NATO General Believes Poroshenko Will Bring Stability to Ukraine

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Newly elect-President Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated on Saturday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has congratulated the newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, on his inauguration on Saturday.

Mr. Poroshenko, 45, won the presidential election on May 25.  His inauguration brings much needed hope for the restoration of peace and stability in Ukraine after months of internal turmoil has torn the country apart and devastated numerous lives.

In late February, former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after months of protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, which resulted in over 100 people dead.  An interim president, and government, took over until a democratically elected president was elected.

The new president brings hope of peace not just to the people of Ukraine, but leaders, organizations and officials across Europe and the West.

After months of fighting between the Ukrainian military and independence fighters–also labeled as separatists, pro-Russians, and “terrorists” by Kiev authorities–President Poroshenko has said he has a plan to bring peace.

Mr. Rasmussen welcomed Mr. Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday and wished him “success in carrying forward this new position of responsibility at a defining time in Ukraine’s history.

“The presidential elections were an important milestone for Ukraine,” Mr. Rasmussen said.  “In holding transparent and democratic elections despite significant challenges, the people of Ukraine showed their commitment to a united, independent and sovereign country.”

During the elections in May, separatists in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions disrupted voting.  Out of the twelve poling districts in Donetsk, 10 did not take place.  In Luhansk, fourteen out of the 22 polling districts did not take place either.  Only eight-hundred out of 3,908 polling stations were open.

Reasons for the disruption ranged from fear, to direct threats against voters by separatists.

But despite these problems, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) stated that the elections were largely successful.  Voting took place normally in other parts of Ukraine, with voting assessed positively in 98% of polling stations independently observed.

Secretary Gen. Rasmussen stated that he is confident that Mr. Poroshenko’s “leadership will contribute to the stabilization of the country, building on the inclusive political dialogue launched ahead of the elections.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Moscow will respect the will of the Ukrainian people and work with the newly elected president to help bring peace and stability to Ukraine.

NATO remains committed to supporting Ukraine within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, Mr. Rasmussen said.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission is a decision-making body that is responsible for developing the NATO-Ukraine relationship.  Talks include a number of things such as strengthening defense following the annexation of Crimea by Russian in March.

NATO is finalizing “further comprehensive measures to assist Ukraine and support reforms in the country’s security and defense sector,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Mr. Ruasmussen concluded his statement with the promise of further support for Ukraine, saying: “Ukraine is a long-standing and active NATO partner, and we look forward to working with President Poroshenko.  NATO Allies stand firm in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

In other Developments in Ukraine:

  • OSCE SMM Observers observed anti-government rallies in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.  Both rallies were small and non-violent.
  • Self-declared Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Donestk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin survived an attempted assassination on Saturday.  A passing car reportedly fired at Mr. Pushilin, who was not hit.  His assistant, Maxim Petruhin, was, however, killed.

 

NATO To Expand Partnership in a ‘post-Crimean World’

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NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow discussed NATO's new partnership policies in Poland on Friday

NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow discussed NATO’s new partnership policies in Poland on Friday

NATO has promised that the transatlantic security partnership must focus not only on collective defense in its immediate region, but global partners as well, in a “post-Crimean world”.

The statement came from NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershblow on Friday at Wrocław Global Forum in Poland.

“Our Strategic Concept sets out collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security as three essential core tasks for NATO,” Mr. Vershblow said.  “Although Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has changed the strategic environment in a fundamental way, all three core tasks remain essential, valid and vital for our security.”

Mr. Vershblow went on to accuse Russia of changing borders “through force”, continuing to subvert a sovereign state [Ukraine] through covert means and a cynical disinformation campaign,” ripping “up the international rule book”, and seeking to “recreate a sphere of influence based on a dangerous new doctrine of limited sovereignty for countries that form part of the so-called ‘Russian World’.”

Following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March, NATO has heavily criticized and rebuked Russia’s “aggressive” actions in Ukraine, which the Alliance believes are bent on expanding the Kremlin’s power.

Since the Ukraine-crisis began, NATO has taken steps to meet the crisis and strengthen collective defense from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Mr. Vershblow said.

Every NATO member is contributing in one way or another; either with aircraft, naval ships, ground troops and/or commanders and planners, he added.

NATO is also “considering the longer-term implications of Russia’s actions for our Alliance.”

Over the last few months, Western countries have applied sanctions against Russia–allegedly damaging its already crippled economy–in consequence for Moscow’s supposed backing of anti-Kiev separatists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

In light of the conflict between the EU and the US and Russia over Ukraine, NATO Defense Ministers discussed earlier this week about a “Readiness Action Plan”, which includes improving NATO’s reaction time, enhancing its intelligence and awareness capabilities, pre-positioning equipment and supplies further East, “and carrying out more high-intensity military exercises in more demanding scenarios.”

NATO is also working towards filling “capability gaps” that exist within the alliance, Mr. Vershblow said.  These gaps include drones, transport aircraft, Special Forces and deployable C2, all of which are needed to be able to “react quickly, together, and effectively to all threats, whether here in Europe or out of area.”

