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March 5, 2014

Wikinews interviews specialists on Russian intervention in Ukraine

Wikinews interviews specialists on Russian intervention in Ukraine

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Map of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and of Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Image: PANONIAN.

People in Ukraine protesting against Russia’s intervention “Crimea is Ukraine”.
Image: ВО Свобода.

A Crimean self-defense group with shields painted as the flag of the autonomous republic.
Image: E. Arrott.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In the past few days, tension has been increasing due to conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation which has led to the United States, the United Kingdom, and France increasing pressure on Russia to remove their troops from Crimea.

Wikinews interviewed specialists in Russian foreign policy and specialists in international law about the legality of Russia’s actions and the consequences of any sanctions imposed by G7 nation economies.

Interviewees

Wikinews interviewed:

  • Jane Burbank, Professor of History and Russian and Slavic Studies at the New York University, New York
  • Jeremy Morris, Senior Lecturer in Russian Studies at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham
  • Craig Brandist, Professor of Cultural Theory and Intellectual History in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield
  • Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.
  • Yanni Kotsonis, Director, New York University Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia in New York.

Wikinews Q&A

File photo of interviewee Craig Brandist.
Image: Craig Brandist.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Are Russian troop deployments into Ukrainian territory a clear violation of sovereignty?

  • Morris: Yes.
  • Burbank: Yes, the borders of the Ukrainian state were drawn up in 1991 and reinforced by the 1994 Budapest accords. See the article by Paul Goble on these accords.
  • Brandist: It would be hard to describe it otherwise. That said, however, it is quite extraordinary hypocrisy for the US and UK to strike moral poses about this, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia clearly has strategic interests in the region, and there is a large Russian-speaking population in much of Ukraine, a majority in Crimea and an important part of the east of the country, and the arrangement after the collapse of the USSR was clearly fragile, especially when NATO expansion took place. None of this is to excuse Russian actions, but they cannot be understood without focus on the ‘great game’ of which it is part.
  • Blank: By any standard Russia’s actions represent a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and integrity, a premeditated break with numerous treaties signed by Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s security, integrity, and sovereignty, and thus Premier Yatsenyuk is right these are acts of war.
  • Kotsonis: On the surface it seems so. Mind you, it is complicated because Russia has been given rights to the bases on the Crimea and this may give Russia the pretext for a larger intervention. But it does not seem to be a clear-cut legal case for intervention and everyone understands that this is Russia smarting over the loss of an ally in Yanukovich and guarding its own back yard interests.

File photo of interviewee Yanni Kotsonis.
Image: Yanni Kotsonis.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are we going to see a proxy war between the United States and Russia?

  • Morris: No.
  • Burbank: I doubt that we will have a real war, but note that the Russians who falsely accused the “West” and the U.S. for instigating the political activism of Ukrainians (denying that Ukrainians themselves wanted to change their corrupt government for a more democratic and inclusive one) now have managed, through provocation, to get the “West” involved in the conflict. (So far this involvement is only diplomatic and verbal.) Moreover, the analysis so common in the Western media of a divided Ukraine (East vs West) has played into Russia’s hands, setting up a scenario for strife and divisiveness.
  • Brandist: I think it unlikely at present. Russia humiliated the US when it entered Georgia to stop it becoming part of NATO, exposing the limits of US power in areas where Russia has an overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons. Russia clearly cannot contest the US on a global basis in the way that the USSR once could, but it remains a great power with a powerful regional presence, while the limits of US power have been graphically illustrated in the Middle East and Caucasus. This is another illustration of that.
  • Blank: It is too soon to know what we are going to see but a proxy war is one possibility as is a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia (note I did not say war). In my personal opinion resolute NATO action combined with economic and political action of a similarly robust nature would force Russia to back down because it knows it cannot afford to go up against NATO. Indeed this operation was undertaken because Putin et al openly and […] publicly declared their belief that Obama and other Western leaders are weak, irresolute, and afraid to act. This calculation must be reversed decisively if peace is to hold.
  • Kotsonis: I doubt it. The US has used stern language but so far has taken direct intervention off the table. On the other hand Russia has declared publicly that it can intervene militarily and has decided that the US will not. “Proxy” does not capture it because Russia is actually in Ukraine and the US won’t be.

