Monday, March 17, 2014

Ukrainia

The Russian people of the Crimean peninsula voted overwhelmingly (93 percent of them) to remove themselves from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.  Although the referendum is "completely illegal" - according to Ukrainian government in Kiev and its western supporters, there are no sanctions to be taken against the Crimea, or Crimeans.

Nor will we be seeing Ukraine trying to force a 'return to the fold'. It is every bit as likely that disorder in the Donetsk region of Ukraine will spread and become worse. This is the critical area for Ukraine where most of its economic resources are located. The western Ukraine is largely marginal land - scrub-forest-covered woodland with vast marshy areas and an irradiated area closed to population around the old Chernobyl plant.   That area, outside the urban centres, lately described in 17th century terms, is the 'showcase' of the republic's lack of development under the Orange revolution.

Average income in Russia is almost six times greater than that of  Ukraine which was, in past times, described as the 'breadbasket of Europe' and the industrial heart of the Soviet Union. While Russia's economy is no bed of roses, they aren't indebted to anybody - Ukraine 'lost' some 170 billion dollars in western loans over the past decade. It needs  money now to stay afloat - the latest amount is $45 billion - nowhere near what Putin offered ($15 billion) and what the Euros said a bond issue would fetch ($1.5 billion). But Ukraine doesn't need more loans it can't repay, in the short run it needs alms. In the long run it needs production and it needs markets. None of which are on the horizon.

And things can only get worse if the Russian population in the eastern regions  decides it's 'time up' and votes to secede. Even if they take with them their 'share' of the national debt, the 'Russians' will still be taking the means of production. One would think that sensible minds would be speaking carefully in Kiev.  That is far from the case.

First of all,  Russia is the demon here - at least according to Ukraine. Demonized they are - blamed for the government Ukrainians elected twice; for 'invading ' Crimea; for calling-down the revolution; for outing the involvement of outside forces at work, etc, etc.  But, failing the Russians, there is no one else to talk to about the Ukrainian problem. For all the willingness to sympathize and 'help',  Europe has no interest in taking-on a basket case - with the Russian bear breathing down its neck. America can do even less.

Russia has no great dependency on America for much else than fast food chains, American cars and 'investments'- all of which they can do without. Russia has nothing to lose, and the respect of the non-aligned nations to gain, by holding its ground - not to mention the benefits that will accrue from having the Donbass and Crimea back in the federation. There is nobody sensible willing to start a war over the Ukraine - except the Ukrainians - who might actually do something stupid if they don't get their way. They will however, lose - the equivalents of a few Ossetias for sure, maybe more.

So far the Russians seem to be the only power involved that makes any sense. Rather than threatening sanctions, or even leaving the Ukraine to starve in the dark by cutting the supply of natural gas, they're calling on the world to encourage Ukrainians to sit down together and reaffirm their independence - from all power blocs - as was intended when the country was formed. Independent Ukraine should not be part of the Russian Federation, nor should it be a  member of the EU or NATO. That was the original agreement. If that can be changed by a revolution, or a referendum, then what about anything else?

By the way -  the other  "important"  stories vying with the Ukrainian crisis in the news this week? A mystery airliner and the death of a TV comic




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