On the brink

As I am writing this blog entry, something that worryingly resembles the beginning of a civil war is underway in Eastern Ukraine. The triple strategy of the Ukrainian government – send in the military but restrain its activity, ask for UN peacekeepers, offer a countrywide referendum on federalisation – has failed. First, there are reports on Ukrainian troops switching sides, following a couple of small-scale skirmishes yesterday and today: in fact, armoured vehicles with Russian flags are entering the town of Sloviansk as I’m writing this. Second, despite yet another session of the Security Council scheduled for today afternoon, it is clear that the UN will not intervene. Third, though its ultimate goal may be the federalisation of Ukraine, Russia will not agree to a countrywide referendum that, without doubt, would be won by the opponents of a federal Ukraine. A Russian invasion seems to be imminent. However, there are some points that need to be stated. 

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Russia’s greatest challenges for the next decade

I recently authored a report for Wikistrat, based on a collaborative brainstorming exercise of more than forty global experts, on Russia’s greatest challenges for the next decade. The crowdsourced analysis took place in February, before the formal annexation of Crimea, but took into consideration the implications of Russia’s power projection abroad. The report can be accessed here

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Storm clouds from Crimea

The invasion of Crimea was a reality check for all of us that assumed that Russia had been integrated into a rule-based global system and was working fairly rationally. As I have blogged before, most of us were wrong about this. Rational arguments work to a considerably smaller extent in an autocratic system, and in Russia, they seem to work less and less. In my previous blog entry, I made the renewed assumption that the world in and around Russia worked along the principles of rationality and predicted that this contradiction will ultimately lead to systemic problems. It is, therefore, worth a look to see where this assumption leads us: does rationality dictate peace or war?

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Time machine

I have repeatedly blogged about the tremendous costs Russia would incur by annexing Crimea. As the referendum on the peninsula’s joining Russia takes place today, those costs are still there in the background: if the Russian government accepts the peninsula into the Russian Federation, and especially if it pushes forward with military interventions elsewhere, it will irreparably harm the Russian economy and reset Russia to 1990. The question is whether Vladimir Putin cares at all.

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Call my bluff

There it is: the longer, more violent and potentially more dangerous version of the Orange Revolution turned Ukraine around and put Viktor Yanukovych out to grass for good. Partly because of Yanukovych tragically poor political skills but also because of his own miscalculations, Vladimir Putin faces an uneasy choice in Ukraine and he can only possibly choose the lesser evil. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to know what the lesser evil is going to be. 

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The failed disciple #2 – The failing master

This is the end of Viktor Yanukovych’s political career. The reason is still the same that I pointed out a month ago: he is a petty tyrant, but more importantly, a bad politician. Following the clashes of the past two days and the sanctions that EU member states have agreed to impose, there is absolutely no end game in Ukraine that would see Yanukovych continue as president. In fact, his resignation seems to be the question of days. Meanwhile, it is almost sure that the Kremlin has already started “casting” the successor of Yanukovych, but even so, there is no guarantee that Russia will be able to keep Ukraine, the jewel of Vladimir Putin’s imperial politics in the long term, without which Putin’s third-term plan, the Eurasian Union makes little sense.

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The failed disciple

In the past week, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych has exposed himself as a petty tyrant by cracking down on opposition protesters in a brutal and dictatorial manner, after having passed undemocratic legislation. Even more importantly, he showed that he was a bad politician, something that may as well lead to his fall – something that would reverse, but at the very least, halt the foreign policy bulldozer of Vladimir Putin too.

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