Friday, April 20, 2012

Leonid Kuchma Tells It Like It Is

By Taras Kuzio

Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s longest serving president (1994-2004), published some, at times, rambling memoirs entitled, Posle Maydana. Zapysky prezydenta 2005-2006 (After the Maidan: The President’s Writings 2005-2006) (Vremya, Moscow and Dovira, Kyiv, 2007). Although datelined after he left office, the 700-page book deals with the last two decades of Ukrainian history.

In his book, Kuchma barely touches the contentious issues surrounding his presidency, such as massive high level corruption and the murder of journalist Georgi Gongadze. He continues to claim the Kuchmagate scandal was a Western (i.e. US) backed conspiracy to replace him with Yushchenko, which he believes came to fruition in 2004 (p. 684).

Kuchma claims that by the last year of his presidency, relations between business and politics had become “normal.” Capital that previously fled abroad had begun to return and work for the Ukrainian economy, and big business had begun to pay taxes and desire a transparent and stable system (pp. 192-193). He replies to the accusation of building an “oligarch country” by claiming that “another type of regime, other than the nomenklatura-oligarch system, could not have come into existence” in the 1990s (p. 221). “Ukraine is not the Baltics. It did not feel itself to be occupied territory or a colony. There were still strong pro-Soviet feelings” in 1991, Kuchma pointed out (p. 291), meaning the pro-Western opposition could not have won the presidential elections.

Besides serving as a defense to the criticisms leveled against Kuchma’s presidency, the memoirs reveal the ideological differences between Kuchma and his successors, Presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych.

