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How Ukraine’s War Is to Be Settled: Zelenskiy, Crimea, and Donbass

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On April 30th, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission announced that after the final voting tabulations (which included more than 13% of Ukrainians living abroad), Volodmyr Zelensky had beaten the sitting President, Petro Poroshenko, by a vote of 73.22% to 24.45%. The biggest single issue that Ukraine’s new President will be dealing with is going to be whether to continue, or to end, Ukraine’s war against its two break-away regions, Crimea in the extreme south, and Donbass in the far east.

Ukraine’s ‘civil’ war had started in late February 2014, when the United States’ longstanding efforts at regime-change in that country (in order to install an anti-Russian government in the European country that has the longest border with Russia) finally succeeded. These efforts succeeded there in much the same way that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1953 Iran did, and that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1954 Guatemala did, and that the U.S. regime’s efforts at regime-change in 1973 Chile did: by means of a bloody coup. In each case, the U.S. coup replaced an existing democracy and it installed instead a fascist dictatorship, which was promptly followed by a ‘civil war’ when the U.S.-installed dictatorship targeted for extermination and/or expulsion the leaders and voters for that overthrown democracy. In each of these coup-cases, the first task of the newly installed dictatorship was to eliminate enough of the voters who had voted for and backed the democracy, so that any future ‘elections’ would install only other fascists and thereby continue that government as being a U.S. vassal-nation.

A month before Zelenskiy’s April 23rd electoral win, UAWire headlined on March 23rd, “Front-runner in Ukraine’s election race names condition for returning Crimea”, and reported that Zelenskiy had suddenly made the radical statement: “Crimea will return only when power changes in Russia. There is no other choice.” This view accepted the likelihood that Crimea would remain as a part of Russia (which it had been for hundreds of years until 1954 when the Ukrainian Nikita Khruschev, as the Soviet dictator, arbitrarily gifted it from Russia to his own homeland). Zelenskiy’s statement directly contradicted the view that Ukraine’s Government had emphatically stated ever since the U.S. Government’s successful February 2014 coup (which was hidden behind massive grassroots anti-corruption demonstrations at Kiev’s Maidan Square) replaced Ukraine’s neutralist, simultaneously pro-Western and pro-Russian, Government, by the present rabidly anti-Russian U.S.-imposed regime. This U.S.-installed regime promised, repeatedly and consistently, that it would invade and conquer Crimea, and would thereby restore it to Ukraine, as Crimea had been, from 1954 to 2014.

That UAWire report also quoted Zelenskiy’s remark about the other breakaway region from Ukraine, Donbass: “Residents of Donbas should ‘realize that they are Ukrainians,’ stressed Zelensky.” This too constituted a radical break away from the U.S.-imposed Ukrainian Government’s repeated promises (which U.S. President Barack Obama had strongly supported) to retake Donbass by force — not by any means of convincing Donbassers about anything. The American regime’s view was that the residents of Crimea and of Donbass should have no say in whether or not they are to be ruled by Ukraine’s Government. 

None of the other candidates in the Presidential contest veered apart from the U.S.-installed regime’s consistent line of war against Russia and of retaking both Crimea and Donbass. All of them promised victory against Russia.

Zelenskiy thus won this election as the peace-candidate in the race. Ukrainians had finally become sick and tired of being at war against Russia, and that’s the main meaning of Zelenskiy’s enormous 73% win.

