Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

The good and the bad of the egg-tossing in Ukraine's parliament

Smoke filled the Ukrainian parliament Tuesday, and the speaker needed an umbrella to shield himself from tossed eggs.

From this chaotic scene two conclusions emerged. First: Ukraine is still a democracy, though a sometimes rowdy one. And second: Russia, which has traded freedom for a revived imperialism under Vladimir Putin, will have a chokehold on its most important neighbor for decades to come.

The second judgment results from the fact that the chaos in Kiev did not prevent the assembled deputies from ratifying, by a thin margin of ten votes, a new treaty that will extend Russia’s hold on a Black Sea naval base for 25 years, in exchange for discounted natural gas. Russia’s fleet in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, which was established by Catherine the Great, had been authorized to remain until 2017; now, in theory at least, it will be there until 2042.

In exchange Ukraine’s new president, Viktor Yanukovych, won from Putin a 30 percent discount on the natural gas Russia supplies Ukraine -- a subsidy Yanukovych said would be worth $40 billion. The money will help the cash-starved government meet the terms of a new IMF agreement and boost the energy-hungry heavy industries that are the backbone of Ukraine’s economy -- and also of Yanukovych’s political base.

The smoke bombs and eggs reflect the conviction of Ukraine’s more pro-Western opposition that Yanukovych has sold the country’s sovereignty to Putin, who notoriously hungers to recreate something like the former Soviet Union. And it’s certainly the case that the deal will prevent Ukraine from joining either NATO or the European Union anytime soon. Unless it adjusts its economy to pay a market price for gas, Ukraine will be unfit to join the single European market. Russia will retain the means to blackmail its governments by threatening to revoke the subsidy or shut down the gas -- as it did several times during the tenure of the previous, pro-Western government.

Still, it seems as likely as not that Putin will end up the loser in this deal. In the pointless pursuit of a superpower status that Russia has irretrievably lost, the Kremlin boss has committed his country to tens of billions in costly subsidies in order to keep a base for a rusting fleet it cannot afford to modernize or maintain. True, Putin plans to spend billions more to buy amphibious assault ships from France but the Black Sea fleet will remain a monument to Putin’s imperial fantasies, rather than a source of actual power.

Yanukovych, meanwhile, has already made it clear that he plans to balance Ukraine’s relations between Russia and the West. During a recent visit to Washington he sealed a deal on nuclear security with President Obama and said completing a free trade agreement with the European Union was a top priority. Since Ukraine remains a democracy, its president -- and the base agreement -- will be subject to the decisions of the country’s voters, who demonstrated during the 2004 Orange revolution that they will not tolerate subjugation to Russia.

All this means that if Russia were a democracy, the deal with Ukraine might have prompted some egg tossing in its legislature, the Duma. Instead, its deputies obediently ratified the treaty an hour after Ukraine acted, with 400 out of 450 voting in favor. That may have looked better than the melee in Ukraine, at least to observers such as Putin. But the real losers in the day’s events will be the people of Russia, whose own hopes of joining the 21st century have been sacrificed for an 18th-century base.

By Jackson Diehl  | April 27, 2010; 2:14 PM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Harry Reid can't escape the climate change issue
Next: Goldman Sachs gored

Comments

The chokehold may be mutual. There currently isn't anywhere for Russia to move its Black Sea Fleet to if it loses Sevastopol, and unless it is forced to move there is absolutely no likelihood that Russia will try to find a place to build a base. Part of this is that Russia's Black Sea Coast has virtually no place to put even a much smaller base for a few active warships.

Then again, Russia would be hard put to move any of the equipment it has at Sevastopol to anywhere it could build a base, and would have to walk off and l;eave the stuff if it letf. This includes, by the way, all its nuclear submarine maintenance equipment and whatever nuclear material is still in the Crimea.

The Ukraine would then have a naval base nobody had any use for, and almost no commercial uses to take up any of the capacity, leaving it like Hunter's Point, Alameda, and Mare's island in San Francisco Bay, mostly abandoned and deteriorating.

At least the Ukraine gets cheep natural gas for a while. Russia gets virtually nothing but a rusting scrap yard.

