Moscow’s turn: The Russian version of the conflict in Ukraine

 

Since 2014, the conflict in Ukraine, which started as a result of the Euromaidan, has been continuing. Western Media reported well during the first half of the conflict, the Syrian civil war taking the stage soon afterwards, Ukraine fading from the European Union’s (EU) TV-screens. However, to what extent can we believe what we hear in Western media, without hearing the point of view of Russia itself? ______________________________________________________________________________________________
Authors: Derek W. Brokowski
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Embassy of the Russian Federation in Madrid. (Image Source: Derek N. Photography)

In an interview with Mr. Evgeny Evdokimov, the First Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Madrid, Mr. Evdokimov explains Russia’s point of view and stance in the conflict, in contrast to that issued by Western European media.


The conflict in Ukraine, which started in February 2014, by Russia’s annexation of Crimea following a referendum celebrated on the autonomous peninsula, which the Ukrainian government in return declared illegal, is one of the major political crises Europe has experienced in the 21st century.

European media has done a great job reporting about Russia’s aggressions against Ukraine, as well as the violation of bilateral as well as multilateral treaties in which both countries were included. However, the role of Western Media is an important component of how we perceive the conflict in Ukraine. In Russia, Western Media has been called out to be biased, mostly reporting in favour of Ukraine and the actions of the European Union against Russia.

Interested in the conflict, although not identifying as pro-Russian, I have decided to exclusively interview the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Madrid, Mr. Evgeny Evdokimov. I knew the Ukrainian side of the conflict already, however I felt the need to be able to understand those opposing me, those in favour of Russia, and not Ukraine.

An interesting aspect of the conflict are the whereabouts of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who is considered to have triggered the Euromaidan and as a consequence also the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, following the suspension of talks between Ukraine and the European Union regarding an association agreement between the two. According to Mr. Evdokimov, the former president left the country on the night of February 21st 2014, heading for Russia. Furthermore, the First Secretary added, Russia has granted Yanukovych asylum, reportedly due to direct threats against him and as a humanitarian act.

Rumours about Yanukovych having been granted Russian citizenship through a secret decree by Vladimir Putin, are not only being denied by Mr. Evdokimov, but also by presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who stated that he had not seen such a decree issued by the president.

In 1994, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, USA and the UK signed the Budapest Memorandum, in which the territorial integrity, the respect of the established borders and sovereignty of the three former Soviet Republics was guaranteed by all signatories. A condition of the memorandum, was that all three former Soviet Republics give up their nuclear weapons to Russia, who in return will assure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these countries. An alleged military intervention by Russia on Ukrainian soil, as  reported by Western media, breaches the conditions of the memorandum. Upon mentioning this, Mr. Evdokimov explained that, all military interventions are alleged, with no proof of such existing. He furthermore states that this is a propagandistic move against Russia by the West.

What are the motivations of Russia’s support for the rebels in Ukraine’s Eastern regions?

According to Mr. Evdokimov, Ukraine is a country divided by ethnicity and language. In the predominantly ethnically and linguistically Russian East, the people are in favor of close cooperation with Russia, whereas in the predominantly ethnically and linguistically Ukrainian West of the country, people hope to establish close ties with the European Union, and even go as far as to wanting Ukraine to become a member state.

Mr. Evdokimov stated that while Ukrainian products have quite some success on the Russian market, the factories and the industrial sector of the Ukrainian economy will not be able to compete with those of the EU member states. He also describes the EU as a union in which member states compete for the highest political position and the best economy, which would be an unsuitable terrain for Ukraine.

Additionally, Mr. Evdokimov reminded us, that the West has been violating commitments made in 1990, which included the non-expansion of NATO to Eastern European countries such as Poland and Romania, formerly members of the Warsaw Pact or the Soviet Union, as is the case of Ukraine. The First Secretary also stated that according to Western media, this commitment was not a written one, but rather an oral agreement, therefore not making it valid.

This is evident in the case of NATO offering Montenegro, a former Yugoslav Republic, membership on 02. December 2015, which was met by strong disapproval from Moscow, who in return suspended common projects with the small Balkan country, in response to a possible accession to NATO. However, the population of Montenegro is split, both parties, the one in favour and the one against an accession being almost equally big, the protesters reportedly being “Russia-friendly”.

