Archive for November, 2013


November 28, 2013

Interfax-Ukraine on November 27, 2013, reported that Member of European Parliament’s mission and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski (L) has said that European Union didn’t take into consideration the Russian factor in the negotiations with Ukraine concerning Association Agreement. Excerpts below:

In an interview with Polish television’s TVN24, Kwasniewski said that EU ignored something that had been evident for many years.

“For Putin, for Russia, it is absolutely principal to use all methods to keep Kyiv, because Ukraine is necessary as a component of the Customs Union and Eurasian Union, which is the Putin’s goal,” Kwasniewski said.

According to him, Europeans “for a very long time lived believing that Ukrainians’ aspirations are so strong that there was no other possible option,” the politician added.

The ex-Polish president said that for EU it was a mistake to one-sidedly concentrate on the release of Yulia Tymoshenko.

However, the official said that “EU hasn’t given up in the case of Ukraine and is looking for an extra plan.

“I’m warning against abandoning the whole case…It would be wise of the EU to analyze the situation now and find tools that could persuade the Ukrainians,” he said.

He spoke of the importance of returning to negotiations with Ukraine and to deciding what the EU could offer Ukraine.

According to Kwasniewski, money for Ukraine worth “over 10, maybe, 20 billion euros is acceptable for the EU, which granted much more to Greece – hundreds of billions euros.”


November 27, 2013

Newsmax on November 25, 2013, reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham said that the agreement reached between Iran and world powers is a “huge lost opportunity” that will leave the Islamic Republic “on the verge of a breakout” in producing nuclear weapons. Excerpts below:

The South Carolina Republican also predicts the deal agreed to by the Obama administration — loosening sanctions on Iran — is not going to “go over well” with Congress.

Graham was first elected to the Senate in 2002 after four terms in the House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 2008 with 58 percent of the vote. He is a member of the Appropriations, Armed Services, Judiciary, and Budget committees.

“The sanctions really were inviting the regime to want to negotiate because of the proven effect that the sanctions had, and at the end of the day, their nuclear capability is pretty much intact. They have 18,000 centrifuges. They have a very sophisticated enrichment program. Not one centrifuge was dismantled. They got $7 billion in cash. All in all, not a very good deal [for the U.S.].”

Secretary of State John Kerry says the deal with allow inspectors to visit Iran’s nuclear facilities on a daily basis, but Graham is skeptical.

“All I can say is that’s exactly what they did in North Korea,” he says. “They negotiated with North Korea, they applied sanctions, they gave relief to the sanctions, they put international monitors into the North Korean facilities, and look what happened.

“I don’t believe that U.N. inspectors are going to provide a safeguard to Israel or the United States or the world at large.

“So having inspectors in these facilities is exactly what we did with North Korea. Did they have the capability to develop a nuclear weapon? The answer is yes.”

Graham predicts that if Iran does not comply with the terms of the initial six-month agreement, “Congress will pass an additional round of sanctions. The only way you’re going to get this right is for the Iranians to believe that military force is on the table to stop their nuclear program, or continued sanctions.

“I want to dismantle the plutonium-producing reactor. If it’s not operational yet, I don’t want to freeze it in place, I want to dismantle it. I want to dismantle the centrifuges so they can’t enrich uranium. But what’s next will be a round of sanctions passed by the Congress that will tie relief to the end game.

“The end game should be four things: Iran cannot enrich uranium at all; all of their highly enriched uranium should be turned over to the international community; dismantle the plutonium reactor; and if you want a commercial, peaceful nuclear power plant in Iran, let the international community control the fuel cycle. Fifteen countries have nuclear plants that do not enrich uranium.

“The Israelis are going to be looking at the endgame.”

Iran needs to understand that after “30 years of mayhem, murder, and chaos pushed by the regime, we’re not going to allow you to enrich, and we’re going to dismantle the plutonium reactor. That should be the demands of international community. That’s exactly what the U.N. resolutions say. So this interim deal doesn’t take us very far along the road to a final deal.

