Monday, August 31, 2015

Ukraine Will Be in EU within a Decade and Likely in NATO Too, Lithuanian Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – Vladimir Putin’s effort to block Ukraine’s integration with Europe by trying to spark a civil war in the former Soviet republic has failed, Leonidis Donskis says; and consequently, Kyiv despite its current difficulties can look forward to becoming a full member of the European Union sometime within the next ten years.

            Moreover, the former European Parliament member and scholar at Vitautas the Great University in Kaunas says, he will not be surprised if Ukraine also becomes part of NATO as well (

            What  is regrettable he says, is that Ukraine was “not integrated into NATO and the European Union earlier.” Had that been the case, “almost 7,000 people would not have lost their lives,” although their sacrifice, Donskis says, is hardly in vain. It has woken Europe and the West up to the threat that Putin constitutes.

            The Kremlin leader’s “honeymoon” with the West is over, he continues; and Europe and the US will never react as they did when he attacked Georgia in 2008 and say that “’Georgia was not without sin.’” “Now, it has become entirely clear: Ukraine is absolutely innocent, and all the fault lies with Russia.”

            Unfortunately, Donkis continues, more people are likely to die in Ukraine because “military actions will continue. But there will not be a global war [because] Russia does not have the economic strength for that.”

            Today, he argues, “Ukraine is a large, strong and consolidated country In the Donbas, a kind of new Trans-Dnistria or frozen conflict has appeared.” That is a defeat for Russia because it means the rest of Ukraine can develop in its European direction much as Moldova has rather than be blocked by a Moscow-controlled “fifth column.”

            To be sure, the continuing conflict in the Donbas is “technically” something that blocks Ukraine’s entrance into NATO, he says, but this is not the case in the US. “I am certain that Europe will not leave your country but will integrate it. And certainly within ten years, [Ukraine] will be a member of the EU.”

            “The North Atlantic Alliance can say that first this territorial conflict must be resolved. That will slow the move to membership for five or ten years but not more,” the Lithuanian analyst argues.

            Ukraine needs to focus on domestic reforms and to recognize that it will be able to achieve more than it expects more quickly. After four or five years of hard work, Ukraine will be a totally new place just as Lithuania was. Not all the problems will be solved, but people will have gained a sense of self-confidence that will make additional reforms easier.

            NATO is critical. The Baltic countries know that it is “a real force in the world” and “the only thing which now saves us.” NATO has displayed its solidarity with its members in the east and “sent the Kremlin a very clear message: ‘don’t touch or you will face an entirely different scenario.’”
            As for Europe, “it prefers soft power” and economic leverage. “That is a good thing, but if we want to establish a real European architecture of political life (of course, together with Ukraine), this is impossible with such approaches. Other institutions are needed.”
            “The West is hardly weak, but its institutions are really inadequate,” Donskis says. The UN must be immediately reformed” so that Russia can’t use its veto to block findings against it. And the EU must be transformed as well. Whenever there is a crisis, “who solves the problems?” Not Brussels but Berlin and Paris.
            Ukraine can play a big role in the revival of the European Union, he argues. “Euroscepticism is a good which is traded in France, the Netherlands and England but not in Ukraine. You believe in the EU and Brussels just as we belived in 2004. This faith will give a new chance for the European Union itself.”
            Indeed, he suggests, “only Ukraine is capable of bringing with it the new energy and faith” needed to revive the aging house of Europe.

Money Shifted from Civilian Sectors in Russia to Military Needs Said Being Corruptly Diverted

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – Like the citizens of most countries, Russians are generally prepared to sacrifice to support national security, but they can become outraged if they learn that money taken from programs that helped them and supposedly given to the military is being diverted as a result of corruption.

            And that can have immediate political consequences. Perhaps the best example is provided by Harry Truman who rose from being a virtually unknown US senator to Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president and eventual successor largely on the basis of the authority and popularity he acquired by exposing corruption in US military spending during World War II.

            Consequently, the Kremlin has to be concerned about the growing number of stories in the Russian media documenting the fact that money that had gone for schools, hospitals and public welfare and that now is supposedly going to the Russian armed forces is ending in the hand of corrupt oligarchs and officials.