This victory by Zelenskiy represented actually the will not of the U.S. regime, but of the EU regime, which had never been quite as eager as the U.S. regime was to conquer Russia. On March 15th, France’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Isabel Dumont, communicating privately to Ukraine’s then-existing Government. Writing on behalf of all seven of the G7 Ambassadors, she warned Ukraine’s far-right Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov, that “the G7 group is concerned by extreme political movements in Ukraine.” Those “extreme political movements in Ukraine” were Ukraine’s two racist-fascist, or ideologically nazi, political parties, Svoboda and Right Sector, both of which had provided the shock-troops, which had worked for the U.S. regime during the coup, and which subsequently led in the new regime’s ethnic-cleansing campaign to kill as many as possible of the residents in Donbass. (90% of the Donbass voters had voted for the Ukrainian President that Obama overthrew.) America’s Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty headlined, on March 22nd, about the March 15th G7 statement, “G7 Letter Takes Aim At Role Of Violent Extremists In Ukrainian Society, Election”. This reported that the G7’s concern referred specifically to “products of the Azov Battalion.” That battalion is (though RFERL carefully ignored the fact) a self-organized blatantly white-supremacist Ukrainian organization of members both of Svoboda and of Right Sector. Azov’s founder and leader, Andrei Biletsky (or “Beletsky”), calls his movement “Ukrainian Social Nationalism,” and he has laid out in writing its program as “racial purification of the Nation” and specifically as being a return to “old Ukrainian Aryan values forgotten in modern society.” His followers had, under Obama (during and since the coup), powerfully helped to install the far-right post-coup regime, which regime now possibly could finally end — Obama’s coup in Ukraine thus to become terminated in abject failure (which it actually already is) and perhaps ultimately even to become abandoned by the Europeans. So: Zelenskiy will need will need to be very concerned with what the EU’s leadership wants. If Ukraine now were to lose the EU’s continued support, it would become totally isolated.

The EU’s new position on Ukraine is decidedly less American than it had formerly been. It’s no longer much respecting the U.S. regime. It falls more into line with what Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has advocated for and helped to negotiate for in the Minsk accords (which the U.S. regime refused to particiate in). He wants Donbassers to be restored again into the electorate of the Ukrainian Government, but only in a way which those people themselves participate in helping to shape — and not (as the U.S. regime has constantly championed) by means of coercion: by military force (war).

Here is how Russia’s position on Donbass evolved into this fixed and steady policy:

On 19 September 2014, I headlined “Russia’s Leader Putin Rejects Ukrainian Separatists’ Aim to Become Part of Russia”, and reported the momentous news that Putin had finally decided not to allow the former Ukraine’s far-eastern Donbass region to be admitted into the Russian Federation, in any such way as he had, just a half-year before, on 16 March 2014, allowed Crimea in — simply by means of a majority-vote of the residents there to abandon Ukraine and to join Russia.

Then, a year later, on 12 September 2015, I bannered “U.S.-Installed Ukrainian Regime Now Fears Return of Donbass to Ukraine”, and reported that, and explained why, “for Ukraine to re-absorb the breakaway region, Donbass (its two districts Donetsk and Lugansk), back into Ukraine, would be politically disastrous, unless the residents there are eliminated.”

The reason for that “politically disastrous” was made clear by the voting-map for the 2010 Ukrainian Presidential election, which election had been won by the Presidential candidate who had advocated for Ukraine to have cordial relations both with Russia to the east and with the European Union and the U.S. to the west: Viktor Yanukovych. (The voting percentages for him are indicated on that map as the places that voted for “Janukovych”). The dark-purple part of that voting-map indicates the areas where Yanukovych had won by 90% or higher, which was the highest support in all of Ukraine, and almost all of the dark purple area is in Donbass. This is the reason why the Obama-installed regime wanted to eliminate those people. They could vote out-of-office Obama’s Ukrainian regime. So: if those voters aren’t permanently eliminated from Ukraine (or ethnically cleansed from Ukraine), then the U.S. regime’s control over Ukraine’s Government won’t be able to last long, and probably won’t even survive beyond the next Ukrainian elections. In other words: the U.S.-installed Ukrainian regime depends, for its very existence, not only upon the U.S. regime, but also upon eliminating from any future Ukrainian election the voters who live in Donbass. That’s the reason why “U.S.-Installed Ukrainian Regime Now Fears Return of Donbass to Ukraine”. At least between the time of ther U.S. coup and Zelenskiy’s win, Ukraine’s regime demanded the land in Crimea and in Donbass, but with the voters there either dead or gone as refugees to Russia — but definitley not participating in future Ukrainian elections.

