system it has created.

The other reality the EU leaders seem ignorant of Russia itself and its role in the world. Not only is Russia far stronger economically than they seem to realise (witness its success in absorbing the recent oil price fall) but their entire approach shows that they have still not adjusted to the comparative relevance of the Chinese and Asian economies in terms of Russian oil and gas consumption. They act as if it is still only the West that matters. That Russia is not dependent on their goodwill for its economic survival and has other partners to trade with is something they seem unable to face.

The assumption that the conflict can therefore be “solved” in the manner the EU wants, by pressuring Russia, is therefore doubly misplaced. Russia didn’t cause the conflict in Ukraine and is not responsible for its outcome; it cannot simply switch it off at the EU’s bidding in the way EU leaders appear to think it can, even if it wanted to. At the same time, the sanctions the EU has imposed to pressure Russia, while causing Russia real problems, cannot damage Russia in the way they think. Europe’s moves are much more likely to anger Russia and consolidate popular support for the Russian government than bend it to their will. In the meantime it is becoming clearer by the day that by adopting sanctions, the EU leaders seriously underestimated the harm they would do to their own economies.

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This persistent failure of the EU leaders to face reality has set the scene for a fiasco.

With their own economies coming under increasing pressure and with Ukraine itself continuing to suffer due to its deepening crisis, the EU leaders, especially Angela Merkel, need to resolve the Ukrainian conflict quickly.  They seem to have persuaded themselves that a combination of sanctions, falling oil prices and their collective presence in Milan would somehow force the Russians to retreat in the way they wanted.  They seem to have disregarded warnings from Moscow that this would not happen and that Moscow would not change its policies in order to get sanctions lifted.

What happened therefore came as a shock. Not only did the Russians not retreat as expected but as Dmitry Peskov, the Russian Presidential spokesman said, they sought instead once more to educate the EU leaders about what’s really going on in Ukraine, explaining that the conflict is an internal one and not one between Ukraine and Russia. Since this is a reality the EU leaders refuse to face, the lesson was extremely unwelcome.

The EU leaders were left clutching at a comment by President Putin that he did not want to see the situation in eastern Ukraine become another frozen conflict and that Russia does not dispute or seek to undermine Ukraine’s integrity. These words in fact simply reflect what has been Russia’s position all along – that since this is an internal Ukrainian conflict, it is for the Ukrainians themselves to settle their differences between themselves through negotiations and that the outcome is for them to decide. However, the EU leaders refuse to see this, instead persisting in the fantasy that the conflict is one between Ukraine and Russia, with Russia committing “aggression” against Ukraine, and misunderstood these banal words as Russia somehow “backing off” from its phantom aggression.

The only practical result that appears to have come out of the summit is that Ukrainian customs officials and guards will resume working at their posts on the Russian border. This was actually agreed on by the Russians as long ago as July 2, 2014 at an earlier summit in Berlin and is therefore nothing new. Both Ukrainian officials and OSCE monitors have been observing the border for months and have seen no evidence of the heavy traffic of Russian troops and military equipment the Ukrainians and the West claim is happening.  The fact that there is no evidence for it does not however shake the EU leaders’ belief that it is going on. Given their stubborn belief in something for which they have no proof, it is difficult to see how a further deployment of Ukrainian customs officials and guards and of more OSCE monitors on the border is going to make any difference.

The Milan summit is a textbook case of a conflict that is being unnecessarily prolonged because of a refusal to face facts.  It is still in theory possible to resolve this crisis diplomatically through a settlement brokered by the Russians and the Europeans. However, for that to happen, the Europeans need to completely change their understanding of the crisis. Since it seems they cannot do this, the conflict will continue, and will not be settled diplomatically but by events on the ground.  It is a certainty when that happens that the result will not be the ones the Europeans like, but by refusing to face facts, they are losing the ability to influence the outcome.

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The Milan summit witnessed a similar fiasco in the gas negotiations, again because the Europeans came to them with a completely wrong set of assumptions.  That however is something to discuss later, once the latest round of tripartite gas negotiations between the Ukrainians, the Russians and the Europeans are over.

Alexander Mercouris is a London-based lawyer. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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Kiev hopes to get a $2 billion loan from Russia to cover its debt to Gazprom for gas, coup-appointed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said. Ukraine’s current gas debt stands at $1.5-1.6 billion.

Speaking at a briefing on Tuesday, Yatsenyuk said Ukraine is waiting for a “clear response” from Russia on whether it is going to provide the second tranche of the agreed $15 billion loan.

Ukraine owes Russia about $2 billion “in debts, racked up by the previous cabinet and the previous president,” he said.

“Russia promised to give a loan of $2 billion, intended to cover gas debts that originated under former President Viktor Yanukovich. We would like to hear a clear response from Russia on whether it wants to fulfill the obligations it undertook several months ago,” Yatsenyuk said.

In December 2013, Russia agreed to purchase $15 billion worth of Ukrainian government bonds and made its first purchase of $3 billion. In February, as part of the agreement, Russia said it would purchase another $2 billion, and then froze the second tranche until “Ukraine forms a new government”.

On Tuesday Yatsenyuk stressed Ukraine’s readiness for extensive dialog with Russia and said that first contacts between the two governments had already taken place.

“Ukraine is ready to renew and moderate a new style of relationship with the Russian Federation, in which Russia will respect the sovereign right of Ukraine to choose the international political orientation of the Ukrainian state. Now we have begun consultations at ministerial level between the governments of Ukraine and Russia,” he said.

 

President Vladimir Putin facing journalists at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence to answer questions concerning the situation in Ukraine, March 4, 2014.(RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)President Vladimir Putin facing journalists at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence to answer questions concerning the situation in Ukraine, March 4, 2014.(RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Ukraine’s gas debt will rise to $2 billion from the current $1.5-1.6 billion if it is late with its payment for deliveries of gas in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday.

However, according to the Russian gas giant’s CEO, Aleksey Miller, on Monday Ukraine told Gazprom that it could not afford February’s gas.

“Our Ukrainian partners informed us yesterday that they will not be able to pay for their February gas supplies in full,” Miller said.

In December, Gazprom gave a substantial discount to the Yanukovich government cutting the price of gas by about one-third from the current $400 per 1,000 cubic meters to $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters.(link)

But speaking to reporters on Tuesday President Putin said that the company will stop granting discounts to Ukraine at the beginning of April as the country owes Russia a total of $1.529 billion for gas.

Putin stressed that the decision to raise gas prices for Ukraine was not political.

“There was an agreement,” Putin said. “We give you the cash and a discount on gas, and you pay us on time. We have given them money, we have cut the price, but there have been no payments.”

Ukraine’s economy is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The country’s coup-appointed government says it will need €25 billion over the next two years.

On Wednesday the European Commission proposed 11 billion euro in financial help, if Kiev agrees a deal with the IMF, which normally includes drastic austerity measures. On top of that, the cash-strapped country secured a $1 billion offer of loan guarantees from the Obama administration.

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