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Ukraine Update: Pierre Omidyar (Glenn Greenwald’s Financial Angel) Helped Finance Coup; Swedish neo-Nazi Milieu of Carl Lundstrom Assisting OUN/B Heirs

Heinrich Himmler inspecting troops of the 14th Waffen SS Division (Galicia), staffed by OUN/B

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. (The flash drive includes the anti-fascist books avail­able on this site.)

COMMENT: With things heating up in the Ukraine, we note two important developments that may not have received the attention they are due.

We have covered the Ukraine coup in previous posts–here, here, here, here, and here. (We are producing programs about the Ukrainian crisis at the present time.)

“Vanfield” informs us that Pierre Omidyar–Glenn Greenwald’s financial angel–helped finance the Ukrainian coup, along with AID. The latter is a frequent cover for U.S. intelligence activities.

We note that Oleh Rybachuk, the recipient of Omidyar’s funds, was the right-hand man for Viktor Yuschenko in the Orange Revolution. (Yuschenko’s wife–the former Ykaterina Chumachenko–was Ronald Reagan’s deputy director of Presidential liaison and the head of the top OUN/B front organization in the United States. After assuming power in the Ukraine, Yuschenko named both OUN/B leader Stephan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych as heroes of the Ukraine. The latter headed up the OUN/B’s military wing, that staffed the Einsatzgruppe “Nightingale.” Sukhevych’s son Yuriy is a key leader of the Ukrainian forces that assumed power in the coup.)

“Pterrafractyl” informs us that Swedish and other neo-Nazis from other parts of Europe are streaming into the Ukraine to join with the Swoboda and Pravy Sektor fascists. The Swedish fascists are part of the same milieu as Carl Lundstrom, the financial angel of the PRQ server on which WikiLeaks was hosted.

“Pierre Omid­yar Co-funded Ukraine Rev­o­lu­tion Groups with US gov­ern­ment, Doc­u­ments Show” by Mark Ames; Pando Daily; 2/28/2014.

EXCERPT: On Feb­ru­ary 28, 2014 Just hours after last weekend’s ouster of Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, one of Pierre Omidyar’s newest hires at national secu­rity blog “The Inter­cept,” was already dig­ging for the truth. Marcy Wheeler, who is the new site’s “senior pol­icy ana­lyst,” spec­u­lated that the Ukraine rev­o­lu­tion was likely a “coup” engi­neered by “deep forces” on behalf of “Pax Amer­i­cana”:

“There’s quite a bit of evi­dence of coup-ness. Q is how many lev­els deep inter­fer­ence from both sides is.”

These are seri­ous claims. So seri­ous that I decided to inves­ti­gate them. And what I found was shock­ing. Wheeler is partly cor­rect. Pando has con­firmed that the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment – in the form of the US Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (USAID) – played a major role in fund­ing oppo­si­tion groups prior to the rev­o­lu­tion. More­over, a large per­cent­age of the rest of the fund­ing to those same groups came from a US bil­lion­aire who has pre­vi­ously worked closely with US gov­ern­ment agen­cies to fur­ther his own busi­ness inter­ests. This was by no means a US-backed “coup,” but clear evi­dence shows that US invest­ment was a force mul­ti­plier for many of the groups involved in over­throw­ing Yanukovych. But that’s not the shock­ing part. What’s shock­ing is the name of the bil­lion­aire who co-invested with the US gov­ern­ment (or as Wheeler put it: the “dark force” act­ing on behalf of “Pax Amer­i­cana”). Step out of the shad­ows…. Wheeler’s boss, Pierre Omid­yar. Yes, in the annals of inde­pen­dent media, this might be the strangest twist ever: Accord­ing to finan­cial dis­clo­sures and reports seen by Pando, the founder and pub­lisher of Glenn Greenwald’s government-bashing blog,“The Inter­cept,” co-invested with the US gov­ern­ment to help fund regime change in Ukraine. * * * * When the rev­o­lu­tion came to Ukraine, neo-fascists played a front-center role in over­throw­ing the country’s pres­i­dent. But the real polit­i­cal power rests with Ukraine’s pro-western neolib­er­als. Polit­i­cal fig­ures like Oleh Rybachuk, long a favorite of the State Depart­ment, DC neo­consEU, and NATO—and the right-hand man to Orange Rev­o­lu­tion leader Vik­tor Yushchenko. Last Decem­ber, the Finan­cial Times wrote that Rybachuk’s “New Cit­i­zen” NGO cam­paign “played a big role in get­ting the protest up and run­ning.” New Cit­i­zen, along with the rest of Rybachuk’s inter­lock­ing net­work of western-backed NGOs and cam­paigns— “Cen­ter UA” (also spelled “Cen­tre UA”), “Chesno,” and “Stop Cen­sor­ship” to name a few — grew their power by tar­get­ing pro-Yanukovych politi­cians with a well-coordinated anti-corruption cam­paign that built its strength in Ukraine’s regions, before mass­ing in Kiev last autumn. The efforts of the NGOs were so suc­cess­ful that the Ukraine gov­ern­ment was accused of employ­ing dirty tricks to shut them down. In early Feb­ru­ary, the groups were the sub­ject of a mas­sive money laun­der­ing inves­ti­ga­tion by the eco­nom­ics divi­sion of Ukraine’s Inte­rior Min­istry in what many denounced as a polit­i­cally moti­vated move. For­tu­nately the groups had the strength – which is to say, money – to sur­vive those attacks and con­tinue push­ing for regime change in Ukraine. The source of that money? Accord­ing to the Kyiv Post, Pier­rie Omidyar’s Omid­yar Net­work (part of the Omid­yar Group which owns First Look Media and the Inter­cept) pro­vided 36% of “Cen­ter UA”’s $500,000 bud­get in 2012— nearly $200,000. USAID pro­vided 54% of “Cen­ter UA”’s bud­get for 2012. Other fun­ders included the US government-backed National Endow­ment for Democ­racy. In 2011, Omid­yar Net­work gave $335,000 to “New Cit­i­zen,” one of the anti-Yanukovych “projects” man­aged through the Rybachuk-chaired NGO “Cen­ter UA.” At the time, Omid­yar Net­work boasted that its invest­ment in “New Cit­i­zen” would help “shape pub­lic pol­icy” in Ukraine:

“Using tech­nol­ogy and media, New Cit­i­zen coor­di­nates the efforts of con­cerned mem­bers of soci­ety, rein­forc­ing their abil­ity to shape pub­lic pol­icy. “… With sup­port from Omid­yar Net­work, New Cit­i­zen will strengthen its advo­cacy efforts in order to drive greater trans­parency and engage cit­i­zens on issues of impor­tance to them.”

In March 2012, Rybachuk — the oper­a­tor behind the 2004 Orange Rev­o­lu­tion scenes, the Ana­toly Chubais of Ukraine — boasted that he was prepar­ing a new Orange Rev­o­lu­tion:

“Peo­ple are not afraid. We now have 150 NGOs in all the major cities in our ‘clean up Par­lia­ment cam­paign’ to elect and find bet­ter parliamentarians….The Orange Rev­o­lu­tion was a mir­a­cle, a mas­sive peace­ful protest that worked. We want to do that again and we think we will.