“The Iranians are saying this agreement allows them to enrich. I just don’t think that’s going to go over well with Congress.

“Ten years ago, the Iranians had about 200 centrifuges. When Obama took power in 2009, they had about 2,000. They have 18,000 today. In 2009, they had about 2,000 kilograms of enriched uranium, enough to make one bomb. They’ve got a lot more than that now.

“This interim deal does not dismantle any of the aspects of this program. They’re on the verge of a breakout when it comes to producing a nuclear weapon.

“I just don’t see how this movie ends much differently than in North Korea. The big difference is Israel. Israel is not going to allow this program to have the capability, at the end of the day, to develop a weapon. Israel is not going to bet her future on a bunch of U.N. inspectors.

“It’s a huge lost opportunity. The Iranians really were on the ropes.

“What I fear the most is that the international community will fracture. Now that you’re doing business with Iran, it may be hard to hold the sanctions in place in the future. The Iranians may have successfully divided the United States from Europe, and that would be the worst of all outcomes.”


November 26, 2013

Fox News on November 25, 2013, comments by Charles Krauthammer on the new nuclear deal with Iran. Excerpts below:

It is a “sham from beginning to end” that undermines the idea of non-proliferation and relaxes sanctions without any return payoff, Charles Krauthammer warned .

“I just heard the secretary of state say we’re going to get a destruction of the twenty percent of uranium,” he said. “That is simply untrue. What’s going to happen is the twenty percent of enrichment uranium is going to be turned into an oxide so it’s inoperative — that process is completely chemically reversible.

“Which means, Iran holds onto its twenty percent uranium and can turn it into active stuff anytime it wants.”

Krauthammer added that “once a country anywhere can start to enrich there’s no containing its nuclear capacity.”

Krauthammer warned, “This is a sham from beginning to end. It’s the worst deal.”

Comment: It should be remembered that in Islamic societies, social and political relations have been marked by intrigue, deception, and internal conflicts. All agreements with islamist regimes must be seen in the light of these traditions.


November 25, 2013

Radio Free Europe on November 21, 2013, published a report on Ukraine and EU. It’s been nearly a century since Ukraine’s last effort to decisively embed itself in the West ended up instead with the country being subsumed by Moscow. Excerpts below:

Is that history now repeating itself?

Sparking shouts of “shame” from opposition lawmakers, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on November 21 failed to pass legislation that would have facilitated the release of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a key condition for Ukraine’s integration with the European Union.

Shortly after the vote, Ukraine’s government also announced it was suspending preparations to sign an association agreement and free-trade pact with the EU.

Ukraine’s stalled drive to the West has evoked memories of the country’s brief period of independence from 1918-21, when Kyiv appeared poised to shed centuries of Russian domination.

In the final stages of World War I, the Russian Empire collapsed, spinning off captive nations including the Baltic states, Poland, Finland, Belarus, and Ukraine.

For Poland and Finland, it was the dawn of their modern independence.

But for Ukraine, it was the beginning of a desperate and ill-fated effort to establish itself for the first time as a sovereign, modern state.

And it had to do so under the harshest conditions — as World War I in that region merged seamlessly into the Russian Civil War, the Polish-Soviet War, and scattered partisan fighting. The nascent country had ill-defined borders, divided internal loyalties, no historical allies, and no diplomatic traditions.

Professor Ostap Sereda describes it as triangle of geopolitical and national interests.

“There were two parallel processes [going on in Ukraine] of separating from the Russian cultural sphere and separating from the Polish cultural sphere. Both processes took place in the context of the Polish-Russian contest over the territories that used to belong to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and then were incorporated into the Russian Empire or into the Austrian Empire,” Sereda said.

Klaus Richter, a historian at the University of Birmingham, says “for Russia, letting go of Ukraine was much more difficult than letting go of the Baltics, although the Baltics were also important because they had the Baltic Sea ports, and they were economically very important.”

Pro-Kremlin Russian ideologist and former Duma Deputy Sergei Markov wrote in “The Moscow Times” this month that those who are pushing Kyiv to sign the Association Agreement “are hoping to torpedo any chance of Ukrainian-Russian unity as a means of preventing Russia from ever restoring its superpower status.”

