Sunday, July 13, 2014

Maybe Luhansk Rather Than Lugansk After All

Awhile ago I forecast here that the outcome in Eastern Ukraine would be a Transniestria-like situation with the self-declared peoples' republics achieving de facto independence, backed by Russia, but not de jure.  This became symbolized by whether western media would call the capital of the more eastern one "Luhansk" (Ukrainian) or "Lugansk" (Russian), and I declared that it would be "Lugansk," (some western media, such as the Washington Post have called it both names at different times).

Well, it seems that world-dominatrix Angela Merkel has gotten to Vladimir Putin and he now seems not to be backing the rebels there, even though their two main leaders, Igor Strelkov and Alexander Borodai, are born-in-Russia Russian citizens. They are now complaining of a lack of support from Putin, and they have been denounced in Russian media as "wreckless" and other such not favorable descriptors, apparently reflecting Putin's lack of support from them.  Crimea is enough to chew on for him, it would appear.

The real bottom line, of course, is on the ground, and there the formerly hapless Ukrainian military seems to have gained the upper hand, driving Strelkov out of his stronghold in Slovyansk.  An ultimate showdown in Donetsk appears to be in the works, and this may be over soon, especially if Putin continues his current attitude.

A curious aspect of this is how a number of progressive folk, including British economist Alan Freeman and British computer scientist sometimes economist, Paul Cockshott, have fallen for the line that the rebels are great progressives.  Maybe, but Strelkov has been an open supporter of monarchism, and the Putin regime is not remotely progressive.  It is true that there are neo-fascist elements in the Ukrainian leadership, but identifying the entire Ukrainian government as "fascist" and attempting to invoke World War II in all this has simply been a ridiculous propaganda ploy,  I think these people should be embarrassed that they have fallen for such nonsense.

Barkley Rosser


Myrtle Blackwood said...

It's hard to find 'progressives' when a nation is short of money and energy. Here's an interestilng timeline:

2010, May: Ukraine was the third largest borrower of the IMF
2010, June 8th : A Stockholm court of arbitration ruled that the Ukraine must return 12.1 billion cubic metres of illegally siphoned off gas (in 2009) to a company 50% controlled by Gazprom. Several high-ranking Ukrainian officials stated the return "would not be quick".
2010, July 28th: a 50% increase on household natural gas utility prices subsequent to the approval of a $15.5 billion IMF loan.
2013, November 20th: The IMF imposed conditions on a renewed loan to the Ukraine which included the gradual raising of natural gas tarrifs by 40% while compensating the poorest segments of the population through the strengthening of targeted social assistance.
2014, April 1st: Gazprom cancelled Ukraine’s natural gas discount as agreed in the 17 December 2013 Ukrainian-Russian action plan because of rising debt to the company.
2014, June 16th. Russia halted supplies of natural gas to the Ukraine after the latter failed to make a debt repayment. Unilaterally Gazprom decided that Ukraine had to pay upfront for its natural gas. said...

It must be recognized that Ukraine is at least partly responsible for its own economic problems, some of which have arisen due to the ongoing political battling and power shifts between the western and eastern parts of the country, which are very much at the heart of the current situation. The hard fact is that Ukraine is the only one of the former 15 republics of the former USSR that now has a real per capital income lower than it did when the USSR broke up. There are many reasons for this, and your list provides some of it, but much of it involves internal corruption and power struggles and other unfortunate matters.

I do not have a simple answer to this, but ending the war would help and being able to have friendly and reasonable economic and political relations with both Russia and the EU would help as well, although this may not be possible, unfortunately.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

I cannot comment on the level of corruption in the Ukraine, Barkley. I don't know.

I can see that other factors exist that could be depressing the Ukrainian (official) economy however. They are:
(i) the declining population base; about 200,000 fewer people each year due to the low birth rate and the relatively short lifespan of males;
(ii) a rising underground economy;
(iii) the bad health status amongst males;
(v) inflated energy prices and the need to devote more and more money to paying off debt must surely be reducing levels of consumption (as implied in my previous comment);
(vi) Ukraine's dependence on its exports of steel in a world oversupplied by such (and the high energy dependence of this industry);
(vii) Chernobyl.

