Archive

Reuters blog archive

from John Lloyd:

Ukraine’s future lies with the West, but there is much suffering ahead

RTR46XIG.jpg

Ukraine did something very Ukrainian this week. It sued for peace with Russia, apparently confirming a centuries-old subordination to Big Brother to the east. Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister jailed by the deposed President Victor Yanukovich and now leader of the political party Batkivshchyna, called the laws implementing peace by granting autonomy to parts of eastern Ukraine “humiliating and betraying.”

At the same time, Ukraine did something very un-Ukrainian. It moved westward, toward the European Union, when it ratified an association-cum-trade agreement with the EU, thus taking a decisive first move away from Big Brother to the east. “Tell me,” proclaimed President Petro Poroshenko to the 355 members of the Ukrainian Parliament before they unanimously endorsed the pact, “who will now dare to shut Ukraine's doors to Europe? Who will be against our future membership of the EU, towards which today we are taking our first but very decisive step?" Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who does not like to be upstaged by his president, said, “We are fixing a 350-year-old mistake: Ukraine is Europe!”

The president of the European Parliament, the German Social Democrat Martin Schulz, said the Ukrainian vote was a "historic moment" that met the "dreams of the people who fought for democracy" in Ukraine. A few days later, Porshenko flew to the United States to address the Congress: he said his soldiers were “fighting a war for the free world” against Russian aggression – and asked for advanced weaponry (which he’s unlikely to get).

Historic moments have been in vogue in Ukraine this year, and most of them have been quite nasty: Russia’s annexation of Crimea; the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner, probably by pro-Russian separatists using Russian-supplied rockets, and the mid-level civil war between Ukrainian forces and the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The EU/Ukraine association agreement is a much nicer historic moment, but the moment could turn nasty if the Russia bear sees in it a new provocation.

from The Great Debate:

Ukraine fight shows how far Russia’s star has fallen from Soviet ‘glory’


How far the Soviet star has fallen A statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, stands near Sputnik in the first gallery of the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow. REUTERS/Jason Fields Russia's just not the same under President Vladimir Putin. It wasn't long ago that Russia didn’t need to paint its military convoys a pale white to cross international boundaries. The trucks and tanks were green and boldly emblazoned with red stars -- not crosses -- on their sides and turrets. And when they ...

View "How far the Soviet star has fallen" on Spundge

from The Great Debate:

Pity Moscow’s foodies as Putin’s sanctions bite deep

Dairy-Section-closed-for-Technical-Reasons.jpg

I find Vladimir Putin annoying at the best of times, but this month my distaste has blossomed into unbridled loathing. By imposing sanctions on food imports from the United States, European Union, Canada and Japan, Russia’s kefir-drinking head of state scuppered my chances of making a decent plate of cacio i pepe or a batch of brownies for the next calendar year. The specter of Soviet-era scarcity is already making itself felt in eerie ways in supermarkets all over Moscow.

An entire section of the once expansive dairy aisle at one market is empty and shuttered with a sign citing “technical difficulties” where once Irish butter, French creme fraiche and Finnish skim milk stood proudly alongside Russian sour cream, kefir and milk. The Indian host of a sushi restaurant in my neighborhood, hugely popular with Japanese businessmen and diplomats, shook his head in despair, as he relies heavily on fish imports from Norway for his delectable sashimi and sushi. Heading back to Moscow from Italy yesterday, I loaded up my suitcase with 10 pounds of parmesan, vacuum-packed smoked ham and elegant jars of sage, rosemary, basil and mushroom pesto. Less than a week ago, they were all available at select grocery stores and wholesalers. Now, everyone is scrambling.

from John Lloyd:

Could Vladimir Putin give peace a chance in Ukraine and beyond?

RTR3WWOU.jpg

What would it take for Russia to walk a way from violence and seek peaceful coexistence with its neighbors? It's certainly hard to see a way out right now.

The dogs of war in the east have been let slip again. On Monday, Petro Poroshenko, the recently elected Ukrainian president, said a 10-day unilateral truce with the separatist, pro-Russian forces in the eastern part of his country had ended: Force would now be required to “free our lands.”

from Breakingviews:

Rob Cox: Solving America’s homegrown Putin dilemma

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

As the eagle flies, it's a long way from Bunkerville, Nevada to Slovyansk, Ukraine. Right now, though, the two places have something insidious in common: armed vigilantism. That parallel sadly seems to escape the many American policymakers who have accused President Barack Obama of adopting the logic of appeasement in his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They're missing a big point. If the United States can't uphold the rule of law at home, it can have no credibility abroad.

from MacroScope:

Cold War chill over Ukraine

Dramatic twist in the Ukraine saga last night with a conversation between a State Department official and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine posted on YouTube which appeared to show the official, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, deliberating on the make-up of the next government in Kiev.

That led to a furious tit-for-tat with Moscow accusing Washington of planning a coup and the United States in turn saying Russia had leaked the video, which carried subtitles in Russian. A Kremlin aide said Moscow might block U.S. "interference" in Kiev.

from MacroScope:

ECB under pressure, March move more likely

The European Central Bank meets on Thursday with emerging market tumult bang at the top of its agenda.

It’s probably too early to force a policy move this week – particularly since the next set of ECB economic and inflation forecasts are due in March – but it's an unwelcome development at a time when inflation is already uncomfortably low, dropping further to just 0.7 percent in January.

from Breakingviews:

Khodorkovsky pardon comes too late to matter

By PierreBriançon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Vladimir Putin is putting out potential fires before the Olympic flame reaches Sochi. If the Russian president is true to his word, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oil oligarch, will not serve the last eight months of his 10 years in prison. The new leniency is part of a Kremlin public relations offensive before the winter games. It cannot be taken as the sign of an upcoming liberalisation of Russia’s politics or economy.

from MacroScope:

Germany back in business

Germany's Social Democrats voted overwhelmingly to join a "grand coalition" with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. The government will offer broad continuity with some tweaks, the reappointment of Wolfgang Schaeuble as finance minister testifies to that. But could it unlock some euro zone policy doors after three months of limbo?

The big item on the agenda of an EU summit late this week is banking union. What results will dictate whether the seeds of a future financial crisis have been sown. Thanks to our exclusive at the weekend, we know that the latest proposal will see the cost of closing down a euro zone bank borne almost fully by its home country while a euro zone fund is built up over 10 years.

from John Lloyd:

In Ukraine, a choice of civilizations

KIEV -- In 1993, the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington proposed that “the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations.” His theorythat the world was divided into potentially warring civilizations -- and later, his book on the topic -- have been denounced by legions of critics, mainly on the liberal side. But it had and has retained one group of unlikely fans: Russian nationalists.

They saw in his definition of "Slavic-Orthodox culture" (including much of the former Soviet Union and reaching deep into East-Central Europe) a confirmation, albeit from a surprising quarter, of their own view of the world. That is, that Russia is and must remain the central and organizing power of a collection of states that history, religion and culture had predisposed to unity, and to a distinctly separate identity from a West that would devour them behind a front of "spreading democracy.”

  •