Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reality Check Time of Mideast Peace Process

The Mideast peace process is now on the edge of collapse and the parties desperately are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the original deadline at the end of April 2014. Ironically one could note that now talks are ongoing only to find whom to blame about failure of peace process.

 peace logoThe Obama administration's efforts to impose a peace settlement seems to be a disastrous failure despite whether the negotiations formally break down or a face-saving formula is adopted which is nonbinding and incorporates sufficient reservations to make it meaningless. It seems that U.S. is preparing for a possible reduction of its involvement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and Obama administration is taking position that Israel and Palestinians need to work through current deadlock themselves. Abed Rabbo (SG of PLO) might hit the nail on the head saying "We can't return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks - this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,".

 Is it time issue a death certificate for the peace process or keep the facade?

The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process. As reports about possible deal and even changes for deal differ it remains to see if there will be extension of negotiations or not. Even if formal meetings take place the peace deal in my opinion would be extremely unlikely. "The way it's looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant. Last week's package deal (offered to the Palestinians) is now off the table and Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago," one official said. "As far as we're concerned, the coordination on the ground with the different security forces continues, but the peace process is no longer relevant," he added. (Source: YnetNews ) mideast peace talks  

However Channel 2 reported that based on a source in Washington Israel and the Palestinians were close to finalizing a deal that would see peace talks extended by nine months. Also the head of the Arab League - Nabil Elaraby - said he was confident that Israel and the Palestinians would resolve the crisis soon and extend peace talks beyond April. (Source: The Times of Israel )  

The Palestinians reportedly issued a long list of new preconditions for resuming talks — demands that Israeli officials privately dismissed immediately. These preconditions, according to the Ma’an news agency, included a demand for official Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist chiefs Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat; a building freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians under a family reunification program; the termination of Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; permission to bar the IDF from West Bank Area A (areas under full PA control) for entrance to arrest or kill terror operatives; and increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas under full Israeli control). (Source: The Times of Israel

However, according to Haaretz, Erekat denied that his team presented such a list, arguing instead the demands had been issued by Fatah officials, rather than the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), and did not represent the official Palestinian negotiating position. A potential deal which would extend final status negotiations between the two sides for a further year would include a Palestinian commitment not to make use of international conventions they have already joined and suspend additional applications for membership. In exchange, Israel would go ahead with the suspended release of the fourth group of 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences agreed in July 2013, including Arab-Israelis. Israel would further release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners described as “high calibre,” and also agree to a quiet freeze on settlement construction. It is expected that the deal will include the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel 30 years ago.  

Unilateral options  

After Israel initially postponed the fourth prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. Among Palestinians, lead negotiator Saeb Erekat recommended his government unify with militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad - designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. - to govern the Gaza Strip. Probably the PA would now continue their unilateral steps by applying to numerous other international organizations, including pushing for boycotts of Israel and seeking legal rulings against Israel via international courts in The Hague. Earlier the Palestinian leadership was planning to apply for member in 48 additional international treaties if peace talks with Israel failed. The immediate implications might be: international legitimization of the Palestinian appeal to the UN for recognition, with European backing, and a parallel intensification of the settlement boycott phenomenon - with it leaking across the Green Line - causing harm to the Israeli economy.  

American legislators – in senate and Congress and both Republican and Democratic leaders - have expressed disappointment with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas's latest move – applying for membership in United Nations organizations as the “state of Palestine.” Both said that the U.S. should seriously consider cutting aid - about $400 million annually from the US - to the PA if Abbas continues with the process. The PA's applications are violating the agreed framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Israel area CFrom Israeli point of view if even three-state solution does not come true so then unilateral solution would be in my opinion the best option. To connect main blocs up to Israel will require a land swap of about 6% and 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel. That is doable as this has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. (More in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace ) Recently Mr Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies ) offered his solution in his column in the Guardian as follows:
For the international community to remain relevant it must understand the restrictions and the available options. The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines. Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocks. The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of demilitarised state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved. It is not a permanent solution, but it would be progress. If the money from the various pro-peace organisations were to be invested in the Palestinian education system, encouraging support for democracy, it would be possible to restart negotiations in a generation. If the international community can let go of its attachment to the phrase “an end to the conflict” who knows – maybe we will have a glimmer of a practical peace on the ground, which would improve the chances for a comprehensive peace in the future.
Indeed Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has urged PM Netanyahu to turn his back on the failed negotiations and annex portions of the West Bank. In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.” The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority. Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign. (Source: Times of Israel ) palestine map 

Annexation the main (settlement) blocs from sc Area C to Israel in my opinion means inheriting the arabs: Israel would be obligated – while excluding mass population transfer as option - to give the Arabs full citizenship which would change the demographic balance. Palestinians could then have full autonomy in areas A and Band most parts of area C. While the situation is not ideal, until the Palestinians agree to full peace with Israel, they could build capacity of their society as well be welcomed as neighbors in the Israeli economic system - participating in Israel's commercial and creative life.  

