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FTR #833 Shooting Ourselves in the Foot in Ukraine (Habsburg Redux)

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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment

Karl Von Habsburg, standing, third from left

Introduction: Continuing analysis of the Ukraine crisis, this broadcast highlights an important, insightful article by Jonathan Marshall on the Consortium News website. details some of the dangers inherent in Western and U.S. policy toward Russia. He notes that:

  • The possibility that the Ukraine crisis could lead to a larger conflict (Russia is, of course, a nuclear power).
  • The possibility that, if Russia is forced into default, the economic implications for affected American and European institutions could be profoundly negative.
  • The U.S. is working to “make the economy scream” much as the Nixon administration did during its destabilization of the Allende regime in Chile.
  • The U.S. and the West are, indeed, pushing for “regime change” in Russia–a fundamental violation of international law.
  • The U.S. and Western stance imperils important areas of cooperation with Russia including negotiations over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, support for the Afghan effort (where Russia has permitted NATO flights over its territory), and attempts to find a solution to the Syrian civil war.
  • The passage of anti-Russian legislation giving weaponry to the OUN/B heirs in power in Ukraine was accomplished just before midnight (in the House of Representatives) with three members of the House in attendance!
  • There are Russian fascists fighting in Ukraine, whose military experience could translate into their ascension to power in Russia.

The perils inherent in the Ukraine crisis are underscored by the American dispatching of military trainers and armored vehicles to the Ukrainian national guard, which include the Nazi volunteer battalions.

Endgame of the Ukraine crisis?

The perils were further underscored by former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who warned about the possibility of nuclear war, stemming from our current policy drift.

The balance of the program sets forth the renascent power of the von Habsburgs, who are gaining influence in Hungary, one of the traditional seats of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. In addition to Hungary, Habsburg descendants are active in other European countries. Georgia’s ambassador to Germany is a Habsburg princess, apparently furthering the anti-Russian agenda discussed in George Eliason’s expose of the evolution of the “Spring of Nations,” the 19th century ultra-nationalist exceptionalism fostered by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nurtured by the Promethean League between the World Wars, Nazi Germany during the Second World War and the Western democracies during the Cold War, that virulent, bloody ideology triumphed after the breakup of the U.S.S.R.

As set forth in FTR #824, the roots of Ukrainian fascism are anchored in the Habsburg-generated Western Ukrainian (Galician) ultra-nationalism. The Habsburgs are very active in Western Ukraine at the present time. Karl von Habsburg presides over a radio station in Western Ukraine that is running interference for the OUN/B heirs there.

Previous programs covering the Ukraine crisis are: FTR #’s 777778779780781782, 783784794800803804, 808811817, 818, 824, 826, 829, 832.

Program Highlights Include: Review of Georgia’s role in the Promethean League; review of Otto von Habsburg’s political alliance with Jaroslav Stetsko, the genocidal head of state of the Nazi-allied Ukraine during World War II; review of Otto von Habsburg’s membership in the Free Rudolf Hess Committee; review of Karl von Habsburg’s UNPO; review of Karl von Habsburg’s marriage to Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza; Walburga von Habsburg’s role in reactionary Swedish politics; the role of the Habsburgs in the final stages of the decline of the Soviet Union; review of the fascist alignment of Europe’s monarchical families during World War II.

1. On the Consortium News website, Jonathan Marshall has posted a very important article, in which he details some of the dangers inherent in Western and U.S. policy toward Russia. He notes that:

  • The possibility that the Ukraine crisis could lead to a larger conflict (Russia is, of course, a nuclear power).
  • The possibility that, if Russia is forced into default, the economic implications for affected American and European institutions could be profoundly negative.
  • The U.S. is working to “make the economy scream” much as the Nixon administration did during its destabilization of the Allende regime in Chile.
  • The U.S. and the West are, indeed, pushing for “regime change” in Russia–a fundamental violation of international law.
  • The U.S. and Western stance imperils important areas of cooperation with Russia including negotiations over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, support for the Afghan effort (where Russia has permitted NATO flights over its territory), and attempts to find a solution to the Syrian civil war.
  • The passage of anti-Russian legislation giving weaponry to the OUN/B heirs in power in Ukraine was accomplished just before midnight (in the House of Representatives) with three members of the House in attendance!
  • There are Russian fascists fighting in Ukraine, whose military experience could translate into their ascension to power in Russia.

Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions” by Jonathan Marshall; Consortium News; 1/19/2015.

Last month, as President Barack Obama prepared to sign tougher sanctions legislation aimed at Russia, the top White House economist, Jason Furman, boasted that the West’s economic warfare was already bringing Russia to its knees.

“If I was chairman of President (Vladimir) Putin’s Council of Economic Advisers, I would be extremely concerned,” Furman said. Declaring that Putin and his circle were “between a rock and a hard place in economic policy,” Furman crowed that “the combination of our sanctions, the uncertainty they’ve created for themselves with their international actions and the falling price of oil has put their economy on the brink of crisis.”

There’s no denying the perilous state of Russia’s economy. One month earlier, Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov had predicted that sanctions and lower oil prices would cost the Russian economy as much as $140 billion, equal to about 7 percent of GDP. Over the course of 2014, the ruble lost 46 percent of its value, only to drop another 7 percent on the first day of trading in 2015. Russia’s central bank estimates that the country suffered net capital outflows of $134 billion last year, setting the stage for a painful depression.

“We are going through a trying period, difficult times at the moment,” Putin conceded to a large group of international reporters only days after Furman’s comments.

But as scholars and pundits have been telling us for years, in today’s globalized world, no major problem — economic, political, or military — stays local for long. Punishing Russia for its annexation of Crimea and its continuing support for Ukrainian rebels is likely to create a host of unintended and costly repercussions for the United States and Europe.

Unlike some targets of U.S. sanctions, like Cuba or North Korea, Russian’s economy is big enough to matter. Its free-fall may well drag the precarious EU economies part way down with it.

Asked by Bloomberg whether the world could see a financial contagion result from Russia’s economic plight, West Shore Funds Chief Global Strategist James Rickards said, “I think we will. This resembles 1997-98 more than it resembles the 2007-8 panic. Remember that started in Thailand in June 1997, then it spread to Indonesia, then to South Korea, blood on the streets in both place, people were killed in riots, then it spread to Russia. . . . It was the classic example of contagion.”

Rickards added, “there’s a lot of dollar-denominated corporate debt [in Russia] that they may not be able to pay. . . . If that stuff starts to default, who owns it? Well, it’s owned by U.S. mutual fund investors, it’s in 401Ks, some of it’s in European banks. If you own Banco Santander and Banco Santander has a big slug of Russian corporate debt, how does it go down? They can point a finger at the Russians, but when that debt goes down, it’s going to come back to haunt us.”

That’s hardly a fringe concern. Thomas Friedman has also sounded the alarm: “Russia’s decline is bad for Russians, but that doesn’t mean it is good for us. When the world gets this interconnected and interdependent, you get a strategic reverse: Your friends, through economic mismanagement (see Greece), can harm you faster than your enemies.

“And your rivals falling (see Russia and China) can be more dangerous than your rivals rising. If Russia, an economy spanning nine time zones, goes into recession and cannot pay foreign lenders with its lower oil revenues — and all this leads to political turmoil and defaults to Western banks — that crash will be felt globally.”

Europe’s Doubts

European leaders appear to be having second thoughts about the wisdom of playing a game of economic chicken when their own national economies are so weak. Austrian, French, German and Italian leaders, meeting at a Brussels summit in December, all warned that Russia’s financial crisis could blow back against their own economies.

“The goal was never to push Russia politically and economically into chaos,” said Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

In a similar spirit, French President François Hollande told a radio interviewer that sanctions — which included the cancellation of the delivery of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia — were both unnecessary and counterproductive.

“Mr. Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine,” Hollande said. “What he wants is to remain influential. What Mr. Putin wants is that Ukraine not become a member of NATO.” As for sanctions, Hollande said, “I’m not for the policy of attaining goals by making things worse. I think that sanctions must stop now.”

Such concerns did not dissuade Congress last month from unanimously passing tough new bans on financing and technology transfers — along with $350 million in arms and military equipment to the Ukraine and $90 million for anti-Putin propaganda and political operations in Russia. Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich noted that this momentous legislation passed the House of Representatives late at night with only three members present.

Careful What You Wish For

Promiscuous use of sanctions against Russia and a host of other international targets ironically could come back to haunt the United States by undermining the very neo-liberal principles it has championed for decades to undergird U.S. economic expansion.

Putin sounded more like a leader of the Trilateral Commission than an ex-KGB officer when he warned last fall, “Sanctions are already undermining the foundations of world trade, the WTO rules and the principle of inviolability of private property. They are dealing a blow to [the] liberal model of globalization based on markets, freedom and competition, which, let me note, is a model that has primarily benefited precisely the Western countries.

“And now they risk losing trust as the leaders of globalization. We have to ask ourselves, why was this necessary? After all, the United States’ prosperity rests in large part on the trust of investors and foreign holders of dollars and U.S. securities. This trust is clearly being undermined and signs of disappointment in the fruits of globalization are visible now in many countries.”

Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group and foreign affairs columnist for Time magazine, echoed Putin’s comments in his recent global survey, “Top Risks 2015,” which warned that “American unilateralism is stoking dangerous trends” around the world. “I’m very far from a pessimist, but for the first time since starting the firm in 1998, I’m starting to feel a serious undercurrent of geopolitical foreboding.”

With regard to economic sanctions, Bremmer observed, “The most important near-term challenge is the damage inflicted on transatlantic relations. Europe will become more frustrated with an American unilateralism that Europe (and European banks) must pay for. Also, the U.S. could well slap new sanctions on Russia and/or Iran, eliciting a backlash in 2015.

