Poroshenko Between Trump And Macron

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Poroshenko Between Trump And Macron

Winds of Change

The famous “Assad curse” has a corollary that states whoever says “Poroshenko must stay” is likewise not long for this political world. After all, the forcible regime change in Ukraine was part and parcel of the same strategy that has driven the wars in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. Therefore if Western leaders who are responsible for these conflicts are being ousted, not only is it not good news for the jihadis in Syria, it also means the Ukrainian neo-nazis’ days are likewise drawing to a close.

Poroshenko’s recent trips to United States and France were likely calculated to gauge the level of support his administration can still count on in the changed political environment. While we, as members of the public, are not privy to what was said behind closed doors, the external indicators are that Poroshenko has not received what he came for.

The meeting with Trump was extremely brief, took place during a break during Trump’s briefing with other senior administration officials, and was open to the cameras throughout. There was no dinner and not even a press availability. Poroshenko was reduced to staging his own press event outside the White House fence.

It was hardly better with Macron. While Macron did repeat the usual boilerplate concerning “Russian aggression”, Poroshenko was not even invited to the daily dinner Macron has with his Prime Minister. Again, Poroshenko’s visit seems to have occurred on Poroshenko’s own initiative, with the hosts accepting mainly in order to avoid the appearance of some sort of rift with Ukraine. Apart from that, Poroshenko was given the minimal courtesies and nothing above and beyond that.

Poroshenko’s sole foreign policy success is the lifting of the visa restrictions on Ukrainian citizens for travel to the EU. However, that liberalization will have very little positive impact on Ukraine’s economy, and at most it will allow a greater number of Ukrainians to travel to EU under false pretenses in order to find illegal work. If that turns out to be the case, it will have a negative impact on EU-Ukraine relations as the member-states in question take measures to limit this yet another source of economic migrants.

Show of Strength or Weakness?

The most visible change in the recent months is the crack-down on several types of media, starting with bans on Russian social networks and news sites and ending with SBU raids on independent news outlets such as strana.ua whose coverage of events in Ukraine has often deviated from the official line being propagated by Poroshenko.

For example, strana.ua published information on recent fighting on the Donbass that not only correctly depicted Ukrainian forces as the aggressors, but also described the scale of casualties which is far higher than official figures suggest. Strana.ua’s offices were raided by the SBU which is Poroshenko’s most reliable group of enforcers, and its chief editor was brought in for questioning.

While the strana.ua action is but the most recent of a string of similar policies, in this instance Poroshenko actually moved to publicly intimidate a relatively independent media outlet. That is not to say Ukrainian media had in the past enjoyed freedom to write whatever they want. However, usually the pressure against reporters or media outlets overly skeptical of Ukraine’s “European choice” is exercised by “spontaneous” actions by “concerned citizens,” such as the Right Sector, the Azov Civic Corps, or any number of volunteer battalions which decided attacking journalists is a rather safer pursuit than fighting Novorossia forces.

The question all these actions naturally provoke is whether this is a show of force or a display of weakness by Poroshenko, with the most likely scenario being the latter one. A government confident in its legitimacy and popular support, like for example Russia’s, would not have any incentive to crack down on media outlets if the views they expounded were held only by the margins of society. For that reason the so-called “non-systemic opposition media” in Russia enjoys considerable freedom of action even when it receives foreign funding and aggressively spreads disinformation.

In Poroshenko’s case, however, the situation is quite different. The country’s economy is steadily deteriorating, the “Donbass blockade” only moved that region closer to independence and possibly to integration with Russia and instead badly damaged Ukraine’s energy and metallurgy sector of the economy. Western aid at this point amounts to little more than preventing Ukraine from defaulting on its debt. Foreign direct investment tends to be in low-skilled manufacturing, and even these numbers are relatively modest, since Ukraine can’t exactly outcompete China when it comes to labor costs.

