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from Breakingviews:

Sanctions on Russia will cost less than inaction

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By Pierre Briançon

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

Vladimir Putin has set the stage well for the first international talks on Ukraine. Armed pro-Russian separatists have seized buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities. Their uniforms and weapons suggest they are equipped by the Russian army, if not part of it. The rebels’ success has shown that the government in Kiev is not in control of the country – not even of its own security forces.

It’s far from certain that Putin wants to annex part of all of Ukraine, Crimea-style. He has already reached his goal: he has demonstrated that Ukraine doesn’t have a real government, after encouraging Russian-speaking separatists and drowning eastern Ukraine with relentless propaganda on Russian-language TV channels. Those are techniques of agitation and provocation taken from the best old-style KGB handbooks.

Russia’s stated goal for Ukraine is “federalisation” – wide regional autonomy that would result in a de facto split of the country, with the eastern half under Moscow’s influence. Putin has backed his demand with open threat of military intervention to “protect Russian speakers.” He hopes that Europe and the United States will cave in, fearful of the consequences of a full-blown economic war.

from The Great Debate:

Odessa: Ukrainian port that inspired big dreams

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Tensions have been rising in many corners of Ukraine as the threat of a Russian intervention looms. Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa is one such corner of dispute between Moscow and Kiev, where macro-battles have been transformed into a seemingly endless chain of micro-conflicts.

Supporters of both countries have taken to marching through the streets, ominously threatening each other. The Ukrainian government is trying to wrest control of the local oil refinery -- one of the country’s most important -- away from a Russian bank. Tension is visible in the smallest aspects of life.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

The EU-U.S. love-hate relationship

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The elaborate gavotte between the American and European economies continues.

While the Federal Reserve has begun to wind down its controversial quantitative easing (QE) program, the European Central Bank (ECB) the federal reserve of the eurozone, has announced it is considering a QE program of its own.

It is a belated acknowledgement, if not an outright admission, from Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, that five years of the European Union’s austerity policy has failed to lift the eurozone nations out of the economic mire. The ECB has presided over a wholly unnecessary triple-dip recession in the eurozone and sparked a bitter rift between the German-dominated European Union bureaucracy and the Mediterranean nations that must endure the rigors imposed from Brussels. All to little avail.

from MacroScope:

A question of gas

Vladimir Putin will meet senior Russian government officials to discuss Russia's economic ties with Ukraine, including on energy after state-controlled natural gas producer Gazprom said Kiev missed a deadline to pay a $2.2 billion bill.

In previous years, gas disputes between Moscow and Kiev have hurt supplies to Europe. The Ukraine government has said it would take Russia to an arbitration court if Moscow failed to roll back gas price hikes.

from Breakingviews:

Russia would pay steep price for Ukraine invasion

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By Pierre Briançon

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

Vladimir Putin wants to destabilise Ukraine, but he may balk at the economic price Russia would pay for a full-blown invasion. The seizure of government buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities has rekindled fears of military intervention in the mostly Russian-speaking parts of the country. A major consideration before sending in troops would be the price paid by Russia’s economy. Putin can expect to be severely punished by both markets and Western governments.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Crimea: Too small to matter

Crimea is permanently lost to Russia.

That is implicit in President Barack Obama’s remarks about where the Ukraine crisis heads next; the terms of the Paris talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the West’s rejection of military action to hurl back the occupying Russian forces.

That Crimea is gone forever is also the view of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who declared, “I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia’s hand.”

from Compass:

Putin’s action is no surprise

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Surprise is the least forgivable sin of statecraft. Yet nothing has so characterized the Ukraine crisis as the West's continuing surprise at Russia's behavior.

The past 30 days have provided almost daily reminders of the deep disconnect between Western expectations of what statecraft would -- and ought to -- look like in the 21st century, and the reality of how the Kremlin seeks to assert its interests in the world.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Forget the drama: A solution for Crimea

President Vladimir Putin has disastrously miscalculated and Russia now faces deeper isolation, tougher sanctions and greater economic hardship than at any time since the Cold War. So declared President Obama after the NATO summit in Brussels.

European leaders have sounded even tougher than Obama, though less specific. Some whose countries lie far from Russia -- for example, British Prime Minister David Cameron -- have whipped themselves into a fury reminiscent of King Lear: “I will do such things -- what they are, yet I know not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth.”

from The Great Debate:

Putin’s new ‘values pact’

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Now that Russia President Vladimir Putin has swallowed Crimea, the question becomes: What if the peninsula doesn’t satisfy his appetite for new Russian territory? What if the only thing that will satiate his hunger for power is the goulash known as eastern Ukraine? Or does he then move on to Moldova, and then on and on?

Indeed, while the world watched the protests in Kiev and the Sochi Olympics last month, the Moldovan territory of Gagauzia quietly held a referendum about whether or not to join Russia if the rest of the country opts for stronger ties to the European Union. Its citizens, just like those in Crimea, have argued that they would be economically better off on Putin’s planet, rather than as meager satellites in the Western solar system.

from MacroScope:

IMF verdict on Ukraine due

G7 leaders didn’t move the dial far last night, telling Russia it faced more damaging sanctions if it took any further action to destabilize Ukraine.
They will also shun Russia’s G8 summit in June and meet ”à sept” in Brussels, marking the first time since Moscow joined the group in 1998 that it will have been shut out of the annual summit.

There were some other interesting pointers. For one, the G7 agreed their energy ministers would work together to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas. Could this lead to the United States exporting shale gas to Europe? A committee of U.S. lawmakers will hear testimony on Tuesday from those who favour loosening restrictions on gas exports.

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