“Over the longer term, though, others will diversify away from reliance on the dollar and U.S.-dominated institutions, particularly in East Asia, where China has the muscle and the motive to create its own institutions, and where there is less dollar-denominated debt to complicate the process. . . .

“And a fat tail concern for 2015, also related to the rise of strategic sectors: Governments targeted by sanctions will increasingly treat companies that comply with them as instruments of American power. This will expose these firms to heightened risks of retaliation – from regulatory harassment to contract discrimination to cyber-attacks. The U.S. financial sector is particularly vulnerable on this count.”

Political Repercussions

The long-term consequences of such sanctions could extend far beyond the cost to our own and other Western economies. Already U.S.-Russian cooperation on arms control has been imperiled. Pushed to the wall, Russia may decline to continue its essential cooperation with regard to resupply corridors into Afghanistan, the Iran nuclear negotiations, and a political settlement in Syria — all of which rank far higher in any rational list of priorities than the fate of the Eastern Ukraine.

As Bremmer warned, “A Kremlin that feels antagonized and isolated but not substantially constrained is a dangerous prospect. An aggressively revisionist yet increasingly weak Russia will be a volatile actor on the global stage in 2015, posing a top risk to Western governments and businesses throughout the year.” He predicted the possibility of more stealth cyber-attacks, confrontations with NATO, and tighter bonding between Russia and China at the expense of the West.

If, as many Russians believe, the real aim of sanctions is regime change — just as President Richard Nixon promoted a military coup against Chile’s Salvador Allende by ordering policies to “make the economy scream” — most observers agree the West could end up with a far more antagonistic regime post-Putin.

In the short run, of course, sanctions simply inflame Russian nationalism and bolster Putin’s popularity. But in the longer run, observed Russia expert Angus Roxburgh in The Guardian, “Pouring fuel on Kremlin clan wars that we barely understand would be the height of folly. We have no idea what the outcome might be – and it could be much worse than what we have at present.”

The longer the Ukraine conflict simmers, the more extremists on both sides gain leverage. Writing last September in The Moscow TimesNatalia Yudina noted that “a significant number of right-wing Russian radicals are now actively fighting in Ukraine. Whereas they previously took part in social networks, historic war battle reenactment groups and all sorts of quasi-military training camps, they are now gaining real-world combat experience.

“Following the conclusion of the conflict, most will inevitably return to Russia, where their long-standing dreams of staging a ‘Russian revolt’ or ‘white revolution’ will no longer seem so difficult an accomplishment. And that means that one more consequence of this war will be a sharp escalation of activity by right-wing radicals — only this time, in Russia itself.”

Without a crystal ball, we have no way of knowing whether the new cold war with Russia will thaw or go into a deeper freeze. But it seems abundantly clear that economic sanctions and political confrontation over the fate of the Eastern Ukraine magnify the risks to global order far out of proportion to any real U.S. and Western interests.

It’s worth remembering, with the centenniary of World War I just past, that economic collapse and social disruption are more likely to sow the seeds of extremism and conflict than to make the world safe for democracy. If policy makers look to history for policy guidance, they would be well advised to study the lessons of Versailles rather than staying fixated on those of Munich.

2. The US plans announced last year to pro­vide mil­i­tary train­ing for Kiev’s national guard units (which includes the neo-Nazi vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions) are set to begin this spring:

“US Train­ers To Deploy To Ukraine” by Paul McLeary; Defense News; 1/22/2015.

Amer­i­can sol­diers will deploy to Ukraine this spring to begin train­ing four com­pa­nies of the Ukrain­ian National Guard, the head of US Army Europe Lt. Gen Ben Hodges said dur­ing his first visit to Kiev on Wednesday.

The num­ber of troops head­ing to the Yavoriv Train­ing Area near the city of L’viv — which is about 40 miles from the Pol­ish bor­der — is still being deter­mined, however.

The Amer­i­can train­ing effort comes as part of a US State Depart­ment ini­tia­tive “to assist Ukraine in strength­en­ing its law enforce­ment capa­bil­i­ties, con­duct inter­nal defense, and main­tain rule of law” Pen­ta­gon spokes­woman Lt. Col. Vanessa Hill­man told Defense News.

The train­ing was requested by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment “as they work to reform their police forces and estab­lish their newly formed National Guard,” Hill­man added. Fund­ing for the ini­tia­tive is com­ing from the congressionally-authorized Global Secu­rity Con­tin­gency Fund (GSCF), which was requested by the Obama admin­is­tra­tion in the fis­cal 2015 bud­get to help train and equip the armed forces of allies around the globe.

The train­ing mis­sion has been the sub­ject of plenty of dis­cus­sion among US pol­icy mak­ers for months, and the United States has already ear­marked $19 mil­lion to help build the Ukrain­ian National Guard.

“We’re very open to the idea that this becomes a first step in fur­ther train­ing for the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary,” Derek Chol­let, for­mer assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for inter­na­tional secu­rity affairs, told Defense News just before he left the Pen­ta­gon on Jan. 17.

He was quick to add that he doesn’t antic­i­pate that this train­ing mis­sion “will require sig­nif­i­cant US presence.”

The mis­sion comes at a time of increas­ing con­cern among East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries that Russ­ian aggres­sion in the region will increase, and as fight­ing around the east­ern Ukrain­ian city of Donetsk between gov­ern­ment forces and Russian-backed sep­a­ratist rebels rages on.

Speak­ing at the Davos con­fer­ence on Wednes­day, Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko accused Rus­sia of send­ing 9,000 troops into the east­ern part of his coun­try to back the rebels, a con­tention that NATO offi­cials have backed up, but with­out pro­vid­ing their own esti­mates for the num­ber of Russ­ian forces in country.

Chol­let said Russ­ian mil­i­tary incur­sions into the Crimea and east­ern Ukraine have refo­cused Amer­i­can atten­tion on the region after a decade of fight­ing two wars in the Mid­dle East.

“A year ago we were wor­ried about the future of the trans-Atlantic rela­tion­ship, how would it be rel­e­vant to peo­ple,” he said. “And of course, the events of the last year with Rus­sia and Ukraine has focused peo­ple again on threats to Euro­pean secu­rity and the unfin­ished busi­ness, really, still com­ing out of the end of the Cold War.”

One of the biggest chal­lenges for US pol­icy mak­ers is try­ing to dis­cern “where could this lead and how does this make us think anew about Euro­pean secu­rity issues and force pos­ture issues or defense spend­ing issues?” he added.

In addi­tion to US train­ers, Wash­ing­ton is begin­ning to pro­vide heav­ier mil­i­tary equip­ment to the gov­ern­ment in Kiev. On Mon­day, the United States deliv­ered the first pro­to­type of an armored “Kozak” vehi­cle for use with the Ukrain­ian bor­der guard, accord­ing to the US Embassy there.

A post­ing on a US gov­ern­ment con­tract­ing site put the cost of the vehi­cle at $189,000.

The vehi­cle is built on a chas­sis man­u­fac­tured by Ital­ian com­pany Iveco and fea­tures a V-shaped armored hull to help pro­tect against mines and road­side bombs. The embassy said that to date, “the United States has deliv­ered dozens of armored pickup trucks and vans to the Ukrain­ian Bor­der Guard Ser­vice. The Kozak is larger and offers a higher level of protection.“

3. The dangers inherent in the Ukraine situation were expressed by Mikhail Gorbachev:

“Gorbachev Warns of Major War in Europe” by Erik Kirschbaum; Reuters.com; 1/09/2015.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned that tensions between Russia and European powers over the Ukraine crisis could result in a major conflict or even nuclear war, in an interview to appear in a German news magazine on Saturday.

“A war of this kind would unavoidably lead to a nuclear war,” the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner told Der Spiegel news magazine, according to excerpts released on Friday.

“We won’t survive the coming years if someone loses their nerve in this overheated situation,” added Gorbachev, 83. “This is not something I’m saying thoughtlessly. I am extremely concerned.”

Tensions between Russia and Western powers rose after pro-Russian separatists took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea in early 2014.

The United States, NATO and the European Union accuse Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the separatist uprising, and have imposed sanctions on Moscow.

Russia denies providing the rebels with military support and fends off Western criticism of its annexation of Crimea, saying the Crimean people voted for it in a referendum.

Gorbachev, who is widely admired in Germany for his role in opening the Berlin Wall and steps that led to Germany’s reunification in 1990, warned against Western intervention in the Ukraine crisis.

“The new Germany wants to intervene everywhere,” he said in the interview. “In Germany evidently there are a lot of people who want to help create a new division in Europe.”

The elder statesman, whose “perestroika” (restructuring) policy helped end the Cold War, has previously warned of a new cold war and potentially dire consequences if tensions were not reduced over the Ukraine crisis.

The diplomatic standoff over Ukraine is the worst between Moscow and the West since the Cold war ended more than two decades ago.

4. Before turning to the Habsburgs’ influence and current activities in Ukraine, we note the renascent Habsburg power in Eastern Europe.

“Descen­dants of Last Hab­s­burg Emperor Climb Lad­der to Power Hun­gary Looks to its Empire of the Past for a New Begin­ning” by Adrian Bridge; The Inde­pen­dent; 12/23/1996.

In what must rank as one of the most unlikely polit­i­cal come­backs of the cen­tury, the descen­dants of the last Hab­s­burg emperor are once again mak­ing their mark in the Cen­tral Euro­pean ter­ri­to­ries that their fam­ily ruled for hun­dreds of years.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the come­back revolves around the cities of Vienna and Budapest, the twin cen­tres of power in the lat­ter years of the Aus­tro– Hun­gar­ian empire, which at its peak stretched from the Adri­atic to what is now Ukraine.