No Honor Among Thieves

The shrinking economic pie in turn endangers the Maidan coalition that was cobbled together in 2014. While some of its members, such as Yatsenyuk and Kolomoysky, were forced our in preceding years after being given suitable “severance packages,” now the conflict has reached players who are not nearly as willing (or not nearly as smart) to bail out while they can. They include the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov and the volunteer battalions under his control and a number of political actors who are hoping to stage a come-back should Poroshenko stumble, such as Mikhail Saakashvili and, especially, Yulia Tymoshenko who has proved to be an indestructible survivor of Ukraine’s rough-and-tumble political scene.

The friction among the remaining factions of the coalition is suggested by the increased frequency of violent incidents involving not ordinary citizens or even ATO veterans, but senior representatives of various security, military, and paramilitary organizations that are part of the regime. For example, members of the Aidar Battalion were arrested and beaten up by the SBU for protesting at the Presidential Administration building. Shortly afterwards two colonels, one from the SBU and one from the UAF Main Intelligence Directorate, were killed by explosives planted in their cars, only one day apart. Another colonel, an intelligence officer, was killed in suspicious circumstances on the Donbass.

Anticipating a Showdown

That showdown will come in the form of a presidential election, and it may come sooner than scheduled if Poroshenko’s opponents succeed to force an early one. Cracking down on the media under the guise of “fighting Russian cyber-aggression” would give Poroshenko an advantage over his opponents, though even that might not prove sufficient to offset his abysmal popularity rating.

The other asset Poroshenko might tap if he feels sufficiently desperate is the tried and true method of escalating the conflict on the Donbass. For that reason the upcoming G-20 summit that will be held on July 7-8 in Hamburg, and during which Presidents Putin and Trump are expected to meet face to face, presents a golden opportunity to launch an attack and then accuse Russia of invading Ukraine in order to secure foreign support, which in turn would reduce the domestic political pressure. If the G-20 summit passes without an incident, it means that Western powers have come up with a sufficient package of positive and negative incentives to prevent Poroshenko from dragging them into an escalated confrontation with Russia. If, however, we see a flare-up on the Donbass, it will then be a question of whether Poroshenko was acting on the behest of, or in defiance of, his Western protectors.

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  • Andrew Pate

    So there could be another Phantom invasion of Ukraine of thousands of tanks and Russians in Donbass?
    If it happens lets hope the real Russian army with tanks and planes and Russian soldiers cross the border higher up and shut the Ukrainian army in a nice little caldron. Unfortunately I know Russia will not do that but maybe just threaten they will.

    • Tudor Miron

      Ukro nazi army managed to get themselvs into large and little caldrons even against Donbass miners and taxi drivers. It did it multiple times and I don’t see many signs that things will change… if not for worse may be.

      • markusaa

        funny!

    • Russia doesn’t need to invade or even threaten to invade – she has already invaded….
      Last week I saw a Spicer press briefing where he was asked by a reporter what Russia must do in accordance with Minsk. Spicer’s reply was “Russia must get out of eastern Ukraine.”

      Not a single reporter questioned that claim or even raised an eyebrow.
      Ergo – as far as they’re concerned : Russia has already invaded east Ukraine.

  • JNDillard

    Whether Poroshenko stays or goes is irrelevant. What matters is the increasing irrelevance of the Ukraine as a whole, as a geopolitical issue, so that it is left to collapse in upon itself so that the only country that cares about it Russia, can go in and pick up the pieces it wants and protect itself from the viral remainder.

    • Sadly, I think the current mess in Ukraine suits the Russian better than a peaceful united prosperous Ukraine would. In this state, the EU and NATO won’t touch it with a barge pole. Were it thriving they’d be enticing ti into the EU and therefore NATO which is definite Russian “Nyet means nyet!”

      No NATO in Ukraine is a definite one-up on Russian nukes pointed at Ukraine….. but not what “NATO” and their warmongering patsies would prefer.