            In the current issue of “Kommersant-Vlast,” three articles document the most well-known cases of corruption in this sector over the last two decades, point to the measures that the authorities have put in place to stop it without much success, and detail oft-repeated official statements that corruption in military spending is equivalent to “treason” (, and

            The journal’s Ivan Safronov points out that “Russia has never regretted spending money on the armament of the army and fleet, but this funds not always have gone where they are supposed to.”  In such cases, and almost 200 of them have been identified in recent years, Russians are more than a little angry.

            In February 2012, Vladimir Putin said that “corruption in the military-industry complex is absolutely impermissible.” And officials have suggested that the actions they have taken in recent years are sufficient to prevent it. But reports of new corruption cases, some of them massive and high-profile, suggest that they haven’t succeeded.

            In the current environment where Russians know that they are being forced to tighten their belts in order to finance Moscow’s military policies, they may no longer be willing to treat this phenomenon as simply business as usual. And it is not implausible to think that there are some Russian politicians who might like to use this issue to boost themselves and their causes.


Protests against Moscow’s Economic Policies Spread across Russia’s Regions

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – Demonstrations ranging in size from 300 to 500 people took place in five Russian provincial cities over the weekend, with participants demanding that Moscow change its economic policy in order to prevent a further decline in standards of living and provide real support and not empty promises.

            But one politician says that Moscow has no money or intention of providing real help given its military expansion and so is planning to respond to these and other protests – including one by small businesses against the closing of banks ( by banning media coverage of both rising prices and demonstrations.

            Such actions may keep the lid on for a time: they would certainly limit the attention to protests outside of Moscow. But they would not be able to address another potential threat: the possibility that some governors may decide to side with the demonstrators as a way of building their own power in what is for many of them a rapidly deteriorating situation.

            That some of the regional heads may be thinking about that possibility is in fact suggested by a survey of the situation in the Urals region where governors find they are trapped between the demands Moscow is making on them and the failure of the center to provide them with the resources to meet those demands (

            As for the demonstrations, “Novyye izvestiya” reports today that Russians took to the streets in Volzhsky, Kalach-na-Donu, Blagoveshchensk, Chita and Birobidzhan not to protest this or that action but rather the decline in living standards as a result of central government policies (

            As a result of higher prices and lower incomes, “Novyye izvestiya” writes, “not a small part of the population simply is being impoverished and because no end of the crisis is in sight, those protesting are telling the authorities that it is time to remember the people and change domestic policies.”

            Valery Borshchev, a former Duma deputy and rights activist, says that “the higher leadership of the country receives information about all protest actions and about [this] change in their character. But it is necessary to point out at the present time the Center really doesn’t have a genuine chance to provide help to the regions. For the banal reason that there is no money.”

            Consequently, he continues, the enter plans “’to help’” via “other means.” He says that he has information that the government is preparing a ban on the dissemination of information of prices increases so that the population won’t get agitated. [It] also plans to prohibit the media from reporting about prices and also about protest actions” so that demonstrations won’t spread.

            “But such a policy won’t lead to a good outcome,” Borshchev says. “The crisis is not going to end in the short term, and people already are really feeling its influence.”

            Dmitry Gudkov, a member of the Duma’s constitutional law committee, agrees that the leadership “knows all about this but hardly will do anything in the near term to help the population.”  They are “studying the situation,” but small protests like this weekend’s don’t have much effect.

            Moreover, he continues, those who think the center must provide aid assume that this will be possible only if oil is again at 150 US dollars a barrel, something that isn’t going to happen.  He notes that the situation is getting worse as well because businesses are shifting capital abroad, but the regime isn’t prepared for radical reforms.

            Boris Kagarlitsky, head of the Moscow Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, says that the issue is not in the number of protesters but in the demands they are making. “A protest against the reduction of the standard of living is one the authorities will listen to,” although they won’t react at least not yet.

             As the situation gets worse, however, “the number of participants at protest meetings will increase significantly,” he says, “and then the Center will have to make concessions. The question is: will it then have the ability at that time to satisfy these demands?” Right now, the country needs serious reforms but Moscow isn’t ready to begin them let alone carry them out.