Firstly, on national democrats and Yushchenko:
  • Kuchma praises former political prisoner Vyacheslav Chornovil who was leader of Rukh and died in a car accident in 1999 as somebody “[i]ntelligent, respected [a]nd communicative” who was “without hatred in his soul.” None of the “Orange” leaders came close to his stature, Kuchma writes. He rejected accusations that he was murdered in a staged accident as he was not a threat to the authorities by 1999 (pp. 290-291).
  • Kuchma appointed Yushchenko prime minister in 1999 when the country was nearly bankrupt because with a liberal image he was best suited to talk to the IMF in “one voice” as “Ukraine needed money” after the 1998 crisis (p. 681).
  • Kuchma is dismissive of Yushchenko’s 2000-2001 government claiming credit for re-launching economic growth. Growth was a product of reforms, Yushchenko never undertook steps “without consulting with myself,” Kuchma writes, and his government program was copied from Kuchma’s 1999 presidential election program (p. 683). Kuchma points out: “Therefore, people have a normal question to ask: namely, if he saved Ukraine when he was prime minister then why did ‘he not doing anything’ when he became president?” (p. 265).
  • Yushchenko is psychologically a “national-patriot,” but Kuchma personally claims in his memoirs that he is more of a nationalist. “If you want to know who is a real Ukrainian nationalist then it is I, former ‘red director’ Kuchma!” (p. 635). Kuchma’s nationalism, he believes, was more serious as it is under-pinned by “national capital.”
  • Kuchma portrays Yushchenko as weak, indecisive and a cynic. During a conversation in the 2004 elections, Kuchma asked Yushchenko why during his election campaign speeches he condemned the “criminal regime,” shouted “Kuchma out!” and demanded that “bandits” go to jail.  Yushchenko replied that he should not take these election slogans seriously because, “This is politics, Leonid Danylovych.” Yushchenko used “revolutionary demagogy” in a “cynical manner,” Kuchma believes (p. 684) and after once shouting “Away with this regime!” Yushchenko apologized, Kuchma recalls (p. 342).
  • Kuchma points out that no “bandits” went to jail and Orange Revolution protestors, therefore, stood in the winter cold for 17 days for nothing. In September 2005, Yushchenko dismissed Tymoshenko’s government two weeks after describing it as the best Ukraine ever had. And following the crisis, Yushchenko signed a “memorandum of non-aggression” with Yanukovych (p. 376).
Although both are Russophones and were elected by eastern Ukrainians, Kuchma outlines numerous positions that differentiate him from Yanukovych.
  • Kuchma told the Prosecutor-General’s office they were “Idiotyy!” when he heard of the February 2001 arrest of then-Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and described the criminal charges against her as “Absolute idiotism!” (pp. 167-168). Tymoshenko spent three weeks in jail before being released.
  • Kuchma recalls Russian President Boris Yeltsin with warm affection (see below), while noting, “Yeltsin had a lot of real power, but he was not feared. His opponents and enemies (protyvnyky)” fought against him (p. 417), a problem that Yanukovych or Vladimir Putin do not have. One of the main purposes of Tymoshenko’s imprisonment was demonstrative to show how Yanukovych could deal with any member of the elites (see interview with Arseniy Avakov, a Tymoshenko loyalist who recently sought political asylum in Italy).
  • Kuchma promised to “strive to give [the Russian language] official status,” but could not make the Russian language a state language because this is within the competence of parliament. Nevertheless, under Kuchma, Russian was never treated as a “foreign language” and “in most instances, [Russian] de facto was a second state language.” More importantly, Kuchma believes that making Russian a state language, as Yanukovych has promised, “would mean the de facto split of the country” (pp. 531-532).
  • In 2003, Kuchma launched an international campaign to have the 1933 Holodmor recognized as “genocide,” but Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin refused to apologize. Kuchma retorts that Russia, as the Soviet successor state, took on Soviet assets and debts – but not responsibility for the Holodomor (p. 415). Yanukovych, on the other hand, has adopted Russia’s position on the Holodomor.
  • As a centrist, Kuchma desired normal relations with Russia but without poking the bear in the eye, like Yushchenko, or betraying Ukrainian interests and being blasé about Russian threats, like Yanukovych.  Kuchma understood Russia is a threat to Ukraine and that, “The threat of russification is a real danger [to Ukraine]” (p. 285).
  • Kuchma cites a July 2004 opinion poll where two thirds of Ukrainians voiced their opposition to electing a president with criminal convictions (a reference to Yanukovych who spent two terms in prison for violent robbery) (p. 507). In 2010, Ukrainians elected him.
  • Kuchma reveals that Moscow began issuing Russian passports to Crimean residents as early as 1994, but after he protested to Yeltsin the process was halted (p. 416).
  • Kuchma goes into detail about the dispute with Russia in fall 2003 over Tuzla Island lying to the east of the Crimea. Kuchma recalls saying, “We will defend our territory as it is stated and outlined in our constitution” and mobilizing the military and other security forces to repulse Russian forces if they crossed Ukraine’s maritime border (pp. 399-402).
  • Kuchma is skeptical about the 1994 “security assurances” given after Ukraine joined the NPT and agreed to give up nuclear weapons. One reason is because Russia, as seen in the Tuzla case, is one of those “assuring” Ukraine. During the Tuzla crisis, Ukraine was rebuffed by four nuclear powers (under the security assurances) and NATO (under the 1997 Charter) when Kyiv sought to discuss the security threat. Of the nuclear powers “assuring” Ukraine, only China supported the country’s territorial integrity. Kuchma believes that “any security support from the West will never materialize” (p. 405).
  • Kuchma praises extensive cooperation with NATO and reveals that all members of the National Security and Defense Council (NRBO) voted for the July 2002 resolution that became a presidential decree outlining Ukraine’s goal of NATO membership. Unlike Russia, Kuchma says his policies strove to break down negative stereotypes of NATO (pp. 460-463).
  • Kuchma warned President Mikheil Saakashvili during a 2006 visit to Georgia that the Ossetian problem lies ahead and advised him when negotiating with Russia to do so from the principle of upholding Georgia’s territorial integrity (pp. 188 and 234; see EDM, April 17).
  • Yeltsin was a democrat in “his soul,” and Kuchma recalls that at every meeting with him he was ready to “capitulate and reverse his position” (p. 472). The memoirs reveal how different Yeltsin was to Putin (and Kuchma to Yanukovych).
Kuchma’s centrist position between Yushchenko and Yanukovych could very well turn out historically to have been the best strategy for Ukraine’s national consolidation and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All Ethnicities Are Equal in Russia, but Some Want to Be More Equal Than Others

By Valery Dzutsev

The speaker of Tatarstan’s parliament, Farid Mukhametshin, welcomed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s refusal to change the preamble of the Russian constitution to emphasize ethnic Russians as the main ethnicity in the country. Observers, however, pointed out that Tatarstan’s own constitution accentuates the Tatar people as opposed to the “multinational people of Tatarstan” and still holds onto important articles, albeit symbolic, that support Tatarstan’s aspirations for political autonomy from Moscow, such as notions of Tatarstan’s sovereignty and even separate citizenship (, April 13).

