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Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko sidelined as Tymoshenko reportedly flies to Washington

As Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council makes key decisions, Poroshenko’s long-term rival Yulia Tymoshenko reportedly flies to Washington for secret talks.

Alexander Mercouris

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Though the decisions taken by Ukraine today – to legalise the radicals’ blockade of Donbass and to prepare action against Russian banks – are in themselves unsurprising, one interesting fact about them is the way they were announced.

Neither decision was announced by President Poroshenko, who is the country’s head of state and the head of its executive branch.  Nor was either decision announced by the government headed by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who is a longterm ally of Poroshenko’s.  As it happens both Poroshenko and Groysman have been remarkably reticent about the coal blockade ever since it began.

The decision to legalise the blockade of Donbass was announced by Alexander Turchinov (pictured), who is the head of Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council, and who is a significant figure in Ukrainian politics in his own right, whilst the request to Ukraine’s Central Bank to propose sanctions on Russian banks operating on Ukrainian territory was also made by Turchinov on behalf of Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council, which he heads.

It may be that Ukraine’s legal and constitutional system makes Ukraine’s National and Defence Council the appropriate body to make these sort of decisions, though Ukraine’s chaotic legal and administrative structure and the notorious indifference of Ukrainian leaders to legal and administrative rules makes that a less than convincing argument to make.

However even if that were the case a statement from Poroshenko – the country’s leader and the nation’s President – explaining to the Ukrainian people the reasons for these important decisions and justifying the hardship they will cause, whilst making it clear that the decisions originate with him and that they have his full support, is the least one would expect in the circumstances.

Indeed the correct thing would surely be for the actual announcement of these decisions to have been made by Poroshenko himself, at the very least through the publication of a public statement issued in his name, or (much better) by way of a televised address to the Ukrainian nation.

Instead the nearest thing there has been to an announcement by Poroshenko is an elliptical comment he is reported to have made in a meeting with a senior EU official, an account of which was carried yesterday by his website.

After the seizure of these enterprises we cannot have any trade relations with these “confiscated” enterprises. We will not allow any of their activities. And we ask for support of these decisions, inter alia, through the enhancement of the EU sanctions against Russia, which allowed this brutal violation of international law.

This falls far short of an announcement of a total blockade of the territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.  On the contrary it appears to say that Ukraine will only cease to trade with the former Ukrainian enterprises the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics recently nationalised in retaliation for the coal blockade.  As such Poroshenko’s words if anything appear to rule out the idea of a total blockade.  Certainly they provide no hint of the radical announcements made today.

It could be that Poroshenko did not make the announcement today because he is embarrassed by the weakness on his part that it shows, and because his own website shows that he was giving assurances only yesterday to an EU official that Ukraine was about to do something totally different.

If so then that reminds me of the way Ukraine’s previous President, Viktor Yanukovych, failed to announce his decision to delay implementation of Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU, leaving the announcement to his Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov.  At the time I thought this was a act of extraordinary weakness on Yanukovych’s part, and in fact it set the pattern for his pusillanimous behaviour during the subsequent Maidan protests, which eventually caused his overthrow.  If Poroshenko is now behaving in the same way, then it speaks extraordinarily poorly both of him and of his prospects as Ukraine’s President.

However there has also to be the further possibility that the reason Poroshenko did not announce the decisions today is because ultimately he didn’t make them.  Indeed his comments to the EU official might even suggest he was resisting the idea of a total blockade as recently as yesterday, possibly because of EU pressure.

If so then Turchinov’s announcements today suggest that Poroshenko has been shunted aside, and that key decisions such as the decision to legalise the blockade of the Donbass are now being made without him.

In that case then that would suggest that Poroshenko’s authority as Ukraine’s President is seeping away, and that he is no longer fully in control, just as the Russian military move on Pristina in June 1999  during the Kosovo conflict, made without any order from Boris Yeltsin, was a clear sign that his authority as Russia’s President was seeping away.

This comes a few days after reports appeared in the Russian media claiming that Yulia Tymoshenko, Poroshenko’s long time enemy and bitter political rival, is making another visit – this time in secret – to Washington where early in February she had a brief meeting with Donald Trump, which looked to me like a case of Trump sizing up his options, and considering her as a possible alternative to Poroshenko.  Suffice to say that I do not think it was a coincidence that on returning to Ukraine Tymoshenko immediately sought to oust Ukraine’s government by proposing a vote of no confidence in Ukraine’s parliament, a move which by using procedural devices the government however managed to block.

Anatoly Karlin has recently suggested in a highly insightful article for The Duran that the coal blockade is actually the product of a power play by an anti-Poroshenko faction within Ukraine’s elite led by the oligarch Igor Kolomoysky and Yulia Tymoshenko.