The most strik­ing exam­ple of the trend is the appoint­ment this week of Georg von Hab­s­burg, the 32-year-old grand­son of Emperor Karl I, to the posi­tion of Hungary’s ambas­sador for Euro­pean Integration.

In neigh­bour­ing Aus­tria, the tra­di­tional heart of Hab­s­burg power, Georg’s brother, Karl, 35, was recently elected to rep­re­sent the coun­try in the Euro­pean par­lia­ment. In addi­tion to this, he serves as the pres­i­dent of the Aus­trian branch of the Pan-European movement.

The appoint­ment in Budapest, where Karl I and his more famous pre­de­ces­sor, Franz Josef I, both held the title King of Hun­gary, marks the first time that a Hab­s­burg has been given any offi­cial post in that coun­try since the col­lapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918 fol­low­ing defeat in the First World War.

In addi­tion to com­ing as a sur­prise, the move is full of his­tor­i­cal irony. While Georg von Habsburg’s pre­de­ces­sors did all that they could to keep the clock turned back to an impe­r­ial past, he is now being asked to help pro­pel the coun­try into the future through inte­gra­tion with West­ern Europe.

The new ambas­sador, who holds Hun­gar­ian cit­i­zen­ship and has worked as direc­tor of a film com­pany in Budapest since 1993, was quick to deny that he saw his new job as a step­ping stone to the restora­tion of the monarchy.

“Let’s for­get about all that,” he told The Inde­pen­dent. “We have got much more impor­tant things to do now — such as bring­ing Hun­gary back into Europe. We Hab­s­burgs are a polit­i­cal fam­ily. We have been in the past, and why not again in the future?”

Otto von Hab­s­burg, 83, him­self a keen advo­cate of the Hun­gar­ian cause, has long since renounced any claim to his father’s throne.

But the same is not true of all the mem­bers of the fam­ily. Before his elec­tion to the Euro­pean par­lia­ment in Octo­ber, Georg von Habsburg’s older brother, Karl, refused to be drawn when he was quizzed on the issue.

When he was asked if he believed the Hab­s­burg monar­chy could return, his cir­cum­spect reply was: “Never say never again.”

5. A Habsburg princess was anointed as Georgia’s ambassador to Germany. 

“The Princess and the Bear” ; The Economist; 2/18/2010.

Georgia strug­gles to make its case in Ger­many, which sees trade ties with Rus­sia as vital and the ex-Soviet Cau­casian repub­lic as trou­ble­some. So who bet­ter to bur­nish Georgia’s image there than a German-educated Hab­s­burg? Georgia’s new ambas­sador to Berlin, once she presents her cre­den­tials to the pres­i­dent next month, will be Gabriela Maria Char­lotte Felic­i­tas Elis­a­beth Anto­nia von Habsburg-Lothringen, princess Impe­r­ial and Arch­duchess of Aus­tria, Princess Royal of Hun­gary and Bohemia. A name like that, says Georgia’s pres­i­dent Mikheil Saakashvili, should open doors.

The tow­er­ing fig­ure on the Berlin diplo­matic scene is the Russ­ian ambas­sador to Ger­many, Vladimir Kotenev, an inde­fati­ga­ble socialite who runs what is prob­a­bly the biggest embassy in Europe. Ms von Hab­s­burg (the name she prefers) will not, despite her titles, have the cash to match his efforts. But she may still help Ger­mans think again about Georgia’s Euro­pean roots and future. Born in Lux­em­bourg, brought up in Ger­many and Aus­tria, the poly­glot Ms von Hab­s­burg is an avant-garde sculp­tor, spe­cial­is­ing in large steel out­door works. She has lived in Geor­gia since 2001, has become a Geor­gian cit­i­zen and gained a com­mand of the lan­guage (it is “improv­ing every day”, says Mr Saakashvili).

By the stan­dards of her fam­ily, a spot of diplo­macy in Berlin is not par­tic­u­larly exotic. The heirs to the Hab­s­burg emper­ors helped speed the down­fall of the Soviet empire, par­tic­u­larly by arrang­ing the cross-border exo­dus from Hun­gary to Aus­tria in the sum­mer of 1989 that punched the first big hole in the iron cur­tain. Among Ms von Habsburg’s six sib­lings, her younger sis­ter Wal­burga is a lead­ing con­ser­v­a­tive politi­cian in Swe­den; her brother Georg is an ambassador-at-large for Hun­gary. Another used to be in the Euro­pean Parliament.

6. Karl von Habsburg has been active in Ukraine. Karl von Habsburg is the head of the UNPO.

“Karl von Hab­s­burg Keeps Ances­tors’ Pro­file Alive in Lviv” by Natalia A. Feduschak; Kyiv Post; 4/20/2010.

Karl von Hab­s­burg laughed heartily when asked what it feels like to walk the streets of Lviv, a city that was once ruled by his ances­tors. “I look at it from an aca­d­e­mic point of view,” he said with a smile. “It had noth­ing to do with me.”

Despite his easy man­ner, how­ever, von Hab­s­burg evi­dently has no inten­tion of let­ting the past, par­tic­u­larly his ances­tors’ role, remain life­less in his­tory books. Nearly a cen­tury after the Hab­s­burg monarchy’s rule ended in Europe, he is ded­i­cat­ing him­self to ensure its legacy lives on in west­ern Ukraine.

The 49-year-old von Hab­s­burg was in Lviv in March to announce the cre­ation of a foun­da­tion that car­ries his family’s name. Based in Ivano-Frankivsk, the Hab­s­burg Foun­da­tion will pro­mote and pre­serve the cul­tural legacy that for cen­turies shaped and gave Cen­tral and East­ern Europe its identity.

Along with trans­lat­ing books about the Hab­s­burgs, the foun­da­tion is also plan­ning to cre­ate the Haly­chyna Award, a prize that will honor indi­vid­u­als who pro­mote the region’s cul­ture through art, books or media.

While the foun­da­tion is still in its infancy, von Hab­s­burg says its mis­sion is vital.

“In this area, we need to do some­thing about keep­ing the her­itage alive, the his­tory and the intel­lec­tual his­tory. Authors came here because they got their inspi­ra­tion here,” he told the Kyiv Post in an interview.

At the turn of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, the Austro-Hungarian Empire – which gave Cen­tral and East­ern Europe much of its art, cul­ture and archi­tec­ture – spanned from Ukraine’s Carpathian Moun­tains, down to the Adri­atic Sea in the south. It encom­passed more that twelve Euro­pean peo­ples and its monar­chy, the Hab­s­burgs, had enjoyed over six cen­turies of unin­ter­rupted power.

A recent book by renowned his­to­rian Tim­o­thy Sny­der chron­i­cles the life of Wil­helm von Hab­s­burg, the mem­ber of the Hab­s­burg fam­ily who was clos­est aligned with Ukraini­ans. Titled The Red Prince, it brought renewed atten­tion to the family’s con­nec­tions with the region.

Bet­ter known as Vasyl Vashy­vaniy, Wil­helm was the younger son of Arch­duke Karl Stephan, who was in line to even­tu­ally become King of Poland. In a bid to save his crum­bling world, in 1916, Emperor Franz Josef I, along with his Ger­man coun­ter­part, had cre­ated a Pol­ish king­dom as an inde­pen­dent state with a hered­i­tary monarchy.

Wil­helm, how­ever, had his own goal: He wanted to estab­lish a monar­chy on the ter­ri­tory of what is today’s west­ern Ukraine. Sny­der writes that the idea was well-received, par­tic­u­larly among some Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary lead­ers and the Church.

A mil­i­tary offi­cer by train­ing, Wil­helm sup­ported Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence strug­gle dur­ing World War I. He fought with Ukrain­ian troops against the Rus­sians, and had schemed and cajoled a myr­iad of politi­cians to sup­port his monar­chial aspi­ra­tions. Almost until his death at the hands of the Sovi­ets in 1948 – he was snatched off the streets of Vienna and trans­ported to a prison in Kyiv for work­ing as an agent against the Soviet Union – Wil­helm believed this slice of the family’s empire could be his.

Although Wil­helm remains a lesser known fig­ure in his­tory books, von Haps­burg said he is aware of the role he played both within the family’s and Ukraine’s history.

“I knew about his exis­tence and I know of the impor­tant polit­i­cal dimen­sion,” von Hab­s­burg said. “I read [Snyder’s book] and kept ask­ing my father, ‘Is this true?’”

The Hab­s­burg era has under­gone some­what of a renais­sance lately in west­ern Ukraine; the new foun­da­tion is just the lat­est in that trend. A con­fer­ence held late last year brought schol­ars from around the coun­try to Cher­nivtsi, which along with Lviv was con­sid­ered an impor­tant city in the region. A Ukrainian-language book on Wil­helm titled The Ukrain­ian Patriot from the Hab­s­burg Dynasty was pub­lished in 2008. It out­lines not only his biog­ra­phy, but also con­tains archival doc­u­ments and Wilhelm’s cor­re­spon­dence with Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary and reli­gious leaders.

Yet as much as his family’s legacy may be mak­ing a come­back in Ukraine, the Hab­s­burgs have had a harder time in Aus­tria, von Hab­s­burg said. Otto was only allowed to return to Aus­tria in the early 1960s after renounc­ing claims to the throne.

Still, von Hab­s­burg and his rel­a­tives remain polit­i­cally active. Von Hab­s­burg was once a mem­ber of the Euro­pean par­lia­ment, while oth­ers cur­rently hold posts there. One rel­a­tive even became a cit­i­zen of Geor­gia and is her new country’s ambas­sador in Germany.

“It’s a fam­ily that hasn’t focused on just one part of the world,” von Hab­s­burg said.

7.  It’s appar­ent that Ukraine is a top global pri­or­ity for expand­ing the Habsburg’s influ­ence. Actions speak louder than words, and Karl’s new Ukrain­ian radio sta­tion says a lot:

“Karl Habsburg-Lothringen: We Now Have a Truly Euro­pean Radio Sta­tion in Ukraine” by Georgi Gotev ; Eurac­tiv; 1/22/2015.

