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How to Save Ukraine

Published: April 19, 2014 (Issue # 1806)


A couple of days ago in Washington, a former high-level U.S. government official mentioned to me that if a civil war breaks out in Ukraine, it would follow not the Bosnian scenario, but the Spanish one. Just as in the case of Spain in the mid-1930s, the civil conflict in Ukraine could rapidly escalate and internationalize, with major external powers getting actively involved and chances for a compromise becoming more elusive.

There is some logic in this historical parallel. Recent developments indicate a growing danger of further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. The authorities in Kiev are hastily setting up their National Guard, while their opponents in the east and in the south are mobilizing volunteers to form their own militia. The first clashes have already resulted in casualties on both sides. A large amount of small arms have disappeared from warehouses and might have wound up in private hands, meaning any spark may very well ignite a large-scale conflict.

On the borders of Ukraine, we are seeing an unprecedented military buildup. Russia has been conducting large-scale military exercises in the adjacent region that have already caused serious concerns in the West. At the same time, NATO has returned to the old rhetoric about the "threat from the East" and has decided to increase its military presence in parts of Europe. The U.S. is now planning to deploy an army brigade in Poland and to strengthen its air force presence in the Baltic region. There are ongoing NATO naval exercises in the Black Sea, and the president of the Czech Republic has called for a NATO military presence in Ukraine itself. High-level representatives of Western intelligence agencies have become frequent visitors to Kiev, creating yet another irritant for Moscow.

Meanwhile, the propaganda war is becoming more intensive. All sides in the conflict present only their own version of developments in Ukraine, and there are an increasing number of restrictions on journalists and on television channels operating in Ukraine. In Germany, there are even calls for removing a monument dedicated to the Soviet victory in World War II.

Russia, for its part, is reaching out to the European far-right; Marie Le Pen, president of the French National Front, received a warm reception in Moscow. The United Nations takes an ambiguous position on the Ukrainian situation, and European security organizations cannot decide what to do under the current circumstances.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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