On February 9, 1918, in the city of Brest-Litovsk, now in Belarus, a delegation from the fledgling Ukrainian National Republic met with representatives of the Central Powers — particularly, Germany and Austria-Hungary — to sign a treaty to end part of the hostilities of World War I.

German Foreign Minister Richard Kuhlman opened the meeting by praising Ukraine, “a young and promising state that grew out of the storm of war.” The head of Ukraine’s delegation, Oleksandr Sevriuk, said the agreement would enable his country “to rise to a new life…and as an independent state to enter into international relations.”

The signing of the treaty itself was something of a triumph for Ukraine. Soviet Russia tried hard to prevent the Ukrainian delegation from being recognized, arguing that Russia represented the entire region. When Germany signed a treaty with Soviet Russia a few weeks later, Moscow was forced to acknowledge Ukraine’s independence.

In retrospect, however, the treaty signing was the beginning of the end of the short-lived independent Ukrainian state. Even as it was being signed, pro-Bolshevik forces were at the gates of Kyiv. Desperate Ukraine quickly signed an additional agreement under which Germany agreed to provide military aid in exchange for Ukrainian grain.

That agreement proved disastrous when Germany and its allies were defeated in the war in November 1918 and representatives of the victorious Entente, or Allies, who were victorious in World War I gathered outside Paris to negotiate a postwar world order, historian Richter says.

He adds that the embattled and land-locked Ukrainian government was unable to send a proper delegation to Versailles to press its case for self-determination with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the other Entente leaders.

The fate of independent Ukraine was sealed in March 1921 when Poland and Soviet Russia signed the Treaty of Riga, ending the Polish-Soviet War. The treaty partitioned Ukraine between the two countries.

Richter says that many independence-minded Ukrainians felt betrayed by the West — and particularly by neighboring Poland. “[Ukraine] fought in the Polish-Soviet War on the Polish side, and the idea behind that was that in any Polish-Soviet postwar settlement, Ukraine would emerge as an independent state. But this was not so,” Richter says.

By 1922, Ukraine had been fully incorporated into the newly formed Soviet Union, and its aspirations for independence were to be subject to repression for decades to come. As Soviet dictator Josef Stalin said, Ukraine was “the weak link of Soviet power.”

Nearly a century later, Ukraine finds itself again positioned between a resurgent Russia and Poland, which has spearheaded the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative.

With all eyes on Kyiv and whether it would clear obstacles to signing a long-negotiated Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius later this month or align itself with Russia’s nascent Eurasian Union project, a Ukrainian government decree on November 21 said the EU process was halted in order to fully analyze the impact of such an agreement on industrial production and trade with Russia.

So Ukraine has put off its EU accord for a year or more. The next Eastern Partnership summit is set for Riga in 2015. As Mark Twain quipped, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”


November 24, 2013

The Washington Times on November 23, 2013, published an AP report on the Chinese Defense Ministry issuing a map of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone that includes a chain of disputed islands also claimed by Japan, triggering a protest from Tokyo. Excerpts below:

Beijing also issued a set of rules for the zone, saying all aircraft must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing. It said it would “identify, monitor, control and react” to any air threats or unidentified flying objects coming from the sea. Excerpts below:

In Tokyo, Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, protested by phone to China’s acting ambassador to Japan, Han Zhiqiang, saying the zone is “totally unacceptable,” according to a ministry statement.

Ihara also criticized China for “one-sidedly” setting up the zone and escalating bilateral tensions over the islands.

Both Beijing and Tokyo claim the islets, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu in Chinese. Protests erupted throughout China last year to denounce the Japanese government’s purchase of the islands from private ownership.

A rising economic and military power, China has become more assertive over its maritime claims. It has been in disputes with several neighboring countries over islands in the East and South China seas.

“China is playing a dangerous game here,” said Narushige Michishita, director of the security and international studies program at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. “It is certainly an escalatory action and might prolong and exacerbate the ongoing tension.”