Negotiating about negotiating or minor points
  
The whole April so far has been mostly empty talks about wheater to negotiate after April or not. In addition issues outside this formality have in my opinion been only secondary ones. From my point of view the core issues are borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. The dispute over recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is only secondary one and simply hides that chasm. Recognizing Israel as 'Jewish State' has been from Israeli side a core element in peace deal as from my point of view it is only unnecessary and empty phrase. The Palestinians have already recognized the State of Israel de facto, through Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and then by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, the Arab peace initiative also officially recognized the State of Israel, as have Jordan and Egypt, which signed peace treaties with it. Moreover, Israel has no need of specific recognition by any country or entity. “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in resolution 181, where there are more than 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ and this in my opinion should be enough. Even if that kind of formulation would be in agreement so what is the worth of this kind of lip-service without any commitment from PA side. West bank settlements map 

Speaking about settlements one should note that besides allowing to build new homes in disputed territories Israel also tries to remove some illegal (according Israeli law) constructions and outposts. Last example was on 8th Apr. 2014 when Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers met with violent resistance from extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they moved in to destroy four illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Hundreds of settlers participated, throwing stones, burning tires, blocking roads, and damaging IDF vehicles. An IDF post in the area to protect the settlement was also attacked. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods. According to reports six soldiers and four settlers were hurt in the clashes. Yitzhar is a small mainly Orthodox settlement with a population of just 1000, situated just south of the Palestinians city Nablus in the northern West Bank. It is known as one of the most extreme settlements, and its residents have a history of clashes with IDF forces and local Palestinians. (Source: Bicom )  

The Mideast peace process with or without Kerry
 
(Kerry) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon)
In wider perspective I have some doubts if the negotiations with PA will have real impact to the Mideast peace process. One should remember that with the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions were against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry’s terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples’ Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With this background the options of President Abbas and PA are quite limited.
One possible scenario could be a partial – temporary – deal; a gradual deal that would require neither dividing east Jerusalem nor an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, despite fears that any partial agreement will end up constituting a permanent arrangement the partial deal not necessry solve any core problems.
Failure with the Mideast peace process might be the last nail to Kerry's Nobel Peace Prize coffin. "He doesn't understand the situation on the ground," Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, adding that Kerry's motives were illegitimate, "messianic" and "obsessive." Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl echoed Yaalon's sentiments, saying that the secretary was "delusional" and "detached from reality." At the same time, the Palestinians view Kerry as someone incapable of pressuring Israel and getting results, deeming him irrelevant.
From my point of view FM Kerry's commitment to the success of the diplomatic process and the time he has invested in solving the Mideast problem, regardless of the other unresolved conflicts (Ukraine, Syria, Iran...) in the world, should to be appreciated. Regrettably, the U.S. intervention has only exacerbated the situation and even undermined the chances of low-profile interim progress and economic cooperation. One way to continue the Mideast peace process could be to dig the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them. (More e.g in Al-Monitor ) peace sign israelThe peace settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan were achieved because both parties sought to come to an accommodation. The U.S. did not then seek to impose solutions. It only became involved as a facilitator and honest broker after both parties had taken the initial steps and invited them.  

Three State Solution(s)  

One interesting approach for replacing two-state solution is a new kind of three-state solution proposed by Georgetown University lecturer Ori Z Soltes few years ago. In his article A Modest Proposal: The Three-State Solution he uses the experience of India and Pakistan. Having primarily Muslim Pakistan divided into two parts by primarily Hindu India proved disastrous for decades, until finally the two Muslim states were disconnected from each other, leaving one as Pakistan and the other as Bangladesh. Why not do the same with non-Israeli Palestine? According Mr Soltes, this proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. The notion of creating a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two, seems ill-conceived as an on-the-ground practicality. It effectively cuts Israel in half: how do Israelis then flow from north to south of the corridor? There have been other proposals, for extensive connecting tunnels or bridges, but these, too, are a logistical challenge. Moreover, two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality: Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Creating two separate states would allow each to develop according to its own plans. The three-state solution would make it possible for Israel to focus toward normalized relations with the West Bank, PA-led Palestinians; and on defense measures with regard to the Gazans. The possibility of Hamas being voted out by the Gazan Palestinians themselves would increase. But the potential isolation might also increase the incentive for Hamas to accept peaceful co-existence with Israel.  

The idea of Mr Soltes is different than that three-state approach, which I have propagated a half decade. There Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict ) The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship.

 Potential scenarios  

A monthly peace index, last published in March by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found 69 percent of Israelis "somewhat don't believe" or "don't believe at all" that the negotiations will lead to peace. A poll conducted last month in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed believed chances for establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years are "slim or non-existent." (Source: The Jerusalem Post )  

An face-saving win-win deal now could be following: The Palestinian Authority terminates their U.N. bid, Israel withdraw their plans for economic retaliation, the Palestinian prisoners who were going to be released are released, the U.S. releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and possibly the Israelis make some muted statement about restraint on construction in disputed territories in the future. Each side would be able to state that had it not been for their tough actions, a deal would have been impossible. intifada logoThe crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu's leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections. Publicly all sides want the peace talks to continue, but also know that they will not lead to anything. 