As for the Minsk II Protocol, Mr. Evdokimov stated that Russia is doing everything possible on its part to comply with the protocol and it is up to Kiev to do its part, reminding us that Russia cannot make any changes in agreement with the protocol inside of Ukraine.

In June 2015, the Ukrainian government published the so-called “Kremlin’s Black Book”, in which it lists Human Rights violations committed by Russia and statistics about the ongoing war in the Donbass region, such as casualties and destruction of Ukraine’s industry in the region.
Russia, in return, published the “White Book on Violations of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Ukraine”, in which it lists alleged Human Rights violations by Ukraine in its Donbass region, also including reports by Amnesty International.

Concluding the interview, Mr. Evdokimov stated that it is important to consider Russia’s point of view, as well as that of the West, regarding the situation, in order to set an end to the conflict in Ukraine.

THE REASONS WHY THERE IS NOT AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN GREECE AND THE “TROIKA”

The Tsipras Government’s Plan does not undertake the big reforms asked by the so-called Troika’s negotiators –formed by the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. While Greece is running out of time to give back a loan to the IMF before this Friday (5/6/2015), Alexis Tsipras presented a plan to give an end to six years of crisis. A plan that does not undertake the great reforms requested by the EU negotiators, although the Greek Executive does show certain intention of reaching an agreement.

WHAT IS REQUESTED BY THE “BRUSELAS GROUP”

  • Reduction of the public spending
  • Improvement of tax incomes, in order to enhance the State’s incomes and a rise of IVA
  • Rationalize pensions and make this system sustainable
  • Program of privatizations as a source of incomes and keep ongoing plans underway.

WHAT ALEXIS TSIPRAS OFFERS

  • Fewer cutbacks and fewer debts. Tsipras tries to renegotiate the debt, in order to settle the annulment of part of the debt simply because Greece cannot pay it.
  • Limitation of the IVA’s increase: Greece offers keep three types of IVA (6%, 11% and 23%) to collect 1,000 millions of Euros, while European negotiators ask 2,000 million more with two types.
  • Less early retirements: the Greek Government accepts the gradual restriction of early retirements but not the sustainability of the public system of pensions.
  • They want the electricity kept public. They accept other kinds of privatizations, but not in this realm.
  • Athens also tries to gain a greater margin in order to be able of making social policies. That is why Tsipras wants to reduce the aim of primary surplus roughly to 1% of GDP in 2015 and 2% in 2016; while the previous objective was 3% in 2015 and 4% in 2016.

Here Tsipras gives the hand to Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. http://ep01.epimg.net/internacional/imagenes/2015/06/03/actualidad/1433360287_548191_1433360441_noticia_normal.jpg

Although there is no an agreement between Athens and the “Troika” and now Greece is found in a hard situation due to the difficulties in paying the debts back the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, thinks that the way out of Greece is not a “desirable framework” because it could bring more problems than solutions. If it would occur, the people would start to think that the euro is not reversible.

Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister of Economies and Finances in Italy, believes that it “is possible”, although there would be consequences in a mid-term because, as Juncker said, it would mean that the euro is reversible.

However, Padoan believes that nobody is in the condition to say how the way out of Greece would be managed. However, he hopes that Tsipras reaches an agreement with the creditors these days.

This is a crucial week for Greece: it must pay the first part of the 300 million Euros to the IMF, while this month it has to give back roughly 1,600 million Euros.

In general, some conclusions have been great progresses with Greece, although there is still a long way to walk, although conversations start to be successful.

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner of Economic Issues in Italy, points out that there has been a progress in concrete issues –IVA and reform of Greek Administration- even though the time to reach an agreement “hurries”.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

http://www.expansion.com/economia/2015/06/01/556cabf0268e3e5f108b458c.html

http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/06/01/actualidad/1433194209_089453.html

http://www.dw.de/juncker-salida-de-grecia-del-euro-acarrear%C3%ADa-m%C3%A1s-problemas/a-18491258

http://www.abc.es/internacional/20150603/abci-porque-grecia-acuerdo-bruselas-201506022142.html

http://elpais.com/elpais/2015/06/02/opinion/1433263452_484084.html

http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/06/03/actualidad/1433360287_548191.html

Immigration: Is the EU doing enough to tackle the issue?

