The Russian People Demand Intervention in Ukraine
There were mass demonstrations across Russia today as the demands for military intervention in Ukraine intensified:
Large protest marches calling for intervention in Ukraine took place on Sunday across Russia amid an increasingly strident propaganda campaign by Kremlin-controlled media aimed at boosting support for military action.
Thousands of people carrying Russian flags marched through Moscow shouting their solidarity with ethnic Russians in Ukraine and denouncing the new regime in Kiev. Many said they favored deploying the armed forces.
“It is very difficult for me to watch how fascists, terrorists and drug addicts are insulting the people of Ukraine” said Lidia, a consultant based in Moscow. “We must invade.”
There’s some evidence of astro-turfing in these demonstrations. However, I strongly suspect that, given the way the story is being reported, the demonstrations are probably a pretty fair gauge of Russian public opinion on the subject. Consider the following stories in the English language version version of Pravda.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Security Council, Samantha Power, in her speech at a meeting convened at the request of Kiev, offered to immediately send international observers into the country. Representatives of 15 countries took part in the closed meeting. Vitaly Churkin represented the Russian Federation.
Note that the Russians interpret observers as foreign troops. The level of trust in outside assistance is pretty low.
The EU reported its willingness to provide significant financial assistance to Ukraine. This is allegedly done to cover the need of $35 billion for this and subsequent years. Experts believe that the EU will strongly promote their loan because geopolitical ambitions are at stake. But what would it mean for Kiev? Pravda.Ru tried to figure this out.
The economic situation in Ukraine is close to a collapse. The new authorities have announced that the treasury was empty, while the upcoming expenses will be significant. By July, Ukraine will have to pay $410 billion dollars of debt, and about $3 billion to Russia (including Gazprom). By the end of 2015, Ukraine must pay foreign creditors $17 billion, not including interest. The total financial needs of Ukraine for the current year are estimated by Russian economists at $25 billion, Bloomberg reported.
Given that “the treasury is empty,” and Russia has frozen the remaining $12 billion in financial aid, Ukraine must urgently find creditors. Private creditors are not promising considering 8 percent budget deficit (the EU requirements for their countries is 3 percent), the recession in the economy for the past five months, and capital flight (only direct withdrawals from accounts over two months of the Maidan protests have reached $3.1 billion dollars).
As the story points out, Russia has already lent Ukraine billions, far in excess of what the EU is offering. “A day late and a dollar short” comes to mind.
Kiev seeks NATO’s help in light of Russia’s move to deploy troops in the Crimea to defend the Russian-speaking population of the republic.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the convening of emergency meetings of the North Atlantic Council and the NATO-Ukraine Commission. They will take place in Brussels on Sunday, March 2.
On March 1, Russian senators unanimously approved the address of Russian President Vladimir Putin about the deployment of Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine to normalize the situation in the country.
Meanwhile, the Russian President discussed the situation in Ukraine in a telephone conversation with his US counterpart Barack Obama. The conversation took place at the initiative of the American side. “In response to Barack Obama’s concerns about Russia’s plans on the possible use of Russian armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin drew Mr. Obama’s attention to provocative criminal acts of ultranationalist groups, whom, in fact, the present authorities in Kiev support,” statement released by the press service of the Kremlin said.
There are dozens more stories in this vein. Based on what they’re hearing the Russian people clearly see the situation unfolding in Ukraine very differently than we do.
In official statements on the situation in Ukraine Washington treads a very narrow line. IMO for the most part the White House has done pretty well in this regard but Sec. Kerry has allowed his official statements to stray a little too far from the known facts. In an environment in which every misstep will be picked up and reported as a provocation, less may well be more.
I also think that the reality is that there isn’t much in the way of meaningful responses that we or the EU will make. Banking sanctions that would impose more hardship on the EU than they would on Russia are probably unrealistic.