Negotiations and attaining a peace agreement that will, in the short-term, prevent regional violence and isolation of Israel, and in the long-term avoid a binational state with a Palestinian majority, are essential interests of the State of Israel. It is therefore believed that, just like in previous rounds of gestures to the Palestinians, Netanyahu will manage to reach a series of silent understandings with them and attempt to win their approval for a quiet freeze in settlement construction, rather than engage in a demonstrative release of terrorists. Such a scenario would grant Netanyahu another half a year of quiet and enable him to maintain the diplomatic status quo. In the end, however, even this six-month grace period will end, and Netanyahu will no longer be able to avoid anymore making political decisions and then the outcome might be that Netanyahu will be forced to make the necessary changes to his coalition. In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground. anti-obama plakat  
Appendix:  

An excellent background information in concerning the guidelines on European funding of Israeli entities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”:
israel peace sign

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Transdniestria in Context of Ukraine

Transdniestria flag
Prologue

Transnistrian claim for independence is being met with a certain degree of sympathy and understanding by some of the western experts. As an example, a Finnish political analyst and blogger Ari Rusila can be named; he usually presents the Transnistrian de facto statehood in quite a positive light, admitting, in particular, that “Transnistria called my attention first because of its quite ready statehood elements without outside recognition, second because of changed circumstances in respect for international law after Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence and thirdly because I predicted that Trandnistria could be the next tinderbox of separatism between Georgian conflict and coming troubles in Ukraine”. He believes that Transnistria, if compared with Kosovo, has had in fact much more reasons to be recognised internationally.

The quote above is from a paper Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement  prepared for the International conference “Frozen Conflicts” in Europe (1st September 2012, Bled, Slovenia) by Natalia Belitser and the sitation is based on my articles published in 2008.
Transdniestria
Transdniestria as next Crimea?


As the crisis in Ukraine continues to simmer, tensions in the country’s western neighbor Moldova are beginning to rise. Seeking to capitalize on President Putin’s eagerness to use the protection of Russian speaking populations in the region as a pretext to expand his territorial claims, members of two separate enclaves in Moldova are looking toward Moscow for protection.


Now after uprising and coup in Ukraine and annexing Crimea into Russia, tensions have grown to encompass Ukraine's neighbor Moldova, which like Ukraine has been making efforts to integrate further with the West. Moldova has signed the EU association and free trade agreements at the November 2013 Vilnius summit, during which former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich rejected the deals. The Moldovan government has also supported the Western-backed uprising in Ukraine. Western experts worry that the next "Crimea" could be the breakaway region of Transnistria. Many locals there don't share that fear, and if the last referendum holds, a large majority would welcome a Russian annexation.


Transdniestria – also known as Transnistria aka Pridnestrovie aka Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR/TMR) – is a new and emerging country in South Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine. The official language of Transdniestria is Russian, not Moldovan, while the vast Majority of schools teach the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Roman alphabet used in the rest of the country. Recently Transdniester adopted Russian legislation, a clear signal of the region's preference for joining Moscow's customs union.

Most recently, Russian military exercises held March 25 in Moldova's breakaway territory of Transdniestria have stoked these tensions. From its side the parliament (called Supreme Soviet) of Transdniestria has sent a proposal to the State Duma asking for in Russian legislation to join the breakaway Republic in Russia. The document originated in the DG as feedback on refering new draft law in Russia on the simplified order of joining the Russian federation new actors on the basis of a referendum, no international treaty, if in a foreign country has no effective legitimate authority ". (Source: Forum Pridnestrovie )

Now Moldova’s Transdniester region is seeking to follow Crimea and join Russia and this is not causing concern only in Moldova but in neighbouring Romania, Ukraine as well in EU and Nato too.
Transdniestria – and Gagauzia – are joining to the same club with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as de facto states, namely political entities that have achieved enduring 'internal sovereignty' - but lack 'external sovereignty' in the international system. As Crimea is annexed to Russia and these other “states” can follow to join Russia or continue as de facto state, this development is creating a Northern Black Sea corridor, frontline or buffer zone.

North Black Sea buffer zone
Photo credit: The Telegraph
Good Moldavia-Transdniestria cooperation since 2009 and 2011 elections

New prospects for conflict settlement have appeared after parliamentary elections of 2009 in the Republic of Moldova. The new pro-Western team – the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) – that substituted the Communist Party ruling the country from 2001, proved much more pragmatic and willing to deal with its breakaway region than their predecessors pursuing rather an isolationist policy. In 2011 presidential elections President Igor Smirnov, who had been in power since Transdniestria declared independence in 1990, failed to be re-elected, and was replaced by opposition MP, younger leader of the ‘Revival’ movement and former speaker of the Supreme Council Yevgeny Shevchuk. These political changes engendered hopes for the settlement process to acquire a positive momentum.


The power changes in Transdniestria give positive boost to peace process: the official negotiation process re-started after six years interruption in November 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania, to be followed by a meeting on February 2012 in Dublin, Ireland and on April 2012. Finally the Document of principles and procedures and agenda of negotiations were agreed in Vienna, whereas on July 2012 this Document was signed. It included such issues as freedom of movement of passengers and cargo, traffic of trains, education issues,etc. Also a new approach (joint initiative of Russia and Germany, Meseburg, 2010) by the EU and Russia to resolve the conflict was the setting up of a joint Political and Security Committee (EU-R-PSC) at minister level. Related to security issues it was stated that the EU and Russia will cooperate in particular towards a resolution of the Transdniestria conflict with a view to achieve tangible progress within the established 5 + 2 format (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Transnistria, OSCE, EU, US). This cooperation could include a joint EU-Russia engagement, which would guarantee a smooth transition of the present situation to a final stage.