On Sunday the 18th of April the world saw the worst immigration incident ever to occur in the Mediterranean. Two men have been arrested aged 27 years old and a 25 year old. It is has been confirmed that 800 people lost their lives. There is thought to only have been 27 survivors who were taken to the Sicilian coast of Catania on Monday evening.

It is believed that the ship capsized due to overcrowding. The boat had originally crashed. To add to the collision, when a Portuguese flagged ship came to help the overcrowded ship. It is thought the migrants on the ship moved position too fast causing the boat to become unbalanced.  The two men who were the organizer of the ship will be charged with accounts of people trafficking and reckless multiple homicide.

Amongst those who lost those lives in this tragic yet preventable event were children between the young ages of ten years old and twelve years old. The other twenty five survivors are being taken good care of and are to request asylum within the next few weeks.

The European Union (EU) have had the issue of immigration ever since the creation of Europe as a whole. The European Union faces issues of demographic pressures, identity and immigration policies, and a creation of a policy on Immigration to suit all 28 countries involved in the European Union. Currently the European Union are reviewing The 1951 Refugee convention. This is to solve any issues that are occurring with the application of this act to real life cases. At the moment within the European Union to gain citizenship within an EU country is very difficult even with  all the diverse rules from different countries. However this recent horrific event has made aware the severity of the problem of immigration.

From this event it is reported that more boats carrying hundreds more of migrants have passed through these seas. For example, Greece coast guards picked up three separate vessels carrying around 126 migrants. A few days later another yacht which was thought to be carrying around another 90 people.

This tragic event has made it aware how much of a problem immigration really is within the EU. This tragedy has taken place just after the emergency meeting of the EU interior and foreign ministers in Luxembourg. The meeting was to discuss and launch military actions on immigrant issues within and around Libya. There also been a push for the use of more naval ships to check the coast of Mediterranean to save more potential lives who are trying to get into Europe this way.

One concern has become clear from all this tragedy is that immigration is a clear issue and needs to be tackled sooner rather later as more lives are at risks each and every day.

Sources:

BBC (2015) ‘Mediterranean capsized migrant boat captain faces charges’. [Online] available from <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32390941> (3/4/2015)

The Guardian (2015) ‘Migrant boat captain arrested as survivors of sinking reach Italy’. [Online] Available from <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/21/survivors-800-migrant-boat-disaster-reach-italy-catania>(3/4/2015)

Migration policy Institute

(2015) ‘Europe’. [Online] Available from<http://www.migrationpolicy.org/regions/europe?gclid=CjwKEAjwsZyqBRCT1aq6qcD53DQSJACcen4C7Hi6ZuCfLSod4y5JJavRr_tvOOB-gnvyr__0vSArUBoCJyHw_wcB>(2/4/2015)

A french diplomat on the current European affairs

After a intensive month with the visit of the French President and Prime Minister in Spain, Philippe Richou, the press and communication counsellor of the French ambassador in Spain has accepted to answer to some of my questions focused on Europe.  I wanted to cover three important topics: Terrorism, Anti-Europeanism and The Ukrainian conflict, with the point of view of the French State.

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The press and communication councellor, Philippe Richou.

First of all, as a civil servant, Mr Richou wanted to insist on the fact that it was not his role to comment the current events but to inform on the action of his country and the relation between Spain and France.

 On the question of the terrorist threat, the counsellor answered that we need to preserve our democratic model.  After the attack of “Charlie Hebdo”, an old debate emerged in the French society on freedom and fighting against terrorism. The French authorities want to preserve the model of public freedom and face terrorism. “We have to get tools as efficient as possible in order to restrain the terrorist menace and warranty freedom and security.” One of the main ideas of the government is to enable a register in the Schengen Zone for the plane passengers and exchange better data with other countries. This measure is discussed at the European level, and “France hopes that this project is going to progress in the European Parliament”.

But for fighting against terrorism, European member States also have to focus on what is going on outside. Some countries are participating to military interventions against terrorist movements in other continents. Mr Richou reminded that it is the case of France in Sahel or, in Iraq, in the framework of the international coalition against ISIS. Since the 9/11, the fight against terrorism has become more important.  Today, countries are cooperating at a European and Extra-European level. In Our continent, some work has been done but there is still a lot to do. The French position is “that Europe has to be more efficient and improve this coordination.”

After what occurred in Denmark and the attack of a French ambassador, I also wanted to know if embassies changed their security measures. Philippe Richou answered that embassies are open places and their objectives are to create cooperation with different countries but security measures are taken in order to protect this administration.