Once the Black Sea Fleet expires, and it is in its terminal stages now, the Black Sea becomes an abandoned, polluted, pond that its bordering countries need to clean up but haven't the wherewithal to do it.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 27, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Sorry but Russia is a superpower again, there is just so much information verifying Russia is a superpower again that your article is misleading the readers this article above.

Russia is also a Superpower; it is a state with a leading position in the international system which has the ability to influence events globally and its own interests by projecting its power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests.
Russia for fills the criteria of a superpower for its resources measured by its four axes of power: massive military, economic power, political power, and cultural (and the ability to use soft and hard power).Russia has as a massive political community that occupies a continental-sized landmass, has a sizable population (relative at least to other major powers); a super ordinate economic capacity, including ample indigenous supplies of food and natural resources; has a high degree of non-dependence on an international intercourse; and, most importantly has a well-developed nuclear capacity (in fact the worlds largest).
Russia is able to conduct a global strategy as a superpower including of having the ability to destroy the world (in fact more than the United States can); can command vast economic potential and world influence; and to present a universal ideology as Russia can project its power, soft and hard, globally on a world wide scale.

Posted by: oxforduniversity1 | April 27, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Great article. One observation I would add is that the Russian base lease extension has united the normally querulous opposition forces against Yanukovych - a deal with Russia this big and so soon after the elections was not expected even by Yanukovych's supporters.

Posted by: pdotsenko | April 27, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Russia has moved into a position, using energy, to have significant influence on easter and western Europe. As for the egg throwing etc. they have a similar problem to us in the U.S. - communist/socialist sympathizers vs Patriots.

Posted by: awunsch | April 27, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Today only 211 members of Parlament were registered, when Constitution requires half of Parlament to be present (226 people out of 450) in order to start session to consider the issue.Party of Regions claimed ratification took place with "majority" of votes being 236.
So, there was no "thin margin of 10 votes", just like there was not 3% margin win in Presidental elections. That's for Democracy part. More like old good KGB ways.

Posted by: nicki3 | April 27, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The article is an example of ignorance of history, and ignorance of russian - ukranian reality in line with US foreign policies in the region. The policy of cold war mentality of 20th century and growing disconnect with what it should be today. Path to failure ....

Posted by: georgeyablokov | April 27, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

For; oxforduniversity1.
You used words "super power", "super" so excessively in your post that it made me want to post a link with basic statistics on how exactly "superpowerish" Russia is.
Here everybody please take a moment to study:
http://www.rf-agency.ru/eng/stat_en.htm

Posted by: nicki3 | April 27, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

So, Russia's people lose out due to Putin's imperalist "fantasies".

I got it. And, isn't that the same here in America?

the American people lose out for the same reason as our leaders have "fantasies" about controlling other nations, and WE have to pay for it.

Posted by: santafe2 | April 27, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Russia is not a super power, they are a very poor country. America is not far behind them. With half of Americans out of work. People living in squalor tent cities an storage units as homes. A government that keeps ignoring our own peoples plea's, because this is the worst economy since THE GREAT DEPRESSION. It's happening in Greece, an Iceland their economy has crashed an it's the beginning of the rest of the world to crash also. It will be there own demise because of GREEDY WORLD we all live in. The Elite Rich won't relent that is their end.

Posted by: JWTX | April 27, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

This sounds a lot like the reality TV series we have here in the States, "Obama-wanna-be-King VS. Congress"...

Posted by: wcmillionairre | April 27, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Sorry but Russia is a global superpower, there's so many facts as this is a few down below. The US is not the sole superpower anymore, it's Russia and the US and possible China now.

The verified facts below:

Netanyahu calls Russia an important Superpower
Voice of America News editor by Robert Berger Feb. 15, 2010
http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/europe/Netanyahu-Heads-to-Russia-with-Call-for-Crippling-Sanctions-on-Iran-84341537.html

A Superpower Is Reborn
The New York Times: August 24, 2008
http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6527&Itemid=68&lang=ka

Washington announces Russia as a Superpower; Kommersant New, May 2007
http://www.kommersant.com/page.asp?id=768929

Posted by: oxforduniversity1 | April 27, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Here's more facts that Russia is a superpower on the world stage:

