There can be little doubt that the Russian government is behind the attempted assassination of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. While there were the typical official denials, the Russian state has ways of communicating its innocence to foreign governments. In this case, it has not done so.
The use of a nerve agent fits a pattern established by the murder of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium in 2006. This was not a McMafia-style operation commissioned by ‘rogue elements’. If they were to blame, Moscow would be even more alarmed than London. Since the chaos of the 1990s, Putin has restored the state’s traditional prerogatives in foreign covert operations, as well as the president’s prerogatives within it.… Seguir leyendo »
Since 5 September, much attention has been devoted to Vladimir Putin’s proposal to bring UN ‘blue helmets’ into Ukraine’s Donbas. His initiative is vintage Putin. It shifts the ground, reversing Russia’s rejection of a UN presence as recently as 2 September. It is double-edged, juxtaposed alongside threats of a wider conflict if the US provides lethal weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces. It outflanks the opponent, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, who has been calling for a UN presence since February 2015. It earns praise (notably from Germany’s outgoing foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, who called it a ‘change in [Russia’s] policy that we should not gamble away’).… Seguir leyendo »
On 29 December, one of Ukraine’s most influential figures, Viktor Pinchuk, declared that pre-emptive and ‘painful’ compromises would be needed to forestall a US-Russian bargain ‘over the heads of more than 40 million Ukrainians’. The path of compromise is hardly new for Pinchuk, son-in-law of Ukraine’s second president, Leonid Kuchma, a prominent philanthropist and one of the richest people in Ukraine, with long-standing business ties to Russia. Unlike some other prominent figures, it is rare to find Pinchuk accused of being a front man for Russia’s interests. Nevertheless, he has been a consistent proponent of a conciliatory course: a policy hospitable towards the West, respectful of Russian red lines and critical of those who believe that Ukraine must choose between one side and the other.… Seguir leyendo »
With little more than a month to go before the European Union is due to sign trade and association agreements with four former Soviet nations, Europe’s leaders face an impossible dilemma over Ukraine.
The EU can sign the deal at a ceremony in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on Nov. 28-29, allowing Ukraine to manipulate the rules and standards that define the union. Or its member countries can refuse and risk consigning Ukraine to a future under more authoritarian rule and deeper dependency upon Russia.
Given the unpleasantness of that choice, it came as no surprise Oct. 21 when EU foreign ministers meeting to discuss the issue in Luxembourg gave no clear recommendation either way on what their governments would do.… Seguir leyendo »