File photo of interviewee Jane Burbank.
Image: Jane Burbank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In response to Russia’s build-up of its forces in Crimea, Ukraine has ordered a full military mobilisation. To what extent can Ukrainian troops hold back and successfully fight Russian forces?

  • Morris: Anything is possible, but I think Ukraine lacks the political will to enter large-scale conflict. There may be insurgency-like fighting.
  • Brandist: Russia has overwhelming superiority in both the south and east of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian forces are not necessarily reliable in a conflict with Russia given the support for Russia among a substantial part of the Ukrainian population. Ukraine does, however, have substantial assets elsewhere and if Russia was to try to move into the Ukrainian heartland it would be a substantial operation. This is precisely why it is unlikely to do it. Moreover, Russia does not want a division of Ukraine, which could lead NATO to become established within the borders of the ex-USSR, so it is more likely it is seeking to change the facts on the ground so to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. It is difficult to predict how events will unfold on the ground, however, given the informal and extreme nationalist forces who are operating.
  • Blank: It is unlikely that Ukraine could prevail in such a conflict but I think it would unhinge Russian calculations, create the basis for protracted conflict, including guerrilla war for which Russia is not prepared, and thus force the West to act and begin the process of imposing costs on Russia that Putin did not foresee. Indeed that is one reason why this is an incredibly reckless action on Putin’s part.
  • Kotsonis: No one thinks Ukraine can stand up to Russia. It’s partly because Russia is bigger and better equipped, partly because Russia has bases in Ukraine, and partly because Russia is relatively united. One will have to see whether Ukraine will unite when so many of its citizens identify with Russia. We do not know the answer to this, only anecdote.

File photo of interviewee Jeremy Morris.
Image: Jeremy Morris.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would penalties imposed on Russia by the ‘Western nations’ being the United States, UK and France have severe consequences for the Russian economy?

  • Morris: Not really, so much depends on oil price for Russia, but fall in [the] rouble due to lack of confidence may affect ordinary Russians’ ability to buy imported goods.
  • Brandist: Clearly such measures would have negative effects, and the business community in Russia is clearly worried. That said, however, the likelihood of any coherent action against Russia is not great, not least because much of Europe is reliant of Russian gas. Moreover, it is European states that would face any potential flood of refugees and so European states will not be keen on too much pressure that could lead Russia to press Ukraine even more. Germany effectively vetoed Georgia’s attempt to be part of NATO, and it would have even more interests in trying to stabilize the situation now. In this situation the ‘Western nations’ mentioned have limited leverage, though it clearly would have an impact.
  • Blank: Ejecting Russia from the G8 is meaningless. Sanctions that would register are sanctions on Putin et al so they cannot access their money, action in the WTO [World Trade Organization] to arraign Russia for violating its statutes, legislation placing sanctions on Russia equivalent to those on Iran that have crippled it, staging a run on the rouble, and if necessary blockading the Baltic and Black Seas to prevent maritime commerce. Most importantly but this is over time, Europe must reorient its gas and oil purchases away from Russia on a long-term basis. All these moves must be taken together and in tandem with military-political moves to uphold Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty and thus preserve peace by deterring Russia and imposing excessive costs upon it.
  • Kotsonis: It will probably make matters worse for Russia but it won’t be a causal factor. Russia is overly dependent on commodities exports and is at the mercy of world prices. The world wants those resources and will probably not renounce them, but they may not be enough to keep the economy growing in Russia. Any penalties would only accelerate the secular trend.

Soldiers without insignia guard buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, March 2, 2014.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png There are reports that Russia could be ejected from the G8 group of developed economies. Would this be a major blow for Putin’s domestic popularity?