Since 20 Jan­u­ary, a truly Euro­pean radio sta­tion is broad­cast­ing in Ukraine, its main spon­sor, Karl-Habsburg Lothrin­gen, told EurAc­tiv in an exclu­sive interview

Karl Habsburg-Lothringen is an Aus­trian politi­cian and head of the House of Hab­s­burg. Since 1986, he has served as Pres­i­dent of the Aus­trian branch of the Paneu­ro­pean Union. Habsburg-Lothringen was an MEP between 1996 to 1999. He is Chair­man of Blue Shield, the organ­i­sa­tion for pro­tec­tion of cul­tural her­itage in armed conflicts.

He spoke to Senior Edi­tor, Georgi Gotev.

You are behind a new radio sta­tion that was launched in Ukraine yes­ter­day (20 Jan­u­ary), a Euro­pean sta­tion, as it is called, broad­cast­ing on 100.00 FM. Can you describe it?

We now have a truly Euro­pean radio sta­tion in Ukraine. There was already a radio sta­tion, but it was rebranded in such a way that now it bears the name of the EU, it has the con­no­ta­tion; it is known as the Euro­pean sta­tion. And of course, what it really has as a goal is to cre­ate a bit of the Euro­pean spirit in Ukraine, which I think is quite impor­tant, because in com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Ukraine, a lot of things have gone badly or wrongly lately, so I think it would be very good to have an out­let there that car­ries a strong Euro­pean mes­sage.

Does it mean that this project is designed to counter the Russ­ian pro­pa­ganda? There is a lot of talk about the Euro­pean Union need­ing to do some­thing about it. Are you part of this effort, or is it some­thing you have decided on your own?

The main role should not be pro­pa­ganda. The main role should be to deliver bal­anced infor­ma­tion, because we shouldn’t for­get that Ukraine is very much a Cen­tral Euro­pean coun­try. It has a very long Euro­pean his­tory, even from being partly in the Hanseatic League, and other organ­i­sa­tions. There­fore, I think it is impor­tant to empha­sise the strong Euro­pean point that exists there. And of course the con­flict that we have been see­ing, the war in east­ern Ukraine, and the inva­sion of Crimea, these ques­tions have led to a con­flict where a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion went wrong. A con­flict that also led to the fact that in the east­ern Ukraine, due to some prob­lems within Ukraine, most of the infor­ma­tion to reach the Russian-speaking pop­u­la­tion was infor­ma­tion com­ing exclu­sively out of Rus­sia. So it is very impor­tant to have a media out­let that is cov­er­ing Ukraine and that is car­ry­ing the Euro­pean news.

What lan­guages will you use?

There will def­i­nitely be both the Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian lan­guages, and we have the pos­si­bil­ity to weigh it accord­ing to where we are broadcasting.

And are you get­ting some sup­port from the EU or else­where? You should be trans­par­ent, or you will end up being branded as an Amer­i­can outlet….

Cur­rently, the project is funded entirely by indi­vid­u­als. There is no state involved, there are no insti­tu­tions involved. There is a group of really inter­ested indi­vid­u­als that have brought it together, and we will def­i­nitely try to keep our inde­pen­dence, by all means.

Are you per­son­ally inter­ested in Ukraine?

I have a fam­ily link to Ukraine, because part of Ukraine was very closely linked to Aus­tria not that long ago. I think that radio is a very inter­est­ing media, with the pos­si­bil­ity to reach a lot of peo­ple in an imme­di­ate way. So it is of per­sonal inter­est to me that I have the chance to con­tinue being active in Ukraine. I was very active there when I was an MEP, on the ques­tion of EU enlarge­ment. I never had this reduced view of Europe being just the EU. I think it is very impor­tant to say that we have a greater Europe.

8. The broadcast sets forth the fascist inclinations of Otto von Habsburg, the aging patriarch of that family and the father of Karl von Habsburg. (Younger listeners should note that Rudolf Hess was one of Hitler’s closest aides and the last prisoner at Spandau prison.)

The New Reich: Violent Extremism in Unified Germany and Beyond  by Michael Schmidt; Copyright 1993 by Michael Schmidt; Pantheon Books [HC]; ISBN 0-679-42578-0; p. 137.

. . . The final escalation was reserved for Otto von Habsburg, a CSU delegate to the European parliament and the son of the last Austrian emperor; since 1973 he has also been president of the ultra-right Pan-Europa-Union and a member of the Freedom for Rudolf Hess Committee [Emphasis added.] . . . .

9. The fascist inclinations of the Habsburgs are not unique among European monarchical families.

American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush; by Kevin Philips; Viking [HC]; Copyright 2004 by Kevin Phillips; ISBN 0-670-03264-6; pp. 63-64.

. . . . It is more than eerie. A disturbing sidebar to the political culture of these restorations was how many of the would-be monarchs, royal houses, and supporting factions had been on the fascist side in World War II. Italy’s House of Savoy was banished in part for backing Mussolini and supporting his 1938 race laws, targeting Jews. In Bulgaria, Simeon’s House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha fought through much of the war as an ally of Nazi Germany. The Serbian factions backing the potential Alexander II evoked memories of World War II massacres and ethnic battles still commemorated after six hundred years. The Romanian House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, supported by the Iron Guard movement that blended rural Eastern Orthodox religion with folkish nationalism, fought most of World War II on Hitler’s side. . . .

 

Discussion

9 comments for “FTR #833 Shooting Ourselves in the Foot in Ukraine (Habsburg Redux)”

  1. Here’s a reminder that, before things get better in Ukraine, they’re going to get a lot worse:

    The New York Times
    U.S. Considers Supplying Arms to Ukraine Forces, Officials Say

    By MICHAEL R. GORDON and ERIC SCHMITTFEB. 1, 2015

    WASHINGTON — With Russian-backed separatists pressing their attacks in Ukraine, NATO’s military commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, now supports providing defensive weapons and equipment to Kiev’s beleaguered forces, and an array of administration and military officials appear to be edging toward that position, American officials said Sunday.

    President Obama has made no decisions on providing such lethal assistance. But after a series of striking reversals that Ukraine’s forces have suffered in recent weeks, the Obama administration is taking a fresh look at the question of military aid.

    Secretary of State John Kerry, who plans to visit Kiev on Thursday, is open to new discussions about providing lethal assistance, as is Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, officials said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is leaving his post soon, backs sending defensive weapons to the Ukrainian forces.

    In recent months, Susan E. Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, has resisted proposals to provide lethal assistance, several officials said. But one official who is familiar with her views insisted that Ms. Rice was now prepared to reconsider the issue.

    Fearing that the provision of defensive weapons might tempt President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to raise the stakes, the White House has limited American aid to “non-lethal” items, including body armor, night-vision goggles, first aid kits and engineering equipment.

    But the failure of economic sanctions to dissuade Russia from sending heavy weapons and military personnel to eastern Ukraine is pushing the issue of defensive weapons back into discussion.

    “Although our focus remains on pursuing a solution through diplomatic means, we are always evaluating other options that will help create space for a negotiated solution to the crisis,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

    Fueling the broader debate over policy is an independent report to be issued Monday by eight former senior American officials, who urge the United States to send $3 billion in defensive arms and equipment to Ukraine, including anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored Humvees and radars that can determine the location of enemy rocket and artillery fire.

    Michèle A. Flournoy, a former senior Pentagon official who is a leading candidate to serve as defense secretary if Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected president, joined in preparing the report. Others include James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral who served as the top NATO military commander, and Ivo Daalder, the ambassador to NATO during Mr. Obama’s first term.

    “The West needs to bolster deterrence in Ukraine by raising the risks and costs to Russia of any renewed major offensive,” the report says. “That requires providing direct military assistance — in far larger amounts than provided to date and including lethal defensive arms.”

    In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Obama noted that the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies had hurt the Russian economy.

    But American officials acknowledge that Russia has repeatedly violated an agreement, reached in Minsk in September. The agreement called for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, the removal of foreign forces and the establishment of monitoring arrangements to ensure that the border between Ukraine and Russia would be respected.

    The administration’s deliberations were described by a range of senior Pentagon, administration and Western officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were talking about internal discussions.

    A spokesman for General Breedlove declined to comment on his view on providing defensive weapons, which was disclosed by United States officials privy to confidential discussions.

    “General Breedlove has repeatedly stated he supports the pursuit of a diplomatic solution as well as considering practical means of support to the government of Ukraine in its struggle against Russian-backed separatists,” the spokesman, Capt. Gregory L. Hicks of the Navy, said. But a Pentagon official familiar with the views of General Dempsey and Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they believed the issue of defensive weapons should be reconsidered.

    “A comprehensive approach is warranted, and we agree that defensive equipment and weapons should be part of that discussion.” the Pentagon official said.

    Russian casualties remain an unusually delicate political issue for Mr. Putin, who has denied that Russian troops have been ordered to fight in Ukraine.

    The report by Ms. Flournoy and the other former officials argues that the United States and its allies should capitalize on this fact to dissuade the Russians and the separatists from expanding their offensive.

    “One of the best ways to deter Russia from supporting the rebels in taking more territory and stepping up the conflict is to increase the cost that the Russians or their surrogates would incur,” Ms. Flournoy said in an interview.

    The current stock of Ukrainian anti-armor missiles, the report notes, is at least two decades old, and most of them are out of commission. So the report recommends that the United States provide the Ukrainian military with light anti-armor missiles, which might include Javelin antitank missiles.

    ”Providing the Ukrainians with something that can stop an armored assault and that puts at risk Russian or Russian-backed forces that are in armored vehicles, I think, is the most important aspect of this,” she added.

