WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Ukrainian conundrum

For now, mark it a victory for Ukrainian nationalists.

They ousted hated President Viktor Yanukovych, branding him a mass murderer; quickly moved to consolidate power; freed jailed protesters, etc.

Surely not what Russian President Vladimir Putin had in mind, especially at the tail-end of his Sochi Oympics, which, by most measures, were a great success. No known terrorist incidents.

Time and time again, Putin appears to have underestimated Ukrainian nationalism.

That said, Ukraine represents Russia's "near abroad", and it's probably in Putin's interest to keep the cauldron bubbling.

But here's the paradox: Ukraine is such an economic basket case, who would want it?

Sure, Western-oriented Ukrainians seek help from European institutions. But any aid from western & central Europe would come with strings attached, i.e., an austerity program. Ukrainians only have to look to Greece to see what would likely happen with that. And western and central Europeans are in no mood for a further invasion of eastern Europeans. Evidence: The recent Swiss immigration referendum results.

Conversely, if Ukraine still eventually fell into Moscow's lap - despite all the nostalgia of reassembling the old "empire" - do the Russians really understand what a burden Ukraine represents? Russia's energy sector - dependent on exports - already faces new competition (Read the United States).

As I suggested in my Open Friday / Weekend Forum blog, Russia has a habit of sponsoring secessionist states in its former Soviet republics, usually the areas inhabited by Russian speakers or with people predisposed to Moscow over the West. But with the exception of the Crimean peninsula jutting into the Black Sea (which Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev "gave" to Ukraine), the more Russian-oriented eastern Ukraine is a basket case within a basket case: Poorer, more polluted, less healthy, higher crime rates, etc. As one Ukrainian expert at Rutgers University at Newark told me, in a way, the Russians would be doing the Ukrainians a favor by annexing their eastern region.

But await news from The Crimea: That could be the flashpoint which could produce a Russian intervention. Already, we've seen demonstrators in Sevastopul in Crimea calling on "Mother Russia" to save them. Ousted President Yanukovych has reportedly been sighted there, and Russia's Black See fleet is based at that port. The plot thickens...


Consider this analysis from The WASHINGTON POST---


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/putin-takes-losses-on-ukraine-but-russia-still-has-leverage-and-the-will-to-use-it/2014/02/23/80d832ba-9cbf-11e3-ad71-e03637a299c0_story.html


What's next for Ukraine? Consider this analysis from the BBC (along with helpful maps underscoring the political and cultural/linguistic divide)...


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26312733


"Spengler" - aka, David Goldman - offers this dour analysis of the Ukrainian situation in The ASIA TIMES on line...


http://atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-240214.html

Posted at 7:48am on February 24, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

JimH
Mon, Feb 24, 2014 11:51am
I have trouble believing that Putin did not see the revolt coming. If that is true, his intelligence community is as out-of-touch as America's is.

Ukraine is important to Russia and a desired return to the Russian Empire. The fact that it is basically two countries requires measures the E.U. and the U.S. do not normally support. A strong leader at the top will be vital to holding the country together. While the country may be getting a strong leader in Yulia Tymoshenko, she will need to understand the relationship between herself and Mr. Putin. He will need to be the Alpha in this relationship.

kavips
Mon, Feb 24, 2014 5:41pm
Russia could learn what not to do from the U.S. What not to do is Cuba. If Russia is smart, and can imprison its conservatives in Siberia, which unfortunately here in this country, we couldn't do so legally and so we let them exist in the South, Russia can say "ok, great, how can we help? We have gas..."

That would prove the Russians are indeed better human beings than the U.S. Of course we ourselves could be better, but we have this thing called the Republican Party that keeps bringing us down.

kavips
Mon, Feb 24, 2014 6:04pm
Allan, why is Ukraine in the news, but there is a blackout on the exact same thing in Venezuela? I'm only getting Latin Coverage on it.. and compared to Ukraine, it is HUGE...

Could it be the Olympics? Could it be the overtones with the old Soviet Union? Could it be it involves Europe?

As you know from my comments here earlier, that finding coverage was rather difficult for Ukraine earlier. It seems as I have long predicted, that the U.S. Press was caught flat-footed on this one, and was finally forced to cover it, although they didn't want to....

As an example of the complete failure of the American media, one of the Sunday Morning talk shows, (I won't mention it by name to keep it out of the search engines) said... "And now we will bring in two of our experts on Ukraine..." It was Tom Friedman and Bill Kristol.