  • Morris: Not really.
  • Brandist: In present circumstances not. There is a substantial constituency in Russia that is nostalgic about its imperial status, especially after the humiliation inflicted on the state during the Yeltsin period, and these conflicts are presented in this context. Certainly recognition of Russia at the G8 was a prestige factor, but there are clearly compensations on an ideological level in the present situation. This is an illustration of Russia’s ascendency vis-a-vis the US and the EU [European Union] in one sense. What it all means in the longer term depends on a significant amount of variables, however.
  • Blank: Ejecting Russia from the G8 is necessary but insignificant in its own right.
  • Kotsonis: No, it would probably increase his popularity in an us-v-them dynamic. Putin thrives politically on autarky and it may be treated as an attack on Russian prestige. But less on Putin’s reputation at home.

File photo of interviewee Stephen Blank.
Image: Stephen Blank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the Russian general public in full support of the deployment of their own troops into Ukraine, a separate sovereign nation?

  • Morris: No, this is a distraction by Putin from increasing economic and political problems in Russia. A minority of Russians support deployment and I think support from ordinary Russians will fall when they realise deployment may result in the killing of fellow Slavs.
  • Burbank: There is no such thing as a united Russian public. There are many views in Russia, as elsewhere. Clearly, some people in Russia oppose this assault on Ukraine, as we have seen from the arrests and beating of demonstrators in Moscow. There is a section of the academic “community” — also a deceptive word — that is opposed to the invasion.
If you are interested in this, read the discussion on Ab Imperio’s Facebook site, where many young academics are expressing their views.
I would like to repeat one point: the notion of a simple nationalized divide between East and West Ukraine is both false and counter-productive. There are nationalists in many areas of the country, but there are also people with other political commitments. It is dangerous for the Western media to reinforce the notion that nationalist sentiment (pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian) is the only political force in Ukraine. A whole generation has grown up since Ukraine’s independence and many people, old and young and in the middle, have ideas about sovereignty and politics that are not simply “ethnic.”
  • Brandist: Russia does not have a unified or stable ‘public opinion’ any more than anywhere else. Moreover, the Crimea and east of Ukraine are not necessarily viewed as fully a separate nation among many Russians. Many Russians have relatives there and go there for vacations. At present the majority are in support for the reasons I’ve just outlined. However, we have seen significant opposition movements in recent years, which shows that if things turn out badly then Putin may be vulnerable. There is clearly an assessment of risks that has been carried out by the Kremlin, and so far it has paid off. Indeed, it probably strengthens Putin’s compromised standing at home, but if things do go wrong then this could change quickly.
  • Blank: It is probably the case that Putin enjoys public support in Russia but that is irrelevant since the media’s been so thoroughly cowed as to be unreflective of reality and the issue is not public opinion there but Putin and the ruling clique.
  • Kotsonis: Yes, this seems to be the case. You need to understand that Ukraine is in Russian minds somewhere between a close friend and a back yard. It was always assumed that this was the key alliance for Russia and tacitly understood that Russia’s geopolitical interests would be respected. Europe’s gamble last year was to pull Ukraine into the Euro orbit by forcing Ukraine to choose. Almost anyone in Russia saw this as a direct challenge. I can’t say for certain but I imagine a large majority think the intervention is justified.



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January 31, 2010

Snow causes German travel woes

Filed under: Archived,Baltic Sea,Europe,Germany,Weather,Writing contest 2010 — admin @ 5:00 am

Snow causes German travel woes – Wikinews, the free news source

Snow causes German travel woes

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Germany
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Heavy snow combined with high winds has caused at least three deaths, with major travel disruption throughout much of Germany. Several motorways were closed, with long traffic jams on many others. As flights were delayed and rail travel cancelled, the police of North Rhine-Westphalia recorded over three hundred accidents, with a total of 42 injured people, during Friday night and into Saturday, with one death as a result of a man stepping out of his car and into the path of another after a motorway accident.