Ambassador Vershblow stated that developing these capabilities “puts a premium on our ‘Smart Defense’ multinational capability projects, and on further regional cooperation.”  He added that “Poland and its Višegrad partners continue to demonstrate that this is a pragmatic and cost-effective way to build greater security together, and in a way that makes both NATO and the European Union stronger.”

Mr. Vershblow challenged NATO members who do not spend the required 2% of their GDP on defense, to raise their defense spending to the expected percent.

Order Descending NATO Members’ GDP Defense Spending According to WorldBank 

  1. U.S. 4.2%
  2. Greece 2.6%
  3. U.K. 2.4%
  4. France 2.3%
  5. Turkey 2.3%
  6. Estonia 1.9%
  7. Poland 1.9%
  8. Portugal 1.8%
  9. Croatia 1.7%
  10. Italy 1.7%
  11. Albania 1.5%
  12. Bulgaria 1.5%
  13. Denmark 1.4%
  14. Norway 1.4%
  15. Canada 1.3%
  16. Germany 1.3%
  17. Netherlands 1.3%
  18. Romania 1.3%
  19. Slovenia 1.2%
  20. Belgium 1.1%
  21. Czech Republic 1.1%
  22. Slovakia 1.1%
  23. Lithuania 1.0%
  24. Latvia 0.9%
  25. Spain 0.9%
  26. Hungary 0.8%
  27. Luxembourg 0.6%
  28. Iceland 0.1%

“The crisis in Ukraine has made us go ‘back to basics’ and focus more on collective defense,” Mr. Vershblow said.  But it must not “lead to a self-centered, inward-locking Alliance,” he added.  The Alliance must focus on the “Future NATO” that is needed to meet the “evolving 21st century security needs.”

Dialogue and cooperation with partner countries is “vital” to fulfill NATO’s vision of the future, the ambassador said.  This applies to NATO members, and Ukraine and “other Eastern neighbors whose sovereignty is being challenged by Russia.”

Mr. Vershblow stated that partnership is crucial for keeping Europe free, stable, and peaceful, and NATO must keep its doors open for European partners who wish to join the Alliance.

He also added that NATO, in coordination with the EU, the UN, and regional organizations such as the African Union, must do what they can to help countries in the Middle East and North Africa develop their own defense capacity.

In conclusion to his speech, Mr. Vershblow summarized NATO’s new policies: “when it comes to shaping transatlantic security and defense in a post-Crimean world, we should avoid false choices.  NATO’s duty is to defend all 28 Allies against any possible risk or threat to their security, whenever and wherever it may occur.  This means we not only need the right capabilities, but also the right connections, so that we can deter aggression at home and project stability abroad.”

A Plan to Bring Peace to Ukraine

While responding to journalists on Friday at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in Northern France, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the newly-elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had mentioned to him a “plan” to bring an immediate cease-fire between Ukraine military forces and separatists in Ukraine.

In recent weeks, Moscow has condemned Ukraine’s military operations against separatists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and demanded an immediate end to them.

Fighting between the Ukrainian military forces and separatists in the last few months has left over 100 dead–soldiers, militants and civilians.  Kiev authorities have accused the Kremlin of backing and supporting the armed separatists–who are deemed as terrorists by the authorities–and demanded that Russia use its power to convince the gunmen to lay down their arms.

In April, at Geneva, Moscow had agreed to use its influence to bring an end to the fighting, but their promises never came about.

Fighting has drastically intensified since and threatens to divide the country in two if it does not end soon.  Many citizens of Ukraine believe the country is already in a civil-war.

The situation took a turn for the worse on May 11 when separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence after holding referendums on self-rule.  The Ukrainian government has refused to recognize the referendums as legitimate–including the one in Crimea–and has been conducting what they call “anti-terrorists” military operations against the separatists.

The partial aftermath of some of the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers at BCP at Marynivka.  Photo by Konstantin Tabakayev/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

The partial aftermath of some of the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers.  Location, BCP at Marynivka. Photo by Konstantin Tabakayev/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

And amid all of this, the West and Russia have continuously accused each other of fueling the fire and doing nothing to extinguish the growing flame.

President Putin said that he does not know if Mr. Poroshenko’s plan will be implemented and carried out, but he “thought the general attitude seems right; I like it.”

He added that if the plan does go-through, Russia will work towards developing relations on other areas, “including economic relations.”

Moscow has stated that they will “respect” the will of the Ukrainian people, and work with authorities to bring stabilization and peace to the agonized Ukraine.

 

“What’s happening in Ukraine… is a threat for all of Europe”

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Ukrainian soldiers at a checkpoint outside SLovyansk, which is not far from Kramatorsk. Photo by John Moore, New York Times

The crisis in Ukraine continues to escalate on Tuesday with the death of seven Ukrainian soldiers and one pro-Russian militant.

At 13:00 local time, Ukraine forces were ambushed by roughly 30 pro-Russian gunmen near the town of Kramatorsk, a regional significant city located in northern Donetsk.

The fighting broke out when an armored personnel carrier carrying Ukrainian paratroopers was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (some reports say it was a grenade launch), killing two and injuring three.

A firefight between the Ukraine soldiers and pro-Russians followed.  The rebels attacked from bushes along a river and used automatic weapons and grenade launchers.