    The Obama administration has provided radars that can locate the source of mortars. But the report urges the United States to also provide radars that can pinpoint the location of longer-range rocket and artillery fire. Enemy rocket and artillery attacks account for 70 percent of the Ukrainian military’s casualties, the report says.

    Ukraine, the report notes, also needs reconnaissance drones, especially since the Ukrainian military has stopped all flights over eastern Ukraine because of the separatists’ use of antiaircraft missiles supplied by Russia.

    The report also urged the United States to provide military communications equipment that cannot be intercepted by Russian intelligence.

    Poland, the Baltic States, Canada and Britain, the report says, might also provide defensive weapons if the United States takes the lead.

    The report was issued jointly by the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The other officials who prepared it are Strobe Talbott, who served as deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration; Charles F. Wald, a retired Air Force general who served as deputy commander of the United States European Command; Jan M. Lodal, a former Pentagon official; and two former ambassadors to Ukraine, John Herbst and Steven Pifer.

    It looks like Kiev is going to have some new hardware on the way thanks to some enthusiastic backers in the US national security establishment. Acquiring new soldiers could be more complicated due to a lack of enthusiasm:

    Global Post
    Ukraine’s war is getting worse, and not everyone wants to fight

    Whether out of fear or political frustration, some Ukrainians are dodging the draft.
    Dan Peleschuk
    February 1, 2015 00:30

    KYIV, Ukraine — Ruslan Kotsaba is someone you’d typically consider a Ukrainian patriot: a journalist in the country’s nationalist-oriented west, he’s participated in pro-democracy protests and regularly rails against official corruption.

    So it may seem strange that earlier this month he slammed his country’s war effort against Russian-backed separatists.

    “I denounce mobilization [for war],” Kotsaba said in a video posted to YouTube on Jan. 17. “I call on all reasonable adequate people to denounce this mobilization, because this hell, this horror, must be stopped.”

    With Ukraine mired in a messy war in the east, authorities here have launched a new wave of conscription aimed at beefing up their fighting forces.

    But that may get tougher to do as the war grinds on.

    Whether out of frustration with the country’s leaders and their handling of the war — or simply out of a growing fatigue with the nine-month-long conflict — some Ukrainians are turning away from the draft, which was reinstated last year as the crisis in eastern Ukraine deepened.

    Local media have reported anti-draft protests and instances of no-shows at local military commissions in several regions.

    A presidential adviser even claimed earlier this week that about 37 percent of those called up in one western region, traditionally known for its nationalist convictions, had reportedly fled abroad. In a separate nearby region, almost one in five of those drafted reportedly claimed religious exemptions.

    The trend is likely part of what some sociologists say is a pronounced fear among ordinary Ukrainians that the conflict will intensify, just as it has in recent weeks. More than 5,000 people have been killed, while a September ceasefire has deteriorated into all-out war with no end in sight.

    Many are also preoccupied with the dire economic situation.

    “More than 90 percent of the population has felt the effects of the economic crisis,” said Yevgeny Kopatko, head of the Research and Branding Group, a pollster in Kyiv. “Society lives with a high level of anxiety.”

    Officials are trying to allay fears that widespread draft-dodging is happening — indeed, many regions have reported no such problems. So far, the current wave of mobilization has called up more than75,000 men, about 60 percent of whom will enter service, President Petro Poroshenko said this week.

    Ukrainian men ages 25-60 are eligible for conscription. Preference is given to those with military experience and with particular specializations, such as tank training.

    But authorities have also sought to crack down on attempts to avoid conscription. On Friday, Poroshenko issued a decree that includes a provision aimed at regulating foreign travel for those subject to mobilization.

    The military has also created a database to keep track of offenders, who face two to five years in prison if found guilty of dodging the draft.

    But that punishment apparently fails to deter men like Kotsaba, who as a journalist has reported on the conflict from either side of the line and who, since his video address, has attracted jeers and widespread condemnation as a “traitor.”

    Though the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) even threatened to launch a criminal case against him, Kotsaba remains outspoken.

    In an interview with GlobalPost, Kotsaba said he objects to fighting in a “civil war,” a hotly disputed term given the amount of Russian support the separatist rebels receive. But his main complaint is that the conflict — officially dubbed an “anti-terrorist operation” — hasn’t been honestly portrayed by the government.

    Authorities here have still not formally declared a state of war, despite their regular allegations of Russian military incursions into eastern Ukraine. Critics like Kotsaba say that’s a loophole that provides Poroshenko, whose confectionary company still operates a factory in Russia, more diplomatic wiggle room.

    “The point is in the principle: When war is declared, then we don’t trade with Russia, we cut off diplomatic ties, the president removes any business assets he has in Russia,” he said.

    Kotsaba is not alone. Some Ukrainian rights activists have also taken issue with the legal ambiguity of the conflict, arguing that in absence of a clear state of war, conscripts legally challenge the draft. Others say mobilization is legally applicable in any instances of “armed aggression,” not only when martial law — or a state of war — is formally declared.

    Kopatko, the sociologist, agrees the issue is complex and points to a curious paradox: While more than 70 percent of the population wants a peaceful resolution to the conflict, more than 60 percent also believe it’s necessary to keep fighting, according to Research and Branding Group data.

    “Social consciousness has gone through a sort of militarization,” Kopatko said. “People are living in another dimension, they look at things differently now.”

    In related news, Germany and Hungary both pledged to NOT arm Ukraine:

    The Irish Times
    Germany and Hungary agree not to provide arms to Ukraine
    Disagreement over philosophy of a Budapest government critics call anti-democrati

    Daniel McLaughlin
    First published: Mon, Feb 2, 2015, 18:47

    The leaders of Germany and Hungary have agreed not to sell weapons to Ukraine to use in its war against Russian-backed separatists, but have disagreed over the philosophy of a Budapest government that critics call anti-democratic.

    Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban hosted Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday for talks that were closely watched by Moscow and western capitals, given his efforts to maintain good relations with Russia and his criticism of EU sanctions against it.

    Russian president Vladimir Putin is due to visit Budapest in a fortnight’s time, and analysts said Dr Merkel was keen to gauge Mr Orban’s stance on Ukraine, where heavy fighting continued and separatist leaders announced plans to draft an additional 100,000 men in the coming weeks.

    “For my part, I can say that Germany won’t support Ukraine with weapons,” Dr Merkel said in Budapest. “I’m firmly convinced that this conflict cannot be solved by military means.”

    Mr Orban said Hungary shared those positions, but there was no public comment from either leader on Budapest’s relationship with Russia, which is lending Hungary €10 billion to expand its only nuclear power plant.

    Hungary’s leader has named Russia – along with China, Turkey, India and Singapore – as states that are successful while not being “western, not liberal democracies and in some cases probably not even democracies”.

    In a now infamous speech last July, Mr Orban said the “new state that we are building in Hungary today is not a liberal state . . . I don’t think our European Union membership precludes us from building an illiberal new state based on national foundations.”

    Germany’s involvement in the conflict is obviously going to be significant whether its sending arms or not. But Hungary’s involvement, when you factor in the large ethnic Hungarian population in Ukraine’s Transcarpathian region…now that’s going to be something to watch…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 2, 2015, 7:15 pm
  2. Kiev has a solution to its military desertion problem: shoot the deserters:

    Newsweek
    Ukraine Passes Law to Shoot Deserters
    By Damien Sharkov 2/6/15 at 12:53 PM

    The Ukrainian parliament has approved a motion to allow commanders in the armed forces to fire at army deserters and use force against servicemen for “negligence” or “drinking alcohol” while on duty.

    The motion was discussed in a session yesterday afternoon, with 260 MPs passing it out of a total 320, according to Ukrainian news agency Unian – surpassing the necessary 226 votes needed to pass the bill. It will now be added as an amendment to the current Ukrainian legislation on the regulations imposed on commanders’ actions toward their charges.

    The act will allow commanders to “utilise drastic measures” – defined by the UN as the use of force and firearms – towards officers caught acting “negligently” or in violation to the code of conduct during combat duty or while they are on border patrol. The new act adds “drinking alcoholic or low-alcoholic beverages” while on duty as an offence punishable by force.

    Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international watchdog documenting violations of human rights, has spoken out against the move. “Using force to harm or kill when someone is ‘negligent, deserts or drinks alcohol while on duty’ is unlawful under international law,” Yulia Gorbunova, a HRW researcher in Ukraine says.

    “It is a disproportionate response which could constitute punishment in violation of international standards,” she adds. “Force in the army can only be used in self defense or where the person is posing an imminent threat to others. Shoot to kill would be an extrajudicial execution and is unlawful,” Gorbunova concludes.

    When asked if there was a serious problem with discipline and desertion within the Ukrainian army, the Ukrainian armed forces did not comment.

    Balázs Jarábik, a researcher for the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, specialising in central and eastern Europe, believes the new law is not as surprising as it seems, but rather “an old Soviet practice.” Asked if the new law indicates a lack of commitment in Ukrainian troops he replied “Not at all.”

    “The armed forces are very committed – look at the battle for Donetsk airport or the fierce fight for Debaltsevo. Kiev could not even order those folks to withdraw,” he said referring to the fierce battle for Donetsk’s airport which has been ongoing since September, and the Ukrainian forces defence of the small town of Debaltsevo in the face of advancing rebel militants.

    According to Jarábik, Kiev’s major military challenges are to do with its administration, and issues regarding recruitment and allegations of corrupt leadership are particularly problematic.

    “Crucially, Ukraine failed to ensure the necessary quantity of soldiers altogether in the standard four mobilization rounds during the last annual cycle,” Jarábik adds. According to a statement made by the deputy commander of Ukraine’s armed forces Vladimir Talaylay, 78,000 people had been called up for duty by last month, but only 46,000 new recruits were enlisted into the military as a result.