On the difficulties of the European Union and Anti-Europeanism, the diplomat reminded what he said before “It is not my role to judge or qualify a legal political movement”. There is a big expectation of the European citizens, the results of the previous European elections showed that some citizens don’t trust Europe and are convinced that things are not working in the economic plan.  In answer to these expectations, “the position of the French government is that austerity cannot be the only answer to the crisis and Europe has to be factor of growth”.  With the Junker plan, Europe points out one of its basic principles that is helping States, this is why the French government supported it.  What is sure is that electors are worried and vote for parties against this system.  As a civil servant, he wanted to add: “But we must not judge the electors, it is important to understand why these citizens make these choices.”

On the Greek situation, the French position is to hear the democratic claims of the Greek population, but also to remind that the Greek State underwrote commitment with the members of the European Union. “We have to find “la Sintonía fina”, as the Spaniards say, so as to find a deal between the democratic demands and the European rules accepted by the Greek.”

To finish, on the Ukrainian conflict, the counsellor said that in the case of the cease fire between Ukraine and rebels, European Countries such as Germany or France have played a role. Third parties as our countries “can manage to reunite the belligerents, and try to propose realistic propositions in function of the interests of the different concerned parties. “ But this ceasefire cannot last if there is not interest to stop the hostilities. This agreement is meaningful if the belligerents take advantage on the peace so as to find solutions to the problems that were at the origin of the conflict. The role of member countries of the European Union is to do their upmost in order to create a dialog and end this conflict. “The ceasefire is provisory, it is almost in the domain of the” tactical”, after there is the “strategic” issue and, for us, this strategic issue is peace.”

Nicolas MARTIN

The Transatlantic Treaty

It’s been a few months we hear about the Transatlantic treaty and negotiations are at stake but many people wonder if this treaty is good for the European Union.

The creation of a single European economic space based on a common market was at the outset, the key objective of the Treaty of Rome. By establishing a common market and progressively approximating the economic policies of the Member States, the Community aims to promote harmonious development of economic activities. But, these things can be transformed with the arrival of several reforms about the Transatlantic Treaty. It is a treaty of free trade currently still in negotiation since July 2013 between the European Union and the United States. It aims to lower customs duty but no only, it also regularizes trade barriers. This treaty is the subject of many critics, we think that it is not appropriate for the European market and it is very difficult to understand the treaty as a whole.

Indeed, little understanding on the part of several experts about this treaty could remind us the debates of the European constitution. In our time, when euroscepticism increases, the transatlantic treaty is not adequate because it can favor the ascent of the populism. So, the Europeans will feel betrayed and the European elites will be denounced because they are always the ones who make the decisions. This is what happens in Greece with the election of Alexis Tsipras, member of the radical left coalition known as Syriza.

Moreover, the idea of opening a new market between us and European Union is very present. But the question is to know if it is really useful, and if it is going to be a success. The process of creating a new market and creating a new area is already complicated in Europe. For the first time, the European Union has to face an economic crisis. This idea of a united continent is already hard to achieve, and maybe this treaty of the European Union with another continent. Before having negotiations with the US, Europe has to solve its own problem if we cannot be sure that there are no inconvenient to this treaty.

To finish, there is a risk modify, but also to deregulate the economies of the two continents, and especially Europe. These continents don’t have the same economic model. Lots of experts put forward that this treaty was influenced by the big companies. It will allow big corporations to sue governments before secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers. We can observe this phenomenon in Australia, the country is sued by the company PhilipMorris. This idea of “secretive” is very risky for the European Union. It is already a complex economic system, and it would be dangerous to make it more opaque.

In conclusion, the Transatlantic treaty is not good for Europe because it will foster euroscepticism, the situation may become even more critical and companies will have powers that can be dangerous for consumers.

A New Treaty of Versailles?

A week after the election of Alexis Tsipras, Germany and Greece are arm wrestling over the debt situation and some politicians do not hesitate to assimilate the policy of Angela Merkel with the third Reich.

La Grèce peut-elle changer l'Europe ?

Picture taken from the website “Latribune”

Hopes are high among the Greek population, after the victory of a radical left leader. The inhabitants expect the situation is going to evolve in a country with a 175% of GDP debt and a 26 % rate of unemployment. These last years, Greece has been negotiating with the European Union, and especially Germany, so as to reduce the debt. The negotiations are increasingly strained.