The firefight ended with several more deaths and injuries.

This is the largest number of deaths suffered by Ukrainian forces since Kiev began its “anti-terror” operations back in mid-April against pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country.

Ukraine forces continue to surround Slovyansk, the pro-Russian activists’ strong hold.

Also on Tuesday, self-declared governor Valery Bolotov was shot in an attempted assassination, the “Luhansk People’s Republic” press office said.  He lost a significant amount of blood but will live, they added.

Meanwhile in Donetsk, while speaking at a news conference, Kiev elected governor of Donetsk, Sergei Taruta, called on the parliament to pass a legislation authorizing a vote to help regions to obtain more independent power while staying part of Ukraine.

He stated that the referendums held on Sunday in Donetsk and Luhansk by pro-Russian activist was nothing more than “an opinion poll” and that the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” did not exist legally or politically.  He also added that Donetsk can not survive economically as an independent territory.

Referendums on greater autonomy from Ukraine were held in Donetsk and Luhansk on Sunday by pro-Russian activist who control a large number of cities in eastern Ukraine.

The ballot papers asked: “Do you support the Act of State Self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic/Luhansk People’s Republic?”

There was a whopping 70% turnout, and according to pro-Russian officials in Donetsk, 2,252,867 voted yes, while a mere 256,040 voted no.

In Donetsk and Luhansk, 89% and 90% respectively voted “yes”.

It is very possible that a larger number of citizens in eastern Ukraine do not support an independent Donetsk/Luhansk, but the results from the vote won’t show it because numerous pro-Unity residents refused to cast a ballot in the referendum.

However, the legitimacy of the results are more likely than not, inaccurate.  Reason being that none of the voting stations were independently monitored; meaning that the factual number of votes could have very well been manipulated.

Some journalist even reported seeing people vote more than once.

On Monday, after the votes were counted, pro-Russian authorities declared Donetsk and Luhansk to be independent countries.

Image

Donetsk is red, and Luhansk is yellow.
As you can see, both regions are right next to Russia.

Just two hours later, Donetsk People’s Republic Leader Denis Pushilin asked for Russia to annex the newly founded nation.

Later that night, he urged Moscow listen to the “will of the people” but stated that he was not asking for Russian military intervention.  He did add that “peacekeepers” may be needed.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Kiev on Tuesday and urged talks between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian activists.

He fully supports the national round table that the government has planned to hold on Wednesday.  The meeting will include politicians and civic leaders from eastern Ukraine.

It seems though, that talks between government officials and rebels will not happen.

On Tuesday, in an interview with interim President Arseniy Yatsenyuk by BBC, he said: “you can’t have the dialogue with the terrorist who are holding and possessing live ammunition and machine guns.  We [the Ukrainian government] are willing to talk to the Ukrainian people, but not to terrorist.”

Mr. Pushilin has stated that there will not be dialogue between the Donetsk People’s Republic and Kiev.

“What about negotiations with Kiev?  The only question that will be discussed with them is the question of hostage exchange.  Nothing else,” he said on Monday.  “As well as this, a middleman must participate.  We see this middleman as the Russian Federation,” he added.

He also warned the Ukrainian troops in the Donetsk region, saying: “To those illegal military units in our territory, you are offered to either take the people’s side or leave our territorial region.”

In other developments

Where is Ukraine Heading?

Kiev and western nations have repeatedly claimed the referendums held by pro-Russian separatist to be illegal and illegitimate.  This, however, did not stop the activist from continuing with the voting.

The same happened back in March when Russia annexed Crimea after it held a referendum and declared itself to be an independent nation.

In the interview with Mr. Yatsenyuk by BBC, he stressed that Ukraine does not accept the referendum held in Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Let me explain, there was no referendum at all,” he said.  Prime Minister Yatsenyuk went on to say that the majority of Ukrainians actually want a “unified, territorial, integral, country.”

This claim would appear to be backed by a recent survey by Pew Research Center which stated that 77% of Ukrainians wanted the country to stay united.

However, the survey was conducted after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, but before the bloody violence in Odessa a couple of weeks ago that resulted in the death of 40 people.

Therefor, it is possible that the recent violence in eastern Ukraine has caused some peoples’ opinion to flip-flop.

On May 11, during the referendum in Donetsk Vice journalist Henry Langston interviewed a man named Yuri who said that he had “never seen so many people at the voting station.”

The crisis in Ukraine started back in February when former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from office following violent protest in Kiev which resulted in roughly 100 deaths.

Soon afterwards, Crimea held its own referendum on separating from Ukraine, which received a distinct “yes”.  Russia then annexed Crimea.

And now Kiev fears the same will happen in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Mr. Yatsenyuk stated that “What’s happening today in Ukraine is not only a threat for Ukraine, this is a threat for the entire Europe.  Because, Russia undermined the international law, the security, and tries to build up a new Berlin Wall.

“It seems the ultimate goal of [the] Russian President [Vladimir Putin] and [the] Russian Regime is to make Ukraine a failed state,” he added.  “And I want to be very clear, Russia will fail in making Ukraine a failed state.”