UK involvement in Ukraine is just a lot of gas

Battlefield: Independence Square in Kiev after clashes on February 20.

Battlefield: Independence Square in Kiev after clashes on February 20. [Image: AFP]

It isn’t often that Vox Political discusses foreign affairs; this would usually involve mentioning that national disaster, William Hague. But we’ll make an exception in the case of Ukraine.

If you don’t know that thinly-disguised Russian soldiers have occupied the Crimea, which is currently Ukrainian, you’d probably have to be living in a hole in the desert.

Russia says this is entirely justified, but the position is not clear-cut.

It seems this crisis started after a pro-Russian Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, decided to abandon plans for co-operation with Europe in favour of allying his country more closely with Russia.

At the time, Ukraine was deeply in debt and facing bankruptcy, with £21 billion needed to get through the current financial year and 2015. The country cannot call on the same financial levers as the UK, meaning this is a serious issue. How fortunate, then, that Russia was on hand to buy $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and reduce the price of Russian gas supplies by around one-third.

Gas. Ukraine produces around a quarter of its own supply and imports the rest from Russia and Asia, through pipelines that Russia controls. These pipelines continue into Europe, providing supplies to Western countries as well.

The alignment with Russia sparked huge popular protests which quickly escalated into violence. Even though Yanukovych gain office through an election that was judged free and fair by observers, it seems clear his pro-Russian policies do not have the support of the people. But Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, and most of its population are Russians.

Then on February 22, Yanukovych did a runner to Russia, from where – surprisingly – he has claimed he is still President of Ukraine. Politicians in Kiev thought differently and have named their own interim president until elections can take place in May. It is this action that sparked rival protests in Crimea, where people appear to support the previous, pro-Russian policies.

Troops, apparently in Russian uniforms, have appeared across the Crimea, besieging Ukrainian forces and effectively taking control. It has been suggested that Russian President Putin sent them in response to a request from Yanukovych, but Putin denies this. Crimea’s parliament has asked to join Russia.

There is also the matter of the Russian naval base on the Crimean Black Sea coast. This seems uncontroversial, though, as Ukraine had agreed to allow Russia to keep it.

To sum up:

It seems that most of Ukraine wants to keep Russia at arms’ length; but it must still find a way to pay back its debts.

It seems that most of Crimea wants to rejoin Russia. This will be tested in a referendum on March 16.

It seems that Western European countries like the UK are desperate to condemn Russia for interfering in Ukraine. Concerns were raised on the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday that the referendum will be rigged, but we have no evidence to suggest that will happen – independent observers have reported that previous exercises of democracy have been free and fair.

It seems hypocritical of us to condemn Russia’s intervention in a place where that country’s citizens are threatened by violence. What did we do when the Falkland Islands were invaded in 1982 – and have we not stood firm against threats to those islands ever since? Nor can we criticise Russia for invading a country on a flimsy pretext – Iraq springs to mind.

So what’s it all about?

Gas.

It seems most likely that, because most of Western Europe’s supply of Russian gas comes through Ukraine, we are far more concerned about our energy supply than about local democracy in an eastern European country. The UK, along with France and Germany and no doubt many others, wants to ensure that this supply is not interrupted as this could seriously jeopardise our ability to generate power.

… And if that isn’t a powerful reason for this country to invest massively in renewable energy generation, it’s hard to find one. What possible advantage is there in putting ourselves at the mercy of another country – especially one that has been less than friendly to us in the past?

It seems the only reason the UK has for outrage is the possibility of violence. We know that military intervention in the affairs of another country doesn’t work; nobody can parachute in, effect regime change, and leave a stable democracy running smoothly behind them. We should have learned our lessons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Unfortunately, it seems that only a minority are willing to speak up and admit this – headed most visibly by Russia Today presenter Abby Martin, who delivered an impassioned denouncement of Russia’s involvement. “I will not sit here and apologise for or defend military action,” she said.

