WASHINGTON – The White House has said that President Donald Trump fully expects Russia to return control of Crimea to Ukraine. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, made the remarks at a contentious February 14 news conference that focused largely on the abrupt departure of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Mr. Spicer said that Mr. Trump had “made it very clear” that he expects Russia to “return Crimea” and reduce violence in eastern Ukraine, where a war between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman responded to that remark in a conference call with reporters on February 15, saying that Moscow will not discuss the return of Crimea to Ukraine with the United States or any other country. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred to Crimea as Russian territory, saying that “Russia never discusses issues related to its territories with foreign partners, including the United States.”
Mr. Peskov said Mr. Trump did not raise the issue of Crimea in his January 28 telephone conversation with Mr. Putin.
NEW YORK – The film “Bitter Harvest” unfolds on the vast canvas of one of the great tragedies of history. In the early 1930s, a genocidal famine known as the Holodomor was engineered in Ukraine by Stalin. Millions perished – while reporters lied and the world looked the other way. (As Stalin shrugs in the film: “Who in the world will know?”)
The parallels with today’s ongoing Russian predation against Ukraine are inescapable. The Holodomor was not only a genocide of the Ukrainian people, but an attempt to erase the rich culture of Ukraine, its poetic language and music.
WASHINGTON – Populist and nationalist forces made significant gains in democratic states in 2016, while authoritarian powers engaged in brazen acts of aggression, according to “Freedom in the World 2017,” Freedom House’s annual report on political rights and civil liberties. The report finds 2016 to mark the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. “We see leaders and nations pursuing their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints or regard for the shared benefits of global peace and freedom,” said Arch Puddington, one of the report’s co-authors. “These trends are accelerating and starting to undo the international order of the past quarter-century, including the general respect for long-established norms for fundamental freedoms and democracy.”
“In past years we generally saw declines in freedom among autocracies and dictatorships, but in 2016 it was established democracies that dominated the list of countries suffering setbacks,” Mr. Puddington said. Among the countries rated “free” by the report, there were declines in Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia and the United States.
This past fall, Ukraine came under a media influence campaign that agitated for reinstating economic ties with Russia. Over the course of September-December 2016, several Ukrainian websites published a series of news stories detailing calls by various domestic enterprises and regional and municipal communities to resume trade with the country’s eastern neighbor. For instance, an article on the website Antikor cited a petition purportedly signed by over 2,000 residents of Kropyvnytskyi (formerly called Kirovohrad) that called for the establishment of a Ukraine-Russia intergovernmental working group to reinstate ties with Russia. The petition allegedly also questioned the benefits of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement, advocating instead for a “national interest-based” approach. In addition, the article mentioned similar petitions by the residents of Poltava, Dnipro and Chernihiv.
Russia has every interest in not upholding a ceasefire in Ukraine’s east. Ukrainian forces have prevailed in the defensive battle for Avdiyivka (January 28-February 4), preserving the gains on the ground achieved through “crawling advances” prior to this battle (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, February 9). The current lull seems relative as firing goes on intermittently. Six Ukrainian soldiers were wounded on February 8 alone (UNIAN, February 8). Ukrainian troops lost 14 killed and 66 were wounded in action (not including civilian casualties) during the pitched phase of fighting (Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, February 4).
“After three years of heroic reforms following the Euro-Maidan, Ukraine has restored macroeconomic stability. The economy is growing again, but far too slowly. The expected growth is 2.5 percent in 2017. But it should swing up to 6 to 8 percent, as it was for eight years in the early 2000s. The key now is more investment.
OTTAWA – Representatives of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) met on February 3 with senior government officials from the departments of Global Affairs and National Defense to discuss the development of Canada-Ukraine relations. The meeting of the Canada Ukraine Stakeholder Advisory Council (CUSAC) was hosted by the Department of Global Affairs and co-chaired by Alison LeClaire, senior Arctic official and director general, Circumpolar Affairs and Eastern Europe and Eurasia; and Paul Migus, UCC director of government relations. “We were so pleased to be able to host representatives of the Ukrainian-Canadian Community here at Global Affairs Canada. The Government of Canada remains committed to working with Ukraine, and there is no more important connection between our two countries than people-to-people ties,” stated Ms. LeClaire. “This connection can be seen across politics, business and the arts.
OTTAWA – The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) on February 13 announced the launch of its project, Celebrating the Strength of Canada’s Diversity: Youth Engaging Youth. The project is undertaken with the financial support of the Canadian government’s Department of Heritage Canada 150 Fund. By means of the project, the UCC will work with its member organizations across the country to organize youth-led and -driven Canada 150 celebratory events in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Ukrainian Canadian youths will organize 10 events in each province (ranging from celebratory events to sports and cultural activities) working in partnership with youth from other ethnocultural, linguistic and Indigenous communities. The end goal is to focus on youths working together in the spirit of diversity and inclusion to share experiences and create actively engaging celebratory events for Canadians for Canada’s 150th anniversary.
The co-chairs of Congressional Ukrainian Caucus – Reps. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and Andy Harris (R-Md.) – have sponsored a resolution (H. Res. 88) in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on the Russian Federation to stop the violence in eastern Ukraine. H. Res.