Russia is a Superpower CNN, US Senators telling the truth
CNN News August 2008
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9079543725663390621&ei=R2VGS4T4Lo2YqAPY8P3IDg&q=russia+superpower&hl=en#

Azerbaijanis, Armenians can be good neighbors (Superpower Neighbor Russia)
News Az Tue 02 March 2010 by Akper Hasanov
http://www.news.az/articles/10482
Obama restricts America’s use of nuclear arms
April 6, 12:45 PM San Diego Conservative Examiner by Robert Rische
Senator John Kerry declares Russia as a World Superpower
http://www.examiner.com/x-36784-San-Diego-Conservative-Examiner~y2010m4d6-Obama-restricts-Americas-use-of-nuclear-arms

Posted by: oxforduniversity1 | April 27, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Here's more facts that Russia is a superpower on the world stage:

Kyrgyzstan conflict
Right after the uprising, on Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir ... in a tug-of-war between the two rival superpowers Russia:
Sunday's Zaman by Dogu Ergil April 17, 2010 ERGIL
http://www.sundayszaman.com/sunday/yazarDetay.do?haberno=207039


PM's visit underlines rising Indian interest in Ibsa, Bric
Business Standard News; Jyoti Malhotra / New Delhi April 16, 2010
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/pm%5Cs-visit-underlines-rising-indian-interest-in-ibsa-bric/392092/

Snap Analysis: U.S. and Russia seek boosts from arms pact
Reuters by Paul Taylor; April 8, 2010
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6371ZQ20100408

Posted by: oxforduniversity1 | April 27, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Same history is repeating itself in the Russia-Ukraine tug of war. The russification process of eastern Ukraine during the Soviet era is so well entrenched that it has become a springboard for russian hegemony in the region. The election of Yanukovych has shattered Ukraine's independence aspirations and solidified Moscow's ceaseless ambition to keep Ukraine shackled within its sphere of influence, gratis to the European Union and Capitol Hill.

Posted by: juke2 | April 27, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Here's more facts that Russia is a superpower on the world stage:

Czech press survey
Russia showed by the Georgian war that it can be a superpower, while the European Union showed during the war that it is not able to be a superpower
September 1, 2008
http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/news/index_view.php?id=331160


“Venezuela's Hugo Chavez recognizes independence of breakaway Georgia republics, Russia is a Superpower”
Los Angeles Times by September 11, 2009 editor Megan K. Stack
http://articles.latimes.com/2009/sep/11/world/fg-russia-chavez11

Is Russia Warming Up For A New Cold War?
Oct 20, 2008 by Brian Mciver
http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/comment/columnists/showbiz-tv-columnists/brian-mciver/2008/10/20/is-russia-warming-up-for-a-new-cold-war-86908-20820901/

Posted by: oxforduniversity1 | April 27, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

This is a smart decision on the part of Ukraine. There is no real advantage to kicking Russia out of there. There would be trouble as 2017 approached and Russia started stirring up trouble in the Crimea. Ukraine has to concentrate on building its economy, maintaining freedoms and democracy and getting along with everyone who lives nearby, not becoming a pawn in others battles.
Russia is suffering from population implosion, a pessimistic mentality, rampant alcoholism, a very unpopular military draft and near total dependence on oil. There is no gain in kicking Russia when they are down.

@ceflynline - Great comment!

Posted by: info81 | April 27, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

"Smoke filled the Ukrainian parliament Tuesday, and the speaker needed an umbrella to shield himself from tossed eggs.
From this chaotic scene two conclusions emerged. First: Ukraine is still a democracy, though a sometimes rowdy one."

Great! I'm affraid that if Lincoln or Washington knew they offspring will interpret democracy in such way they would established monarchy in USA.

Besides eggs throwing Ukrainian parliamentaries tore the Ukrainian national flag down and trampled it down. I'm happy that in Russia we don't have such kind of "rowdy democracy".

"Still, it seems as likely as not that Putin will end up the loser in this deal. In the pointless pursuit of a superpower status that Russia has irretrievably lost..."

For an ostrich with his head in sand attempts of lion to approach to his rear may seem pointless too.

"...but the Black Sea fleet will remain a monument to Putin’s imperial fantasies, rather than a source of actual power."