In his 2012 election campaign, Vladimir Putin yielded to the long-held Russian nationalist demand to admit the ethnic Russians’ role as the “state-forming people” of Russia (, January 23). Putin, however, in the usual Soviet tradition, did not want to designate his declaration into law. Just as in the Soviet times, when the rules of politics were informally obeyed but rarely specified in the laws, contemporary Russian leadership may share the Russian nationalists’ views but tries to avoid specifying them in the legislation.

A new round of the struggles between Moscow and Tatarstan is looming ahead as Russia is bracing for the reintroduction of regional governors’ elections in fall 2012.  Tatarstan’s constitution still contains a few articles that Moscow has been fiercely opposed to, but so far has been unsuccessful in changing. In its preamble, the republican constitution recognizes, for example, the “universally accepted right of all people for self-determination” ( Pro-Russian Tatar experts, in the meantime, warn that centrifugal trends in this republic will grow as Moscow appears to be increasingly impotent in addressing pressing issues such as corruption (, April 12). Tatarstan may well again become the champion of greater rights for the Russian regions, a stance that would contribute to Russia’s decentralization and democratization.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ukraine’s (Russian) Defense Minister and Selective Justice

By Taras Kuzio

The appointment of Dmitri Salamatin as Ukraine’s Defense Minister in February came as a surprise to both Party of Regions and opposition deputies because he has a track record of violent behavior against opposition deputies in parliament, has no competence in the field of military affairs and is a Russian citizen. Further details are now emerging of this scandalous appointment.

In February, Party of Regions deputies were shocked at his appointment because he is a citizen of a foreign country and has dual citizenship, which is illegal in Ukraine ( The leader of the Party of Regions parliamentary faction Oleksandr Efremov called on Salamatin to resign stating, “If somebody had accused me of undertaking something immoral and I understood that this damaged the reputation of my political force, I would immediately write a letter of resignation” (

Further reports now prove that Salamatin became a Ukrainian citizen only in December 2005, which is at odds with disinformation by the Party of Regions that he had been a Ukrainian citizen since 1999.

Opposition deputy Taras Stetskiv said that Salamatin’s appointment, only seven years after he became a Ukrainian citizen and after working in Russian business structures, “is a clear indication of the incompetence of President [Viktor] Yanukovych and more importantly his direct and conscious ignoring of [Ukraine’s] national security and defense interests” ( Stetskiv continued: “It is obvious whose interests such a Minister of Defense will defend.” Salamatin is increasing cooperation in security affairs and arms exports between Ukraine and Russia and has promised Russia that Ukraine will never join NATO (

More importantly, Salamatin was illegally elected within the Party of Regions to parliament in the 2006 parliamentary and 2007 pre-term elections. Ukrainian citizens can only be elected to office after five years of being a citizen ( Salamatin’s attitude toward parliament was evident during the mass fracas on December 16, 2010 when he led a group of Party of Regions deputies who beat up five opposition deputies, putting them in the hospital (Salamatin is wearing a white shirt as he breaks through the door at the beginning of this video

Salamatin’s illegal rise to the pinnacle of government can be compared with the court sentence of five years imprisonment and three years ban from public office handed down last Thursday to Valery Ivashchenko, former acting Defense Minister in the 2007-2010 Yulia Tymoshenko government – directly illustrating the selective application of justice in the country. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, immediately condemned the sentence as politically motivated and warned it would influence EU-Ukraine relations on the Association Agreement ( The US Embassy in Kyiv said in a statement last Friday that it is “deeply disappointed” by the verdict as the “latest example of selective justice” in Ukraine (
Ivashchenko called the institution of Prosecutor-General a “criminal organization” and stated that judges and prosecutors would be held criminally accountable for illegal and unlawful actions (Interfax-Ukraine, April 13). Such thoughts are increasingly stated by opposition leaders, and their return to power would inevitably lead to widespread arrests of law enforcement officials who are behind the political repression.

The Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (DHCHR) has issued four reports on political repression in Ukraine. It condemned the sentence of Ivaschenko under articles 364.2 and 365.3, the same Soviet 1962 articles in the criminal code used to sentence Tymoshenko ( The DHCHR believes, “the Ivashchenko case is not the result of a fair trial in a legal system respecting the rule of law and basic human rights principles.”

The DHCHR pointed out the following six points:

• The actions and decisions for which Mr. Ivashchenko has been prosecuted would in other countries be considered normal political activities, which potentially would draw political but not criminal consequences. Due to the political environment in Ukraine and the rule of law situation there is strong suspicion that the prosecution is politically inspired and selective.

• The indictment against Mr. Ivashchenko concerns violations of Article 364 (“abuse of office”) and Article 365 (“excess of authority or official powers”) of the Criminal Code, both of which are vaguely worded and open to interpretation, having their origin in the old Soviet Penal Code where having an office and the authority of power had a completely different meaning from today (see Report II). They have been criticized by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in its Resolution 1862 of January 26, 2012 (see Report IV),

• The three judges are all very young. The chairman of the court (Serjiy Vovk) has two criminal investigations pending against him (as described in Report IV). One judge (Oksana Tsarevych) is not even an appointed permanent judge and will have her permanent appointments confirmed later by the Verkhovna Rada (criticized in Resolution 1862, see Report IV). They have been under pressure to deliver a judgment that will not be controversial to their future careers. It is remarkable to see young judges in such a politicized high profile case and most unlikely that they have been selected by the prescribed random procedure for preventing biased judges. That has also been criticized in Resolution 1862 (see Report IV).

• In general the Ukrainian courts acquit only 0.2 percent of the persons indicted by the Prosecution, strongly indicating that there is a lack of presumption of innocence and that the Judiciary does not function properly as an impartial and independent check on executive power.

• Mr. Ivashchenko has been in detention for 19 months. No time limits have been set and no justification given by the Court for most of that period, which in similar cases by the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) has been declared a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

• Mr. Ivashchenko has been placed in a cage in the court room, which, in a similar case, the ECHR been found to be a violation of the European human rights Convention.

The first conclusion is that President Yanukovych has subordinated Ukraine’s justice system completely under the executive office. A second conclusion is that selective justice is now a standard practice used to remove the political opposition from active politics and to cow Ukraine’s elites into falling into line. The difference in treatment accorded to Salamatin and Ivashchenko is a reflection of selective justice in operation in Ukraine.

Both these conclusions show how different Yanukovych is to authoritarian former President Leonid Kuchma, who did not completely subordinate the judicial system under the executive and permitted a wide degree of political pluralism within the elites.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Caucasian “Robin Hoods” Threaten the Security of Azerbaijan

By Fuad Huseinzadeh

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has issued an executive order to award a group of officers of the Ministry of National Security for their bravery in a special operation carried out in Ganja.

Under the order, Lieutenant-Colonel Elshad Guliyev has been posthumously decorated with the “Azerbaijan’s Flag” order, while other officers of the “Gartal” special task group have been decorated with the following medals: “For Motherland,” “For Bravery” and “For Military Merits.” The “Gartal” special task group of the Ministry of National Security carried out operations in Ganja last weekend and incapacitated members of the armed group that planned to commit provocative acts and terrorist attacks with the view of violating socio-political stability and raise panic.

As a result of the special operations carried out in Baku, Ganja and Sumgayit, as well as in Gakh, Zagatala, Sheki and Gusar regions, the Azeri authorities collected troves of terrorist paraphernalia. The caches seized included four AK 47-type submachine guns, an RPK-rocket launcher, two Makarov pistols, one revolver-type pistol, one Stechkin pistol, a rifle, six full pistol clips, and 300 cartridges of ammunition of various calibers, as well as 31 hand grenades and 15 explosive devices with remote control, three detonators, a large number of explosive plastics, three clips for a submachine gun, 30 Kenwood hand-held portable radio transmitters, three bayonet-knives, and last but not least a lot of literature that promotes terrorism and jihad (

According to unofficial information, the members of the group are believed to be either Wahhabis or belong to the so-called “Forest Brothers,” a radical group that is planning the creation of a “Sharia state” in the Caucasus ( This guerrilla group has been labeled as a sort of band of Caucasian “Robin Hoods.” For several years they have been destabilizing the situation in the Caucasus, committing terrorist attacks against police and civilians alike.