On February 22, the Ukrainian National Association celebrates the 123rd anniversary of its founding back in 1894, when its first convention was held in Shamokin, Pa. It was there that 10 brotherhoods with a total membership of 439 people and assets of $220 resolved to form a fraternal association as had been suggested by an editorial published in the Ukrainian-language newspaper Svoboda on November 1, 1893. “Ukrainians scattered across this land need a national organization, namely such a brotherhood, such a national union that would embrace each and every Ukrainian no matter where he lives. …in unity there is strength, and it is not easily defeated…,” our sister publication wrote. Through the 123 years of its existence, the UNA has always extended a helping hand to its members, the Ukrainian community in the United States and Canada, and Ukrainians wherever they live, including Ukraine.
Three years ago, on February 21, 2014, after three months of peaceful protest that turned into a bloody battle, the Revolution of Dignity forced former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and his entourage to abandon their Ukrainian government posts and flee the country, fearing inevitable criminal prosecution. Within hours of Mr. Yanukovych stepping down, special forces and internal army soldiers abandoned their posts in Kyiv’s central streets and at the Presidential Administration by the busloads. More than 35 buses had departed by mid-afternoon on February 21, 2014. Later that evening, the opposition leaders addressed the crowd from Independence Square, where Volodymyr Parasiuk, 26, spoke to the audience to support a peace deal. “We created a turning point.
Analyst Andrey Piontkovsky is undoubtedly correct that a “big deal” between Moscow and Washington has become “impossible” given the fallout from the Michael Flynn scandal because “any step by President Donald Trump in this direction would mean for him political death” (nv.ua/opinion/piontkovskiy/novaja-realnost-kremlja-647586.html). But while the Russian commentator doesn’t say so in his latest article, the apparent collapse of President Vladimir Putin’s calculations that the new U.S. administration he so openly has backed would deliver just such a deal may in fact make the Kremlin leader more dangerous in the short term for at least two reasons. On the one hand, as long as Mr. Putin felt he had something to lose in Washington by being more aggressive in Ukraine or elsewhere, he has operated in a more restrained fashion than may be the case now. If he senses that he has nothing to lose, the Kremlin leader may go for broke and launch an even larger invasion of Ukraine or make moves elsewhere. And on the other hand, precisely because the Flynn scandal and its growth has so disordered the Trump White House, Mr. Putin may conclude that now is the time to strike given that he may assume that he can act with impunity since, even if Mr. Trump isn’t going to deliver a grand bargain, the U.S. president won’t choose to respond to a Russian move with anything but rhetoric.
Ten years ago this week, Vladimir Putin told the Munich Security Conference exactly what he intended to do to oppose the West and restore Russia’s greatness – “but the West didn’t believe” what he said and even “laughed about it” as nothing more than a reflection of the Kremlin leader’s personal grievance, Georgy Bovt says. In a Komsomolskaya Pravda commentary on this anniversary, the Moscow commentator asks “what might it have been possible to avoid” if those listening to the Kremlin leader’s speech in 2007 had actually paid attention to “the main theses of the Russian president” (kp.ru/daily/26642.7/3660783/). And while Mr. Bovt is arguing that the West should not only have paid attention to Mr. Putin but agreed with him and acted on that agreement, his words point to a larger and more important problem: All too often, leaders of democratic countries find it convenient to explain away any comments they don’t like rather than think about what they in fact portend. The main target of Mr. Putin’s 74-minute speech on October 10, 2007, in Munich, Mr. Bovt says, was the United States, which he attacked for its insistence on “a unipolar world” in which Washington could impose “its stereotypes” on all countries in the world. That was something Mr. Putin said that Russia would not permit and would fight against. A decade ago, Mr. Putin challenged the idea that American anti-ballistic missile shields were being put in Europe to defend against rogue states in the Middle East. He said they were directed at Russia, and it is now clear that they were. Western officials now acknowledge that and say these shields are needed because of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
Given Ukraine’s occupied territories, ongoing conflict, and complex political arena, assessing the state of freedom in the country is no easy task. The release of Freedom House’s annual “Freedom in the World” report generated considerable debate about the findings for Ukraine, and specifically about the report’s handling of Russian-occupied Crimea and the portions of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – known collectively as the Donbas – that are controlled by Russian-backed separatists. In the dialogue below, Arch Puddington, Distinguished Fellow for Democracy Studies, answers questions about Ukraine’s standing in “Freedom in the World 2017.”
The report assesses Crimea as a separate territory. Doesn’t this imply that there is a genuine dispute over Crimea’s status and that the two sides’ claims have equal legitimacy? There is undeniably a dispute over Crimea, but it is a lopsided one.
I am writing in response to the letter titled “No to Stalin beer; join the protest” (February 12), which addresses the labeling of our Russian Imperial Stout. We appreciate the feedback from the community, and would like to assure your readers that this matter has already been addressed by our company. We issued a formal apology to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which first brought this issue to our attention. In that apology, we stated: “Our intentions as a company have always been to create provocative labels, without offending or marginalizing any individual or group. Unfortunately in this instance, we failed in that pursuit, and for that we sincerely apologize.”
We have already undertaken steps to remove the hammer and sickle logo from our label, and all new cans that we produce will have this offending imagery removed.