The main approach of the resumed negotiations and to the settlement process in general focuses on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). This means that political aspects of the settlement, for example a mutually accepted status of Transdniestria, are not yet touched. Instead status there has been attempts to make concrete steps of issues that both sides of the conflict are interested in. These kind of initiatives have already been following:

  • Engaging the sides into direct dialogue;
  • Establishing joint Working/Expert Groups on confidence building measures;
  • Conducting meetings at a higher level (for example, between Prime-minister of the RM Vlad Filat and leader of Transnistria Yevgeny Shevchuk, also between the heads of foreign ministries Eugen Carpov and Nina Stanski);
  • Elaborating and implementing national and international social and economic development projects etc.
The direct dialogue at a higher level has been clear contrast to previous lack of any kind of dialogue lasting for years. There has been a dozen WGs e.g. on economy, agriculture and environment, transport, railways, civil status acts, social and humanitarian aid, health, education, combating organised crimes and emergencies, telecommunications, and customs, whereas the WG on demilitarisation and security is not yet operating.
Growing dispute between parties started by unilateral actions by both parties during Spring 2013. First Moldova established migration control of citizens in six checkpoints, second Transdniestria started to mark border in in the sc Security Zone or line of demarcation after the Transdniestrian war (1992).
More about negotiation history in my article Transnistrian number game and in conference paper Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement  by Natalya Belitser )

Tools against Transdniestria by Chisinau and Kiev
Arsenal of tools, on that, with the support of Western "ideological-political sponsors" can count in Chisinau and the Kiev could be as following:

  • further tightening of border crossing for the residents of Transdniestria, the introduction of a total ban on border crossings by social groups and citizens (It is noteworthy in this regard that, that the admission of foreign citizens on the territory of Moldova is liberalized; Ukrainian officials should examine stats for financial gains and losses of the Moldovan side of Ukrainian companies, eg, air carriers);
  • blocking of export-import operations of the Transdniestrian side, transit of Transdniestrian goods, that is well within the common "European" subjects as a way to European integration, with a demand for the full functioning of the Transdniestrian Moldovan business rules;
  • ban on border crossings by vehicles with Transdniestrian number;
  • refusal to issue permits for the Transnistrian passenger transport;
  • Moldovan law on the placement of the Ukrainian checkpoints with full access to all databases and law carry out administrative functions, etc..
Russia ready if needed

Nato warns that a pro-Russian enclave of Moldova could be Moscow's next target after Crimea. Nato's top military Commander Europe Philip Breedlove said on 23rd Feb. 2014 that Russia has a large force on Ukraine's eastern border and is worried it could pose a threat to Moldova's separatist Transdniestria region.Russia launched a new military exercise, involving 8,500 artillery men, near Ukraine’s border 10 days ago. Breedlove said the Russian tactic should lead the 28-nation Western military alliance to rethink the positioning and readiness of its forces in eastern Europe so that they were ready to counter Moscow’s moves.(The Telegraph)

How the Russian forces would get there. Transdniestria is landlocked and to go there by land would require Russian troops to travel through much of western Ukraine. However, Russian forces based in the Eastern side of the Black Sea and Crimea could conceivably stage an airlift. Since it fought a brief separatist war to breakaway from Moldova in 1991, Transdniester has been home to "peacekeeping" garrison of around 1,000 Russian troops. One option is also that Russia includes Odessa in a “security belt” that would presumably stretch from Crimea to Transdniestria.


The speaker of Transdniestria’s separatist parliament urged Russia middle of March 2014 to incorporate the region and the republic's parliament, called the Supreme Soviet, sent an official request to Moscow asking if Transdniestria could be allowed to join the Russian Federation. The talks within the 5+2 format (Russia, Moldova, Transdniestria, Ukraine, the OSCE and observers from the EU and the US) are scheduled for 10-11 April 2014.


In Moldova the appetite for European integration among Moldova's 3.5 million people had weakened even before the crisis in Ukraine and a parliamentary election later this year may bring a return of the pro-Russian Communist Party That was forced from power in 2009. Moldova falls under the EU's Neighborhood Policy, which contains no explicit similar promise of membership like the countries of the Western Balkans .

Gagauzia had referendum too
Gagauzia Moldova map
Transnistria (orange) and Gagauzia (red) are pro-Russian regions in Moldova (photo courtesy of Stratfor)
Following a 1991 declaration of independence, Comrat (Gagauzia’s capital) agreed to remain a part of Moldova, after Chisinau agreed to grant the region the legal status of a “special autonomous zone“. Chisinau’s control was challenged in February 2014 when Gagauzia held a referendum to join the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union. The referendum followed Chisinau’s decision to enter a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union in November 2013–the same agreement former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich snubbed when he opted for the customs union with Moscow. Gagauzia has a population of about 155,000 people, mostly ethnically Gagauz, Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians. Many locals fear that Chisinau's EU-integration agenda masks an intention to unite Moldova with neighboring Romania.