Links to the North Caucasus

In light of these events one can make certain assumptions about who might be behind the recent actions of the Forest Brothers group. Almost all of the latest incidents have occurred close to the Russian border. Most detainees have Lezgin names and have ties to Dagestan (Russian Federation). Moreover, some officials in the Azerbaijani opposition, citing their own sources in the security services, have revealed some interesting information. Vugar Padarov, one of the militants who blew himself up, supposedly for the last five years has been listed as a dead man. According to reports, in 2007 he was arrested in Russia for murder, and after a while, died under unknown circumstances. Sources claim that these “dead souls” are actively used by the Russian security services to destabilize the situation in the northern regions of Azerbaijan (ündəm/121524-GƏNCƏDƏ_ÖLDÜRÜLƏN_TERRORÇUNUN_ŞOK_HEKAYƏ).

This raises a set of interesting questions about whether Moscow might have had a hand in the attack. There are a lot of issues over which Russia is irritated with Azerbaijan – Azerbaijan’s state policy of integration with the West, active military contacts with Israel and Western countries, a growing rapprochement with Turkey, Baku’s loyalty to the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. All these steps of Russia’s independent small neighbor, formerly a part of the Russian Empire, should anger Moscow and might have pushed Russia to having a hidden hand in the attack in Ganja.

It should be noted that Russia is not the only country that worries about the policies of Azerbaijan. Iran, another of Azerbaijan’s neighbors, also is greatly concerned about the country’s pro-Western direction. The tense situation is exacerbated by the numerous rumors of a possible war of the West against Iran. It is clear that the much-publicized article in the US publication Foreign Policy ( concerning Israel’s intention to use the territory of Azerbaijan to bomb nuclear sites in Iran does not improve relations between Tehran  and Baku. As a result, since the beginning of 2012, Azerbaijani security forces defused at least three armed groups that had links to the Iranian secret services and were plotting terrorist attacks against American and Israeli citizens on the territory of Azerbaijan (

Azerbaijan, a small independent republic with a large Jewish community and sandwiched between Russia and Iran, remains in a difficult situation. Until now, the Azerbaijani security services have successfully coped with the neutralization of various criminal groups linked to neighboring states. However, the array of potential threats is increasing on the eve of the “Eurovision” song contest in Baku. Therefore, Azerbaijan is very much in need of greater security and counter-terrorism assistance from its Western partners. In recent days, the Azerbaijani press has already reported about an agreement between Azerbaijan and Israel on the participation of “Mossad” in ensuring security during the upcoming Eurovision contest that will take place at the end of May (

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slovakia Considers Combining Defense and Interior Ministries to Save Money

By Matthew Czekaj

Within just days of his party’s overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections, Direction-Social Democrats (Smer-SD) party chairman and Slovakia’s new Prime Minister Robert Fico suggested to the media that a number of government ministries and agencies may be merged to increase efficiency and reduce public spending (TASR, March 20). Among the options discussed by Smer-SD officials has been to merge the Anti-monopoly Fund (PMU) and the Public Procurements Office, the Ministry of Education with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Social Affairs with Health, and the Interior and Defense Ministries. The Slovak Ministry of the Interior has competency over domestic and border security, citizen registration procedures, as well as the police and fire fighting services. In addition, Smer-SD has proposed combining the civilian intelligence agency, Slovak Information Service (SIS), with the two military intelligence services, or at least to merge the agency of military intelligence (VSS) with military counter-intelligence (VOS). “We are not interested in going in for revolutions […] Slovakia needs peace and a normal political professional performance, and this is what we are striving for,” Fico told reporters, adding later, “all that can be integrated together will be merged” (TASR, March 20).