Detailed finan­cial records reviewed by Pando (and embed­ded below) also show Omid­yar Net­work cov­ered costs for the expan­sion of Rybachuk’s anti-Yanukovych cam­paign, “Chesno” (“Hon­estly”), into regional cities includ­ing Poltava, Vin­nyt­sia, Zhy­to­myr, Ternopil, Sumy, and else­where, mostly in the Ukrainian-speaking west and cen­ter. * * * * To under­stand what it means for Omid­yar to fund Oleh Rybachuk, some brief his­tory is nec­es­sary. Rybachuk’s back­ground fol­lows a famil­iar pat­tern in post-Soviet oppor­tunism: From well-connected KGB intel­li­gence ties, to post-Soviet neolib­eral net­worker. In the Soviet era, Rybachuk stud­ied in a mil­i­tary lan­guages pro­gram half of whose grad­u­ates went on to work for the KGB. Rybachuk’s murky over­seas post­ing in India in the late Soviet era fur­ther strength­ens many sus­pi­cions about his Soviet intel­li­gence ties; what­ever the case, by Rybachuk’s own account, his close ties to top intel­li­gence fig­ures in the Ukrain­ian SBU served him well dur­ing the Orange Rev­o­lu­tion of 2004, when the SBU passed along secret infor­ma­tion about vote fraud and assas­si­na­tion plots.

In 1992, after the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, Rybachuk moved to the newly-formed Ukraine Cen­tral Bank, head­ing the for­eign rela­tions depart­ment under Cen­tral Bank chief and future Orange Rev­o­lu­tion leader Vik­tor Yushchenko. In his cen­tral bank post, Rybachuk estab­lished close friendly ties with west­ern gov­ern­ment and finan­cial aid insti­tu­tions, as well as proto-Omidyar fig­ures like George Soros, who funded many of the NGOs involved in “color rev­o­lu­tions” includ­ing small dona­tions to the same Ukraine NGOs that Omid­yar backed. (Like Omid­yar Net­work does today, Soros’ char­ity arms—Open Soci­ety and Renais­sance Foundation—publicly preached trans­parency and good gov­ern­ment in places like Rus­sia dur­ing the Yeltsin years, while Soros’ finan­cial arm spec­u­lated on Russ­ian debt and par­tic­i­pated in scandal-plagued auc­tions of state assets.) In early 2005, Orange Rev­o­lu­tion leader Yushchenko became Ukraine’s pres­i­dent, and he appointed Rybachuk deputy prime min­is­ter in charge of inte­grat­ing Ukraine into the EU, NATO, and other west­ern insti­tu­tions. Rybachuk also pushed for the mass-privatization of Ukraine’s remain­ing state hold­ings. Over the next sev­eral years, Rybachuk was shifted around Pres­i­dent Yushchenko’s embat­tled admin­is­tra­tion, torn by inter­nal divi­sions. In 2010, Yushchenko lost the pres­i­dency to recently-overthrown Vik­tor Yanukovych, and a year later, Rybachuk was on Omidyar’s and USAID’s pay­roll, prepar­ing for the next Orange Rev­o­lu­tion. As Rybachuk told the Finan­cial Times two years ago:

“We want to do [the Orange Rev­o­lu­tion] again and we think we will.”

Some of Omidyar’s funds were specif­i­cally ear­marked for cov­er­ing the costs of set­ting up Rybachuk’s “clean up par­lia­ment” NGOs in Ukraine’s regional cen­ters. Shortly after the Euro­maidan demon­stra­tions erupted last Novem­ber, Ukraine’s Inte­rior Min­istry opened up a money laun­der­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into Rybachuk’s NGOs, drag­ging Omidyar’s name into the high-stakes polit­i­cal strug­gle. Accord­ing to a Kyiv Post arti­cle on Feb­ru­ary 10 titled, “Rybachuk: Democracy-promoting non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion faces ‘ridicu­lous’ inves­ti­ga­tion”:

“Police are inves­ti­gat­ing Cen­ter UA, a public-sector watch­dog funded by West­ern donors, on sus­pi­cion of money laun­der­ing, the group said. The group’s leader, Oleh Rybachuk, said it appears that author­i­ties, with the probe, are try­ing to warn other non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions that seek to pro­mote democ­racy, trans­parency, free speech and human rights in Ukraine. “Accord­ing to Cen­ter UA, the Kyiv eco­nomic crimes unit of the Inte­rior Min­istry started the inves­ti­ga­tion on Dec. 11. Recently, how­ever, inves­ti­ga­tors stepped up their efforts, ques­tion­ing some 200 wit­nesses. “… Cen­ter UA received more than $500,000 in 2012, accord­ing to its annual report for that year, 54 per­cent of which came from Pact Inc., a project funded by the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment. Nearly 36 per­cent came from Omid­yar Net­work, a foun­da­tion estab­lished by eBay founder Pierre Omid­yar and his wife. Other donors include the Inter­na­tional Renais­sance Foun­da­tion, whose key fun­der is bil­lion­aire George Soros, and National Endow­ment for Democ­racy, funded largely by the U.S. Congress.”

* * * * What all this adds up to is a jour­nal­is­tic conflict-of-interest of the worst kind: Omid­yar work­ing hand-in-glove with US for­eign pol­icy agen­cies to inter­fere in for­eign gov­ern­ments, co-financing regime change with well-known arms of the Amer­i­can empire — while at the same time hir­ing a grow­ing team of soi-disant ”inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists” which vows to inves­ti­gate the behav­ior of the US gov­ern­ment at home and over­seas, and boasts of its uniquely “adver­sar­ial” rela­tion­ship towards these  gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tions. As First Look staffer Jeremy Scahill told the Daily Beast

We had a long dis­cus­sion about this inter­nally; about what our posi­tion would be if the White House asked us to not pub­lish some­thing…. With us, because we want to be adver­sar­ial, they won’t know what bat phone to call. They know who to call at The Times, they know who to call at The Post. With us, who are they going to call? Pierre? Glenn?

Of the many prob­lems that poses, none is more seri­ous than the fact that Omid­yar now has the only two peo­ple with exclu­sive access to the com­plete Snow­den NSA cache, Glenn Green­wald and Laura Poitras. Some­how, the same bil­lion­aire who co-financed the “coup” in Ukraine with USAID, also has exclu­sive access to the NSA secrets—and very few in the inde­pen­dent media dare voice a skep­ti­cal word about it. In the larger sense, this is a prob­lem of 21st cen­tury Amer­i­can inequal­ity, of life in a billionaire-dominated era. It is a prob­lem we all have to con­tend with—PandoDaily’s 18-plus investors include a gag­gle of Sil­i­con Val­ley bil­lion­aires like Marc Andreessen (who serves on the board of eBay, chaired by Pierre Omid­yar) and Peter Thiel (whose pol­i­tics I’ve inves­ti­gated, and described as repug­nant.) But what is more imme­di­ately alarm­ing is what makes Omid­yar dif­fer­ent. Unlike other bil­lion­aires, Omid­yar has gar­nered noth­ing but uncrit­i­cal, fawn­ing press cov­er­age, par­tic­u­larly from those he has hired. By acquir­ing a “dream team” of what remains of inde­pen­dent media — Green­wald, Jeremy Scahill, Wheeler, my for­mer part­ner Matt Taibbi — not to men­tion press “crit­ics” like Jay Rosen — he buys both silence and fawn­ing press. Both are incred­i­bly use­ful: Silence, an absence of jour­nal­is­tic curios­ity about Omidyar’s activ­i­ties over­seas and at home, has been pur­chased for the price of what­ever his cur­rent all-star indie cast cur­rently costs him. As an added bonus, that same invest­ment buys silence from expo­nen­tially larger num­bers of des­per­ately under­paid inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists hop­ing to some­day be on his pay­roll, and the under­funded media watch­dogs that sur­vive on Omid­yar Net­work grants. And it also buys laugh­able fluff from the likes of Scahill who also boasted to the Daily Beast of his boss’ close involve­ment in the day to day run­ning of First Look.

