Lithuanian daily criticizes US, EU indecisiveness against Russia

Text of report by Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos Rytas

[Unattributed editorial: "How Will Petro Poroshenko Change Ukraine?"]

A few days have passed since the swearing-in ceremony of new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, but the main question — will the bloodshed in the east of the country start to recede — is still open.

Despite the fact that the new president of Ukraine is talking about principled agreements in the semi-official talks between senior officials of Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE, the fire is still burning — the separatists, among which there are many Russian citizens who came from Russia, respond with their own attacks to the offensive actions of the Ukrainian forces.

Therefore, we still have suspicions that the goal of Russia, which took away Crimea and which is rocking the east of Ukraine, was not to obstruct the new presidential elections in Ukraine, but to spark the widest, the bloodiest, and most importantly, the longest possible military, humanitarian, social, economic, and, of course, political crisis in the country.

In the West people are guessing what Vladimir Putin wants in exchange for stabilization of the situation — perhaps federalization of Ukraine, granting more and various autonomy to the eastern regions, this way giving them over to Russia’s influence, perhaps Ukraine’s final and irrevocable abandonment of NATO and EU membership ambitions, or perhaps recognition of the Crimea annexation.

However, it is very likely that these are merely a midway stops, and attempts by the West to treat them as the main goals of the Kremlin are merely attempts dress the situation and the actions of Russia in clothes that they understand better and find more comfortable.

After all, the main and final goal of Russia most likely still remains destruction and division of the Ukrainian state, trying to kill the victory of Maidan, repaying for it, removing the threat to the Russian regime at the same time.

More than one independent expert of Russia has said that the Kremlin saw and continues to see Maidan as a deadly threat to itself.

In order to destroy this threat, all measures are acceptable: The bloody armed conflict, further economic pressure, hoping that Ukraine will simply go bankrupt economically and after that politically and territorially.

"Failed state," "Somalia in the middle of Europe," — this is how more than once the future of Ukraine has been painted by the Kremlin propaganda experts and regime representatives, who still call for starting an open aggression against Ukraine as soon as possible.

However, perhaps the Kremlin is really retreating, realizing that it will not be able to achieve victory in the east of Ukraine anymore and, most importantly, being scared of European and US sanctions against entire economic sectors, not just against isolated physical and legal persons of Russia.

Such sanctions, which would also be accompanied by European attempts to finally get rid of their energy dependence on Russia, would really be a huge threat to the Russia economy, which is already limping, and to the entire regime of the Kremlin.

The fact that the Kremlin is really afraid of this threat is revealed by its increasing economic flirting with China and by its huge political, lobbying, and propaganda work in the West and the softening tone of the top leaders of the Kremlin towards Ukraine.

In any case, Russia today most likely is merely testing the situation on the western front. One is forced to stress that the Kremlin really has grounds to be optimistic.

After all, for a serious economic war with Russia and its true isolation, which would require a lot of preparation and time, one needs really serious unity and determination by the main Western states — Europe and the United States. For now one does not see that.

The big Western European states continue to drag time above all — on one hand they seem to be threatening to finally use serious measures against Russia, but on the other hand, they do not define clearly when and under what conditions they will do it.

Of course, boosting the military contingent on the eastern NATO borders, including Lithuania, military exercises, promises to defend the eastern NATO states in any case are important, but for now they seem more like for-show and symbolic acts.

Therefore, Western Europe is more inclined to provide economic and political support for Ukraine, but is not ready to take firmer action — serious sanctions against Russia and military assistance for Ukraine — for now.

The same can be said about the behavior of the biggest Western power — the United States.

On one hand, the United States sort of pressures Europe to finally take firmer economic steps against Russia and to be more united, while on the other hand, the United States throws its hands up in the air, saying that everything depends only on Europe and that the United States is not able to do anything alone. Despite the fact that during the trip to Poland US President Barack Obama announced about one billion dollars for boosting the US military contingent in Europe and delivered a fiery speech about the might of the United States and about the weak laggard Russia, many in the West and in the United States were felt disappointed.

Looks like this leader of the United States and his administration do not intend to view the threat posed by Russia against Ukraine and the entire Europe more seriously than how they see it right now and to take on more consistent policy — including military policy — in order to stop this threat.

Therefore, Russia has plenty of time for maneuvers and for further pressure against Ukraine — by pretending it was retreating, Russia once again all of a sudden can change its position.

In any case, the geopolitical, economic, and military fight over the future of Ukraine will be long — not only will it be longer than the celebration period after the oath of the new president, but it will also be longer than his entire term in the President’s Office.

Source: Lietuvos Rytas, Vilnius, in Lithuanian 11 Jun 14


Polish paper praises Obama’s "consistency" against Russia over Ukraine

Text of report by Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on 7 June

[Editorial by Mariusz Zawadzki: "Can We Rely on Obama?"]

You will never again standalone, our alliance is wrought in granite, you are under the protection of the world’s most powerful army – President Obama reassured us.