Only in this light can the recently reaffirmed news that Putin wants the residents of Donbass to become Ukrainians again, become correctly understood: Putin doesn’t want a U.S.-stooge-regime to be ruling next door in Ukraine. He wants those pro-Russian residents to be voting in Ukraine, and he has no need for them to be added to Russia’s electorate. Their presence in Ukraine’s electorate reduces Ukraine’s anti-Russia policies, and thereby increases Russia’s safety. So: this is what Putin wants.

Thus, on 19 April 2019, Reuters headlined “Putin’s INTERVIEW-ally advised the new president of Ukraine to agree with Moscow and reclaim the Territory” of Donbass, and reported that a Ukrainian legislator who serves as a rare negotiator between Ukraine and Russia, “Viktor Medvedchuk, a significant figure of the Ukrainian pro-Russian opposition,” is urging Ukraine’s newly elected President, Vladimir Zelenskiy, to negotiate with Putin the return of Donbass to Ukraine. The article closed by saying, of Medvedchuk, that:

his party “opposition platform-for life”, which occupies the second place according to the polls, may be ready to cooperate with Zelensky after the October parliamentary elections, But the decision will be taken for each individual case. Zelenskiy hinted that he would not want to join the coalition with the Medvedchuk party and did not say whether he would be ready to work with him on an ad hoc basis.

And, then, on 23 April 2019, UAWire headlined “Russia to offer Zelensky deal on gas and the Donbas”, and reported that:

Moscow sees a chance to improve relations with Ukraine following the outcome of the presidential elections in Ukraine, announced Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday as he commented on the results of the second round of voting after which 41-year-old Vladimir Zelensky won with over 70% of the vote. …

According to Medvedchuk, who had traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin and representatives of the Russian government two weeks ago, Moscow promises a 25 percent discount on gas if Ukraine agrees to resume direct purchases from Gazprom instead of reverse flow purchases from European countries as has been the case since 2015. …

Moscow’s main goal is to return the territories of the Donbas controlled by the pro-Russian militants to Kyiv on its own terms.

A deal on how to implement peace in the east of Ukraine can be reached “within a few months” and enforced within “six to eight months”, Medvedchuk said, adding that any negotiations on this issue should be conducted by Kyiv, Moscow and the two breakaway pro-Russian regions.

If Zelenskiy takes up Russia’s invitation, then the sticking-points will be:

Can ways be found that will persuade the residents of Donbass, whom the U.S.-imposed Ukrainian regime has been trying to exterminate and/or force to flee into neighboring Russia, to become again citizens of Ukraine? If, indeed, “any negotiations on this issue should be conducted by Kyiv, Moscow and the two breakaway pro-Russian regions,” then the residents in Donbass (who had voted around 90% for Yanukovych and since then were bombed and even firebombed by the U/S.-installed Ukrainian regime) would have a say in their own fates. How could they vote to become Ukrainians, after that — Ukraine’s war against  them? The inducements would have to be pretty strong.

Zelenskiy would, in that scenario, be seeking to absorb those voters back again into what would now be Zelenskiy’s own electorate, and therefore he would probably be voted out-of-office in his re-election campaign. Would he be willing to do such a thing? Well, if he were to be strong for Donbassers’ rights and for the Ukrainian Government’s protection of them, then maybe, because then he’d win Donbassers’ votes at least as much as Yanukovych did. That would be the end of Obama’s impact upon Ukraine.

Whereas, in The West, the war against Donbass is portrayed as Russia invading that part of (the former) Ukraine in order to ‘grab’ ‘another piece’ of its territory, the reality is that it’s an invasion there by the U.S.-installed Ukrainian regime in order to make sure that Donbass’s voters will never again be voting in any Ukrainian elections. One of the reasons that the publics in the U.S. international empire endorse their regimes’ aggressions against Russia — and against any nation’s leader (such as against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, Hugo Chavez, and Bashar Assad) who is friendly toward Russia — is the rampant fraudulent headlines such as was epitomized in the 7 December 2018 The Week magazine, “Ukraine: Is Russia trying to take another chunk?” It’s hardly a free press in the sense that the empire’s propaganda says it is. It’s a deceit-machine. The publics within the empire are overwhelmingly deceived, especially about international relations (which is what’s necessary in order to be able to increase the empire).