Cars were abandoned, and even the gritters were stranded. In the north of Germany, as much as 25cm of snow immobilised the transport network whilst police and other emergency services struggled to cope. Football matches have been cancelled across the entire nation, and ferry services to the Baltic Sea islands cancelled, with at least one completely cut off.

The Alster Lake in Hamburg froze over, prompting hundreds of citizens to skate across it, in what meteorologists say happens just once a decade.



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January 7, 2007

Warming oceans make it harder for fish to breathe

Warming oceans make it harder for fish to breathe

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Sunday, January 7, 2007

Climate change

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Global warming has caused oceans around the world to rise in temperature making it increasingly difficult for fish to breathe, say scientists at Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research located in Germany.

In the past 50 years, temperatures in the Baltic Sea have risen causing oxygen levels in the water to decrease.

A Greater Eelpout.

A study was performed on shallow-water eelpouts, a fish with a large head which looks much like an eel, that showed that the creatures required more oxygen. With the decreased levels of oxygen, the eelpouts are literally gasping for air and causing the number of eelpouts to decrease.

“When you say I get less oxygen in, then I have less oxygen available for aerobic energy and I have less energy for the diverse tasks that a species needs to fulfill in an ecosystem, such as being ready to prey, grow, move and reproduce. It’s a general weakening of the individual once it is going beyond its thermal limitation”, said Hans Pörtner, an animal physiologist and ecologist.

Although the study only focused on the eelpouts, scientists say that the problem affects all fish and overfishing could occur.

“There is relatively strong evidence that the cod in the North Sea find it too warm to maintain high productivity. When the fishing industry maintains the same high fishing pressure—that has not been a problem before—with the lower productivity, this turns into overfishing,” added Pörtner.

Scientists also state that the declining numbers in the eelpouts and fish does not mean that they will become extinct.

“It doesn’t mean that the species will go extinct necessarily, but it means they will move. If temperatures are going to change in [the] future, then it will have a major impact on the distribution of animals,” said a zoophysiologist at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, Tobias Wang.

Recently, the United States Department of Interior announced that they may add the polar bears to the list of threatened species. Also recently, a Canadian Arctic ice shelf broke away from Ellesmere Island. Both issues are said to have been caused by global warming.

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October 23, 2005

Russian fighter crash in Lithuania: investigation concludes

Russian fighter crash in Lithuania: investigation concludes

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

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Russian fighter Su-27 crashed near the city of Kaunas, Lithuania, thus violating Lithuanian-NATO airspace. After an enquiry, the pilot was eventually released. Lithuania may have obtained the secret “friend-or-foe” enemy recognition system. The last time in happened, it cost Russia billions of dollars to reprogram its airforce recognition systems.

The fighter was one of five that were given permission to fly from Russia to its heavily militarized province of Kaliningrad/Karaliaucius/Koenigsberg, separated from the mainland by the territories of Lithuania and Poland. The last plane, piloted by Valery Troyanov, separated and promptly crashed near the city of Kaunas. The pilot ejected and wasn’t hurt. German NATO planes that were securing the Baltic airspace were too late to take off because of the Lithuanian radar failures.

Immediately, Russia started a propaganda campaign. It denied the presence of weapons on the plane, however, four rockets and a chaingun have been found, as well as some radioactive materials. Also, Russia pushed for the formation of a joint investigation commission with Lithuania.

Lithuania, meanwhile, stayed true to its traditions of freedom and sovereignty, offering Mr. Tryanov a health test, inviting Russian observers, holding the pilot under house arest at a hotel, inviting the wife to join her husband, cooperating with NATO and Ukrainian specialists, and firing the chief of its airforce for (unwittingly?) giving away classified information to the Russians.

