Friday, February 21, 2014


Accord Is Signed in Ukraine Amid Hopes That Bloodshed Will Stop

Flag of the Ukraine (Photo Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.UP9)

KIEV, Ukraine — Opposition leaders signed an agreement with President Viktor F. Yanukovych on Friday to try to defuse a deadly political crisis that has left scores of protesters and security officers dead and hundreds injured in Kiev, the capital." NEW YORK TIMES

In one indication of a possible easing of tensions, the Ukrainian Finance Ministry formally canceled plans to issue the latest installment of below-market-rate eurobonds for purchase by the Russian government, the form of financial aid that the Kremlin had been providing. The protesters want Ukraine to have closer ties with the European Union and the government’s rejection late last year of an accord to expand relations with Europe triggered the protest movement." NEW YORK TIMES


EDITORIAL COMMENT: We have had little to say about the recent unrest in the Ukraine so far, that is about to change.
 Photo: U.S.Navy

A Ukrainian navy KA-27 Helix helicopter from Saki Naval Air Base in Ukraine, lands on the USS TAYLOR

 We have not covered the unrest in the Ukraine so far simply because we are not a general news organization and the developments in the capitol have not been directly maritime in character but there are very serious naval implications. 

 We did cover the movement of two U.S. naval vessels into the Black Sea for Olympic Security. When one of the ships ran aground recently we didn't cover it simply because our understanding was that damage was negligible and there was the press of other maritime stories. As we have noted so many times in the past . Our "NEWS SERVICE" is really a reading room where our visitors may link into the world's maritime media. Our occasional coverage of certain stories, including those times when we have been the first to report an event, result either from confidential sources unique to our organization, or our judgement that a particular maritime story is insufficiently exposed to the public or inaccurately reported. The unrest in the Ukraine has serious naval implications that we are uniquely qualified to explain, the protest riots we are not even remotely able to provide insight into per se. We had to await developments and general media coverage before we could speak out. We now have sufficient data. 

 To us it is very clear that the people of the Ukraine have spoken most emphatically on a single issue. They wish to be aligned economically with Europe and not Russia. They also apparently want to be part of an European based collective security arrangement and not under the protection racket of the Bear.  As a nation they experienced the Soviet jackboot and as neighbors they know modern day Russia to be a crony capitalist state and a thug government. Despite their tremendous debt problem, and the seemingly "free" nature of the proposed Russian bail out they choose a European style regulated free market over crony capitalism, and real democracy over a democratic facade covering a den of thugs. 

 The popular movement has its problems, not all within it agree on the goals of any "revolution". We can only hope that calmer heads prevail, that the unrest stops, and the government reforms, vice falls in its entirety. It is time for the President to accept the "No confidence vote of the people" and prepare to leave. But it is also time for the movement, including those who claim that the movement leadership doesn't  speak for them to allow some constitutional and orderly process to take place. 

  There needs to be a head of state and a head of government in place during any transition. An immediate presidential resignation may in fact not be the best thing for the nation if an orderly transition has not yet been arranged.  Clearly the post Soviet era Ukraine constitution needs some tweaking such as reduction in presidential powers, and perhaps a no confidence vote procedure that could eliminate the necessity for the people to take to the streets to change a future government. Constitutional debates are best undertaken in an atmosphere of calm and security, with free and open debate. Our own American history teaches that. During the heat of the American Revolution the best we could do were the Articles of Confederation. It was only in the post revolutionary peace that our forefathers were able to craft a constitution that has now served us over 200 years. Let's all pray that the people of the Ukraine may now enter into a sort of post revolutionary calm and that constitutional reform may begin in such an atmosphere.

 However, with the people's will firmly and emphatically expressed certain economic and naval realities will come to the fore, all the more reason why an effective interim government is needed. The Ukraine has year round open water ports on the Black Sea, this is why the territory is coveted by Russia. The Bear has ice problems on its Atlantic and Pacific Coasts as well as having the issue of narrow approaches through potentially unfriendly territory in the event of hostilities on both coasts. The Black Sea offers ice free naval access, though the Russian fleet would still have to pass through very narrow straits held by NATO member nations  to exit to the Atlantic . Russia is busy pushing the sovereignty envelope in the High Arctic and will be generating friction with Northern European nations, Greenland, Ice Land, Canada and the United States. 
The bear is again about to become very covetous of every element of naval mobility and ocean access it can muster. The Bear is also subject to periodic bouts of paranoia. The eye of the Bear is going to be on the Ukraine throughout any move towards the "West". The Bear's concern is naval and maritime in character.

 The Ukraine needs enough of a naval force to discourage in its own right any Russian adventurism in their home waters or attempts to seize their ports. For a nation with major debt problems this is an expensive and difficult thing to support. But the Ukraine must maintain a sufficient naval force so as not to be reliant on any Western naval defensive "umbrella" except in the worst case scenario . While the Ukraine Navy should engage in collective security arrangements, and strive for inter-operative capabilities, the fleet should come out into the Mediterranean or occasionally Atlantic waters to exercise with potential allies and avoid becoming a Western naval base or the cause of any marked increase of Western Naval traffic in the Black Sea. Living next to the Bear and having something that it wants is not easy. Provoking the Bear is not smart. Maintaining a navy sufficiently powerful to make increased Western power projection into the Black Sea seem uneconomic and discourage Russian adventurism is not cheap.

 If the European Union is worth its salt it must handle the approach of the Ukraine with great skill. First the EU vice NATO should be the main point of contact. The EU standing naval force is probably a less provocative point of contact for navy to navy contact than NATO. The EU must act with alacrity to help the Ukraine with its debt. The EU must recognize the Ukraine's need for a relatively powerful navy and be prepared to channel assistance for that express purpose that does not increase the nation's debt. More over such assistance needs a non threatening face, we would propose Italy as the most routine point of navy to navy contact and the channel for most Western naval aid. Italy's navy already punches above its weight class but is not regarded as an aggressive force or a threat. The Hellenic Navy isn't as powerful as Italy's navy and Greece is heavily burdened by debt as well and unlikely to be punching above its weight class any time soon, but could be a valuable conduit for Western naval aid to the Ukraine and frankly could use some Western help in arriving at a position where her navy can punch above weight before the national economy can really support such a navy.

  Our point is simply that the Ukraine is an important strategic naval presence coveted by Russia. Russian naval adventurism has to be discouraged while the thugs in charge of Russia are allowed to save face with the Russian people by keeping the Western mailed fist inside a velvet glove of non threatening looking nations and insuring Russian access to the sea for all peaceful purposes. It must be clear to Russia that her best assured access to the sea is to be a law abiding nation and there is nothing humiliating about that. Given the fact of thug government it must be also discernible but not overtly obvious to the general Russian public that any future attempt at conquering the world, as was the announced intention of the Soviet Union, has to sprint out from a very disadvantaged  starting block. Prosperity and peace for Russia depend on not threatening her neighbors. The Ukraine protests have demonstrated that the former Soviet satellite nations refuse to go back under a jackboot. The memory of the recent jackboot  is so vivid that the general populous refuses even the most generous hand out from Russia. The Ukrainian people are giving the world some excellent advice..... Never take candy from a bear.          




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