Turchinov, the head of Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council, who made the announcements today, is a longstanding political ally of Tymoshenko’s, though the two appeared to fall out in September 2014 when Turchinov joined the newly emerging party of the then Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Turchinov and Poroshenko have however never been close, and it could be that since Yatsenyuk’s removal from the Ukrainian political scene following his forced resignation as Prime Minister in April 2016, that Turchinov has returned to his old loyalty to Tymoshenko.

If so then the announcements Turchinov made today may be a sign that in the conflict between Poroshenko and the faction led by Kolomoysky and Tymoshenko, Turchinov is siding with the latter, and is once more working on Tymoshenko’s behalf, and that it is her faction and Kolomoysky’s which in the factional infighting is gaining the ascendancy.

In that case Poroshenko’s forced resignation or removal from office could be on the cards, though given the volatile nature of Ukrainian politics nothing can ever be taken as certain.  There is in fact once again talk of new elections in Ukraine, which if Poroshenko is removed from the scene Tymoshenko would be expected to win.  In that case Tymoshenko’s hurried visit to Washington could be intended to harden up whatever promises of support she might have thought she had been given by Trump and his team at the time of her earlier visit in February.

Regardless of what precise direction the factional infighting in Ukraine is taking, the political situation in Ukraine is again looking increasingly unstable.  It is difficult to avoid the impression that Poroshenko is becoming weaker and is starting to lose control, with institutions like Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council – which ultimately controls Ukraine’s security forces – increasingly acting on their own and without reference to him.  If so then Tymoshenko’s visit to Washington could be a sign that his enemies are circling, perhaps preparing for the kill.

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John Bolton discusses US reasons for INF withdrawal

Despite fears about the US withdrawing from the INF, John Bolton suggests that this is to make way for a more relevant multilateral treaty.

Seraphim Hanisch

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John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump, is in Moscow this week. The main topic of concern to many Russians was the stated intention by President Trump to withdraw the US from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (or INF) Treaty with Russia. With the current record of American hostile and unprovoked actions taken against the Russian Federation over the last two years especially, this move caused a good deal of alarm in Russia.

Bolton had meetings with several leaders in the Russian government, including Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, and President Vladimir Putin, himself.

Kommersant.ru interviewed Mr. Bolton extensively after some of his meetings had concluded, and asked him about this situation. The interviewer, Elena Chernenko, was very direct in her questioning, and Mr. Bolton was very direct in his answers. What follows is the translation of some of her pertinent questions and Mr. Bolton’s answers:

Elena Chernenko (EC): How did your negotiations with Nikolai Patrushev go? Is it true that you came to Moscow primarily to terminate the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF)?

John Bolton (JB): (Laughs.) Today was my second meeting with Nikolai Patrushev and the staff of the Russian Security Council. The first time I met them was before the summit in Helsinki. I came to prepare the ground for a meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin. Patrushev at the time was understood to be in South Africa. So I met with his deputy [Yuri Averyanov – Kommersant] and other colleagues. Patrushev and I first met in Geneva in August.

In any case, this is the second meeting after Helsinki, and it was scheduled about six weeks ago. Now was simply the right time to meet. We arrived with a broad agenda. Many issues – for example, arms control and all related topics – were discussed in Geneva in August. We discussed them then and planned to do it again in Moscow. And we had these plans before the President’s Saturday statement [on the US intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty. “Kommersant”].

EC: Can you explain [this decision] to us? What are the reasons for this decision?

JB: Five or even more years ago, during the presidency of Barack Obama, the United States concluded that Russia committed substantial violations of the INF Treaty; [that Russia] was involved in the production and deployment of missiles that do not comply with the terms of the agreement. The Obama administration called on Russia to return to fulfilling its obligations. The Trump administration called for the same. But based on Russian statements, it became clear that they [the authorities of the Russian Federation— Kommersant] do not at all believe that any kind of violation occurred. And today, during the talks, my Russian interlocutors very clearly expressed their position – that it is not Russia that is in violation of the INF Treaty, but the United States.

However, rather than devolve the negotiations into a tit-for-tat issue, Mr. Bolton noted the real nature of the problem. He understood that simply asking for Russia to resume compliance with the treaty would not be enough – in fact, for Bolton, and really, for President Trump, whom he represents in this matter – the issue is not just an argument between the US and Russia at all. He continued:

JB: Now, some say: “This is just a negotiating move by President Trump, and if we could force Russia to return to the fulfillment of obligations, the treaty would be saved.” But this is impossible from the point of view of logic.