    The Ukrainian armed forces announced earlier this week they may resort to call up women aged over 20 in the next recruitment cycle to make up the numbers.

    Along with Ukraine’s troops a series of volunteer battalions have formed with the backing of wealthy businessmen, the most famous of whom is Igor Kolomoyski, who reportedly funds the volunteer Aidar, Azov, Dnepr-1, Dnepr-2 and Donbas battalions.

    The existence of such units has remained a controversial topic as there are no universal rules about who regulates their practices.

    “Many of the volunteer battalions partially assimilated in the army are paid for by oligarchs,” Jarabik says. “Ukrainians increased their military spending this year but indeed corruption remains a big issue,” Jarábik adds.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 6, 2015, 4:01 pm
  3. Petro Poroshenko just threatened martial law if a peace agreement isn’t reached:

    Ukraine ready to introduce martial law if crisis grows – IFX cites Poroshenko

    KIEV Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:13pm IST

    (Reuters) – President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday Ukraine was prepared to introduce martial law across Ukraine if the separatist conflict in the east escalates further, news agency Interfax reported.

    Speaking ahead of a peace summit of leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, Poroshenko said Kiev’s key position at talks would be aimed at securing an unconditional ceasefire, but Ukraine was prepared to defend itself militarily if needed.

    “I, the government and the parliament are ready to take the decision to introduce martial law in all the territories of Ukraine,” he was quoted as saying at a government meeting.

    “We are for peace … (but) our country needs to be defended and we will do that to the end,” he said.

    “Ukraine has always been and always will be a unified state … federalisation is a seed that will not take root in Ukrainian soil,” he said, referring to proposals pushed by Moscow.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 11, 2015, 9:09 am
  4. In a twist, Mikheil Saakashvili has turned down the job of head of Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau. It sounds like he was unwilling to become a Ukrainian citizen in order to take the job. So, instead, he’s being appointed as one of Willy Wonka’s oompa loompa advisers as the head of the Advisory International Council of Reforms where he will help implement best practices and build global support for Ukraine. Or something like that:

    Georgia’s Saakashvili appointed aide to Ukraine leader
    Agence France-Presse February 14, 2015 6:00am

    Mikheil Saakashvili, the former fiercely pro-Western leader of Georgia, has been appointed an aide to the Ukraine president to help the war-torn country on its path to reform, officials said.

    In his new job as the head of the Advisory International Council of Reforms, the 47-year-old former president will help implement best practices and build global support for the ex-Soviet country.

    “Mikheil will become a representative of Ukraine abroad and, simultaneously, a representative of the international community in Ukraine,” President Petro Poroshenko said in a statement.

    Saakashvili for his part said Ukrainians deserved a better future free of corruption and injustice.

    “We will not win if we do not build a new Ukraine today and do not implement new reforms,” he was quoted as saying in a statement.

    A charismatic lawyer, Saakashvili rose to power in Georgia after the Rose Revolution that ousted the country’s former leader, ex-Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, in 2003.

    During his decade in power he was praised for modernising reforms that brought Georgia back from the brink of economic collapse and tackled widespread corruption but drew criticism for the country’s defeat in a brief war with arch-foe Russia in 2008.

    Saakashvili said Ukrainian officials had earlier suggested that he apply for a job of head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, but he did not want to renounce his Georgian citizenship.

    Ukraine has earlier installed several foreigners in top government posts.

    Lithuania-born Aivaras Abromavicius was appointed economic development and trade minister while United States-born Natalia Jaresko became finance minister.

    Alexander Kvitashvili, also from Georgia, was appointed health minister.

    Well, hopefully life as a Williamsburg hipster gave Mikheil Saakashvili the life experiences he needs to continue crafting Ukraine’s new anti-corruption legislation, although he might have other relevant experiences.

    And note that it isn’t just anti-corruption work that Saakashvili will be focusing on. He’s been applying his knowledge of best practices to all sorts of different areas of Ukrainian life:

    Democracy & Freedom Watch
    Saakashvili appointed adviser to Ukraine’s Poroshenko
    by DFWatch staff | Feb 14, 2015

    TBILISI, DFWatch–Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was Friday officially confirmed as adviser to the Ukrainian president, despite being wanted for crimes in his home country.

    Saakashvili will be head of the Advisory International Council of Reforms, a body subordinate to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

    “The Advisory International Council of Reforms is a consultative body the main task of which is to elaborate proposals and recommendations on the implementation of reforms in Ukraine taking into account the best international experience,” a statement published on the official website of Poroshenko reads.

    Prosecutors in Georgia have charged Saakashvili in four different criminal cases, which include covering up the murder of a 28 year old bank employee in 2006.

    Toward the end of his nearly ten years term – the last year in a fragile power-sharing agreement with a hostile coalition – his rule became increasingly unpopular. The coalition, called Georgian Dream, won a landslide victory in 2012 on a promise to ‘restore justice’, and proceeded to put former officials on trial and free over half of all prisoners in the country based on the perception that there were too many miscarriages of justice to go through each case individually.

    Last year also Saakashvili personally was charged. He is currently wanted for covering up the murder of bank employee Sandro Girgvliani in 2006, for ordering the beating of a parliamentarian in 2005, embezzlement of more than four million dollars, and for ordering the violent dispersal of an opposition rally and storming of a TV studio in 2008.

    But Poroshenko hails the reforms under the National Movement leader.

    “We’ve been thinking for a long time how to use the knowledge, experience and unique know-how of Mikheil Saakashvili in the best way,” Poroshenko’s statement reads.

    It goes on to say that the Georgian ex-president carried out reforms in virtually all areas of economic, political and social life, particularly taking note of the police reforms, the education reforms and the justice reforms.

    “We will not win if we do not build a new Ukraine today and do not implement new reforms. It is a pursuit in time. If new Ukraine comes true, Georgia will also be free,” Poroshenko’s official website quotes Saakashivili saying.

    Poroshenko fired his advisor more than five days ago, when there were also reports that Saakashvili turned down an offer to be head of the anti-corruption bureau in Ukraine. In his new position, Saakashvili will not be required to obtain a Ukrainian citizenship, but may remain a Georgian citizen.

    A few days ago, Saakashvili said in an interview with the TV station Dozhd that there are a number of Georgian ministers and officials in Ukraine’s new government, who are ‘busy conducting reforms.’

    “For example our former Deputy Interior Minister Eka Zghuladze is now in charge for police reform,” he said, adding that people support her now. Many Georgians, he said, are busy with the justice reforms, to create a system of online tenders and other procedures.

    Poroshenko first advised Mikheil Saakashvili to be advisor back in May 2014, but he declined, instead promising to assist them informally without having an official position.

    Saakashvili is wanted by Georgia and the government is waiting for a response from Interpol in connection with a Read Alert sent out to apprehend him.

    That’s right:

    “We’ve been thinking for a long time how to use the knowledge, experience and unique know-how of Mikheil Saakashvili in the best way,” Poroshenko’s statement reads.

    It goes on to say that the Georgian ex-president carried out reforms in virtually all areas of economic, political and social life, particularly taking note of the police reforms, the education reforms and the justice reforms.

    “We will not win if we do not build a new Ukraine today and do not implement new reforms. It is a pursuit in time. If new Ukraine comes true, Georgia will also be free,” Poroshenko’s official website quotes Saakashivili saying.

    Presumably Saakashvili’s role as an international representative for Ukraine is contingent on him staying off of the interpol wanted lists so that will be something to watch as far as a Saakashvili career development hurdles. Landing on interpol would also complicate one of the other new reported roles Saakashvilie is going to be playing: Arms supply coordinator:

    Focus
    Ex-Georgian president says will coordinate Ukraine arms supplies issue
    14 February 2015 | 09:49 | FOCUS News Agency

    Kiev. Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was appointed Friday as the chairman of Ukraine’s international consultative reform council, has said he will coordinate the issue of arms supplies to Kiev, TASS reported.
    “Now it is most important to help Ukraine with weapons. Over the next several days, I will be coordinating this,” Saakashvili told a Ukrainian TV channel.

    US Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Friday the arms supplies to the war-torn Ukraine are still on the table even after this week’s signing of the new Minsk agreements.
    In comments to his appointment to the post, Saakashvili, who earlier refused to obtain the Ukrainian citizenship, said: “I am a free politician and a Georgian citizen, all other proposals on getting Ukraine’s citizenship were not fitted in a whole strategy, and of course, I should return to my country,” he said.
    The decree published on Friday says that the council will be a consultative agency under the Ukrainian president tasked to provide proposals and recommendations on reforms in Ukraine on the basis of the best international experience.
    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Saakashvili, who has unique knowledge and experience and has in fact worked as a free-lance advisor on Ukrainian reforms, has finally received his official status.
    President Poroshenko said Saakashvili would become “Ukraine’s representative abroad and at the same time the representative of the international community in Ukraine.”
    Earlier reports said Saakashvili could head the country’s newly created Anti-Corruption Bureau. However, he was not included on the published list of candidates for the post.

    Hipster or not, Ukrainian citizen or not, Saakashvili is ready for his new job as arms coordinator. Very ready.

    He’s ready for a lot.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 15, 2015, 7:34 pm
  5. Hi Dave, I was wondering what you know about the US embassy in Kiev and the their support for the “tech camp” meeting that occurred there on March 1st, 2013, eight months before the Maidan coup really starts ramping up. Here’s the link http://ukraine.usembassy.gov/events/techcamp-2013-kyiv.html

    The link describes how “the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv paired leaders in the technology community with civil society organizations to provide in-depth exposure to low-cost and easy to implement technologies. More than 60 civil society leaders from throughout Ukraine came together to get hands-on training in a variety of areas ranging from fundraising using crowdsourcing, citizen journalism, PR tools for NGOs, Microsoft software(weird) and programs for NGOs, and more. These civil society organizations will be poised to use new technologies to grow their networks, communicate more efficiently, and keep pace with the changing world.”