An overwhelming majority of voters in a referendum – with turnout more than 70 % - held in the autonomous Moldovan region of Gagauzia have voted for integration with a Russia-led customs union: 98.4 percent of voters chose closer relations with the CIS Customs Union. In a separate question, 97.2 percent were against closer EU integration. In addition, 98.9 percent of voters supported Gagauzia's right to declare independence should Moldova lose or surrender its own independence. Moldova's government claims that referendum in Gagauzia is unconstitutional and had no legal legitimacy.


Although the security situation in Gagauzia remains calm, on 26 March, the executive committee in Comrat announced its decision to establish independent police stations in Comrat, as well as in its northern and southern cities of Briceni and Cahul. Moscow has demonstrated support for Gagauzia following the referendum. The regions governor, Mihail Formuzal visited Moscow in March 2014 and got impression that Russia was prepared to expand partnerships with Gagauzia and “provide the necessary support”. Despite an embargo against wine produced in Moldova, Russia began importing it from Gagauzia, likely as an attempt to encourage additional good will toward its benefactor.

Bottom line

It easy to say that incorporating Transdniestria – as well Gagauzia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Crimea – into Russia (and Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia) is against international law (whatever it is) or some international agreements. Although Russia moving into eastern Ukraine could be–as the West says–invasion-occupation-annexation. However in my opinion these actions are more legitimate or justified than U.S.expansionism, secret wars and interventions around the globe.


The other possible scenarios than annex into Russia for Transdniestria are e.g:

  •  Status quo maintained aka “frozen conflict” continues;
  • Re-integration of the Republic of Moldova with condition of establishing a confederation including Moldova, Transdniestria as Gaugazia entities, this could be pragmatic option for Ukraine too;
  • Transnistria gained its independence and state sovereignty recognized internationally
  • Joining Ukraine, which option after coup in Kiev seems most unlikely option to me.
In my opinion even without international recognizion Transnistria meets the requirements for sovereign statehood under international law, as it has a defined territory, a population, effective elected authority, and the capability to enter into international relations. It is currently seeking international recognition of its de facto independence and statehood. As long as Transdniester's status is unresolved, it will be a serious political obstacle to Moldova's joining the EU, which does not want another "divided state" like Cyprus on it hands.
Transdniestria and Moldavia map
My previous article about Transdniestria:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Case Ukraine In Figures

Crimea tourism
Instead of long analysis I have collected here some flash of trivia – figures and views - related to ongoing events in Ukraine:
An U.S. view:
U.S. view about Russia
and with more details:
U.S. view Ukraine
Peoples in Ukraine vote:
Voting maps of Ukraine
Peoples in Crimea think:
Crimea languages
and more precisely:
Crimea opinion
German "Der Tagesspiegel" ongoing poll - How should the West react to Russia's offensive in Ukraine. The results of 12000+ votes
German view Ukraine
An other German view:
German view Ukraine
Some historical perspective:
Referendums of independence
The choice:
Ukraine's options
And the bottom line:
Putin on Ukraine 2014

Whereas something stays over century through conflicts and politics:

Swallow nest castle in Crimea Ukraine
Swallow nest castle in Crimea


Earlier about Ukraine 2014 case:
And earlier about Ukraine:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Farewell Ukrainian Independency And Democracy

Nur eine Partnerschaft mit der EU und Russland kann der Ukraine Stabilität geben.” (Manfred Schünemann)