Opinion among experts is divided about whether such mergers are a good idea as previous attempts at this have failed in the past, according to Slovak political analyst Michal Horsky (TASR, March 20). Still, three former Slovakian Defense Ministers have gone on the record in support of combining the Interior and Defense Ministries.  Ľubomír Galko of Freedom and Solidarity/SaS and Martin Fedor of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ-DS) both conceded guardedly that such a merger “could be possible in the long-term under certain situations,” according to the Slovak TASR news agency. Jaroslav Baška, a former Minister of Defense from the Smer-SD party, agreed but cautioned that “everything needs to be well-thought out in the most minute details.” Galko recommended that further debate and study of experiences from abroad be carried out first, and that military and civilian experts weigh in on the proper allocation of powers and competencies for the new ministry. Fedor suggested starting the procedure of combining the two ministries slowly with a joint procurement program, and he proposed allowing the Interior Ministry to use the military police much like a gendarmerie force found in other countries. If the government goes ahead with uniting the Interior and Defense portfolios under one minister, the process will have to begin before the end of this year, Baška added.

This was actually not the first time that the idea was floated to merge Slovakia’s police and military under one roof. In January of 2010, the head of the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS), Jan Slota, suggested that the number of Slovak government ministries should be reduced following the June 2010 parliamentary elections. In addition to other mergers, Slota argued that the Ministries of the Interior and Defense should be combined to create an “armed forces ministry,” while transferring the civilian forces to the Construction and Regional Development Ministry – which itself, Slota proposed, would be joined with the Ministry of Economy. Indeed, initiatives for streamlining the Slovak cabinet were being publically discussed at the time. However, SNS’s then-coalition partners, Smer, headed by Fico, and the populist Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), headed by former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, expressed reservations with the prudence of Slota’s proposal. At the same time, the opposition SDKÚ asserted that Slota’s ministry consolidation plan was just an attempt to cover up the scandals SNS leaders were involved with at the very ministries he proposed to merge.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Fico’s recent complaint about Slovakia’s inability to properly finance its military services reflects a fact. As Polish news outlet, TVN24, reported in the summer of 2011, Slovakia’s “Army is crumbling” [link in Polish] and the country is losing the ability to defend itself. According to the Slovak Ministry of Defense, Slovakia’s outdated, under-equipped and under-trained military “is unable to survive on a modern battlefield.” Slovakia’s military modernization plan, which the country was supposed to undertake upon entering NATO, has stalled. Overall, the armed forces utilize only about 54 percent modern equipment. The air force is the best equipped, with 66 percent modern materiel; mechanized infantry comes in second with 62 percent. The most poorly equipped Slovak units are army engineer corps, with only 29 percent of their equipment meeting Alliance standards, and the signal corps, which has nearly no modern materiel at all. All of Slovakia’s main battle tanks, made up of T-72s, are outdated, as are its BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles. Plans to replace its aging, Soviet-made MiG-29 supersonic fighters will likely be scrapped. Neither the country’s military personnel nor vehicles have proper active or passive defense systems, which makes them unfit for deployment to a high-risk battle environment like Afghanistan. Worse still, TVN24 points out that 90 percent of Slovakia’s stockpiled ammunition is past its expiration date.

Slovak military battle readiness has been further degraded by years of insufficient training. In 2008, 58 percent of Slovakia’s military personnel met NATO’s rigorous training standards; but, by 2010, only 44 percent did. Moreover, while the Air Force command is the only arm of the Slovakian military that is fully integrated into North Atlantic Alliance structures – the rest of the military is incapable of taking part in joint NATO operations even on its own soil – Slovak MiG-29 pilots log only 60 hours of flight time annually. The NATO recommended standard is a minimum of 180 training hours (TVN24, August 16, 2011).

The culprit responsible for the country’s military degradation has been a chronic under-financing of the armed forces. Since joining NATO, Slovakia has consistently spent below its Alliance obligation of at least two percent of the country’s GDP on military expenditures. Bratislava’s 1.7 percent spending in 2004 has been in steep decline, reaching just 1.1 percent by 2010. This decline can only be explained by increasingly large cuts to defense budgets. Despite government assurances otherwise, Slovakia’s overall economic growth has been too low over the past several years to make up for the defense spending’s shrinking percentage shares of GDP. That level of spending is inadequate to even sustain operational readiness, let alone armed forces modernization.

Slovakia’s new government has already been sworn in, and so far the Interior and Defense Ministries will be headed by two separate individuals – Robert Kaliňák and Martin Glváč, respectively. However, Defense Minister Glváč reaffirmed the government’s plans to combine the VSS and VOS military intelligence outfits starting in 2013, so other planned bureaucracy mergers may still be in the works. Bratislava’s inability to properly finance its military certainly gives the government good reason to look for cost savings and efficiency gains. However, for a country with a recent politically repressive past exemplified by former PM Mečiar’s misuse of the police, military and state security services, Slovakia should be very careful in its approach. Putting all force-capable services of the state under the command of one minister could prove destabilizing to the country’s democratic institutions.