    They continue to go about the necessity and transparency of such a program:
    “The technologies and approaches presented help to build new networks of relationships, enhance skill development, and create new avenues for communication. Adoption of these technologies by civil society organizations will help support the missions of these groups as well as broader social goals of democracy, transparency and good governance in the 21st Century.”
    Now, this may seem like nothing, but in the light of the USAID and it’s own “cuba twitter” – known as ZunZuneo, I thought to myself “how the bloody hell did we miss this critical piece of the puzzle??” While some reading this will say this is nothing, a day camp for activists, but it wasn’t just helping connect activists – it was about tracking them and following their texts and messages. Thing’s start getting really weird when you scroll to the bottom of the usembassy url, and come across the techcamp url, that takes you, to this
    http://techcampkyiv.org/flexispy-security-application/
    What the serious fudge is this. It takes you to a pay for use program that teaches you how to spy on networks, “friends”[their words, not mine{creepy}], and telecom devices in general. If what this is implying is true, while it’s reported US embassy use states its purpose was to connect Maidan activists, it’s actual company stated purpose for the group Tech Camp selling this device is the tracking and transfer of individuals personal data. From the Tech Camp Kiev’s own website:

    “As the app actually has ‘spy’ in its name, it is more likely associated with spying software, which is in fact designed for the use on mobile platforms of different making. These platforms actually include, but not limited to Android, iOS, Blackberry OS and Windows Mobile. Even though the spying is exactly what the majority of the users install Flexispy for, this app also provides some essential security and recovery tools, which alone could be as valuable to these users as any other paid bundle that purposely targets the security aspect.”

    One last thing from the USEmbassy site:
    Two more TechCamps 2.0 will be held in Donetsk in April(2013) and Ivano-Frankivsk in May.
    What does this mean? It means that any Maidan protesters and even possibly Donetsk residents with this app installed would have had their gps location tracked and revealed, and all their messages would have been bundled and sent, most likely through a US embassy channel, much like with USAID’s “cuban twitter” known otherwise as “Zunzuneo”. This would have given a heads up to any potential political dissent or disagreement amongst protesters using the app, and would have let any of the groups like Right Sector or the UPA know exactly who is opposing them, what they are saying, and let know them know exactly where they live…

    Posted by NIMO | February 19, 2015, 1:34 pm
  6. One last thing about the “tech Camp” Kiev site, I checked out the Terms of Service, and it just gets worse and worse:

    “By operating the Website, Tech Camp Kyiv does not represent or imply that it endorses the material there posted, or that it believes such material to be accurate, useful or non-harmful. You are responsible for taking precautions as necessary to protect yourself and your computer systems from viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and other harmful or destructive content(that sounds like them saying if you find out this is a virus, you still can’t sue). The Website may contain content that is offensive, indecent, or otherwise objectionable, as well as content containing technical inaccuracies, typographical mistakes, and other errors.”

    Posted by NIMO | February 19, 2015, 1:57 pm
  7. @NIMO–

    I hadn’t heard of the event before, nor was I aware of the particulars.

    It does look fishy as Hell–not that that is surprising, given a USAID function at the American embassy.

    It would be amazing if that were anything BUT an intel operation of some kind.

    You appear to have done a pretty good job setting forth the basics.

    Best,

    Dave Emory

    Posted by Dave Emory | February 19, 2015, 1:57 pm
  8. Ukraine’s former envoy to Canada recently reminded Canada that not only is Ukraine preparing for a ‘full-scale war’ with Russia but everyone is invited. That means you too, Canada;

    CBC News
    Ukraine preparing for ‘full-scale war,’ says former envoy to Canada
    Vadym Prystaiko, now deputy foreign minister, calls on the West to ‘stiffen up in the spine’

    Posted: Feb 21, 2015 7:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 21, 2015 7:11 PM ET

    Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister says he is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and wants Canada to help by supplying lethal weapons and the training to use them.

    Vadym Prystaiko, who until last fall was Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, says the world must not be afraid of joining Ukraine in the fight against a nuclear power.

    In an interview with CBC Radio’s The House airing Saturday, Prystaiko says the ceasefire brokered by Germany and France was not holding.

    “The biggest hub we ever had in the railroad is completely destroyed and devastated,” he told host Evan Solomon about Debaltseve, captured by Russian-backed rebels after the terms were to have taken effect earlier this week.

    “We see that they are not stopping,” he says, suggesting the fight was now heading south to the port of Mariupol.

    “It doesn’t take a genius to see what they are trying to do.… They are taking more and more strategic points.”

    ‘We have to do something’

    “The stakes are really high,” Prystaiko says, pointing out that Ukraine has now closed its border crossing with Russia. “We don’t want to scare everybody, but we are preparing for full-scale war.”

    What to do in the face of such a threat? For starters, get over your fears, he says.

    “What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little,” he says. “Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine — we’ve lost so many people of ours, we’ve lost so much of our territory.

    “However dangerous it sounds, we have to stop [Putin] somehow. For the sake of the Russian nation as well, not just for the Ukrainians and Europe.”

    Prystaiko says Ukrainians are blunt when it comes to what they need.

    “We would like Canada to send lethal weapons to Ukraine,” he said. “Weapons to allow us to defend ourselves.”

    Canada has been helping to train Ukrainian soldiers for the last decade, but it isn’t enough, he says.

    “It wasn’t on the level that would help our army [against an] invasion.”

    Ukraine wants weapons, and training to use them, he said.

    His country has received all the non-lethal assistance Canada pledged, with the exception of new radar technology which is “in the final stages,” he says.

    Defence Minister Jason Kenney emphasized at a defence conference Thursday in Ottawa that the radar capabilities would not be used for targeting potential strikes against rebel forces.

    He also said last weekend on The House that Canada doesn’t have large stockpiles of weapons to give, although it could acquire some from other vendors and then supply Ukraine.

    ‘It’s painful’

    Beyond weapons, Prystaiko emphasized the importance of financial assistance, including a package on its way from Canada and Japan.

    “Don’t forget that the infrastructure in Donetsk is already devastated. We’ve lost at least 20 per cent of the industrial [output] of Ukraine. We’ve had to close the market with Russia, which is a third of our exports and imports.

    “It’s painful.”

    He says Canada has been helpful by taking “probably the most staunch position” and talking to its allies.

    “It’s a big change for Europe,” he says, where neighbouring countries feel scared.

    But he doesn’t hold back from calling on Ukraine’s Western allies to step up, echoing the frustration he expressed last November over Canada’s willingness to intervene in Iraq but not send troops to help Ukraine.

    “I was quite blunt … and probably it was premature at that point but now I have to ask again: If we see the same sort of rebels coming towards central Ukraine, towards other cities, how much is different from what we see in Iraq and the international help which was coming?”

    “Unfortunately, we will probably pose a very serious question for the rest of the world: How can we react to this new challenge? We haven’t had it for 50 years in Europe. Now it’s back again.”

    “What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little…Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine — we’ve lost so many people of ours, we’ve lost so much of our territory.” Pep talks aren’t really his thing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 22, 2015, 7:17 pm
  9. The band is back together, playing the same old tunes:

    The Wall Street Journal
    Ukraine’s U.S. Backers Use Cold-War Playbook
    Pair who helped arm Afghans against Soviets find new cause

    By Adam Entous
    May 7, 2015 10:30 p.m. ET

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appeared before the U.S. Congress last September and pleaded for weapons to counter Russian advances. Afterward, members of his delegation sat down with two American supporters at a home in Georgetown. Why, the Ukrainians asked, was the Obama administration promising so much but doing so little?

    Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon consultant, and Gordon Humphrey, a former Republican U.S. senator, leaned across a white couch and whispered to each other. It was just like 1984, they agreed.

    Few Americans have more expertise pushing a balky administration to battle an invading Russian army than Messrs. Pillsbury and Humphrey. In the mid-1980s, having concluded President Ronald Reagan wasn’t serious about arming the Afghan mujahedeen, they worked with Rep. Charlie Wilson to build the largest covert-action program in Central Intelligence Agency history. The Soviet army, stung by the advanced U.S. weaponry provided to local forces, withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed soon after.

    Today, as the two Cold War adversaries face off anew, it is the Ukrainians who are desperate for U.S. weaponry and struggling to make sense of U.S. policy. Members of the coalition that prodded Mr. Reagan into fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan have reopened their 30-year-old playbook, this time seeking to pressure President Barack Obama to punch back against Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

    This account of their effort is based on interviews with Messrs. Pillsbury and Humphrey and many others involved, including administration and defense officials and the visiting Ukrainians.

    The two Americans explained to the Ukrainians the intricacies of American politics and weapons procurement. They ushered Ukrainian officers around the Pentagon, much as they did with Afghan commanders in the 1980s. And they helped Ukrainian-American groups lobby to create a Senate caucus modeled after the one Mr. Humphrey co-chaired in the 1980s, to press Mr. Obama to send arms. (Mr. Wilson, a Democrat who used his congressional role to appropriate money to arm the Afghans—an effort recounted in a book and a 2007 movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War”—died in 2010.)

    New era, new battle

    There are important differences between the two eras that cast a cloud over Ukraine’s prospects. Among them is a divided Congress’s diminished ability to wield the power of the purse to guide foreign policy.

    “I’m not sure that Congress has reached the point at which it’s willing to really use the levers at its disposal,” says Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and member of the Senate’s Ukraine Caucus.

    Ukraine, with its modern army and pro-Western government, has little in common with the mujahedeen of the 1980s, except that both have had territory seized by a regime in Moscow and both have been outgunned. Much of the U.S. aid in the 1980s was covert, while efforts to support Ukraine are overt.