CONCLUSIONS 

The Minsk accords and all the rest are now just PR. The residents in Donbass have become stranded between two governments — one which wants them dead or otherwise gone, and the other which doesn’t need them but which does whatever it can to help them to survive where they are, until they finally accept becoming again ruled from Kiev.

If I were to venture a guess as to what the outcome of this will be, it would be that Zelenskiy will give the war-weary residents both in Ukraine and in Donbass — and also the residents of Crimea, which Putin did accept into Russia — what they want, while Ukraine extracts from Gazprom and Russia whatever discounts they can get, in return for reducing Russia’s costs to maintain the people in Donbass. 

What will happen if that doesn’t? Maybe, long term, Donbass will be able to become admitted into Russia, without the U.S. regime and its allies invading Russia on the excuse of there having been ‘another land-seizure by the dangerous and aggressive Russian dictator Putin’ (or his successor). But, post-coup, Ukraine’s leaders need to satisfy the U.S. and its allies (now especially the EU), and so the U.S.-led group will then ultimately determine what Ukraine does regarding Donbass. 

Only if the U.S. too somehow gets a peace-President can Donbassers have peace. If Zelenskiy doesn’t follow through on the peace-path and the U.S. wants the war against Donbass to resume, then that’s what will happen: the war against Donbass will resume. 

A way needs to be found to restore Ukrainian voting rights and social services to Donbassers and yet to allow Donbassers to be protected by Russia against Ukraine’s nazis. It won’t happen unless there is a U.S. President who wants peace with Russia, instead of conquest of Russia. Zelensky said “Crimea will return only when power changes in Russia. There is no other choice.” But the reality is that Crimea will remain as a part of Russia, and that Donbass will return to Ukraine only if and when America’s Government finally and truly ends its side of the Cold War, which Russia’s side ended in 1991 while the U.S. side secretly continued on right into the present, aiming ultimately to conquer Russia.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Eastern Europe

Prospects of Armenia-Turkey Rapprochement

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Potential Armenia-Turkey rapprochement could have a major influence on South Caucasus geopolitics. The opening of the border would allow Turkey to have a better connection with Azerbaijan beyond the link it already has with the Nakhchivan exclave. Moscow will not be entirely happy with the development as it would allow Yerevan to diversify its foreign policy and decrease dependence on Russia in economy. The process nevertheless is fraught with troubles as mutual distrust and the influence of the third parties could complicate the nascent rapprochement.

Over the past month Armenian and Turkish officials exchanged positive statements which signaled potential rapprochement between the two historical foes. For instance, the Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said that he was ready for reconciliation with Turkey “without preconditions.” “Getting back to the agenda of establishing peace in the region, I must say that we have received some positive public signals from Turkey. We will assess these signals, and we will respond to positive signals with positive signals,” the PM stated. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara could work towards gradual normalization if Yerevan “declared its readiness to move in this direction.”

On a more concrete level Armenia has recently allowed Turkish Airlines to fly to Baku directly over Armenia. More significantly, Armenia’s recently unveiled five-year government action plan, approved by Armenia’s legislature, states that “Armenia is ready to make efforts to normalize relations with Turkey.” Normalization, if implemented in full, would probably take the form of establishing full-scale diplomatic relations. More importantly, the five-year plan stresses that Armenia will approach the normalization process “without preconditions” and says that establishing relations with Turkey is in “the interests of stability, security, and the economic development of the region.”