Russian media, which is entirely state-controlled, focused on the rhetoric of Russian military and the foreign ministry, ignoring a declaration of Mr. Troyanov and his wife where they expressed being satisfied with the handling of the case by the Lithuanian government, and proclaiming that Lithuania haven’t tested Mr. Troyanov’s health. Russia also gave wrong technical data on the airplane involved.

The commission concluded that the accident was not a provocation, and the pilot was released. However, judging from the elaborately planned propaganda campaign, the commission might have preferred to make a decission favourable to good interstate relations. The pilot (who was flying an important international mission) has been proven to be incompetent. Currently, in the cash-strapped Russian army, pilots, such as major Mr. Troyanov, fly only several hours a year – about 15 times less than NATO pilots.

Russia plans to award Mr. Troyanov a medal and send him on a tour of schools to teach the subject of patriotism. Lithuania has demanded a compensation of 3000 euros for the farmer in whose field the plane crashed.

NATO, the European Union and international mainstream media stayed almost completely silent about this accident. IndyMedia.org, meanwhile, refused to publish this article on unknown grounds. Russia violates the airspaces of its Baltic neighbours at an average rate of 6 times a year. Russia has never admitted any violations. Lithuania (occupied by Russia 1795-1918 and 1940-1990), along with other Baltic countries, have no modern fighter planes of their own, hence their airspace ir protected by their NATO alies. Since 2004, they are NATO and EU members, along with Poland.

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September 19, 2005

Russian pilot crashes in Lithuania

Filed under: Archived,Baltic Sea,Lithuania,Public domain articles,Russia — admin @ 5:00 am

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Russian pilot crashes in Lithuania

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Within the past 24 hours Russian and Lithuanian authorities have been haggling over the details of a crashed Su-27 fighter-bomber and the return of her pilot. While Lithuania’s commander-in-chief has ruled out a joint investigation, Russian investigators would be granted access to an analysis of the plane’s flight recorder.

Current information suggests that the plane was flying over the Baltic Sea when it suddenly veered off course due to a failure in navigation equipment. The pilot, Major Valery Troyanov, was questioned by Lithuanian prosecutors earlier in the day. Lithuanian Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said in a local radio interview: “We know that the plane flew into our territory giving a SOS signal. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says the same. We hope further investigation will confirm it,”

While both nations are in concurrence to the cause of the crash, the pilot has been labeled a “suspect” by prosecutors and will be kept until the end of investigation.

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August 10, 2005

Fourteen dead as passenger helicopter crashes off Estonia

Fourteen dead as passenger helicopter crashes off Estonia

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Baltic Sea

Fourteen people are presumed dead after a passenger helicopter of the Finnish company Copterline crashed into the Baltic Sea, 5 km off the coast of Estonia.

After hours of search, the wreck was found with a sonar at a depth of approximately 60 meters. The cabin is damaged but has remained in one piece, and passengers were found dead inside the cabin. Lifting of the wreckage is being planned at the moment.

The Sikorsky S-76 was on a scheduled passenger flight to Helsinki from Tallinn, the Estonian capital. The craft came down just three minutes after take-off at 12:43 pm (GMT+3). According to an eyewitness, two loud bangs were heard before the craft crashed down. No smoke or fire were seen after the bangs.

On board were six Finnish, four Estonian and two American passengers as well as two Finnish crew members. Both of the pilots were experienced, with over 10 years of flight experience in the company.

Estonian rescue helicopters and boats have been sent, a Finnish rescue helicopter and mini submarines also at the scene.

Investigation of the causes of the accident is underway, but one possible reason is the bad weather as the area has been suffering from severe storms recently, the winds at the time are believed to have been 17-20 metres a second. “Many of the helicopters safety measures failed”, said the spokesman from Copterline. The safety measures include the ability of the craft to glide down in case of engine failure and the ability to float on water, both of which seemed to have failed. Copterline, one of the largest helicopter airlines in Europe, has cancelled all upcoming flights today, but are continuing as scheduled tomorrow morning.

An overview in Estonian (some pics & timeline)

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