It would be nice to see a global effort to pull all nations into a renewable energy revolution (such as that happening in Germany right now). And a focus on the use of money for development rather than debt repayment to those entities that perhaps have already been bailed out by TARP etc. said...


I would note that the first three of those hold in Russia as well. And the price of oil and natural gas has been highly variable over time, dependent on Russian conduct, which nation supplies most of the oil and gas Ukraine gets.

Also, I would say that by now the impact of Chernobyl has long since passed.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Re: "I would say that by now the impact of Chernobyl has long since passed."

I believe that it is very reasonable to say that the impact of any nuclear catastrophe in the world does not pass away. The costs are ongoing, and forever.

"No one wants to live anywhere that's "contaminated," no matter how low the levels.....

"As of November 1995, a partial list of some of the costs of Chernobyl Catastrophe:
Death rates are 30 percent higher for those in contaminated regions in the Ukraine compared to the rest of the country.
Birth rates in Belarus have fallen 50 percent.
Thyroid cancer, particularly among children, is up 285 percent in Belarus.
About 7,000 in Russia alone who helped put out the fire and seal the reactor are believed to have died and 38 percent are recovering from some kind of disease.
Belarus, the most heavily affected country, spends 20 percent of its budget on dealing with Chernobyl's aftermath; Ukraine devotes four percent and Russia, one percent.
Contamination of Lake Kojanovskoe -- downriver from Chernobyl and used by more than 30 million people -- with "radiation levels 60 times above European Union safety norms".
Repair estimates for the disintegrating sarcophagus range from $1.28 to $2.3 billion.
125,000 people alone have died "from diseases related to the accident" according to Ukraine's Health Ministry.
Ivan Kenik, Belarus's Chernobyl minister, estimates the cost within the borders of Belarus for "total damages from the Chernobyl catastrophe from 1986 to 2015" to be $235 billion."
"We're terribly concerned about Belarus, where only 20 percent of the children are now considered healthy.

Chernobyl: Understanding Some of the True Costs of Nuclear Technology

bakho said...

Ukraine has become a proxy war of Neocon Versus the Russian Mafia. The Neocons want to exploit Ukraine by flooding their markets with cheap western goods. Russia is a major trading partner for Eastern Ukraine and Russia would respond the cheap western goods by throwing up tariffs at the Ukraine border. This could potentially devastate the economy of Eastern Ukraine that depends on Russian markets. Thus, there are huge economic differences between east and west over preferred economic policy of NeoCon versus Russian Mafia.

The Neocons engineered a coup against an elected government that was not sufficiently supportive of the Neocon economic goals and joining EU. The Neocons enlisted ethnic Ukrainians and right wing Nationalist radicals. The radicals were particularly important in the protests and violence that forced the president out. They were rewarded by being invited into the new government. The Neocons supported elections and a new government that does not have a demonstrated commitment to ethnic diversity and building consensus. They engineered a coup to over power the political process of consensus.

Ukraine is ethnically diverse and only through government enforced tolerance and protection of minority rights can it be a peaceable unified country. As long as the ethnically intolerant Ukrainian nationalists are allowed in the government, there will be resistance to the government among ethnic Russians. An analogous situation would be if the Tea Party deposed Obama with the help of the Klan and invited the Klan into the government. Such a government would likely provoke armed resistance no matter how well intentioned.

The Ukrainian government, rather than show a commitment and respect for the rights and interests of all citizens, is refusing to negotiate away power they won in the coup and are bombing and killing their own citizens in eastern Ukraine. The bombing confirms the worst fears of the ethnic Russians and make a political settlement less likely. The rebels have been shooting at airplanes in defense against the bombings and now have shot down a civilian airliner as collateral damage to much outrage which is unsurprisingly is being used to rally political support for the Ukraine government. The international community needs to step in, stop the government from bombing its own citizens and start negotiations between tolerant elements of all the Ukrainian ethnic groups to the exclusion of Ukrainian Nationalist radicals. A settlement probably requires a good deal of regional autonomy, and the end to the divisive Neocon dreams of a Ukraine market.