    Administration officials say they are supporting the Ukrainians by imposing sanctions against Moscow and by providing nonlethal gear. They cite concerns that providing advanced weaponry could lead to a dangerous cycle of escalation, making matters worse for Kiev.

    The legacy of the CIA’s role in Afghanistan remains contested. U.S. officials and outside experts often cite that covert action as a cautionary tale about the risks of intervention. In the chaos after the Soviet withdrawal, the Taliban rose and played host to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

    Messrs. Humphrey and Pillsbury say the cost of the war in Afghanistan helped bring down the Soviet Union. The mistake, they argue, was wandering U.S. attention after the Soviets left.

    Messrs. Pillsbury and Humphrey first met in 1979. Mr. Pillsbury was a foreign-policy adviser to Senate Republicans. Mr. Humphrey was a freshman senator.

    Many in Congress wanted to help the Afghans, but there was disagreement over how. Until 1985, the Reagan administration provided enough support to keep the mujahedeen in the fight but not enough to allow them to prevail. Messrs. Pillsbury and Humphrey say they found that position amoral.

    As a Pentagon assistant undersecretary for policy planning at the time, Mr. Pillsbury became a behind-the-scenes champion for the Afghan cause. He teamed up with Mr. Humphrey, then the co-chairman of the congressional task force on Afghanistan.

    The Afghans had initially asked for small arms and ammunition, Mr. Pillsbury recalls. He urged them to request advanced U.S. weapons systems. Mr. Humphrey used his position on the task force to press the Reagan administration to drop its resistance to sending surface-to-air Stinger missiles.

    In March 1985, Mr. Reagan signed a new covert strategy. Afghan commandos carried out cross-border raids that shocked the Soviets. Stinger missiles started bringing down Soviet helicopters in 1986. Two years later, the Soviet army began withdrawing.

    Renewed interest

    Mr. Humphrey returned to private life in New Hampshire in 1990, about the time the Soviet Union started to collapse. Fascinated by Russia and its language, he started visiting about once a year. He thought U.S.-Russian relations were moving in the right direction until Mr. Putin began consolidating power and cracking down on press freedoms. Then Russia annexed Crimea and began incursions into eastern Ukraine.

    When the Ukrainian government started lobbying last spring for U.S. military support, the reception was cool, defense officials say. Pentagon officials weren’t sure they could give even nonlethal gear and intelligence to Ukrainian forces they believed were infiltrated by the Russians.

    An early advocate for Ukraine was former Pentagon official Phillip Karber, who in 1985 co-wrote an influential Armed Forces Journal report that called for sending Stingers to the mujahedeen. In briefings to members of Congress and written reports on Ukraine, he repeated arguments he made in 1985: Draw a line to prevent Moscow from advancing further, and introduce modern weaponry to make the invasion more costly.

    Thirty years ago, Michael Vickers, who stepped down last month as Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, was part of the CIA team that helped develop the agency’s strategy in Afghanistan. Last year, he visited Ukraine twice and emerged as an important voice within the Pentagon in favor of providing military aid, officials say.

    The conflict in Ukraine stirred Cold War memories for Mr. Humphrey. He had lost touch with Mr. Pillsbury after leaving the Senate but found his contact information online last summer and sent him a brief email—their first contact in 24 years.

    After some hesitation, Mr. Pillsbury agreed to check into Ukraine’s arms requests at the Pentagon, where he remained a consultant. He reported back to Mr. Humphrey: It was going nowhere.

    The Obama administration was concerned that sending weapons would provoke rather than deter Mr. Putin, U.S. officials say. Intelligence analysts were cautious, having misjudged Mr. Putin’s intentions earlier in the conflict. The issue had no momentum in Congress.

    Mr. Humphrey knew times had changed. “The Cold War is over,” he says. “And yet I believe that if there were a few determined members in each house, those weapons could be flowing to Ukraine today.”

    Last Sept. 16, he emailed Michael Sawkiw, whose Ukrainian National Information Service is the longtime public-relations arm for Ukrainian-Americans. Mr. Humphrey told him it was important to mobilize the Senate and “volunteered his assistance,” Mr. Sawkiw recalls.

    Mr. Humphrey flew down to Washington and watched the Ukrainian president’s Sept. 18 speech from a seat in the House gallery. He was moved by the appeal for arms.

    That same day, he attended a vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on legislation that would authorize Mr. Obama to provide military equipment to Ukraine. In keeping with protocol, Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who at the time was chairman of the panel, recognized Mr. Humphrey’s presence in the room.

    Mr. Humphrey stood up and said he had three words for the senators: “Please help Ukraine.” The committee passed the bill unanimously.

    At Mr. Humphrey’s suggestion, Mr. Pillsbury agreed to meet with Lt. Gen. Volodymyr Zamana and other members of the Ukrainian president’s delegation in a Senate office. Afterward, Mr. Pillsbury invited the Ukrainians to his Georgetown home to continue the discussions over tea.

    The Ukrainians had emerged from the Senate committee vote confident U.S. weapons would start flowing. “No. This is the beginning of a very long process,” Mr. Pillsbury recalls telling them.

    Anatoliy Pinchuk, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, showed Messrs. Pillsbury and Humphrey copies of letters that President Poroshenko and his defense minister had sent to administration and military officials, including then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. In them, the Ukrainian defense minister asked for armored vehicles, antitank, antiaircraft and “other weapons of lethal action.”

    Top U.S. officials never said “no” but never said “yes, ” the Ukrainian delegation told their American hosts.

    The Ukrainians wanted to send aircraft to pick up U.S. weapons directly from surplus stockpiles in Afghanistan. Mr. Pillsbury told them the idea was a nonstarter.

    Messrs. Pillsbury and Humphrey thought Ukraine had a better case to make than the Afghan rebels once had. “It’s a pro-Western government that wants weapons,” says Mr. Pillsbury. “It’s more legitimate than a bunch of guerrillas.”

    In the weeks that followed, Mr. Humphrey met with about a dozen senators. He spoke to others by phone.

    Messrs. Humphrey and Pillsbury urged nearly two dozen Ukrainian-American groups to band together to increase their influence. When they formed a committee to lobby for arms and for creating a Senate caucus, Messrs. Humphrey and Pillsbury became unpaid advisers.

    Mr. Pillsbury took three separate delegations from Ukraine to the Pentagon to explain how the U.S. bureaucracy works.

    In one December meeting outside the Starbucks in the Pentagon’s main food court, two Ukrainian colonels, both in uniform, reviewed printouts of the forms they would need to buy arms. They told Mr. Pillsbury they were baffled by the red tape. Thirty years earlier, the Afghan commanders he took to the Pentagon, dressed in sandals, were even more confused.

    Mr. Obama signed legislation into law later that month authorizing military aid for Ukraine. U.S. defense officials then had to explain to their Ukrainian counterparts that Congress hadn’t yet provided money.

    “We had to tell the Ukrainians, ‘OK, guys. I know this sounds a little wonky, but it doesn’t mean you have $350 million to play around with,’ ” a senior defense official recalls. An authorization, the official says, was “a symbolic gesture.”

    In January, Ukrainian officials thought the White House was poised to provide advanced antitank weapons known as Javelins. At the time, U.S. officials said a majority of Mr. Obama’s top cabinet-level advisers endorsed the request.

    In the first week of February, Mr. Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry had lunch with national security adviser Susan Rice. Ms. Rice told them the president wasn’t ready to provide the Ukrainians with Javelins and that she doubted he would ever reach that point, according to two officials. A senior administration official declined to comment on internal policy deliberations.

    The Senate Ukraine Caucus was launched on Feb. 9. Co-chairman Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican whom Mr. Humphrey had lobbied to step up his role, followed up with a visit to Kiev in April to survey the country’s military needs. Other caucus members met with Ukrainian delegations in Washington.

    Publicly, the senators voiced strong support for Kiev and called on Mr. Obama to send arms. Privately, several have told Ukrainian officials to keep expectations in check.

    The latest legislation authorizing arms for Ukraine cleared a key House committee last month. But its unclear whether Congress will appropriate the money for the weapons or try to force Mr. Obama’s hand.

    In Rep. Charlie Wilson’s day, lawmakers on the right committees had more power to earmark funds for pet programs. “Today, that is far more difficult,” says Mr. Portman. “The president is authorized to do it. He has the funds to do it. He ought to move ahead.”

    Sen. John McCain, Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, disappointed a visiting Ukrainian delegation when he said of the Senate: “We have brakes but no accelerator pedal.”

    After that meeting, Mr. Pillsbury tried to reassure the Ukrainians. “You are moving faster than we did in the 80s,” he told them.

    This is how close the US is to committing to advanced weapons:


    In January, Ukrainian officials thought the White House was poised to provide advanced antitank weapons known as Javelins. At the time, U.S. officials said a majority of Mr. Obama’s top cabinet-level advisers endorsed the request.

    In the first week of February, Mr. Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry had lunch with national security adviser Susan Rice. Ms. Rice told them the president wasn’t ready to provide the Ukrainians with Javelins and that she doubted he would ever reach that point, according to two officials. A senior administration official declined to comment on internal policy deliberations.

    Sen. John McCain, Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, disappointed a visiting Ukrainian delegation when he said of the Senate: “We have brakes but no accelerator pedal.”

    After that meeting, Mr. Pillsbury tried to reassure the Ukrainians. “You are moving faster than we did in the 80s,” he told them.

    Given that the GOP is clearly planning on making 2016 a ‘foreign policy’ election (since pledging to fight bad guys overseas is probably the GOP’s sales pitch these days), it’s going to be really interesting to see whether or not a national meme emerges that the US needs to throw caution into the wood-chipper and go all in and turn Ukraine into a full-scale proxy war between the US and Russia. It seems very possible.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 12, 2015, 5:09 pm

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