“[Omid­yar] strikes me as always sort of polit­i­cal, but I think that the NSA story and the expand­ing wars put pol­i­tics for him into a much more promi­nent place in his exis­tence. This is not a side project that he is doing. Pierre writes more on our inter­nal mes­sag­ing than any­one else. And he is not micro­manag­ing. This guy has a vision. And his vision is to con­front what he sees as an assault on the pri­vacy of Americans.”

Now Wheeler has her answer — that, yes, the rev­o­lu­tion­ary groups were part-funded by Uncle Sam, but also by her boss — one assumes awk­ward fol­low up ques­tions will be asked on that First Look inter­nal mes­sag­ing sys­tem. Whether Wheeler, Scahill and their col­leagues go on to share their con­cerns pub­licly will speak vol­umes about First Look’s much-trumpeted inde­pen­dence, both from Omidyar’s other busi­ness inter­ests and from Omidyar’s co-investors in Ukraine: the US government.

“Neo-Nazis Pour Into Kiev” by Michael Moynihan; Daily Beast; 2/28/2014.

EXCERPT: In early Feb­ru­ary, Fredrik Hag­berg stood at the ros­trum in Kiev’s City Hall, offer­ing fra­ter­nal and com­radely greet­ings from Swe­den to the sweaty, bruised, and exhausted Ukrain­ian insur­rec­tion­ists scat­tered through­out. The place was fes­tooned with flags—some celtic crosses, a stray Con­fed­er­ate ban­ner, a stan­dard for the polit­i­cal party Svo­boda, whose mem­bers essen­tially con­trolled the building—reflecting the dubi­ous pol­i­tics of its occupiers.

Rev­o­lu­tion­ary tourists, thrill seek­ers, and para­chute jour­nal­ists suf­fused Kiev. Sen. John McCain, actress Hay­den Panet­tiere, and French intel­lec­tual Bernard Henri-Levy roused mas­sive crowds with paeans to free­dom and national sov­er­eignty, while offer­ing moral sup­port to the oppo­si­tion forces led by for­mer box­ing cham­pion Vitaly Klitschko.

But Hag­berg, a square-jawed and baby-faced mem­ber of the Swedish armed forces, had a darker message.

“I stand before your forces of rev­o­lu­tion to tell you about what your future might be if you fail your glo­ri­ous endeav­our,” he said in fluid-but-clipped Eng­lish. “I stand here as a Swede. How­ever where I come from is no longer Swe­den.” Hag­berg warned Ukraini­ans that a suc­cess­ful rev­o­lu­tion must chart a path that care­fully avoided the evils of abor­tion and eth­nic mon­gre­liza­tion, one that harshly pun­ished wel­fare abuse and rejected the nor­mal­iza­tion of homo­sex­u­al­ity. “Offi­cials in Swe­den like to calls us the most mod­ern coun­try in the world. I say to you, broth­ers, this is what awaits you if you choose to fol­low our exam­ple. You now have the oppor­tu­nity to choose and cre­ate your own future. Do not accept the trap of choos­ing either the West or Russia.”

It’s unclear who, if any­one, invited him, but Hag­berg was speak­ing as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Nordisk Ung­dom (Nordic Youth), a Swedish neo-Nazi group that cel­e­brates “a tra­di­tional ideal of a bet­ter man, striv­ing for some­thing greater and more noble than his own per­sonal ben­e­fit; an ide­al­is­tic man who fights for Europe’s free­dom.” Vis­i­tors to the group’s English-language web­site are met with with a Bar­bara Kruger-like adver­tise­ment beseech­ing vis­i­tors to “help us to help the rev­o­lu­tion! Sup­port a free Ukraine! Donate Now…” Because Hag­berg is try­ing to pro­voke his fel­low neo-Nazis into trav­el­ling to Kiev to help shape a new, fascist-friendly Ukraine.

Amongst the fas­cists, ultra-nationalists, and racists in Europe, there has been much grip­ing that the revolt in Ukraine has been over­taken, if not con­trolled from the out­set, by “CIA/ZOG [Zion­ist Occu­pied Government]/Soros-sponsored” forces. The Euroscep­ti­cism of the continent’s far-right move­ments has pro­duced a skep­ti­cism of the uprising’s much-discussed Europhile mainstream.

But Pro-Yanukovych forces and the for­mer president’s Krem­lin allies have heav­ily pro­moted an alter­na­tive narrative—one that Hag­berg and his allies hap­pily embrace—suggesting that the protest move­ment is in fact hon­ey­combed with dan­ger­ous neo-Nazis affil­i­ated with the extrem­ist Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal par­ties Svo­boda and Right Sec­tor. There­fore, West­ern sup­port­ers of the protests, like John Mccain, are agi­tat­ing on behalf of vio­lent Ukrain­ian fascism.

It’s a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the Kremlin’s argu­ment against West­ern sup­port for Syr­ian rebel groups, which it says has amounted to mate­r­ial sup­port for al-Qaeda-sponsered ter­ror­ism. And like with Syria—and the Span­ish Civil War before it—sympathetic Euro­pean extrem­ists are trav­el­ling to pro­vide sup­port to their ide­o­log­i­cal brethren.

“We just got boots on the ground and are dis­cussing with Svo­boda rep­re­sen­ta­tives and other nation­al­ists what we can assist with,” Mag­nus Söder­man, the neo-Nazi orga­nizer of the Swedish Ukraine Vol­un­teers (Sven­ska Ukrainafriv­il­liga), told me. “Our mes­sage to them is that we will assist with what­ever; clear­ing the streets, secu­rity, mak­ing food.”

On the group’s web­site, stuffed with hack­neyed neo-Nazi pro­pa­ganda, poten­tial vol­un­teers are told that “we do not orga­nize any para­mil­i­tary force because our involve­ment is of a civil nature, as aid work­ers. Of course, should vio­lence break out we will make use of our right of self-defense.” (The site advises recruits to “improve your phys­i­cal fit­ness” before trav­el­ling to Kiev.) Ukraine, the group says, is fac­ing an exis­ten­tial threat and “we must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and the future of our white children!”