So far it has been just an exchange of positive statements, but the frequency nevertheless indicates that a certain trend is emerging. This could lead to intensive talks and possibly to improvement of bilateral ties. The timing is interesting. The results of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war served as a catalyzer. Though heavily defeated by Azerbaijan, Armenia sees the need to act beyond the historical grievances it holds against Turkey and be generally more pragmatic in foreign ties. In Yerevan’s calculation, the improvement of relations with Ankara could deprive Baku of some advantages. Surely, Azerbaijan-Turkey alliance will remain untouched, but the momentum behind it could decrease if Armenia establishes better relations with Turkey. The latter might not be as strongly inclined to push against Armenia as it has done so far, and specifically during the second Nagorno-Karabakh war. The willingness to improve the bilateral relations has been persistently expressed by Ankara over the past years. Perhaps the biggest effort was made in 2009 when the Zurich Protocols were signed leading to a brief thaw in bilateral relations. Though eventually unsuccessful (on March 1, 2018, Armenia announced the cancellation of the protocols), Ankara has often stressed the need of improvement of ties with Yerevan without demanding preconditions.

Beyond the potential establishment of diplomatic relations, the reopening of the two countries’ border, closed from early 1990s because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkey’s solidarity with and military and economic support for Azerbaijan, could also be a part of the arrangement. The opening of the 300 km border running along the Armenian regions of Shirak, Aragatsotn, Armavir, and Ararat could be a game-changer. The opening up of the border is essentially an opening of the entire South Caucasus region. The move would provide Armenia with a new market for its products and businesses. In the longer term it would allow the country to diversify its economy, lessen dependence on Russia and the fragile route which goes through Georgia. The reliance on the Georgian territory could be partially substituted by Azerbaijan-Armenia-Turkey route, though it should be also stressed that the Armenia transit would need considerable time to become fully operational.

Economic and connectivity diversification equals the diminution of Russian influence in the South Caucasus. In other words, the closed borders have always constituted the basis of Russian power in the region as most roads and railways have a northward direction. For Turkey an open border with Armenia is also beneficial as it would allow a freer connection with Azerbaijan. Improving the regional links is a cornerstone of Turkey’s position in the South Caucasus. In a way, the country has acted as a major disruptor. Through its military and active economic presence Turkey opens new railways and roads, thus steadily decreasing Russian geopolitical leverage over the South Caucasus.

As mentioned, both Ankara and Yerevan will benefit from potential rapprochement. It is natural to suggest that the potential improvement between Turkey and Armenia, Russia’s trustful ally, would not be possible without Moscow’s blessing. Russia expressed readiness to help Armenia and Turkey normalize their relations, saying that would boost peace and stability in the region. “Now too we are ready to assist in a rapprochement between the two neighboring states based on mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said. Yet, it is not entirely clear how the normalization would suit Russia’s interests. One possibility is that the Armenia-Turkey connection would allow Russia to have a direct land link with Turkey via Azerbaijan and Armenia. However, here too the benefits are doubtful. The route is long and will likely remain unreliable. For Russia trade with Turkey via the Black Sea will remain a primary route.

Presenting a positive picture in the South Caucasus could however be a misrepresentation of real developments on the ground. The Armenian-Turkish rapprochement is far from being guaranteed because of ingrained distrust between the two sides. Moreover, there is also the Azerbaijani factor. Baku will try to influence Ankara’s thinking lest the rapprochement goes against Azerbaijan’s interests. Moreover, as argued above, Russia too might not be entirely interested in the border opening. This makes the potential process of normalization fraught with numerous problems which could continuously undermine rapport improvement.

Thus, realism drives Turkish policy toward Armenia. Ankara needs better connections to the South Caucasus. Reliance on the Georgian transit route is critical, but diversification is no less important. The results of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war present Turkey and Armenia with an opportunity to pursue the improvement of bilateral ties. Yet, the normalization could be under pressure from external players and deep running mutual distrust. Moreover, the two sides will need to walk a tightrope as a potential blowback from nationalist forces in Turkey and Armenia can complicate the process.

Author’s note: first published in caucasuswatch

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Tighter Ties with China Signal Ukraine’s Multi-Vector Foreign Policy

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Ukraine is eager to cut deals with China as it confronts the West’s moves to allay Russian concerns. Whether Kyiv’s moves are a sign of a larger foreign policy adjustment or just a bluff aimed to mitigate faltering ties with the EU and the US, they could beget big consequences.