  • Norman

    Trump’s meeting with China coincided with a missiles launch on Syria. Did Trump figure out that would somehow increase his bargaining power during? His Syrian chemical attack/ American response warble precedes his meeting with Putin and again he thinks his murderous intent will score him brownie points!? What an ar**ho** Hollywood concoction.

  • Rodger

    We in the Netherlands voted against the EU association treaty with the Ukraine but it still got signed. And our politicians earned much hate over it. So there must still be very strong hidden forces pushing the Ukraine closer to the EU and the EU closer to the Ukraine.

    • Tudor Miron

      Yes, Rodger. Western democracy in full swing. Your unelected EU masters don’t give a hoot about what dutch sheeple want.

    • Ma_Laoshi

      Maybe if by “hate” you mean impotent grumbling. The Dutch saw where all this was going from a mile away, and yet they did *not* give their establishment the middle finger in the March elections. Let’s face it, we’re a very docile people, still conditioned to take off our hats when the Gouden Koets passes by.

      • Rodger

        So true.

      • It’s a little more than impotent grumbling – too often we forget things or don’t look to see how something applied to one situation affects the whole….

        Remember the Greek debt Syriza fandango – that had the motorcycle man with no tie trying to sort out Greek debt in Brussels?
        Varoufakis made this statement (among others) from that affair:-

        After I had recited our government’s plea for a substantial renegotiation of the so-called “Greek economic programme”, which had the troika’s fingerprints all over it, Dr Schäuble astounded me with a reply that should send shivers up the spine of every democrat: “Elections cannot be allowed to change an economic programme of a member
        state!”
        he said categorically.

        • Ma_Laoshi

          Yes I know that statement; and I think a European Army is a horrible idea as long as the EU continues to be undemocratic–which is apparently indefinitely. It’s not just Greece either: in Italy and Portugal also, key decisions have been imposed by EU diktat without much regard that there’s humans living in these countries.

          The agreed facts lead me to an opposite conclusion: even if the Dutch voted against the establishment, it’d still be little more than impotent grumbling because The Netherlands are less than a country. But at least, in that case they’d have woken up from their coma, which seems a reasonable requirement for follow-up action. But we haven’t seen even *that*.

          • I think a European Army is better than a NATO army.

            The EU isn’t a bad idea (it’s actually a good one) it just needs to be run in accordance with democratic principles and rights of member states.

          • Ma_Laoshi

            Not that it matters for the discussion, but when you wrote about coal it made me wonder: do you know some things about Holland because you are South African? Though your alias sounds more African than Afrikaaner to me but what do I know.

            European cooperation is a good idea–but only the idea. If you go back to its founding fathers like Monet and Schuman (with metro station named after him that got bombed in Brussels IIRC)–you didn’t go back far enough. They were funded by outfits like the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Committee for a United Europe under Gen. Donovan. You see where this is going: from the beginning until now, the CIA always has kept a finger in the pie.

            From the sanctions war to pipeline policy, the EU bureaucracy has sided more with the US than with the member states. Europe is weak by design.

          • My alias is made up – playing with some letters in my name….
            Not really, we didn’t study Dutch history in any particular detail (beyond what they and the English did in S/Africa) but more …. European history in general… and we did do “High Dutch” as part of Afrikaans but pretty basic. Pretty very basic. Afrikaans is “kitchen Dutch” and means I don’t usually need google-translate to read something in Dutch. (Which isn’t very often.)

            Yes. Europe is weak by design but it doesn’t have to remain so. They could, IF they find could the leaders, shrug off the American/CIA choke (throw them out) and work for Europe instead of the US. But… it’s finding leaders who aren’t corrupted by, and deathly afraid of, American power and money.

            Trump is helping – but is he helping enough?
            I suspect the Americans will do ‘whatever it takes’ to prevent an alliance between … Germany industry and Russian resources….

          • Jack Hamilton

            Nations collectively giving up their sovereignty as did the nations of the EU is stupid and a recipe for disaster as has been proven!

    • Jack Hamilton

      Yes, the much stronger forces are the US and IMF