Obama failed to cleanse the US foreign policy institutions of Neocons and they are engaging in policy that overlooks likely outcomes to overthrow of stable governments. There is plenty of blame to go around for the deteriorating situation. The political process was abandoned with support from the west. Why should the west be surprised that using violence instead of politics leads to violent opposition? Why should we be surprised that escalation should lead to collateral damage to the west?

We need less condemnation and taking sides and much more commitment to supporting the majority of Ukrainians who just want to live in peace.
-jonny bakho

Myrtle Blackwood said...

The IMF lends money to the Ukraine. Why? There has to be something basically wrong with the act of lending more and more money to nations whose economies are in tatters. Whilst at the same time charging more and more money for basic resources as they become more scarce.

Money multiplies as as real wealth depletes.

The answer IMHO must surely lie with appropriate forms of development based on a much enlarged vision of what is and isn't 'profitable'. 'Profitable' for who? said...


That Belarus bears much greater burden from Chernobyl than does Ukraine but has managed to get above its 1991 level in per capita income while Ukraine has not pretty much tells it.


Peace would be nice, but claiming that neocons could cause the level of demos that overthrew the corrupt old Ukrainian government does not have much cred.

As for the rebels, their leaders are Russian citizens from Russia, such as Girkin/Strelkov, who initially posted a brag about shooting down MH17, although he took it down pretty quickly, and has since been claiming that the plane was full of dead bodies. This is not a rebellion, but an invasion from Russia.

bakho said...

There is no doubt that Nuland was making promises to the Ukraine revolutionaries if they overthrew the elected government. The intercepted and publicly released conversations between Nuland and Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt clearly indicated that they would back the Ukraine coup leaders if successful. They could have sent a strong message in favor of politics and against a coup, but they chose violence. This is the problem with giving NeoCons power over foreign policy. They cause trouble because they fail to understand the logical negative consequences. Ethnic Ukrainians could pull off the coup because the capital is a stronghold of ethnic Ukrainians and most supporters of the government were far away to the east. Disorganized supporters often lose to small well organized groups.

The rebels obviously contain some Russian elements. Many are defectors from the Ukraine Army who were trained by Russia before the coup or thugs that respond to Ukrainian Nationalist threats and violence with violence of their own. The Russians could not run this operation on their own, and Russians are far more competent than the rebels appear to be. The rebels are not the type of people that could form a coalition government of peace and tolerance. The rebels and Svoboda both need to be marginalized and their inflammatory rhetoric suppressed or the conflict will drag on.

In an ethnically diverse country where protection of the rights of ethnic minorities is paramount to internal peace, a violent coup is certain to cause problems. The US had no business supporting the coup which is directly responsible for the current fighting and violence. Electing a new government that promotes the interests of some ethnic groups to the detriment of others and using power to subdue other groups (as we see from bombing their own civilians) is not a recipe for legitimate peaceful government.

Time and again we see the US supporting Democracy = Elections and often subverting the process when we don't like the results. Elections can produce corrupt and intolerant government. Commitment to human rights and protection of minority rights is far more important that tyranny by an elected government.

Steps to peace:
1. Stop the bombing
2. Kick Svoboda out of the government
3. Include many representatives of ethnic Russians in the government and offer power sharing.
4. Negotiate with the local governing officials in the East such as Mayors to form a coalition that will give equal power to ethnic Russians to block policy that does great harm to one ethnic group.

Anonymous said...

I just heard on CSPAN a caller explain the war is due to the fact that Ukraine produces 1/3 of the world's food. I learn alot on CSPAN (where we are free to choose our facts and universes (Tegmark)).

The idea that its surprising that Cockshott and Freeman would side with the rebels to me is like saying its surprising that water snakes eat toads, and hawks eat water snakes, rather than toads eat water snakes which eat hawks. (Of course that may occur ( if the snakes are babies, and the hawks are in eggs).

