Russia recently imposed a ban on EU food products in retaliation for economic sanctions that were imposed on Russia in response to the Ukraine crisis. The year long ban, which includes meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy products, is forecast to cost the EU a potential €12 billion loss. Effective immediately, the ban applies to all EU countries, and will also affect products from the US, Canada, Norway and Australia. The volume of trade of food products between Russia and EU countries is vast. According to the Institute for Complex Strategic Studies (ICSS), Russia buys 31.5 percent of its meat, 42.6 percent of its dairy, and 32 percent of its vegetables from Europe.
Tag Archives | Ukraine
Earlier posts have criticized President Obama for his minimalist foreign policy vision (here and here) and lack of leadership skills. But it’s also worth noting that some of his multiplying problems overseas have to do with his aloof personality and inability to forge strong personal relationships with international counterparts.
On July 10th, as members of Crimea’s 10,000-strong Jewish community gathered to pay homage to their ancestors massacred by the Nazis in 1942, they found the event had been taken up a notch. Being the first Remembrance Day, as the event is called, that has taken place in Russian-controlled Crimea, Moscow pulled out all the stops, financing the entire event and facilitating the arrival of rabbis and other visitors from around the world. One day earlier, President Putin himself even met with top rabbis from across Europe, thanking them for their constant struggle “against all manifestations of the Nazi ideology and any attempts to revive it.”
Those who were not familiar with the national airlines carrier of Malaysia certainly know it now. Last March MH370 is believed to have disappeared mysteriously in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Australia, and last week MH17, flying from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian rebels over Ukraine and is now scattered over bloodied sunflower fields.
“It is very similar to driving a car. If the road is open, you assume that it is safe. If it’s closed you find an alternate route.” – Tony Tyler, International Air Transport Association, Jul 20, 2014
Political mileage, extension, and much noise continues to be made about the shooting down of MH17. It has, for instance, become the perfect distraction for an astonishingly unpopular prime minister in Australia. While asylum seekers historically vanish on the high seas in the name of Tony Abbott’s humanitarian sense of worth, much noise can be made about civilians lost because of the exploits of separatists, engaged in a conflict most Australians would struggle finding on a map.
US intelligence sources are claiming that Russia has actually stepped up its material support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, including heavier rocket systems. I suspect these may the BM-27 Uragan (‘Hurricane’) systems, the very kind that Moscow has been criticising Kyiv for using in recent days. This is a truck-mounted multiple-tube rocket launcher system akin to the previously-used BM-21 Grad on steroids, able to ripple-fire its 16 220mm rockets in 20 seconds. As such, it represents a substantial upgrade to rebel firepower.
The US says it has evidence that Russia has fired artillery across the border targeting Ukrainian military positions. Russia also intends “to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers” to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the state department said. Russia has frequently denied sending any rocket launchers into Ukraine.
The US comment comes a week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, with the rebels widely accused of shooting it down. Multinational efforts to find the cause of the crash are under way, led by the Netherlands which lost 193 of its citizens. All 298 people on board the flight died in the crash.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced 40 unarmed military police are being sent to the crash site as part of efforts to find the last MH17 victims. He said there would be more people working on the crash site and his government was looking at ways to make it more secure.
The US, which has repeatedly accused Russia of fuelling separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine, says it believes that rebels shot down flight MH17 with a Russian-provided SA-11 Buk surface-to-air missile, probably by mistake. Leading rebels in eastern Ukraine have given conflicting accounts of whether they had control of a Buk launcher at the time the plane was downed.
State department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Thursday the US had evidence derived from “human intelligence information” showing Russia firing artillery into eastern Ukraine. She said the US would not provide further details so as not to compromise sources and methods of intelligence collection.
The present global atmosphere presents a set of frustrating challenges to American policy makers. With the MH17 tragedy in Ukraine, the continued destabilization of Iraq, and the on-going and very public violence in Israel and Palestine, it is understandable that legislators would turn to the United States’ backyard in pursuit of an easy win. That would appear to be part of the motivation for the House of Representatives’ passage, and the Senate’s consideration, of sanctions against the Venezuelan government in recent weeks. But Venezuela is a unique geopolitical situation, and the sanctions that have had some success chastening Russia and bringing Iran to the negotiating table would likely have limited success in changing the calculus of Nicolás Maduro’s government. In fact, sanctions could have the opposite effect.
The bloody farce in the Ukraine took another ugly turn with the shootdown of MH17. And to be ugly about it, if the rebels shot the plane down, it shouldn’t matter very much except as a horrible and unexpected catastrophe in a war zone and an overwhelming tragedy to the survivors of the victims on board. Call it an accident, collateral damage, manslaughter, there is no credible version of events in which it was intentional mass murder or terrorism, either by the rebels or Russian technicians that, according to the Ukrainian government, possessed the ability to operate the elderly but complex anti-aircraft systems fingered in the attack.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in Ukraine last week because three crucial actors all played a role, and they all had something in common — a desire for money. If any one of them had not contributed to the perfect storm in the manner they did, the crash would never have happened. In spite of all the collective finger-pointing, Malaysia, Russia and the Ukraine all bear culpability.
Policymakers, especially policymakers who have never seen action, are often seduced by covert operations. They see them as the perfect policy instrument: cheap, deniable, effective. Yes, there can be tremendously effective covert or at least non-conventional operations and campaigns, but just as all intelligence operations must come to terms with the fundamental truth that nothing is guaranteed to stay secret for ever, so too these sneaky campaigns can very easily either fail or, even more likely, have unexpected consequences that may overshadow the intended outcome.
A variety of foreign policy analysts have, over the past several years, gotten into the habit of referring to Russia/U.S. relations as a new Cold War. This is misguided, for a number of reasons. Bilateral relations between the two nations are indeed at a post-1991 low, but the result has not been a declaration by either that their opponent is a mortal enemy, or that they do not or will not collaborate in the political and economic arenas, or that foreign policy is being conducted with the specific purpose of undermining the other. Rather, a desire to broaden spheres of influence (a Cold War term) have taken on renewed importance and define much of what is going on.
As I write this, the people of Gaza hopes for an end to the week-long Israeli bombardment which has killed more than 180 Palestinians – many of them civilians have been dashed after Hamas rejected the Egypt-brokered deal. This will almost inevitably mean more innocent people are killed as collateral to this seemingly endless conflict.
The pivot to Asia has been the signature item on President Obama’s foreign policy agenda, but the United States is hardly the only country to reassess its international relations with an eye towards Asia. The European Union has also been engaged in a “look east” in preparation for what some have termed, the Asian Century.
A high-level EU meeting over Russia is to be held in Brussels. Prior to the meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry has pressed for Russia to face toughened sanctions, unless it takes concrete steps to stop armed separatists in eastern Ukraine. European leaders, also, are expected to consider imposing more economic sanctions on Russia and to sign a free-trade accord with Ukraine.