Russian-Ukrainian Gas Deal is a Trilateral Victory

Vladimir Putin Emmanuel Macron Angela Merkel Volodymyr Zelensky
Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Volodymyr Zelensky, the leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine, attend a summit in Paris, December 9, 2019 (Bundesregierung)

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to secure the flow of natural gas into Europe for the next five years. A deal between the two countries satisfies the economic needs of all three parties involved. Russia guarantees the export of its gas, Ukraine continues to benefit financially from transiting the gas, and the EU receives a steady supply of gas for the immediate future.

Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, will pipe 65 billion cubic metres of gas into Europe in 2020. The amount will fall to 40 billion over the next four years. The agreement mentions the possibility of extending the contract by another ten years upon maturity.

Ukraine will receive up to $7 billion in transit fees, which would be around 5 percent of its national budget.

An agreement has not (yet) been reached on direct gas supplies to Ukraine. For the time being, it only stands to benefit financially.

Naftogaz, the Ukrainian gas company, will also receive $2.9 billion from Gazprom in overdue transit payments following an arbitration court ruling in Sweden. In return, Ukraine has agreed to drop $12.2 billion in additional legal claims. Read more “Russian-Ukrainian Gas Deal is a Trilateral Victory”

Breakthrough Unlikely at Normandy Four Meeting

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017 (Elysée)

For the first time in three years, the “Normandy Four” are due to meet in Paris on Monday.

This negotiation format, consisting of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, brought about the Minsk I and Minsk II ceasefire agreements in 2014 and 2015. Even though their implementation was incomplete, the Normandy Four was still seen as a somewhat successful example of multilateral cooperation.

Its usefulness may have expired. Experts doubt the upcoming meeting will accomplish much for the simple reason that neither Russia nor Ukraine is ready to capitulate. Read more “Breakthrough Unlikely at Normandy Four Meeting”

Three Challenges for Ukraine’s Sitcom President

Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky (Official Website)

In Ukraine, a sitcom is turning into reality as Volodymyr Zelensky becomes the sixth president in the country’s post-Soviet history.

Before running in this year’s election, Zelensky starred in the political comedy Servant of the People, where he portrayed an ordinary teacher who had become president of Ukraine. His character’s attempts to fix the country run into strong opposition from corrupt oligarchs.

As president, Zelensky’s challenge will be much the same: defeating the oligarchs who have so far blocked reform in addition to managing Ukraine’s relations with Russia and building a political support base of his own. Read more “Three Challenges for Ukraine’s Sitcom President”

Fetishizing Victimhood: From Poland to America

Jarosław Kaczyński, Beata Szydło and Mateusz Morawiecki, the leaders of Poland's Law and Justice party, attend a memorial in Kraków, April 18
Jarosław Kaczyński, Beata Szydło and Mateusz Morawiecki, the leaders of Poland’s Law and Justice party, attend a memorial in Kraków, April 18 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling nationalist party has coined the awkward term “Polocaust” to describe the country’s suffering in World War II. At least one minister wants to dedicate a separate museum to the 1.9 million non-Jewish Poles who lost their lives in the conflict.

This comes after the government criminalized blaming Poles for the Holocaust and referenced its 123 years of partition by Austria, Germany and Russia when called out by the EU for illiberal judicial reforms.

Poland, according to the Law and Justice party, has only ever been a victim — until it came to power and restored Polish pride.

It is no coincidence that Law and Justice is popular in the eastern and more rural half of the country, where people have long felt marginalized by the Western-oriented liberal elite.

Nor is the party’s victim-mongering unique. Read more “Fetishizing Victimhood: From Poland to America”

Why the West Is Willing to Overlook Corruption in Ukraine

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and European Council president Donald Tusk shake hands after delivering a news conference in Brussels, February 12, 2015
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and European Council president Donald Tusk shake hands after delivering a news conference in Brussels, February 12, 2015 (European Council)

After the bungled arrest of Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia and governor of Odessa, Leonid Bershidsky argues it is clear the West has backed the wrong man in Ukraine.

Saakashvili enjoys little popular support but had been trying to reinvent himself as an opposition leader by campaigning against corruption in President Petro Poroshenko’s government.

Protesters freed Saakashvili from a police van on Tuesday after he had been dragged from his apartment in Kiev by security forces. Read more “Why the West Is Willing to Overlook Corruption in Ukraine”

Ukraine Might Be Better Off If “Little Russia” Did Secede

Military vehicles of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic are seen in eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015
Military vehicles of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic are seen in eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov)

Separatists in the southeast of Ukraine have declared a new country: “Little Russia”.