Accord­ing to the group’s newly con­sti­tuted Face­book page, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Swedish Ukraine Vol­un­teers recently “vis­ited the par­lia­ment and estab­lished ??impor­tant con­tacts” amongst local politi­cians, pre­sum­ably those affil­i­ated with ultra-nationalist par­ties Svo­boda and Right Sec­tor. The idea of for­eign vol­un­teers is “a good ini­tia­tive,” said one mem­ber of a fas­cist mes­sage board in Swe­den, “and I give my full sup­port to Mikael Skillt and other party com­rades who are trav­el­ling down to help our broth­ers in the east.”

Mikael Skillt is well-known in Swedish neo-Nazi cir­cles. A spokesman for the vig­i­lante group Stop the Pedophiles and a vet­eran of var­i­ous now-defunct fas­cist orga­ni­za­tions, Skillt is cur­rently affil­i­ated with the Party of the Swedes (SvP), a neo-Nazi group founded by mem­bers of the less camera-friendly National Social­ist Front. Accord­ing to its web­site, SvP “has good con­tact with [Svo­boda] who were guests at our con­fer­ence Vision Europe just under a year ago.”

When I con­tacted Skillt he was in Moscow, on his way to agi­tat­ing in Kiev. So why does Ukraine need a fas­cist inter­na­tional brigade? “We are scan­ning the needs of the Ukraini­ans, but we will be offer­ing [them] our help in what­ever they need,” he told me. “We have mem­bers with expe­ri­ence in most fields, rang­ing from mil­i­tary to truck dri­vers to journalists.”

When I asked if he had can­vassed the opin­ions of Russ­ian neo-Nazi groups while in Moscow, Skillt told me, with pre­dictable oblique­ness, that he had “heard some [Russ­ian] nation­al­ists who have spo­ken of a rev­o­lu­tion inspired by Ukraine.”

So how large is the inter­na­tional brigade of ultra-nationalists? A Euro­pean jour­nal­ist who fol­lows the move­ment of Euro­pean jihadists to Syria—and now fas­cists migrat­ing towards Kiev—told me that there was indeed scat­tered evi­dence that neo-Nazi groups out­side Swe­den were mak­ing pil­grim­ages to Ukraine. When I asked Mag­nus Söder­man if there was a net­work of other Nazis on the ground, he told me that “com­rades from other Euro­pean coun­tries are also prepar­ing to assist if it is needed.”

Discussion

4 comments for “Ukraine Update: Pierre Omidyar (Glenn Greenwald’s Financial Angel) Helped Finance Coup; Swedish neo-Nazi Milieu of Carl Lundstrom Assisting OUN/B Heirs”

  1. Crimea’s new prime minister, Sergei Aksenov, has moved up the date of a planned referendum on the peninsula’s future status to March 30. Voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on whether “Crimea has state sovereignty and is a part of Ukraine, in accordance with treaties and agreements.”

    It seems extremely unlikely that Kiev will recognize the referendum, but with Russian troops occupying the territory, there’s not a whole lot they can do about it. Crimea, therefore, seems destined to join the ranks of the former Soviet Union’s “frozen conflicts.” Here’s a quick rundown over the other four:

    Transnistria

    Also known Trans-Dniester or Pridnestrovie, the traditionally Russian speaking region was joined by Moscow to Bessarabia, formerly part of Romania, to create the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic after World War II.

    Amid rising Moldovan nationalism during the break-up of the Soviet Union, Transnistria declared its independence in 1990. After a short and bloody war, a ceasefire was declared in 1992. The region became de facto independent, backed up a significant Russian military presence, but it is not recognized by Moldova or most other countries. Transnistrians have not gained any more enthusiasm for the idea of joining Moldova – Europe’s poorest country – since that time, and in a 2006 referendum, 90 percent voted for independence. There has been some quiet diplomatic progress since then, and increased trade between the two sides, but a permanent solution doesn’t appear likely any time soon.

    Nagorno-Karabakh

    Nagorno-Karabakh is a predominantly Armenian enclave within the territory of neighboring Azerbaijan. The two countries have fought over the region since the 19th century. It was transferred to Soviet Azerbaijan by Joseph Stalin in 1923 and remained part of it throughout the Soviet period.

    In 1988, the region declared independence and demanded reunification with Soviet Armenia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a bloody war broke out between the two countries in which at least 30,000 people were killed. A Russian-brokered ceasefire was signed in 1994, but the region’s status has remained unresolved, and exchanges along the border are common. A long-running mediation effort by the OSCE has made little progress.

    Abkhazia and South Ossetia

    Just three miles from Sochi, Abkhazia has declared itself independent from Georgia since 1999. Independent from the 8th to the 11 centuries, the region was part of Georgia until both were annexed by Russia in the 19th century. Stalin, incorporated it into Georgia in 1931. Ossetia was also absorbed into Russia in the 19th century. In the 1920s, Moscow divided it into, making North Ossetia part of Russia, and South Ossetia an autonomous region within Georgia.

    After the break-up, both territories found themselves as part of Georgia under the Georgian nationalist President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Ossetia seceded in 1990, prompting an invasion by Georgian forces that resulted in a civil war resulting in tends of thousands of casualties and refugees. A ceasefire was declared in 1992.

    Georgia sent troops to put down a similar separatist movement in Abkhazia in 1992, resulting in another bloody year-long war with Russian-backed Abkhazian troops. The status quo, enforced by Russian troops, held for years in both regions after that, though Georgia claims the Abkhazian government carried out the ethnic cleansing of the region’s Georgian population and accused Moscow of exacerbating tensions by granting residents of the region Russian passports.

    In 2008, after a series of skirmishes between Georgian and South Ossetian forces, Gerogia sent in troops to restore control, prompting a Russian incursion into both territories as well as Georgia-proper that likely permanently separated both from Georgian control. Shortly after the war, Russia recognized the independence of both, comparing it to Western recognition of Kosovo. Today, they are recognized as independent only by the odd grouping of Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Vanuatu, Nauru, and Tuvalu.

    Russia’s actions in Crimea in recent days have been called “fully analogous with Abkhazia” by Ukraine’s acting president.

    As you can see, all of these conflicts all have their roots in heavy-handed Stalin’s redrawing of national boundaries as well as post-breakup violence during the 1990s. Crimea, assuming it joins this club, is a somewhat different animal, joined to Ukraine in the Khrushchev era and relatively peaceful until now.

    Could a Crimea be the fifth pseudostate stuck in a frozen conflict? Any others? Maybe a region of Maldova that, itself, is already split in two?

    Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty
    Monday, March 03, 2014
    Moldova
    Concerned About EU Integration, Moldova’s Gagauz Region Holds Disputed Referendum

    By Valentina Ursu and Diana Raileanu

    Last updated (GMT/UTC): 02.02.2014 16:25
    CHISINAU — With the upheaval in Ukraine showing no signs of abating, neighboring Moldova has become the star of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program.

    Chisinau initialed an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the bloc in November — but not everyone is Moldova is on board with the country’s aggressive European-integration policy.