Does author wants to say that US ships left Sevastopol bay hastily after 08/08/08 because of just "Putin’s imperial fantasies"? Maybe their captains were too shy?

Posted by: Ernie_the_Pinko | April 28, 2010 5:51 AM | Report abuse

It certainly is bitterly ironic to hear an AMERICAN talking about Russia's "pointless pursuit of a superpower status". And adding that "the Black Sea fleet will remain a monument to Putin’s imperial fantasies, rather than a source of actual power."

There's nothing wrong with any of these observations. Except that Americans seem constitutionally incapable of applying the same logic to themselves. Thus, US Republicans all crow that Reagan destroyed the USSR by driving it to spend too much on weapons. Yet with their own govt sinking under debt, and spending more than 10 times as much on weapons as Brezhnev ever did, they all want a bigger US military budget.

America is trapped in a pointless pursuit of superpower status. The Pentagon remains a monument to Americans' imperial fantasies, rather than a source of actual power.

Posted by: kenonwenu | April 28, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

to oxforduniversity1:

Sir, yours is a great and well documented scholarly contribution but allow me to translate your Oxford University English for domestic readers:

Your statement that “(Russia) has a high degree of non-dependence on an international intercourse)” would be easier for Americans to understand if you wrote:

“Mr. Putin is busy doing it to the Russians. He doesn’t have time to do it to others.”

Other than that I would not change a thing. Your writing identifies the underlying problem perfectly.

Posted by: ColoradoWellington | April 28, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

It was best said by James Hogg (b.1770 in Scotland) in his poem "Both Sides the Tweed:"

What's the spring breathing jasmine and rose
What's the summer with all its gay train
What's the splendour of autumn to those
Who've bartered their freedom for gain.
No sweetness the senses can cheer
Which corruption and bribery bind
No brightness the sun can e'er clear
For honour's the sum of the mind.
Let virtue distinguish the brave
Place riches in lowest degree
Think them poorest who can be a slave
Them richest who dare to be free.
Let the love of our land's sacred rights
To the love of our people succeed
Let friendship and honour unite
And flourish on both sides the Tweed.

Posted by: neurosurgeon | April 28, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes, we in the United States also know what it is like to have a newly elected leader that promises many things but winds up trying to oppress us here too. At least come the next election we will be rid of this one and all of his mindless minions.

Posted by: killsing@yahoo.com | April 28, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

One more incredibly boring article. Only small piece of information in the article reflects reality. Why WashingtonPost only hire so strange authors? They don't know facts and the history of Russia.

Russia struggle for this base because it's historicall center of Russian power in Black Sea. Many local Ukranian citizens in Crimea support Russia. If Russia went away, it would be like a betrayal.
Moreover, Russia doesn't have alternatives because other bases still aren't able to maintain whole Russian Black Sea fleet.

The price is really high. In fact, the USA has thousands of bases in the world for much smaller price. Moreover, some of these bases are illegal. But it seems that Putin believe that this base allows to improve relationships between Ukraine and Russia.

I don't agree with him. To my mind, in the modern world, mild influence is more powerful. He could spend these money on intership student programs between Russia and Ukraine.

Posted by: PavelSTsarevskiy | May 1, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Sorry but Russia is a superpower again, there is just so much information verifying Russia is a superpower again that your article is misleading the readers this article above.

Russia is also a Superpower; it is a state with a leading position in the international system which has the ability to influence events globally and its own interests by projecting its power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests.

Russia for fills the criteria of a superpower for its resources measured by its four axes of power: massive military, economic power, political power, and cultural (and the ability to use soft and hard power).Russia has as a massive political community that occupies a continental-sized landmass, has a sizable population (relative at least to other major powers); a super ordinate economic capacity, including ample indigenous supplies of food and natural resources; has a high degree of non-dependence on an international intercourse; and, most importantly has a well-developed nuclear capacity (in fact the worlds largest).
Russia is able to conduct a global strategy as a superpower including of having the ability to destroy the world (in fact more than the United States can); can command vast economic potential and world influence; and to present a universal ideology as Russia can project its power, soft and hard, globally on a world wide scale.

Posted by: oxforduniversity1 | May 1, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company