The announcement by Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, amounts to little, argues Gwendolyn Sasse of Carnegie Europe.

She points out that leaders in Luhansk, Ukraine’s other breakaway region, have distanced themselves from it. Russia, which otherwise backs the Donbas uprising, hasn’t voiced support either. And the local population doesn’t want independence. A survey conducted earlier this year found a majority in favor of remaining in Ukraine. Only a third want to join Russia.

Yet it might be better for Ukraine if the region does secede. Read more “Ukraine Might Be Better Off If “Little Russia” Did Secede”

Rutte Persuades EU Leaders to Rule Out Membership for Ukraine

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives in Brussels for a meeting with other European leaders, February 12, 2015
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives in Brussels for a meeting with other European leaders, February 12, 2015 (European Council)

Other European leaders budged to pressure from the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte on Thursday to explicitly rule out future EU membership for Ukraine.

Rutte hopes the concession, together with assurances from the EU that is not committed to Ukraine’s defense, will be enough to persuade lawmakers at home to save an economic and security pact that Dutch voters rejected in a referendum in April. Read more “Rutte Persuades EU Leaders to Rule Out Membership for Ukraine”

Rutte In Bind as Parties Balk at Endorsing Treaty Fudge

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte meets with other European leaders in Brussels, March 16
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte meets with other European leaders in Brussels, March 16 (European Council)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte failed to convince other parties on Friday to support his attempts to amend the Netherlands’ ratification of a European association agreement with Ukraine, despite warning that withdrawing from the accord could trigger instability on Europe’s eastern border.

“This is bigger than the Netherlands alone,” Rutte said at a news conference.

The leaders of the Christian Democrats, liberal Democrats and Green Party were not impressed. Read more “Rutte In Bind as Parties Balk at Endorsing Treaty Fudge”

How Culture Keeps the Russians and Ukrainians Steps Away from War

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin lights a candle during a visit to the Saint Sergius of Radonezh Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo, December 8, 2014 (Kremlin)

The Ukrainian civil war has been easy enough to fall off the world radar; with headline-grabbing terrorism striking the heart of Europe, Donald Trump running his irrational mouth and the EU rendering itself asunder, the conflict in Donbas, the eastern province now split away from Kiev’s central control, seems like a whisper of a war we’d all forgotten about.

Now reports are abounding that Moscow is deploying large and powerful military units both within Donbas and in annexed Crimea. It all began with accusations that Ukrainian special forces had slipped into Crimea to bomb a highway full of officials. True or not, it resulted in a deployment of tanks and artillery on both sides of the de facto border. Worry emerged that both sides might begin blowing one another up.

While the Russians don’t seem keen on an all-out battle, and neither do the Ukrainians, the whole mess bears examination. There are essential truths to learn, both for Russia and Ukraine and the wider world. Read more “How Culture Keeps the Russians and Ukrainians Steps Away from War”

Ukraine Would Be Better Off Cutting the Donbas Loose

Ukrainian armored personnel carrier
An armored personnel carrier takes part in a military exercise in Yavoriv, Ukraine, October 21, 2014 (Arseniy Yatseniuk)

We haven’t heard much from the Donbas recently, but the two separatist republics there are still slowly being annexed by Russia. It may ultimately be for the best for the rest of Ukraine.

Alexander J. Motyl, a Ukraine scholar, reports for World Affairs Journal that the Donetsk People’s Republic alone now spends more on propaganda than Ukraine’s Ministry of Information Policy. Its newspapers, radio and television stations constantly denounce the Kiev “junta” and the “fascists” who have supposedly taken over since the more pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted in a pro-European coup in 2014. Local museums are devoted to exposing the “atrocities” committed by the Ukrainian army.

In the Luhansk People’s Republic, a children’s magazine recently featured a story about an evil Fasciston (Washington) being defeated by a valiant Vladimir Putin-like Papa.

Economically, the two self-declared republics are drawing closer to Russia as well. They use the ruble as currency. Residents can apply for Russian passports. The Russian Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs control the territories’ soldiers and security forces. Finance, infrastructure and transportation are all run through an interdepartmental commission in Moscow supervised by Putin’s advisor, Vladislav Surkov. Read more “Ukraine Would Be Better Off Cutting the Donbas Loose”