    As the policy has accelerated, the Russian-supported breakaway region of Transdniester has rumbled increasingly loudly. Recently it adopted Russian legislation, a clear signal of the region’s preference for joining a Russia-led customs union.

    And on February 2, the southern Moldovan autonomous region of Gagauzia is holding a controversial referendum, asking locals if they favor closer relations with the EU or the CIS Customs Union.

    [According to RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, the head of Gagauzia’s election commission said turnout was at more than 55 percent in the afternoon, passing the required one-third to be considered valid. A correspondent in Comrat reported long lines at polling stations earlier in the day.]

    In an interview with RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, Gagauzia Governor Mihail Formuzal did not hide his personal preferences. “I think that for the next 10 years it is in our interest to be in the customs union. I think that would enable us to modernize our economy, secure reliable markets for our goods,” he said.

    “And, at the same time, during these years we would carry out the genuine democratization of our society to correspond with the globally accepted standards and democratic norms of a law-based state. At present, unfortunately, we do not have this in our country.”

    Defiant In Comrat

    Gagauzia is a geographically discontinuous region with a population of about 155,000 people, mostly ethnically Turkish, Russian-speaking, Orthodox Christians. Many locals there fear that Chisinau’s EU-integration agenda masks an intention to unite Moldova with neighboring Romania.

    Governor Formuzal said this was the main concern in his region. “There is a definite skepticism as we watch the processes going on in Europe today,” he said. “The citizens of Gagauzia are very concerned that Euro-integration processes are being carried out in synch with, say, the entry into Europe through Romania. And this worries and frightens people.”

    Moldova’s central government has tried hard to stop the February 2 referendum, which it sees as a challenge to the country’s territorial integrity. A court in the Gagauz capital of Comrat accepted Chisinau’s argument that the autonomous region is only allowed to hold referendums on local issues. But Gagauz authorities are proceeding with the ballot despite the court ruling.

    The referendum will ask whether Gagauzia should be able to declare independence in the event that Moldova loses or surrenders its own independence and whether Moldova should pursue closer relations with the EU or with the CIS Customs Union.

    Reaching Out To Gagauzia

    Officials from Chisinau have rushed to the region in recent days in a seemingly unsuccessful bid to stave off the divisive vote.

    Too Late For Dialogue?

    Ion Tabarta, of the Institute of Policy Analysis and Advice in Chisinau, agrees that the ruling pro-European coalition has failed to engage with the Gagauz, both about the European-integration process and about issues of concern to the region.

    “We haven’t been able to integrate the Gagauz minority into Moldovan society,” Tabarta says. “They had their issues — they were unhappy with the representation they got in the national leadership, government, and parliament. Chisinau just neglected these problems. So dialogue now comes a bit late, but I think it can move forward.”

    Chisinau-based political analyst Igor Botan is less sanguine. “It’s more of a political conflict, since Gagauzia does not have the power of secession that Transdniester did,” he notes. “But they can keep alive this political conflict: while the European Union is pondering whether to sign an Association Agreement with Moldova, they set up obstacles and send the message that they do not agree. And they have the support of the voters and of the Russian Federation.”

    Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin hinted darkly earlier this month that “the train called Moldova that is chugging toward Europe might lose a couple of its cars.” Clearly he had in mind both Transdniester and Gagauzia.

    Ironically, representatives of the Gagauz minority in Ukraine have endorsed that country’s EU-integration ambitions and have called on the government and the opposition to reach a peaceful settlement.

    Note that the people of Gagauzia ended up voting overwhelmingly to join the Russian Customs Union over the EU, although the Maldovan courts have rules the referendum illegal. So it’s in the festering-phase of an ongoing crisis with no clear options:

    EU Observer
    Gagauzia: A new attack on the Eastern Partnership?

    04.02.14 @ 17:46

    By Salome Samadashvili

    BRUSSELS – With world attention fixed on Ukraine, the referendum on Sunday (2 February) in Gagauzia, a part of Moldova which few people have heard of, did not get much attention.

    The Gagauz – some 150,000 people, who are Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians – voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia’s Customs Union instead of EU integration.

    EU neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele had recently visited the region.

    He spoke of the potential benefits of closer EU-Moldova ties, highlighting prospects for EU visa-free travel.

    His intervention did nothing to change the outcome, however. As Gagauz envoys explained on a visit to Brussels last week, they want easier access to the Russian labour market instead.

    Sunday’s referendum also had a question about Gagauzia’s right to declare independence from Moldova. Again, an overwhleming majority wanted the right to secede.

    The referendum has no legal consequences because Moldovan courts have ruled it illegal.

    But it does have the potential to revive recent protests against Moldova’s plan to sign an EU association and free trade treaty.

    More dangerously, it has the potential to enflame separatist tendencies.

    Moldova already has one breakaway region, which has become a de facto state and a source of long-term instability: Transniestria.

    The business interests of the Transniestrian elite are becoming increasingly tied to the EU, however.

    The region has no border with Russia, and it is does not depend on Russian markets or subsidies to the same extent as other breakaway entities in the former Soviet territories.

    If Moldova-Transniestria relations mend, the Gagauzia referendum is an alternative source of instability.

    It looks like we’re getting a lesson in the conflicts that can arise when two major economic unions are forming right next to each other. Draw a Venn diagram with three circles: One containing countries that might join the EU. Another containing countries that might join the Eurasian Union. And a third that contains countries with regions that don’t really want to be part of that country. That area in the middle is the Venn diagram region of frozen conflict. How we turn that region of frozen conflict into the region of resolved formerly unresolvable conflicts – and not the region of doom – is going to be an increasingly important question to answer going forward. There are more frozen conflicts potentially on the way.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 2, 2014, 7:38 pm
  2. With Russian/EU relations fraying in real-time, it’s worth pointing out that Russia is still the EU’s biggest supplier of natural gas but the completion of new pipelines in recent years means Ukraine is no longer a needed route for all that Russian gas to EU markets:

    Europe less reliant on Russian gas through Ukraine

    Mon Mar 3, 2014 7:14am EST

    * Europe’s gas stocks are unusually full after mild weather

    * Weather outlook for early spring is also mild

    * Alternative supply routes still have spare capacity

    By Henning Gloystein and Michael Kahn

    LONDON/PRAGUE March 3 (Reuters) – A mild winter and improved infrastructure mean Europe is less reliant on Russian natural gas pumped through Ukraine than in past years, easing worries that the escalating crisis in Ukraine could hurt supplies.

    Russia is Europe’s biggest gas supplier, providing around a quarter of continental demand, which at current daily flows of 270 million cubic metres (mcm) is worth almost $100 million a day. Around a third of Russia’s gas is exported through Ukraine.

    Fears for the stability of supply to Europe increased over the weekend when Russian forces took control of Ukraine’s Crimea region and President Vladimir Putin said he had the right to invade his neighbour to protect Russians there after the overthrow of ally Viktor Yanukovich.

    Moscow has in the past cut supplies to Ukraine when negotiating prices with Kiev, causing shortages especially in central Europe, which gets most of its supplies from Russia.

    Russia’s Gazprom said on Monday that gas transit to Europe via Ukraine was normal, but it warned that it might increase prices for Kiev after the first quarter, raising concerns that gas could be used for political leverage in the crisis.