This is the reality we face. As the president said, Russia is doing what we think is considered a violation of the agreement, and we will not tolerate it without being able to respond. We do not think that withdrawal from the agreement is what creates the problem. We think that what Russia is doing in violation of the INF Treaty is the problem.

There is a second point: No one except us in the world is bound by this treaty. Although this is technically incorrect: lawyers will tell you that the former USSR countries (with the exception of the three Baltic republics, which the US never recognized as part of the USSR), were also bound by the treaty when the USSR collapsed. But the remaining 11 countries do not have any ballistic missiles. That is, only two countries in the world are bound by the INF Treaty. One of these countries violates the agreement. Thus, there is only one country in the world bound by the terms of the document – the USA. And this is unacceptable.

At the same time, we see that China, Iran, the DPRK – they all strengthen their potential with methods that would violate the INF Treaty, if these countries were its signatories. Fifteen years ago, it was possible that the agreement could be extended and made multilateral. But today it is already impracticable in practice. And the threat from China is real – you can ask countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan or Australia what they think about the Chinese [missile. – Kommersant] potential. They are nervous about this. Many in Europe and the Middle East are nervous about Iran’s potential.

As the President explained on Saturday, this puts the United States in an unacceptable position. And that is why he promulgated the decision [to withdraw from the INF Treaty. – Kommersant].

So, here, the President’s point of view is that the treaty as it presently stands has two problems: Russia is in violation (and a very good point was conceded by Bolton of how the American side also becomes in violation as well), but the INF treaty only applies to these two countries when the emerging great and regional powers China, North Korea, and Iran, also have these types of missiles.

For President Trump, an effective measure would be to create a multilateral treaty.

This is a very interesting point of discussion. Politically for President Trump, this immediate decision to withdraw from the INF looks like a show of toughness against Russia. Before the midterms this is probably an important optic for him to have.

However, the real problem appears to be the irrelevance of a treaty that applies to only two of the at least five nations that possess such armaments, and if Russia and the US were limiting only their missiles, how does that prevent any other power from doing the same?

While it could be argued that North Korea is no longer a threat because of its progress towards denuclearization, and Iran maintains that it has no nuclear weapons anyway, this leaves China. Although China is not expressing any military threats at this time, the country has shown some increased assertiveness over territories in the South China Sea, and Japan and China have historically bad relations so there is some worry about this matter.

Behind this all, or perhaps more properly said, in concurrence with it, is the expressed intention of Presidents Putin and Trump to meet again for another summit in Paris on November 11. There are further invitations on both sides for the American and Russian presidents to visit one another on home grounds.

This brings up speculation also that President Trump has some level of confidence in the outcome of the US Congressional midterm elections, to be held in two weeks. It appears that Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin also will not be thwarted any longer by opinions and scandal over allegations that bear no semblance to reality.

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‘Meme-killing’ EU regulation could end YouTube as we know it, CEO warns

The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law.

The Duran

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Via RT


YouTube’s CEO has urged creators on the popular video site to organize against a proposed EU internet regulation, reinforcing fears that the infamous Article 13 could lead to content-killing, meme-maiming restrictions on the web.

The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law – with platforms being liable for any alleged copyright infringement. If enacted, the legislation would threaten “both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki warned the site’s content creators in a blog post on Monday.

The regulation would endanger “hundreds of thousands of job,” Wojcicki said, predicting that it would likely force platforms such as YouTube to allow only content from a hand-picked group of companies.

“It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content,” Wojcicki wrote.

While acknowledging that it was important to properly compensate all rights holders, the YouTube chief lamented that the “unintended consequences of Article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk.”

She encouraged YouTubers to use the #SaveYourInternet hashtag to tell the world how the proposed legislation would impact them personally.

“RIP YOUTUBE..IT WAS FUN,” read one rather fatalistic reply to the post. Another comment worried that Article 13 would do “immense damage … particularly to smaller creators.”

The proposal has stirred considerable controversy in Europe and abroad, with critics claiming that the legislation would essentially ban any kind of creative content, ranging from memes to parody videos, that would normally fall under fair use.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, has opposed Article 13 for months. The measure was advanced in June by the European Parliament. A final vote on the proposed regulation is expected to take place sometime next year.

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have also spoken out against Article 13.

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WSJ Op-Ed Cracks The Code: Why Liberal Intellectuals Hate Trump

WSJ: The Real Reason They Hate Trump

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Via Zerohedge


As pundits continue to scratch their heads over the disruptive phenomenon known as Donald Trump, Yale computer science professor and chief scientist at Dittach, David Gelernter, has penned a refreshingly straightforward and blunt Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining why Trump has been so successful at winning hearts and minds, and why the left – especially those snarky ivory-tower intellectuals, hate him.