South Korea and Taiwan also claim the barren, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.


November 23, 2013

Washington Times on November 22, 2013, reported on future laser armed fighter jets in the USAF. Mark it on your calendars: The U.S. Air Force aims to have laser-based fighter jets by 2030. Excerpts below:

A recently published RFI (Request for Information), has revealed that the Air Force Research Laboratory is eager to make such weapons a reality for next-generation jets, The Aviationist reported.

“Three new laser devices are to be created: small power marking laser, that would act as a marker and as a blinding weapon against the optical sensors of the enemy planes; medium power laser that is to be used against air-2-air missiles; and a high power device to act as an offensive weapon,” according to the Aviationist.

The 2030 timeline for the fighter jets dictates, to some extent, other progress markers. The date that weapon elements are slated to be ready for laboratory testing is October, 2014.

The U.S. Air Force already has similar weapons — most notably the Airborne Laser System used on 747s — but future developments would allow the lasers to be more versatile.


November 22, 2013

Ukrainian News Agency on November 19, 2013, reported that Germany has called on the European Union to provide support to Ukraine and other member countries of the Eastern Partnership initiative (Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus) if Russia exerts pressure on them because of the signing or initialing of agreements on association with the European Union, the press service of the Federal Government of Germany said. Excerpts below:

“We have seen some pressure [from Russia] on them (member countries of the Eastern Partnership) in recent months, in Vilnius I will call on the EU to oppose such pressure with concrete measures, particularly by creating additional opportunities for sale of products that, for example, are not allowed into Russia or by providing assistance in the area of energy supply,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an address to the German Bundestag on November 18.

Merkel added that she discussed the unacceptability of such pressure with Russian President Vladimir Putin and stressed that there must be respect for the rights of countries to freely choose their paths of development.

At the same time, Merkel stressed the need for Ukraine to meet the requirements of the European Union,…

Merkel stressed that the European Union expects Ukraine to take real steps to fulfill the conditions for signing the Association Agreement.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, United States Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt has said that Russian pressure on Ukraine’s foreign-policy direction is a violation of Russia’s obligations to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the World Trade Organization.

(Comment: on November 21, 2013, Russian pressures were the cause of stopping Ukraine’s preparations to sign the Association Agreement, a deplorable setback for the efforts of the European Union in its Eastern Partnership program. It is a great geopolitical setback for the West.)


November 21, 2013

Ukrinform on November 19, 2013, reported that the U.S. Senate calls on the Ukrainian authorities to release former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and the EU members to include Tymoshenko’s release as an important criterion for signing an Association Agreement. Excerpts below:

This has been said in a Senate Resolution No. 165 calling for the release from prison of former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko in light of the recent European Court of Human Rights ruling. The document was authored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dick Durbin, and adopted on Monday, November 18, according to the Voice of America.

“The Senate … calls on the Government of Ukraine to release former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from imprisonment in light of the April 23 European Court of Human Rights verdict; … calls on the European Union members to include the release of Ms. Tymoshenko as an important criterion for signing an Association Agreement with Ukraine at the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Lithuania,” the document reads.

Also, the Senate expressed its believe and hope that Ukraine’s future rests with stronger ties to Europe, the United States, and others in the community of democracies.

However, the senators voiced their concern and disappointment that “the continued selective and politically motivated imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko unnecessarily detracts from Ukraine’s otherwise strong relationship with Europe, the United States, and the community of democracies”.

The U.S Senate Committee on Foreign Relations adopted the Resolution at the end of June.


November 20, 2013

NED on November 18 reported that thirty years ago in 1983 it was established as a private, nonprofit, bipartisan foundation with the single mission of advancing democracy abroad. Excerpts below:

Today, NED and the four institutes affiliated with it since its inception – the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Solidarity Center, and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) – can look back on a record of extraordinary achievement abroad, having provided technical, material, and moral support to thousands of “small d” democrats throughout the world. On November 13, 2013, NED marked its 30th anniversary with a special event at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. featuring Congressional leaders who reaffirmed the enduring bipartisan commitment of the U.S. Congress to the work of the Endowment. Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi made opening remarks to a standing room only audience in the Archives’ 300-seat McGowan Theater.