    But analysts said a mild winter across Europe had left storage inventories unusually high, easing the impact of any potential supply cut.

    They also said improved gas infrastructure meant much of Russia’s supplies could go to western Europe via alternative routes, such as the Nord Stream pipeline, which goes through the Baltic Sea to Germany, or through a pipeline that passes Belarus and Poland and also goes into Germany.

    “Low utilisation means Ukraine’s gas network is of lesser importance today than in the past,” Bernstein Research said on Monday in a research note.

    Ukraine’s gas transit monopoly Ukrtransgas has also been increasing its gas imports from Russia in recent days.

    HEALTHY STOCKS

    After a mild winter, meteorologists expect early spring to bring warmer-than-usual conditions over most of Europe, implying weak gas demand will continue, adding to already high storage levels.

    In Central Europe, which relies heavily on Russian supplies and was hard hit by previous cuts, Czech and Slovak inventories are filled between 35 and 45 percent, equivalent to 90 days of demand, and Polish reserves at over 70 percent of capacity.

    In Germany, Europe’s biggest gas consumer and Russia’s largest customer, inventories are more than 60 percent of capacity, equivalent to around 60 days of demand.

    So it sounds like the EU isn’t going to be nearly as dependent as in the past on the pipes running through Ukraine to get its Russian gas supplies. And Europe has also had the fortune of a mild winter to buffer its natural gas reserves. But what about in the longer run? Might this latest conflict with Russia lead to a renewed commitment to renewable energy that isn’t so vulnerable to pipelines and regional conflicts? Or, maybe, the EU could ditch the renewables and start fracking:

    Der Spiegel
    Green Fade-Out: Europe to Ditch Climate Protection Goals

    By Gregor Peter Schmitz in Brussels
    January 15, 2014 – 02:42 PM

    The EU’s reputation as a model of environmental responsibility may soon be history. The European Commission wants to forgo ambitious climate protection goals and pave the way for fracking — jeopardizing Germany’s touted energy revolution in the process.

    The climate between Brussels and Berlin is polluted, something European Commission officials attribute, among other things, to the “reckless” way German Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked stricter exhaust emissions during her re-election campaign to placate domestic automotive manufacturers like Daimler and BMW. This kind of blatant self-interest, officials complained at the time, is poisoning the climate.

    But now it seems that the climate is no longer of much importance to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, either. Commission sources have long been hinting that the body intends to move away from ambitious climate protection goals. On Tuesday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported as much.

    At the request of Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU member states are no longer to receive specific guidelines for the development of renewable energy. The stated aim of increasing the share of green energy across the EU to up to 27 percent will hold. But how seriously countries tackle this project will no longer be regulated within the plan. As of 2020 at the latest — when the current commitment to further increase the share of green energy expires — climate protection in the EU will apparently be pursued on a voluntary basis.

    Climate Leaders No More?

    With such a policy, the European Union is seriously jeopardizing its global climate leadership role. Back in 2007, when Germany held the European Council presidency, the body decided on a climate and energy legislation package known as the “20-20-20” targets, to be fulfilled by the year 2020. They included:

    * a 20 percent reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions;

    * raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20 percent;

    * and a 20 percent improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency.

    All of the goals were formulated relative to 1990 levels. And the targets could very well be met. But in the future, European climate and energy policy may be limited to just a single project: reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission plans also set no new binding rules for energy efficiency.

    Welcome, Frackers

    In addition, the authority wants to pave the way in the EU for the controversial practice of fracking, according to the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The report says the Commission does not intend to establish strict rules for the extraction of shale gas, but only minimum health and environmental standards.

    The plans will be officially presented next Wednesday ahead of an EU summit meeting in March. Observers, however, believe that a decision is unlikely to come until the summer at the earliest. But action must be taken this year: At the beginning of 2015, a climate conference will take place in Paris at which a global climate agreement is to be hashed out.

    The European Parliament is unlikely to be pleased with the Commission’s plans. Just at the beginning of January, a strong parliamentary majority voted to reduce carbon emissions EU-wide by 40 percent by 2030 and to raise the portion of renewables to at least 30 percent of energy consumption.

    Germany’s Energy Goals at Risk

    The Commission’s move further isolates Germany. Merkel’s government, a “grand coalition” of her conservatives and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), seeks to increase the share of renewables in the country’s energy mix to 60 percent by 2036. As reported in the latest issue of SPIEGEL, Sigmar Gabriel, SPD chair and minister of energy and economics, recently urged Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger to put forth mandatory expansion targets for renewable energy in the EU by 2030. Europe “can’t afford to pass up this opportunity,” Gabriel wrote.

    But within the Commission, the ambitious project has long been controversial. The same goes for EU member states, as Gabriel recently discovered. Prior to Christmas the minister, together with eight colleagues from throughout the EU, called for a “renewables target” in a letter to the Commission. But some countries, such as France, joined the appeal only hesitantly at the time. Paris might prefer instead to rely more heavily on nuclear power in order to meet stringent carbon emission requirements.

    Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, a German from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, has also shown reluctance. Rather than setting clear goals for the share of renewables, he wants fixed targets only for the reduction of carbon emissions — and he is skeptical even of the 40 percent target proposed by Climate Commissioner Hedegaard.

    Yeah, German Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger’s comments on the over-ambitiousness of the EU’s renewable energy goals didn’t go over well in early February. With It will be interesting to see how the conflict in Crimea changes that in coming months.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 3, 2014, 9:03 am
  3. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes:

    Slate
    March 1 2014 5:44 PM

    A Tour of the Pseudostates of the Former Soviet Union

    By Joshua Keating

    Crimea’s new prime minister, Sergei Aksenov, has moved up the date of a planned referendum on the peninsula’s future status to March 30. Voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on whether “Crimea has state sovereignty and is a part of Ukraine, in accordance with treaties and agreements.”

    It seems extremely unlikely that Kiev will recognize the referendum, but with Russian troops occupying the territory, there’s not a whole lot they can do about it. Crimea, therefore, seems destined to join the ranks of the former Soviet Union’s “frozen conflicts.” Here’s a quick rundown over the other four:

    Transnistria

    Also known Trans-Dniester or Pridnestrovie, the traditionally Russian speaking region was joined by Moscow to Bessarabia, formerly part of Romania, to create the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic after World War II.

    Amid rising Moldovan nationalism during the break-up of the Soviet Union, Transnistria declared its independence in 1990. After a short and bloody war, a ceasefire was declared in 1992. The region became de facto independent, backed up a significant Russian military presence, but it is not recognized by Moldova or most other countries. Transnistrians have not gained any more enthusiasm for the idea of joining Moldova – Europe’s poorest country – since that time, and in a 2006 referendum, 90 percent voted for independence. There has been some quiet diplomatic progress since then, and increased trade between the two sides, but a permanent solution doesn’t appear likely any time soon.

    Nagorno-Karabakh

    Nagorno-Karabakh is a predominantly Armenian enclave within the territory of neighboring Azerbaijan. The two countries have fought over the region since the 19th century. It was transferred to Soviet Azerbaijan by Joseph Stalin in 1923 and remained part of it throughout the Soviet period.