‘Chinese Card’

On June 30, Ukraine touted an agreement with China, which proposes revamping the country’s decrepit infrastructure. The decision comes following a US-German resolution to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, despite longstanding concerns of Kyiv and other CEE nations. Yet, perhaps the biggest motivation was the growing unwillingness in the West to advance Ukraine’s NATO/EU aspirations.

The current state of affairs pushes Ukraine to find alternatives in foreign policy. China, with plenty of cash and political clout, comes as an obvious choice resulting in the signing of the bilateral agreement in June. The document outlines China’s willingness to invest in railways, airports, and ports, as well as telecommunications infrastructure across Ukraine. But otherwise, the agreement details few specifics.

The available details from the deal fit comfortably into the pattern China has been following across Eurasia. For example, China signed similar deals with Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia among others, demonstrating its willingness to penetrate those states’ vital infrastructure. Still, the documents can be also characterized as an umbrella agreement that serves as a roadmap rather than an accord listing concrete details and commitments.

The China-Ukraine agreement is all the more surprising as Kyiv rebuffed earlier this year a Chinese proposal to buy a Ukrainian aerospace company, Motor Sich.

Nevertheless, there are several reasons behind the rapprochement. First and foremost, it is about Ukraine adjusting its foreign policy stance to the state of economic relations. China is now Ukraine’s biggest single-country trade partner outstripping Russia and having a 14.4 percent share of the country’s imports and 15.3 percent of its exports. Perhaps fearful of possible Chinese countermeasures over the Motor Sich decision, Kyiv has been open to mending ties with Beijing with the June agreement.

Secondly, it paves the way for a more active role in China’s near-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims at connecting China with the European market across the heart of Eurasia. Ukraine was among the first to endorse the initiative but has avoided signing memorandums on cooperation similar to what China has done with many others.

More immediately, the tilt toward China follows Kyiv’s decision to remove its name from an international statement about human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang. While Ukraine initially joined the initiative, together with 40 other states, Kyiv abruptly changed its mind on June 24. It has been confirmed that the withdrawal followed Chinese threats to limit trade and deny access to COVID-19 vaccines for which Ukraine had already paid.

Multi-Vector Policy

Some larger geopolitical dynamics are also at play, such as Kyiv’s attempt to acclimate to the changing world order and the growing global competition between Beijing and Washington. In this environment, Ukraine might want to carve out an equidistant place between the two powers so as to avoid possible backlash from siding clearly with either of them.

As such, Ukraine appears to be embarking on a multi-vector foreign policy. It would allow Kyiv to alleviate its dependence on the West and seek lucrative economic and political ties with large Eurasian states. Put simply, relations with the West did not deliver on the expected benefits. The country was not offered NATO or EU accession, while the collective West’s consistent concessions to Russia undermine Ukraine’s interests. Ukraine has also often tended to look at China and other Eurasian powers from the ‘Western perspective’, which limited its options.

In Kyiv’s understanding, elimination of this obstructive dependence would enable it to find new partners able to bring in investments and ideally political support in multilateral organizations. China undoubtedly can be such a partner.

Kyiv’s calculations are more understandable when taken in view of its larger diplomatic readjustment in the region. For example, Ukraine recently began building closer relations with another Eurasian power in Turkey. When Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited Istanbul in April 2021, nascent bilateral military ties were seen as a new chapter in the countries’ relations. Most indicative of this shift, a memorandum was signed on the creation of joint defense-industrial projects, which includes joint development of unmanned aerial vehicles in Ukraine.

The story of Turkey could serve as a microcosm, whereby Kyiv displayed that it is more interested in balancing the pressure from Russia and mitigating the failures in its pro-Western foreign policy course. Ukraine thus foreshadowed its increasingly multi-vector foreign policy as a solution to its geopolitical problems. In Kyiv’s understanding, rapprochement with China and Turkey could mitigate threats emanating from Russia as both Beijing and Ankara enjoy closer ties with Moscow, but nonetheless consider it a competitor.