As the “Washington Post” reported, Tsipras traveled on the memorial site at the range Kaisariani, where in 1944 Nazi soldiers executed some 200 Greek militants in retaliation for the death of a German officer killed in a Greek ambush. It was his first act as Prime minister. Syriza has been outspoken about the need for Germany to atone for his past in Greece, or at least show a little more leniency now as compensation. “We will ask for debt reduction, and the money in Germany we must start from the Second World War, including repairs,” he said earlier this month. It was total war global dimensions, a war of extreme violence in which entire populations were destroyed through the establishment of a systematic extermination policy.

One of the main factors of WW2 was the Treaty of Versailles. In “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”, John Maynard Keynes demonstrated that the problem was that the reparations Germany had to pay were so big that the country would not be able to pay for it. He said that the treaty of Versailles would feed the German nationalism and would be dangerous. Finally, Germany did not pay for WW1. Today, we also know that the peace of 1919 was a time bomb and yesterday’s Germany is the Greece of today.

It is evident that today the roles have changed. Germany became the most powerful country in the European Union and defeated Nazism. The recent event makes us take conscience that history repeats itself. The situation Greece is facing today is very similar to Germany’s situation during the 20’s. The population suffers from rules established by other countries and this idea led Germany to a totalitarian government. The “German bashing” in Greece is really threatening and Germany knows better than others that it is dangerous to impose rules to a population. It is evident that the European Crisis will be solved by encouraging dialog between Germany and Greece because both ways of behaving are risky, but also with the rest of the European Union, so as to avoid the dangerous lack of communication like during the 20’s.

Cleaved parties in the European Union due to Ukraine conflict

Last Sunday Pro-Russian achieved their personal breakthrough: Eighty-nine percent of the population voted in favour of the self-rule for Eastern Ukraine by the referendum vote. This result as well as the way of voting reboils the Ukraine issue ones more inasmuch as the European Union is not acclaiming this vote and wants to declare more sanctions which cause cleaved parties between its members.

 

The so called third level of sanctions – wide-ranging economic sanctions – are intended to weaken Putin, as Europeans have ruled out the use of military means and use sanctions as their most powerful weapon. But in fact this can only be effective when all the members agree on them unanimously. Levels one and two were no problem because they were primarily symbolic acts – but the latest sanctions would have a strong effect on Russia and therefore also on the economies of the EU members.

Imagen

Picture:alliance / dpa / Anthony Picore

 

This leads to a splitting of the EU into different parties. Because in the last few months, countries such as Lithuania, Luxembourg and Sweden have publicly stated that they will support Ukraine with their military use of force. Raimonda Murmokaite, Lithuania’s United Nations envoy and Olivier Maes, her Luxembourg counterpart defended Ukraines’ right to use force if needed against pro-Russian separatists at an UN Security Council meeting on the 13th April in New York. Also Carl Blidt, Sweden’s foreign minister announced via Twitter: “If illegal armed groups took over police stations and local government offices in Sweden we would use all our instruments to restore order.”

 

On the other hand, the European Parliamentarian, Rebecca Harms, said that she agrees with the paths that the EU is following. She suggested more sanctions to Russia but she is totally against the use of military means from the EU for solving Ukraine’s crisis. Nevertheless the German foreign minister warned that the Ukraine is close to war as Ukrainian troops clashed with pro-Russian separatists a few days ago: “The bloody pictures have shown us that we are just a few steps away from a military confrontation”. As Germany and France are taking the middle position, they don’t want sanctions. But if Putin goes on destabilizing Ukraine, they will support measures. The French president Hollande has no negative attitude towards Russia and its president Putin. He wants to keep their relation of interest stabile.

 

Moreover especially the countries in Southern Europe are afraid of economic costs of a trade boycott. Spain tries to act neutral in this conflict. The Spanish foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, as well as the Italian one, Federica Mogherini, gave importance to restart the conversations in Geneva in order to get national peace in Ukraine and to keep working with Russia to stop this conflict. Garcia-Margallo states that Spain is in favour of the international legality and therefore condemns the separation of Crimea. He explained that Spain fully supports their NATO and EU allies. Additionally Mogherini expressed her hope that the Ukrainian presidential elections on May 25, should allow Ukraine to reform their constitution.