    In 1988, the region declared independence and demanded reunification with Soviet Armenia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a bloody war broke out between the two countries in which at least 30,000 people were killed. A Russian-brokered ceasefire was signed in 1994, but the region’s status has remained unresolved, and exchanges along the border are common. A long-running mediation effort by the OSCE has made little progress.

    Abkhazia and South Ossetia

    Just three miles from Sochi, Abkhazia has declared itself independent from Georgia since 1999. Independent from the 8th to the 11 centuries, the region was part of Georgia until both were annexed by Russia in the 19th century. Stalin, incorporated it into Georgia in 1931. Ossetia was also absorbed into Russia in the 19th century. In the 1920s, Moscow divided it into, making North Ossetia part of Russia, and South Ossetia an autonomous region within Georgia.

    After the break-up, both territories found themselves as part of Georgia under the Georgian nationalist President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Ossetia seceded in 1990, prompting an invasion by Georgian forces that resulted in a civil war resulting in tends of thousands of casualties and refugees. A ceasefire was declared in 1992.

    Georgia sent troops to put down a similar separatist movement in Abkhazia in 1992, resulting in another bloody year-long war with Russian-backed Abkhazian troops. The status quo, enforced by Russian troops, held for years in both regions after that, though Georgia claims the Abkhazian government carried out the ethnic cleansing of the region’s Georgian population and accused Moscow of exacerbating tensions by granting residents of the region Russian passports.

    In 2008, after a series of skirmishes between Georgian and South Ossetian forces, Gerogia sent in troops to restore control, prompting a Russian incursion into both territories as well as Georgia-proper that likely permanently separated both from Georgian control. Shortly after the war, Russia recognized the independence of both, comparing it to Western recognition of Kosovo. Today, they are recognized as independent only by the odd grouping of Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Vanuatu, Nauru, and Tuvalu.

    Russia’s actions in Crimea in recent days have been called “fully analogous with Abkhazia” by Ukraine’s acting president.

    As you can see, all of these conflicts all have their roots in heavy-handed Stalin’s redrawing of national boundaries as well as post-breakup violence during the 1990s. Crimea, assuming it joins this club, is a somewhat different animal, joined to Ukraine in the Khrushchev era and relatively peaceful until now.

    Could a Crimea be the fifth pseudostate stuck in a frozen conflict? Any others? Maybe a region of Moldova that, itself, is already split in two?

    Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty
    Monday, March 03, 2014
    Moldova
    Concerned About EU Integration, Moldova’s Gagauz Region Holds Disputed Referendum

    By Valentina Ursu and Diana Raileanu

    Last updated (GMT/UTC): 02.02.2014 16:25
    CHISINAU — With the upheaval in Ukraine showing no signs of abating, neighboring Moldova has become the star of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program.

    Chisinau initialed an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the bloc in November — but not everyone is Moldova is on board with the country’s aggressive European-integration policy.

    As the policy has accelerated, the Russian-supported breakaway region of Transdniester has rumbled increasingly loudly. Recently it adopted Russian legislation, a clear signal of the region’s preference for joining a Russia-led customs union.

    And on February 2, the southern Moldovan autonomous region of Gagauzia is holding a controversial referendum, asking locals if they favor closer relations with the EU or the CIS Customs Union.

    [According to RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, the head of Gagauzia’s election commission said turnout was at more than 55 percent in the afternoon, passing the required one-third to be considered valid. A correspondent in Comrat reported long lines at polling stations earlier in the day.]

    In an interview with RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, Gagauzia Governor Mihail Formuzal did not hide his personal preferences. “I think that for the next 10 years it is in our interest to be in the customs union. I think that would enable us to modernize our economy, secure reliable markets for our goods,” he said.

    “And, at the same time, during these years we would carry out the genuine democratization of our society to correspond with the globally accepted standards and democratic norms of a law-based state. At present, unfortunately, we do not have this in our country.”

    Defiant In Comrat

    Gagauzia is a geographically discontinuous region with a population of about 155,000 people, mostly ethnically Turkish, Russian-speaking, Orthodox Christians. Many locals there fear that Chisinau’s EU-integration agenda masks an intention to unite Moldova with neighboring Romania.

    Governor Formuzal said this was the main concern in his region. “There is a definite skepticism as we watch the processes going on in Europe today,” he said. “The citizens of Gagauzia are very concerned that Euro-integration processes are being carried out in synch with, say, the entry into Europe through Romania. And this worries and frightens people.”

    Moldova’s central government has tried hard to stop the February 2 referendum, which it sees as a challenge to the country’s territorial integrity. A court in the Gagauz capital of Comrat accepted Chisinau’s argument that the autonomous region is only allowed to hold referendums on local issues. But Gagauz authorities are proceeding with the ballot despite the court ruling.

    The referendum will ask whether Gagauzia should be able to declare independence in the event that Moldova loses or surrenders its own independence and whether Moldova should pursue closer relations with the EU or with the CIS Customs Union.

    Reaching Out To Gagauzia

    Officials from Chisinau have rushed to the region in recent days in a seemingly unsuccessful bid to stave off the divisive vote.

    Too Late For Dialogue?

    Ion Tabarta, of the Institute of Policy Analysis and Advice in Chisinau, agrees that the ruling pro-European coalition has failed to engage with the Gagauz, both about the European-integration process and about issues of concern to the region.

    “We haven’t been able to integrate the Gagauz minority into Moldovan society,” Tabarta says. “They had their issues — they were unhappy with the representation they got in the national leadership, government, and parliament. Chisinau just neglected these problems. So dialogue now comes a bit late, but I think it can move forward.”

    Chisinau-based political analyst Igor Botan is less sanguine. “It’s more of a political conflict, since Gagauzia does not have the power of secession that Transdniester did,” he notes. “But they can keep alive this political conflict: while the European Union is pondering whether to sign an Association Agreement with Moldova, they set up obstacles and send the message that they do not agree. And they have the support of the voters and of the Russian Federation.”

    Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin hinted darkly earlier this month that “the train called Moldova that is chugging toward Europe might lose a couple of its cars.” Clearly he had in mind both Transdniester and Gagauzia.

    Ironically, representatives of the Gagauz minority in Ukraine have endorsed that country’s EU-integration ambitions and have called on the government and the opposition to reach a peaceful settlement.

    Note that the people of Gagauzia ended up voting overwhelmingly to join the Russian Customs Union over the EU, although the Moldovan courts have rules the referendum illegal. So it’s in the festering-phase of an ongoing crisis with no clear options:

    EU Observer
    Gagauzia: A new attack on the Eastern Partnership?

    04.02.14 @ 17:46

    By Salome Samadashvili

    BRUSSELS – With world attention fixed on Ukraine, the referendum on Sunday (2 February) in Gagauzia, a part of Moldova which few people have heard of, did not get much attention.

    The Gagauz – some 150,000 people, who are Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians – voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia’s Customs Union instead of EU integration.

    EU neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele had recently visited the region.

    He spoke of the potential benefits of closer EU-Moldova ties, highlighting prospects for EU visa-free travel.