The multi-vector foreign policy for Ukraine however does not mean abandoning its pro-Western cause. It rather involves seeing its NATO/EU aspirations as complementary with the closer economic ties with China and others. It will require an agile foreign policy and leveraging the country’s geopolitical assets.

New Type of Bilateral Relations 

Ukraine’s behavior might herald the birth of what could be characterized as a Eurasian model of bilateral relations. Across the continent, the notion of traditional alliances is being gradually replaced by partnerships. Devoid of formal obligations, China, Iran, Turkey and Russia find more space for interaction and see a larger pool of opportunities across the vastness of the supercontinent. Bigger maneuverability makes their foreign policy more agile in finding a common ground for cooperation.

The Eurasian model is a byproduct of an evolving global order in which each state with geopolitical influence recalibrates its foreign ties to fit into the post-unipolar world. Russia and China officially refuse to have an alliance – indeed, they claim an alliance would undermine their purportedly benevolent intentions toward one another. More specifically, the concept relates to how China sees the future world order. It opposes alliances – the ‘relic’ from the Cold War era.

Thus, the shift in Kyiv’s foreign policy could be part of this Eurasian trend where Ukraine seeks to construct its Asia policy which would better correspond to the unfolding China-US competition, Asia’s economic rise, and most of all, the failure to become a NATO or EU member state.

Reality Check

However, closer ties with China and most of all the dependence on Beijing’s investments also involves risks. China’s infrastructure projects are mostly financed through loans, which poorer and weaker countries are unable to repay. Often, ownership of the sites ends up in Chinese hands.

Chinese involvement in Ukraine’s critical infrastructure could also risk giving control over strategic technologies to Beijing, which would be channeled to China and successfully used to advance Chinese interests.

For Kyiv, dependence on Beijing also involves risks because of China’s close partnership with Russia. Dangers could be manifested in a concerted pressure on Ukraine in international organizations, or even China heeding Russian fears and abandoning infrastructure projects which would harm Russian interests.

The June agreement is an umbrella deal that lays out the foundation for deeper cooperation, but in no way guarantees its fulfillment. This could mean that Ukraine only sought to restore worsening bilateral relations with China following the Motor Sich saga. Alternatively, Kyiv might merely be trying to raise stakes in its stagnated relations with the West and hold Washington to account, signaling that it can successfully navigate between geopolitical poles if need be. One way or another, China looks set to play a bigger role in Ukraine‘s foreign policy.

Author’s note: first published at chinaobservers

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Ukraine’s independence: Shaping new political narratives through art

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Ukraine’s 30th Independence Anniversary brings forth a discussion on forming a modern cultural identity in the wake of political instability.  

Despite gaining independence 30 years ago, Ukraine is still facing consistent attacks on its sovereignty, both political and cultural. From the ongoing war with Russia in Eastern Ukraine, where 10,000 people have lost their lives since 2014, down to the root of oversimplification of Ukrainian issues in the media, Ukraine’s story is often being told by opponents attempting to distort the modern Ukrainian cultural identity.

My first-hand experience working with kids at the Ukrainian warzone has taught me a deep appreciation for cultural independence. For five years together with youngsters I wrote, directed and staged a performance piece titled ‘Contact Line’ about life at the warzone and personally witnessed the huge impact of arts and culture on the kids’ lives. This experience demonstrated that for too long Ukraine has let someone else present its identity to its youth, citizens and the world.

Shaking away the Soviet legacy

There’s no denying that the Soviet Union left a lasting legacy on Ukraine. The culture of Ukraine is to this day tainted by lingering ghosts of the Soviet past. Soviet authorities vigorously supressed the development of independent cultural identities in all the member states. In Ukraine’s case, simplistic rural folklore was imposed on society as a primary culture and was a means of suppressing creative or progressive thought. National collectives and one-dimensional traditional themes were presented as the essence of Ukrainian culture throughout the 20th century. Anyone who didn’t fit the Soviet mould was eliminated. A specific term, Executed Renaissance, is used to define a generation of Ukrainian artists who were repressed by the Soviet regime for their artistic non-conformism.