Gelernter argues that Trump – despite being a filthy rich “parody of the average American,” is is a regular guy who has successfully resonated with America’s underpinnings.

Mr. Trump reminds us who the average American really is. Not the average male American, or the average white American,” writes Gelernter. “We know for sure that, come 2020, intellectuals will be dumbfounded at the number of women and blacks who will vote for Mr. Trump. He might be realigning the political map: plain average Americans of every type vs. fancy ones.”

He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton. –WSJ

Gelernter then suggests: “This all leads to an important question—one that will be dismissed indignantly today, but not by historians in the long run: Is it possible to hate Donald Trump but not the average American?“.

***

The Real Reason They Hate Trump via the Wall Street Journal.

He’s the average American in exaggerated form—blunt, simple, willing to fight, mistrustful of intellectuals.

Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared.

The contrast with the Obama years must be painful for any honest leftist. For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again.

For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful.

Not that every leftist hates America. But the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable. Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents.

Mr. Trump lacks constraints because he is filthy rich and always has been and, unlike other rich men, he revels in wealth and feels no need to apologize—ever. He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton.

But my job as a voter is to choose the candidate who will do best for America. I am sorry about the coarseness of the unconstrained average American that Mr. Trump conveys. That coarseness is unpresidential and makes us look bad to other nations. On the other hand, many of his opponents worry too much about what other people think. I would love the esteem of France, Germany and Japan. But I don’t find myself losing sleep over it.

The difference between citizens who hate Mr. Trump and those who can live with him—whether they love or merely tolerate him—comes down to their views of the typical American: the farmer, factory hand, auto mechanic, machinist, teamster, shop owner, clerk, software engineer, infantryman, truck driver, housewife. The leftist intellectuals I know say they dislike such people insofar as they tend to be conservative Republicans.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama know their real sins. They know how appalling such people are, with their stupid guns and loathsome churches. They have no money or permanent grievances to make them interesting and no Twitter followers to speak of. They skip Davos every year and watch Fox News. Not even the very best has the dazzling brilliance of a Chuck Schumer, not to mention a Michelle Obama. In truth they are dumb as sheep.

Mr. Trump reminds us who the average American really is. Not the average male American, or the average white American. We know for sure that, come 2020, intellectuals will be dumbfounded at the number of women and blacks who will vote for Mr. Trump. He might be realigning the political map: plain average Americans of every type vs. fancy ones.

Many left-wing intellectuals are counting on technology to do away with the jobs that sustain all those old-fashioned truck-driver-type people, but they are laughably wide of the mark. It is impossible to transport food and clothing, or hug your wife or girl or child, or sit silently with your best friend, over the internet. Perhaps that’s obvious, but to be an intellectual means nothing is obvious. Mr. Trump is no genius, but if you have mastered the obvious and add common sense, you are nine-tenths of the way home. (Scholarship is fine, but the typical modern intellectual cheapens his learning with politics, and is proud to vary his teaching with broken-down left-wing junk.)

This all leads to an important question—one that will be dismissed indignantly today, but not by historians in the long run: Is it possible to hate Donald Trump but not the average American?

True, Mr. Trump is the unconstrained average citizen. Obviously you can hate some of his major characteristics—the infantile lack of self-control in his Twitter babble, his hitting back like a spiteful child bully—without hating the average American, who has no such tendencies. (Mr. Trump is improving in these two categories.) You might dislike the whole package. I wouldn’t choose him as a friend, nor would he choose me. But what I see on the left is often plain, unconditional hatred of which the hater—God forgive him—is proud. It’s discouraging, even disgusting. And it does mean, I believe, that the Trump-hater truly does hate the average American—male or female, black or white. Often he hates America, too.

Granted, Mr. Trump is a parody of the average American, not the thing itself. To turn away is fair. But to hate him from your heart is revealing. Many Americans were ashamed when Ronald Reagan was elected. A movie actor? But the new direction he chose for America was a big success on balance, and Reagan turned into a great president. Evidently this country was intended to be run by amateurs after all—by plain citizens, not only lawyers and bureaucrats.

Those who voted for Mr. Trump, and will vote for his candidates this November, worry about the nation, not its image. The president deserves our respect because Americans deserve it—not such fancy-pants extras as network commentators, socialist high-school teachers and eminent professors, but the basic human stuff that has made America great, and is making us greater all the time.

Mr. Gelernter is computer science professor at Yale and chief scientist at Dittach LLC. His most recent book is “Tides of Mind.”

Appeared in the October 22, 2018, print edition.

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