Ukrainian defence News logoThe situation in Ukraine is chaotic and tense and even on the verge of military confrontation. Kiev is seems to be under rule of former opposition groups while the Strasserian protestors are still waiting if new government is acting with their expectations; Crimea is in Russian control, eastern provincies don't accept rule from Kiev and ethnic minorities feel thread of neo-nazi groups which occupied the initiative of Maidan; ignored average citizens know the totally corrupted political system but not how to fix it.
From my perspective the future of Ukraine looks grim, it still lacks rule of law, genuine political parties, a meritocratic civil service and movement to change situation. Due de facto bankrupty of state economic and social decisions would be taken abroad, conflict between political elite and people the foreign aid will be shared among politicians and oligarchs and due regional confrontation, thread against minority rights and geopolitical spheres of influence the outcome will probably be dissolution of the country.
From popular protest to Strasserite coup
There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.”
(Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls )
Strasserism by Wikipedia
Strasserism (German: Strasserismus or Straßerismus) refers to the strand of Nazism that called for, and the neo-Nazism that currently calls for, a more radical, mass-action and worker-based form of National Socialism, hostile to Jews from an anti-capitalist basis, to achieve a national rebirth.
The protests and uprising started when one part of western Ukrainians feel that their dream or great opportunity to integrate with West had slipped away. Soon came anger against economic mismanagement of rotten politicians and finally more radical and violent elements - fanatic Greco-Roman priests, hooligans, nationalists, Russophobes, neo-Nazis and anti-semitists - took the initiative. The “shock troops” were recruited from the ranks of Dynamo Kiev football fans. The middle class, especially in the traditionally nationalist, Ukrainian-speaking West, easily supported EUtopioan dream. This Ukrainian opposition was facilitated by covert action, informal diplomacy and massive funding from U.S. institution aiming to achieve what has just happened.What happened to the Ukraine on February 22, 2014 is essentially a criminal coup committed by the radical armed anarchists and Ukrainian Nazis who have been enjoying a comprehensive financial, military, diplomatic and even religious support and instigation from the Western power groups for the last two decades. Many of the Ukraine’s cities are now falling into the chaos of looting, unprovoked violence, lynch law and political repressionn.
protests vs insurgents
Besides neutral Ukrainian army and Russian troops in Crimea the only organized and armed force is the ultra-nationalist Right Sector. One of the group’s leaders, Aleksandr Muzychko, has pledged to fight against “Jews and Russians until I die.” Asserting the Right Sector’s authority over the situation, Muzychko declared that now that the democratically elected government has been overthrown, “there will be order and discipline” or “Right Sector squads will shoot the bastards on the spot.” The Right Sector is organized, well armed and focused. As the Ukrainian personnel of the private military contractors were used in provocative clandestine actions to meet Western political goals in the Middle East, there is also unconfirmed rumor that many of them were sent to Kiev to make the job they are paid for – to target both policemen and protesters on “Euromaidan” from the roofs of surrounding buildings.
Coup a la Gene Sharp’s instructions
(1) seize a central square and organise a mass peaceful sit-in,
(2) speak endlessly of danger of violent dispersal,
(3) if the authorities do nothing, provoke bloodshed,
(4) yell bloody murder,
(5) the authority is horrified and stupefied and
(6) removed and
(7) new powers take over.
The most urgent task for new rulers was to State Language Policy Act, which granted “regional language” status to all languages of minority groups that make up more than 10 per cent of the population in a given area. The decision mainly affects not only communities of Russian-speakers but others too; for example Bulgarians and Hungarians are very worried. This was totally wrong signal as well extra reason for confrontation.
The West apparently likes Yatsenyukof the Fatherland Party. He speaks English quite well and is ready to repeat all the phrases that are pleasing to Western ears. The notorious telephone conversation between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt suggests that the Batkivshchyna leader was Washington's selelection and indeed now his acting PM in Kiev. Vitali Klitschko, the boxer, is a very attractive figure: he's got a doctorate and he's a world-class boxing champion. Plus, he's against corruption, he's moderate, and he wouldn't want to cut off Russia. But heUkraine parties's got no experience in government. The oligarchs there are also not going to be too keen on somebody who's going to battle corruption too valiantly. Anyway I think that Klitschko have a good change in Presidential elections. 
As the apparent pro-European/Western uprising was succesful it tells only one part about average Ukrainians attitudes related to EU or NATO. As on 2004, 40% of Ukrainians were against joining NATO and 30% were in favour, the rest were uncertain. According to the FOM-Ukraine pollster, in April 2009, 57% of Ukrainians were against joining the alliance, while 21% were in favor. A November 2009 poll by Ukrainian Project System relieved 40.1% of Ukrainians polled said the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) with Russia was the best global security group for Ukraine to be apart of, more than 36% of the respondents of the poll said that Ukraine should remain neutral and only 12.5% supported Ukraine’s accession to NATO.
Support in Ukraine for NATO membership since 2002 (Source: Wikipedia)
Polls
For
Against
32%
32.2%
30%
40%
April 2009
21%
57%
November 2009 Ukrainian Project System
12.5%
-
December 2009 Democratic Initiative Foundation
21%
60%
January 2011 RATINGFOM-Ukraine
24%
70%
February 2012 RATING
20%
70%
July 2012 RATING
17%
70%
15%
60%
Ukrainian attitudes towards Russia (Source: Wikipedia)
OpinionOct 2008Jun 2009Sept 2009Nov 2009Sep 2011Jan 2012Apr 2013
Good
88%
91%
93%
96%
80%
86%
70%
Negative
9%
-
-
-
13%
9%
12%
Ukraine's dissolution after military confrontation
Leaders of mainly Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine have challenged the legitimacy of the national (Kiev) parliament and have taken control of their territories. These regions - Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Lugansk and Crimea - have a population of 14.4 million. Most are important industrial centers. The nightmare scenario, however, is the disintegration of the country.
Ukraine territory
The situation has now gone from chaos to the verge of military confrontation. The pro-Russia region of Crimea is seething, and the new central government that took over in Kiev after Mr. Yanukovych fled is barely functioning. The fact that the Crimean peninsula - the main flashpoint in Ukraine's crisis - is a pro-Russia part of Ukraine, separated from the rest of the country geographically, historically and politically and it also hosts Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Personally I do not believe that situation in Ukraine will escalate to war. The globalcontext of military confrontation in Ukraine is related to strategic interests of Russia, U.S. foreign policy and NATO's expansion since the end of the Cold War. In my opinion this part of problem is easiest to solve when both sides define and agree each other's red lines.
Russian flags in Ukraine
The citizens in Ukraine do not have shared concept of Ukrainian identity; one explanation can be that the Ukrainian state – with borders today - was assembled, not by Ukrainians themselves but by outsiders. The eastern and southern provinces of Ukraine are Russian areas that were added to Ukraine in the 1950s by the Soviet leadership in order to water down the influence of the nazi elements in the western Ukraine that had fought for Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union during WW2.
Ukraine means 'borderland' and that it exactly is in geo-strategy. Some form of annexation of Russian-speaking areas – and not only Crimea - may have the Kremlin's backing. The tension between the regions is real, and heavy pro-EU pressure could split the country which on the other hand might blanguage id in Ukrainee not so bad outcome. The outcome might be then a federation or confederation and anyway more power in regions than today. I hope that whatever way Ukrainians choose they can make it in future without interference from abroad.
Economic independence went already
After all the emotional revolutionary clamor dies down, the revolutionary regime will be subject to the tender mercies of European bankers and the IMF, as it pleads for desperately needed loans in the tens of billions of dollars. Ukraine's new rulers have said loans worth $37 billion went missing from state accounts during Yanukovich's three years in power. Ukraine hoped to begin receiving international aid soon and was determined to fulfil conditions needed for IMF support. A previous deal collapsed after Kiev failed to implement IMF demands for lower gas subsidies, which would have hurt Ukrainians by pushing up energy prices sharply. The United States promised to add economic aid to anticipated IMF and EU packages for the Ukraine. The country has asked for $35bn. EU officials put its short-term needs at $4bn. As before possible rescue package by the IMF would carry harsh conditions similar the ones imposed on Greece or worse. This is also a powerful factor for workers in the eastern part to oppose the turn to the EU. Although they hate the oligarchs and do not love the ousted President or his party, they fear that any alternative would be worse for them. There would have to be savage cuts in public spending, increased taxation and a reduction in subsidies. The IMF is demanding a substantial increase in energy prices of the order of 40 percent. Ukraine owes $73 billion in foreign debt, and $12 billion of that comes this year. It’s the IMF’s job to dispense unpleasant medicine, and so far neither Brussels nor Washington have offered much to sweeten the pill.