It has taken decades for Ukraine to regain its cultural voice and iron out its Soviet imprint. A key concept of postcolonial theory examines the creative resistance to the colonizers’ culture and the fraught slow development of a postcolonial identity. Ukraine has been struggling through this process for 30 years. However, since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity the country has been reimagining its culture, exploring its history and reconnecting with its identity. Ukraine is now striving to be on par with Western culture by ridding itself of remaining Soviet influences. Cultural institutions previously under government control or censorship are finding an independent voice and the population is discovering that authentic artistic expression is providing hope in difficult times. 

Looking at the future

Over the past 10 years, Ukraine has witnessed a robust change in the arts sector. The cultural scene has made a significant move away from a conservative ethos to a more contemporary one. Visual arts are the most progressive form of expression in Ukraine, with cinema rapidly catching up. Ukrainian filmmakers are winning awards at the Cannes Film Festival and Ukrainian artists are receiving praise at La Biennale di Venezia. The expectation is that this trend will not only magnify in the coming years, but also position Ukrainian artists as global creative trailblazers. 

Despite ballet being an extremely politicised art form during the Soviet period, it is now going through a revival and modernisation. The Ukrainain school of ballet is gaining recognition as one of the world’s best and Ukrainian ballet dancers are headlining the top ballet companies across the globe, showcasing their immense talent and training. British audiences will have an opportunity to watch the best Ukrainian ballet dancers from the world’s top theatres come together for a one-off unique performance at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London on September 7th.

Georgian-American ballet choreographer George Balanchine famously said, “Ballet will speak for itself,” and the artform remains a true demonstration of the universal language of dance. The Ukrainian Ballet Gala will be a showcase of the innovation and traditions of the contemporary Ukrainian ballet school.

Global cultural promotion

In a globalised world it’s the wish of every country to promote and engage in cultural exchanges, and Ukraine is very much part of this movement. Ukraine wants to be an active player on the world stage, both politically and culturally, and to be a dynamic culture creator, particularly in Europe. Trust in soft diplomacy is growing and Ukraine’s international relations and diplomacy are benefiting from this trend. 

As a Ukrainian-born and British-educated theatre producer and director I appreciate the importance of bringing the best of Ukrainian culture to the world not just for Ukraine’s benefit, but to enrich global culture and share experiences through creative means. It is the job of people like me and my colleagues to tell Ukraine’s story through art and, thus, shape new political narratives about Ukraine internationally. We want to share our rich culture with the world and events, such as the Ukrainian Ballet Gala, are key to achieving this.

Ukrainians are now left with no choice but to stride forward – no outside force should ever again control the vibrant culture of Ukraine.

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Southeast Asia21 mins ago

Indonesian G20 presidency promises to put a ‘battle for the soul of Islam’ on the front burner

Indonesian religious affairs minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas set the bar high for President Joko Widodo as well as Nahdlatul Ulama,...

Middle East2 hours ago

Turkey’s Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Artsakh

The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church has recently hosted a conference on international religious freedom...

Environment6 hours ago

Act now to slow climate change and protect the planet

The ozone layer – a fragile shield of gas that protects the Earth from the harmful rays of the sun...

Africa Today10 hours ago

Africa faces 470 million COVID-19 vaccine shortfall this year

Africa needs around 470 million doses to accomplish the global of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of its population by the end of the year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said...

Human Rights12 hours ago

UN Women’s feminist roadmap tackles triple crises of jobs, care and climate

The UN’s gender equality and empowerment organization on Thursday published a flagship feminist plan for economic recovery and transformation, which...

Energy News14 hours ago

Strength of IEA-ASEAN energy cooperation highlighted at Ministerial meeting

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol spoke today to Energy Ministers from across Southeast Asia about the latest global and regional...

Economy16 hours ago

A New Strategy for Ukraine

Authors: Anna Bjerde and Novoye Vremia Four years ago, the World Bank prepared a multi-year strategy to support Ukraine’s development...

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