Nor should we.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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8 thoughts on “UK involvement in Ukraine is just a lot of gas

  1. nigel simmons

    BROKEN BRITISH POLITICS – WHY PUTIN HOLDS All THE ACE’S
    Firstly let us take Syria as an example we started the insurrection and supported it .Why ? Because Blair attempted to install the Western Banking system in Syria and Assad asked the BoE officials to leave .
    America and the Saudi royal family made an agreement through Henry Kissinger that all their Oil must be priced in US Dollars in return for Army bases situated there for Protection from Israel .OPEC already priced their Oil in US Dollars .In 2000 Hussein announced Iraqi Oil would be traded in Euros .In 2007 Iran announced that the Euro would replace the Dollar in their Oil Transactions .In 2011 Gaddafi wanted to introduce the Dinar a single African currency made from gold . They would sell oil and other resources around the world only for gold dinars .Hence that is why the West got rid of them.
    Putin has listened to the Wests feeble protestations and Sanction Action Plan ,waited then casually stated that Russia will Ditch the US Dollar and start Dumping USA Debt the same scenario as with Hussein and Gaddafi .In the Big World of Politics Russia is a Balance .I hardly think Putin will fall for any of the Wests Tricks and play up to the Tug of War Game over the Ukraine .The USA certainly do not want their Debt passed back .The UK Deals in Billions of Russian Money .Posturing and Gestures by the West .
    http://brokenbritishpolitics.simplesite.com

  2. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    This is another valuable piece by Mike, giving a side to the current Russian occupation of the Crimea, which has definitely not been covered in the mainstream news, at least on TV. There was also friction between Russia and the Ukraine in 1992, when the Russian parliament declared that the 1954 transfer of Crimea had been illegal and should be annulled. Private Eye in their ‘Letter from Kiev’ this fortnight has also offered a different perspective: the occupation of the Ukraine and continuing Russian pressure on Kiev isn’t about national rivalry: most Ukrainians find the whole idea of that as the cause absolutely ridiculous. Rather it’s about trying to control the Russian opposition. The Ukraine has a large Russian population, some of whom were involved in the protests which ousted Yanukovych. Putin has occupied the Ukraine, and wants Yanukovyth returned to power not because, as I thought, he’s trying to copy Hitler’s tactics with the Sudetenland and the annexation of Czechoslovakia just before the Second World War, but simply because he’s afraid that Russians will get the dodgy idea that you can throw out a corrupt government from their cousins, neighbours and compatriots in the Ukraine.

  3. HomerJS

    I have been keeping an eye on a lot of this stuff, some of it before the MSM started to get interested. Some interesting bits that people should know about:
    The role of neo Nazis in the ‘coup’
    The role of the US in establishing a new government
    That the snipers were from the protestors side
    The importance of gas supply (getting it from the US and not Russia)

    This whole situation was set in motion by the US to get their man in charge, who just happens to be a banker . . .

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  5. Jonathan Wilson

    http://annaraccoon.com/2014/03/06/uk-raine-terrain/

    Here’s a very interesting counter article for the whole “woman of the people/lowly ‘farm girl'” picture presented by the media of Julia Hryhyan, also with the revilations that the “gov snipers” might have in fact been tasked by the new rulers of the popular uprising against their own to defame the now ousted president brings a whole new slant to the proceedings.

    1. Mike Sivier

      That’s a hell of an article. The British as ‘valets’ to Russian oligarchs, laundering their dirty money and dirty reputations. I can’t help thinking that the piece’s author, Ben Judah, writing for the American New York Times, might have had an axe to grind as he starts out by discussing whether the UK will join America in sanctions or “betray” the US. Oh well – we always knew the ‘special relationship’ only went in one direction, didn’t we?

  6. 1234

    Ben Judah’s article does raise the odd eyebrow with statements like “betraying America” feeling a bit dramatic.

    But taken in the context of it being an American publication, it goes some way to explaining the partisan nature of that statement.

    It also shows that maybe the ” special relationship” did go both ways, maybe we acted as a legitimising influence on an international stage, so it wasn’t “just the americans” but there was a European backing for their actions (whether or not they were justified).

    I think the biggest failing of the article is that that statement seems to overshadow what is an incredibly powerful assessment of the state of affairs.

    For me a government has only one purpose: to look after its people. This government has show time and again that they regard the financial sector/markets as “god” and that to them it must come before the needs of the people.
    We have seen many examples of “The Market” being put above the people within the UK

    Judah’s article shows starkly that for the Tories this approach stretches worldwide.

    It’s not something we’re unaware of, but it’s put across very powerfully.

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