I'm thinking what? Did you have them already lined-up and couldn't bump them so you told them you'd talk about Ukraine? What do either know about Ukraine that wasn't in the NYT already? Was there no one else more qualified who maybe actually has studied Ukraine and Russian relations?

To be honest, the conversation was so simple and generalized, that had Amy Cherry and Mellany Armstrong debated the same topic in front of Mr. Pizza, I would have learned more...

The American media is a dead man walking, with 5 stakes sticking out of its heart. Everywhere I turn, American radio and print is quoting foreign sources. 2 months ago even, that was rare. I think the Snowden episode really made everyday Americans look at the Guardian, and say... that's what I want in a newspaper...

I should clarify and mention I mean American "mainstream" media when I shortcut and just type "American media"... WDEL, which has a more international scope than most, even NPR, really breaks the mold in offering a fresh perspective, and should not be considered as such...

Here is a link mentioning that ridiculous Sunday morning episode..

http://crooksandliars.com/2014/02/meet-abc-news-foreign-affairs-experts

Bizarro World for sure. I would have to say... if America has a drug problem, it is predominantly in its mainstream media. I don't know what those producers were thinking...

mrpizza
Mon, Feb 24, 2014 6:21pm
Kavips: The answer is simple. Venezuela is old news. Groundhog Day.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Feb 24, 2014 6:53pm
kavips... I think you answered most of your own questions correctly, and mrpizza added something valid as well.

(Although just as Ukraine had its previous "Orange Revolution", you could argue that's a kind of Groundhog Day too. In Venezuela's case, the new element is that President Maduro has neither the charisma nor the political acumen as his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez... although the issues are pretty similar. Then, as now, it's more young people from the middle- and upper-middle classes who are in the streets of Caracas.)

Back to kavips' comments - above - on Ukraine: I think you have a twin difficulty. The consultants keep hammering the networks saying younger & even middle-aged women - prime target of most TV advertisers - don't give a damn about international news unless it can be shown how it affects them directly. And the cable-TV all-news networks have contractual obligations with some of their regular guests; I assume the cable networks have to compensate these regular panelists whether or not they get bumped for real "experts." Futhermore, some of that audience would probably rather see the "regulars", even if they're not particularly conversant in a specialized area. That's the conundrum. Meanwhile, under financial pressures, U.S. media organizations (particularly broadcast) have had to cut their foreign presence and rely more on foreign stringers.

This trend has been going on for at least four decades, ever since the end of Vietnam. I remember attending some network affiliates' meeting at least 25 years ago, and the program director of an affiliated station berated network brass for devoting too much time to international stories.

In radio, without a consultant second-guessing me, it's a heck of a lot easier. All I have to do is identify people who are particularly knowledgeable about the subject matter. And I have contractual obligations with no one. With supportive management, local radio can still be much more flexible.

If you happened to be listening during the 5 p.m. hour Friday, one true Ukrainian scholar was already saying on our airwaves that President Viktor Yanukovych had fled Kiev for more friendly territory -- far eastern Ukraine.

Allan Loudell

EarlGrey
Mon, Feb 24, 2014 8:04pm
Another reason for Venezuela not getting as much coverage could be because very few are surprised that the bus driver/union leader/Chavez yes-man has failed to be a good leader.

kavips
Tue, Feb 25, 2014 12:02am
Allan, and all. Those comments were enlightening. Allan's statement going 25 years back, reminded me at that time, most of the old guard of journalists and television, all cut their teeth on WWII. When what was going on across both oceans had grave consequences for those at home, possibly determining if ones' loved ones were coming back.

In fact, most (over a majority) of the the population had experienced WWII. Furthermore, there was the knowledge, at least I heard it, that the U.S. had ignored the problems overseas too long in the 30's and they grew gigantic beyond our control and attacked us. The lesson taught us we needed to intervene early and I think that philosophy was entrenched, pushing us into both Cuba and Vietnam. But those were different times as well, since we had an enemy who could at any second, have launched a bomber strike across the poles, or later, fired a missile from right inside of New York's harbor.

Foreign affairs were much more important back then. Probably why the old guard today is more concerned over them, than many of the new generations... who instead of listening to actual artillery being fired in the backgrounds, grew up under Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel...


kavips
Tue, Feb 25, 2014 12:26am
Here is some footage of Venezuela compiled by the Russians, who, it's kind of humorous, would have something to gain by shifting the global focus away from Kiev...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc64OzEKO3I


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