After covering topics ranging from the impact of social media to the backlash against civil society in many countries, three young activists from Tibet, Belarus, and North Korea were able to ask questions of the panel.

The Endowment is incredibly grateful for the steadfast support of the Congress and of each Administration of the past 30 years who have entrusted NED with this important work. We also thank our grantees abroad – who have made us trusted partners in their struggle to secure the rights, freedoms, and democratic institutions we are so lucky to enjoy.


November 19, 2013

Wall Street Journal on November 14, 2013, published an article on the future EU-Ukraine association agreement. Two weeks before a summit that European leaders hope will bolster trade and political ties with their eastern neighbors, the crown jewel of the initiative—an agreement that would lock Ukraine into a European path—is still up in the air. Excerpts below:

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s failure to release a political rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison for medical care, coupled with Russia’s intensifying economic pressure on Ukraine, has thrown the pact into doubt.

For Europe, that would be more than an embarrassment. Ukraine’s alignment has far-reaching strategic significance, as Russia seeks to curtail European inroads and rebuild its influence in former Soviet territories.

Failure to win over Ukraine after four years of trying would be a signal political failure for the 28-nation bloc and one of the clearest signs yet of the EU’s diminished diplomatic heft even in its own backyard.

Ukraine’s hesitation in freeing Ms. Tymoshenko—a condition set by Germany and other EU countries—follows a surprise decision by Armenia in September to join a Russian-led Customs Union rather than sign an “association agreement” with the EU. The move jolted Europeans, who had spent three years negotiating with Armenia.

The Ukraine deal could still materialize, but it would require extraordinary diplomatic maneuvering. Ukraine’s parliament would need to pass a law next week allowing prisoners like Ms. Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad, or the president could pardon her.

Ms. Tymoshenko, who complains of chronic back pain, is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office following a trial that Western leaders consider rigged.

European officials have not given up hope. At a meeting in Brussels on November 14, no country called on the EU to shut down the talks and walk away, but there was also no support for signing up to an agreement without a solution for Ms. Tymoshenko, a senior diplomat said.

One thing must happen before the Vilnius summit on Nov 28-29, the diplomat said. “Physically, Yulia Tymoshenko has to be out of the country to put the EU in a position where a positive decision can be made.”

The EU’s effort to sign a deal cementing its economic and political ties to Ukraine is part of a broader initiative to bolster relations with six nations on Europe’s eastern border, an effort that so far has yielded mixed results.

Of these countries, Belarus is firmly in the Russian orbit and Armenia looks set to join it. Azerbaijan is discussing an association agreement with the EU, but it seems far off.

EU approaches to Georgia and Moldova are faring better. Both are expected to “initial” association deals at the summit in Vilnius later this month, an interim step before signing.

Ukraine is the centerpiece of this eastern campaign. The latest report by the EU envoys on the Tymoshenko case, Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski, brims with exasperation, especially regarding Mr. Yanukovych.

Mr. Cox, a former president of the European Parliament, and Mr. Kwasniewski, a former Polish president, have made 26 trips to Ukraine since their appointment on June 2012, and until now their language had been restrained.

Their report on November 13 warns bluntly that “time is running out” and cites the risk of a “stalemate and a nonproductive blame game.” It notes a “chronic lack of mutual trust and confidence” between Ukraine’s government and opposition.

Still, Messrs. Cox and Kwasniewski say the chief obstacle to a deal is political will, and they suggest it is primarily Mr. Yanukovych who must muster it. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted: “Abundantly clear that everything concerning Ukraine’s direction is in the hands of President Yanukovych.”

It is possible that this back-and-forth means only that Mr. Yanukovych is seeking the best possible terms, but if so, European leaders warn that there is a danger of miscalculation. If a deal isn’t signed this month, they say, it could be at least two years before another opportunity arises, due to upcoming elections.