"Progressive economists' are similar to russian revolutionaries around 1920 and before---on the Ukranian farms, revolutionaries and progressives believe all animal species are equal, but some are more equal than others. So there is a pecking order, and the graph of relationships is directed. By the SMD theorem and earlier results there is no unique way to cardinally rank the elements of the graph (species).(See also S Weinberg, S J Gould, and Peter Singer---one whole trinity of white males who live in the Ivy tower on the farm).

However, in general stalinists are in fairly fixed relationships, just as toads are. (Interestingly to me, a famous math philosopher who edited collected works on logic, including one I think with a paper by a different rosser, was with Trotsky in Mexico; he subsequantally became disenchanted with being a 'revolutionary' pssibly because one day when he was waiting at the door to be fed by Trotsky, Trotsky didnt show up (most likely because he was out partying with the putins, though he claimed it was because he was killed by the stalinists---though the famous Genius Professor Grover Furr has shown that Stalinists love dogs) so he found a new master at Harvard.

The interesting question, studied by Darwin, is how the 'many' arise from the 'one'. Where do the different species come from? The Higgs boson? Spontaneous symmetry breaking of an undirected graph into cliques which are connected and orientable? (I think some have argued the world is 4 dimensional because that is the lowest dimension where you can have some 'noncommutative' aspects such as 'time'. This doesn't mean that 4 dimensions are the reality, only that there is no 'reality' with fewer ones, so if you want to talk about reality you already are assuming 4D. Reality is just a tautology, and conclusions are assumptions, as theorems are just a translation of axioms. Children know this---show them some equation like 'solve the schrdoinger equation'---they just point out its already solved ---see the equal sign? ihBarPsi=f(Psi) Similarily, if you want to have some academic field like math, you better get out of Presburger arithmatic (ie only one operation like + or *) and move to Peano at least (with both + and *)---this way you can define primes, the zeta function, the normal distribution (eg statistical theory of numbers), etc. and human species can convert food from the farm into symbols, and then he symbols can be reconverted (the way one uses imaginary numbers to get real solutions) into ideologies, weapons, arms races, CSPAN etc.)

Cockshott's position, like the 'rebels' (without a pause?) may be as predictable as the idea there are organisms which live in the sea and use sulfur rather than oxygen or something. A new prime, and set of integers with its genetic signature, is always out there.

I assume Freeman is the same one who works with Alan Kirman on their theological liturgy which like sunnis vs shiites involves disputing Piketty's concern with inequality instead saying the issue should be poverty etc. ( just as its illegal to buy a 'knock off brand' and put some label like Nikes on it).

From rational expectations, Darwin has been superseded by having a proper ID, thanks to the NSA, intelligence and rationality are nonlinear.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Re: "That Belarus ...has managed to get above its 1991 level in per capita income while Ukraine has not pretty much tells it."

Belarus post Chernobyl: "about 25% of the land is considered uninhabitable."

GDP per capita: $15,592 (PPP; 2012 est.)
However, the average gross salary [- only for those who are working -] is $5,232 (May 2012)

Many people in Belarus have been forced off the land due to the contamination by radiation. They can no longer supplement their household wealth using natural resources, the way they could before.

So GDP per capita as a measure of progress in Belarus is particularly dodgy when large numbers of people are forced into a much more monetised form of existence. That is, due to the alienation from the land many households are now forced to earn more money and receive more sustenance through money exchange than they did pre Chernobyl. Also, the quality of life, with all these sick children, must be very poor.

Paul Cockshott said...

It is a simple matter of democracy. The East had a vote to secede, they should be allowed to do that peacefully just as Scotland should be allowed to if it votes similarly. said...


That referendum was not one "to secede" but one for greater autonomy. Its wording was deliberately vague, and polls have shown that most voting for it in fact did not/do not favor independence or joining Russia, but greater autonomy.

The two top leaders of the rebellion are both Russian citizens from Moscow, Borodai and the truly nauseating Girkin/Strelkov, the guy who first bragged about shooting down MH17 on his website, only to take that down, and then has claimed that the people on the flight were already dead bodies, put their by Ukrainian conspirators.

And, sure, if some heavily armed Finns walked into Karelia and seized control of public buildings and declared a peoples's republic, Putin would just hand it over to them.