In December 2013, President Putin promised Yanukovich a $15 billion bailout, but Russia has put the deal on hold after releasing an initial instalment, saying it wants more clarity about the new government and its policies. Because of its history, geographical location, and both natural and constructed economic ties, there is no way Ukraine will ever be a prosperous, healthy, or united country unless it has a non-antagonistic relationship with Russia. A federation with governors elected locally and not appointed by a winner-take-all president or prime minister would be essential. Real autonomy for Crimea will also be required. Russia has strong cultural, historical and economic ties with eastern Ukraine, and some factories there have contracts with the Russian military. One possiblity is that Ukraine could become a federation giving more power to its regions - a move, that might enable eastern regions to join a trading bloc led by Russia. The key principle in my opinion is that Ukraine must not be forced to choose between east and west, and that its future peace and prosperity depends on balanced and respectful economic and other relationships with EU and Russia.
Ukraine's future will be determined by the extent to which the IMF, the United States, or the European Union can sweeten its aid package. However, because of the eurozone crisis in Europe and the debt crisis in the United States, financial pledges face a high hurdle. Objectively, the optimal scenario for Ukrainian economy would be to continue the old policies of geopolitical “neutrality”, without decisive integration into Western or Eastern structures. Any “choice” will be a severe blow to Ukrainian exports.
 “Ukraine’s capital has fallen with pro-Western street coup.”
“Ukraine’s capital has fallen with pro-Western street coup.”
Oligarchs have benefited from the corruption and political chaos in Ukraine over the past two decades. A tiny handful of wealthy robber barons enjoy obscene wealth from the property they have stolen from the people through so-called privatisation. About half a dozen oligarchs in Ukraine have concentrated fabulous wealth since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The oligarchy continues to loot the people, especially through its hold over the banks that charge exorbitant rates of interest (25-30%). While the oligarchs fight over the division of the plunder, small businesses are being ruined. Between 2010 and 2012 the number of businesses shrank by 600,000, according to the state statistics committee of Ukraine. There is a split within the oligarchy as the heavy industry bosses in the eastern part of Ukraine, with only Russia to sell their products to, protested that the price for European integration was too high while the steel industry bosses, with export markets in the EU and Asia, maintained their silence.
The Ukrainian economy suffers from a fatal combination of all the worst features of the old bureaucratic state and all the worst features of gangster capitalism. According to the World Bank, Ukraine is among the top 10 recipients of remittances from abroad, with transactions reaching $9.3bn in 2013. It estimates the total number of Ukrainians working abroad at close to five million. In 2012 they sent home $7.5bn (4% of Ukraine's GDP) through bank transfers. It easy to understand that the EU’s offer of a trade deal was popular in the western Ukraine because it promised to ease the conditions for immigration.
USA vs UkraineThe EU is hardly likely to send large amounts of money to Ukraine's totally corrupted system so they look to the USA to help them out under the disguise of the IMF. The idea that Moscow would be prepared to continue to underwrite the debts of a government in Kiev that is openly hostile to Russia is unrealistic dream. Instead any rapprochement with the EU could be met by high tariffs against Ukrainian exports to Russia. They could also call in their outstanding debts. That would be enough to send the Ukrainian economy – already in a very bad state – into free fall with dire consequences. Anyway what would be left of the idea of Ukrainian national sovereignty when all important economic and social decisions would be taken by European and American bankers?
Ukraine's democracy as an illusion
Of the people that protested, few had read the Association Agreement. Most thought that immediately after it was signed they would be able to travel to Europe without a visa and that there would be an end to corruption in Ukraine and life would be like it is in Europe. That wasn’t going to be the case.” (Vera Kovalenko, Kiev)
Krim 2014The obstacle clouding over the future of Ukraine's democracy is the rotten political elite and some dozen oligarchs behind system .The real fundamental conflict in Ukraine is between ordinary citizens and political elite. So there are some cold realities ahead for Ukraine's revolutionaries. It is normal faith of Strasserism that sc revolutions will soon be hijacked; the recent examples can be found from outcome of “Arab Spring”. The bottom line now is that there is not a one political party in Kiev which represents other interests than those of their leaders – the masses will be bystander like always.
How to progress from uprising to revolution? The main weakness of the uprising in Ukraine has been the absence of an independent movement of the working class. According Marxist/Trotskyistperspective - Where is Ukraine going? by Alan Woods - the only real alternative to the rule of the oligarchs is a democratic Socialist Ukraine, in which the land, the banks and the industries would be in the hands of the working class and the wealth of the country would be used for the benefit of all. Such a programme could cut across all differences between East and West, uniting all the working people against the wealthy parasites and political elite. The first step would be the confiscation of all the wealth and property. The loot should be returned to the people of Ukraine from who it was robbed. It should be used to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine on the basis of a democratically planned socialist economy.
The second step is the repudiation of all the debts contracted by the oligarchy and its political puppets. The Ukrainian people were never consulted about the shady deals of their rulers and cannot accept any responsibility for them. They must not permit the foreign robbers to suck any more of their blood! The wealth created by the Ukrainian workers must remain in Ukraine and be used for the benefit of the people who created it. Once the working class has thrown the parasites off its back and taken control of the means of production, the sky would be the limit. Unfortunately I estimate that this kind of progress is at least as big utopia than Ukraine's EU membership although better one.
Ideal solutions unfortunately mission impossible
People in many towns have demonstrated that together they can have influence at local level. Together without ethnic or religious tensions they can avoid failure like it happened with “Arab Spring”. What is clear is that the current political elites have widely lost their legitimacy. There is real change for progress by creating new power-structures at grassroots. The task would be the gradual building of grassroots networks and institutions that reflect the will of the people, in all different ways and complexity. Unfortunately I'm afraid that this kind of challenge is too big any time soon in Ukraine.
On the opposite there is also change that counter-move by centralized establishment will win with help of EU, US and Russia. An easy task is to gain political stability by making deal between foreign powers, oligarchs and national political elite. However, if agreements are again conducted by the same power elites – establishment - than before, the results will again lack the democratic legitimacy and nothing will change. In my opinion a new kind of engagement by both the US and the European Union could be, that the protests should be welcomed, old power structures and elite ousted and real implementation and progress led by masses at local grassroots level facilitated. By this way I think that “Ukrainian Spring” and real democracy could be flowering.
My conclusions
In my opinion the onlypractical peaceful way to save Ukraine's Potemkinin villages as independent united state is that the political elites from moderate opposition parties now ruling in Kiev and Party of regions plus other parties from ousted government as well oligarchs behind them join their forces to slam The Right Sector and similar groups down. An ideal pragmatic outcome would be a broad settlement involving Ukraine's new leadership (after May elections), Russia and the EU, arranged under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This does not solve the real fundamental conflict in Ukraine is between ordinary citizens and political elite. One possible way of preserving territorial integrity would be decentralization — giving more autonomy to the different regions of Ukraine. Although federalization is seen in Kiev and western Ukraine as a step toward ultimate partition, it could in fact help hold Ukraine together.