And quite a few Polish hearts beat with a more secure feeling, but then despite everything, mainly on account of our unfortunate history, doubts presumably arose in quite a few heads. Even if Obama personally instills confidence, he will not after all be President forever, he will occupy the White House for another two and a half years, and more importantly, reports of America’s imminent demise are coming in from all sides.

And there is much truth in them, because the world is indeed changing, becoming multi-polar. Due to our Europe-centric blindness we are not yet noticing it, but after all it is now not just China, which gets talked and written about the most, but also India, Brazil, and other Asian tigers that are developing at an express pace, which is why the hegemony of America, or more broadly the hegemony of Western Europe and America, which has lasted for roughly the last five centuries, is slowly coming to an end.

And of course there is also Russia, with its regrets about its lost empire and dreams of rebuilding it, which are ascribed to Putin the KGB man. But that is just part of the truth. The problem is not just Putin himself, but millions of Russians, most of whom support him. And we have to prepare for seeing Putin remain in office at the Kremlin until 2024, when Obama will be just a discussion point among American historians.

In the opinion of some, the current US President cannot also be relied on, either. He has, after all, already once "sold us to Putin," when he annulled the missile defence project in Poland and the Czech Republic, which was meant to be a gesture of goodwill and confirm the "reset," the new order in relations between Moscow and Washington. The Republicans in the United States have been lamenting for years that Obama is weak and indecisive. And at the same time naive as a child, given that he believed in reconciliation with a KGB man.

In the face of all this, do the strong words that were spoken at Castle Square have any significance?

Most definitely. As for the doubts, let’s consider them in turn.

America’s economic hegemony is indeed entering a downward phase. But on the other hand, its military advantage is currently greater than it ever was. Over the past 20 years the Americans have spent almost the same amount on armaments as the entire rest of the world taken together. These proportions are gradually changing in favour of the rest of the world, but America is still allocates five times more to defence than the second-ranking China, and eight times more than the third-ranking Russia.

Money does not lie. In any conventional, meaning non-nuclear, conflict between states, the Americans’ advantage would be crushing, including against the Russians. And we can safely assume that this will not change in the coming decade, perhaps two.

As far as Putin’s Russia is concerned, the Republican Senator John McCain, for instance, likes to call it a giant gas station pretending to be a superpower. There is a bit of exaggerating in that, but not all that much. The country’s development and its increased national income under Putin’s rule have stemmed mainly from an abrupt increase in energy prices. Oil prices increased sevenfold (if we compare 1999 to now).

Putin himself, although to some extent he does indeed remain mentally in the previous epoch, seems to be rational. He attacks only the weakest targets in his backyard – Georgia in 2008 (where he was, besides, in large part provoked) and in chaos-steeped Ukraine in 2014. He has to date not done anything crazy, only beat the drum of nationalism at relatively cheap cost and created the impression that Russia matters more in the world than it actually does.

Obama did not sell us to Russia, but only abandoned Bush’s missile defence project, the effectiveness of which – as American military officers admit – was doubtful. In exchange he proposed us a different, significantly more sensible version of the shield. Instead of several antimissiles meant to wait in Redzikowo for highly hypothetical Iranian nuclear-armed missiles flying in global orbit towards America, we will have the well-tested Aegis system that will also protect NATO’s European countries.

The "reset" with Russia was not a betrayal of Poland, but a completely sensible attempt at forging good relations with a big country which, as it then happened, could help America on several important issues in the world, including in Afghanistan. Putin did not take advantage of that excellent opportunity for normal relations with the West, but that is not Obama’s fault.

We Poles, or at least the more sensible of us, were supporters of the "reset" and now we can only regret that it did not work out. Because after all we wanted to have good, friendly relations with Russia, but instead we are hearing that the "bandits and provocateurs from the Maidan in Kiev were trained in camps in Poland."

As concerns Obama’s alleged weakness, it is true that he has not unleashed any new war – if we do not count the humanitarian, UN-sanctioned intervention in Libya, where NATO planes rescued revolutionaries from a dictator. But the fact that someone does not want to use force, even though they are the strongest, is more evidence of their sensibility and restraint than weakness.

Obama’s virtues should also be seen as including consistency, which is evident for instance in the dispute with Russia. Although just three months have passed since the annexation of the Crimea and pro-Russian militants are sowing unrest in the east of Ukraine, some of our allies from Western Europe are behaving as if they already wanted to forget about the whole "incident" and revert to calmly doing business with Putin.

Meanwhile Obama announces in Warsaw, to their surprise or dissatisfaction, a billion dollars for strengthening NATO’s eastern flank. One day later he appeals to the French to suspend their sale of aircraft carriers to Russia. And the whole time he warns Moscow that as long as the interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs continues, there will be no return to business as usual.

If the next US Presidents are just as sensible and we Europeans know how to keep them convinced that NATO is important and necessary, Poland will ensure itself security for at least another generation, until such time as our children grow up. And they, we should hope, will build a new, better, post-American and post-Putin world.

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza, Warsaw, in Polish 7 Jun 14 p 2



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