    His intervention did nothing to change the outcome, however. As Gagauz envoys explained on a visit to Brussels last week, they want easier access to the Russian labour market instead.

    Sunday’s referendum also had a question about Gagauzia’s right to declare independence from Moldova. Again, an overwhleming majority wanted the right to secede.

    The referendum has no legal consequences because Moldovan courts have ruled it illegal.

    But it does have the potential to revive recent protests against Moldova’s plan to sign an EU association and free trade treaty.

    More dangerously, it has the potential to enflame separatist tendencies.

    Moldova already has one breakaway region, which has become a de facto state and a source of long-term instability: Transniestria.

    The business interests of the Transniestrian elite are becoming increasingly tied to the EU, however.

    The region has no border with Russia, and it is does not depend on Russian markets or subsidies to the same extent as other breakaway entities in the former Soviet territories.

    If Moldova-Transniestria relations mend, the Gagauzia referendum is an alternative source of instability.

    It looks like we’re getting a lesson in the conflicts that can arise when two major eco­nomic unions are forming right next to each other. Draw a Venn diagram with three circles: One containing countries that might join the EU. Another containing countries that might join the Eurasian Union. And a third that contains countries with regions that don’t really want to be part of that coun­try. That area in the mid­dle is the Venn diagram region of frozen conflict. How we turn that region of frozen conflict into the region of resolved formerly unresolvable conflicts — and not the region of doom — is going to be an increas­ingly important question to answer going forward. There are more frozen conflicts potentially on the way.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 3, 2014, 5:16 pm
  4. Here’s an article that lists one big reason why Germany is likely to play ‘good cop’ in any negotiations with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine: The ‘bad cop’ role could be really bad for Germany business:

    Bloomberg
    Merkel Eye for Russian Empress Shows Putin Ties Are Complex
    By Patrick Donahue and Tino Andresen Mar 4, 2014 11:35 AM CT

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has a portrait on her desk of Russian empress Catherine the Great, the Prussian-born princess who went on to expand Russia’s territory to the west and the south, including Crimea.

    As President Vladimir Putin tests Europe’s resolve during the crisis over Ukraine, Merkel’s admiration for Catherine hints at the complex ties binding Germany and Russia together that give her sway over Putin yet constrain her response.

    Merkel, who once told German television that Catherine had “accomplished many things under difficult circumstances,” has telephoned with Putin at least three times in the past week alone. That diplomacy reflects her role as the key conduit between east and west.

    Merkel, 59, a Russian speaker whose political career began with the end of the Cold War, has additional leverage in the conflict over Ukraine on account of her status as the leader of Russia’s biggest EU trading partner in goods. The same ties make Germany the European Union country with the most to lose from any escalation.

    “The German government wants to avoid drastic EU measures or sanctions on Russia,” Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, said in an interview. “The main casualties of such moves would be German companies exporting to Russia or those in Russia.

    Obama Call

    President Barack Obama and Merkel discussed Putin’s mindset in a phone call on March 2, a German government official with direct knowledge of the conversation said. Merkel said that she thinks Putin is acting very rationally, he simply has a completely different view of the world, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the call was private.

    Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, declined to comment on the call at a government news briefing yesterday.

    With 35 percent of German oil and gas imports coming from Russia and 6,000 German companies doing business there, Merkel is constrained even as her foreign minister threatened “consequences” over what he called Europe’s worst crisis since the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago in November.

    EU Summit

    That ambivalence will play out at a summit of EU leaders on March 6 in Brussels, where Germany risks being at odds with countries such as Poland, whose Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has said the bloc may impose sanctions that hurt Russia’s hydrocarbon industry.

    While Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Russia with possible sanctions, Merkel appealed for political dialogue in a phone call with Putin also on March 2. As Russian troops tightened their grip on Ukrainian territory yesterday, Germany said there is still a chance to ease the crisis. When Kerry raised the prospect of ejecting Russia from the Group of Eight nations, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier questioned that approach, saying it would shut down an avenue of dialogue.

    “The problem will be to get a Ukrainian partner to the table that Russia will accept,” Gernot Erler, the Foreign Ministry’s coordinator for German-Russian relations, was quoted as saying by the Focus Online news portal today.

    East Germany

    Merkel, who grew up under Communism in East Germany and made trips to Moscow as a student, was reminded of the risk to exports that power Europe’s biggest economy yesterday as global stocks suffered their biggest drop in a month on Ukraine.

    Stada Arzneimittel AG, Germany’s biggest generic-drug maker, which depended on Russia for 19 percent of sales in 2012, fell the most in three months on investor concern that the mounting conflict will crimp revenue.

    Other German investments in Russia include Siemens AG, which built the fast train between Moscow and St. Petersburg, and BASF SE’s Wintershall Holding unit, Germany’s largest producer of crude oil and natural gas, which said Dec. 23 that it plans to further increase production of both energy sources in Russia.

    BASF, the world’s largest chemical maker, agreed in 2012 to transfer its gas trading unit to Russia’s OAO Gazprom in return for stakes in two Siberian oil fields. More than half of Ludwigshafen, Germany-based BASF’s fuel will come from Russia when the fields go on stream.

    Top Exporter

    Germany was the EU’s top exporter to Russia in 2012 with a 31 percent share, followed by Italy at 10 percent and France with 9 percent, according to EU data. Putin was the guest of honor in April at the annual international trade fair in Hanover, Germany, where Russia was the featured partner nation.

    Economic sanctions on Russia would “neither be desirable nor effective or implementable,” Michael Harms, head of the German-Russian Chamber of Foreign Trade, or AHK, said in a phone interview from Moscow yesterday.

    “Sanctions would only worsen the situation and in fact hurt Germany more than Russia, because it could easily replace goods from Germany with those from China,” he said.

    While Merkel and Putin have clashed over topics from civil liberties and gas imports to art looted by the Soviets at the end of World War II, they have a shared history.

    A Lutheran pastor’s daughter who faced discrimination at her East German school due to her father’s religion, Merkel learned Russian so diligently that she won prizes and a trip to Moscow. Putin is a fluent German speaker who served as a KGB officer in the East German city of Dresden during the Cold War.

    EU Ties

    Russia stepped into the crisis in Ukraine after almost three months of protests toppled President Viktor Yanukovych, who had scrapped plans for closer ties to the EU under pressure from Moscow.

    As Russia’s military deployment sent global stock indexes and the ruble plummeting, attention in Germany turned to any disruption of energy supplies. Russia is Germany’s biggest natural-gas supplier ahead of Norway and the Netherlands.

    German gas reserves are “well filled” and Europe’s largest economy could withstand shortages, Economy Ministry spokeswoman Tanja Alemany told reporters in Berlin yesterday.

    Even as EU foreign ministers agreed yesterday to consider halting trade and visa talks with Russia if there’s no “de-escalation” in Ukraine, Germany was holding back.

    “In decades past we’ve had experience with sanctions and they weren’t always good,” Germany deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth said in an interview in Berlin hours before the decision in Brussels. “We still see a chance” to resolve the conflict diplomatically, he said.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 4, 2014, 3:53 pm

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