More about Ukraine e.g. in
Ukraine’s Would-be Coup As New Example About US Gangsterism
Ukraine: End of Orange Revolution, start of Stabilisation
Ukraine – choosing a new Way
Stop to Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Nato dreams can start the policy of detente again


Appendix:
The Uniate Church -
One of the the ultranationalist elements in the Western Ukraine
The Uniate Church, a minority religious Greek-Catholic community of the Eastern rite, created by the Holy See in XVI century in a desperate attempt to weaken close ties of Rzeczpospolita’s Orthodox with Moscow. Their tactic was to aggressively occupy Orthodox cathedrals on the canonic territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. The last thing the Uniate clergy used to preach in the occupied churches for all these years was the Christian call for repentance and peace. Instead they propagated a new crusade against the Orthodox and directly instigated and justified race-motivated prosecutions and even killings, acting exactly like radical jihadist preachers of the militant pseudo-Islamic sects.
Suffice to watch a “Sunday sermon” by Mykhailo Arsenych, the clergyman from a local Uniate church in Ivano-Frankovsk region, Ukraine saying: “Today we are really ready for a revolution.The only effective methods of combat are assassination and terror! We want to be sure that no Chinese, Negro, Jew or Muscovite will try to come and grab our land tomorrow!”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5EXdbzIDEk?feature=player_embedded&w=320&h=180]