Indeed, the pattern of ever sharper budget cuts to the military over the years suggests not that Slovakia needs to find greater efficiency and savings – even if it does – but rather that the country has consciously been undervaluing its own national defense. The Slovaks and their elected representatives will thus have to reevaluate not so much who should be in charge of the military and police, but instead what services they expect their government to provide and how high a robust national defense should be on that list.

Friday, April 6, 2012

New Western Policies Are Needed to Deal with Ukraine’s Authoritarian Path

By Taras Kuzio

At the March 27 Brookings Institution seminar “Ukraine’s Drift Away From Europe and the Western Response” ( former US Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer asked, “Does Yanukovych get it? [Up to last] fall I thought he did.” He added he is “less sure now.”

Nadia Diuk, Vice President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), asked a similar question: “I have puzzled over the Tymoshenko case and still don’t understand why this case continues when it is obviously damaging Ukraine’s interests on all fronts and its participation in the EU.” Diuk believes other factors may be at stake such as a “possibly personal vendetta” but added, “I haven’t come up with a solution as to why the Ukrainian government is not at least giving some semblance in line with the rule of law, some rules, constitutional regulations. That really is a puzzle.”

Ambassador Pifer and Diuk are in effect arguing that the Viktor Yanukovych administration is being “irrational” and “illogical” as its policies are harming their own interests. Ambassador Pifer asks, “Does he care?” and answers, “He is not going to have the luxury of not caring.” Meanwhile, Diuk argues Yanukovych is “Infinitely capable of doing damage to his own interests.”

Ambassador Pifer and Diuk differ from fellow panelist Edward Chow and audience participant Ambassador Keith Smith (both Senior Fellows at the Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS]) who analyze Yanukovych’s policies from the perspective of the Ukrainian President’s logic – not from that of Washington or Brussels. From the Yanukovych administration’s perspective, everything Yanukovych and his team are undertaking is perfectly logical – as Serhiy Kudelia and this author have long argued (see; EDM, November 4, 2011). Kudelia provided eight factors “explaining the rationality of his choice” while this author gave ten reasons why Tymoshenko will remain imprisoned.

Kudelia’s and this author’s eight to ten factors have grown since late 2011. A poll in Ukrayinska Pravda (April 3) found that Tymoshenko (and Arseniy Yatseniuk) would both defeat Yanukovych in a presidential election by seven to eight percent of the vote. In the 2010 elections, then opposition leader Yanukovych had expected to easily defeat Prime Minister Tymoshenko. A February 2010 US cable from Kyiv reported, “The 2.88 percent gap between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko surprised many political experts, including those in the Yanukovych campaign. Yanukovych advisors had expected a ten percent or more margin of victory” (

Yanukovych and the oligarchs are petrified by Tymoshenko and her allies, such as former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, because of their rhetoric and because they – unlike the majority of Ukrainian political leaders such as former President Viktor Yushchenko – cannot be bought or co-opted. Ambassador Pifer and Diuk did not address the main purpose of the sentences given to Tymoshenko and Lutsenko aimed at removing them from the next three parliamentary and two presidential elections, giving Yanukovych a monopoly of power until at least 2020.

In addition, no panelist mentioned the more than ten additional criminal charges, including murder, leveled against Tymoshenko since her October 2011 sentence (see Deputy Prosecutor Renat Kuzmin on Inter television, Some of these charges were raised on the eve of the initialing of the Association Agreement on March 30 and are not the actions of an administration committed to European integration.

It was left to Ambassador Smith to point out at Brookings, “And I think that when we talk about actions by the government that are against their own interest, we have to put ourselves in their place, which is something I failed to do many times over my career. And I think that they see this as, no matter what, the most important thing is to make sure they never lose another election, no matter what; no matter what it takes.”

Four factors below explain why there may not be sanctions imposed against Ukraine.

The first is that it assumes the EU will follow the US in imposing sanctions and visa black lists against Ukraine. Yet, the case of Belarus has shown that the Bush administration had to cajole Europe into imposing sanctions and visa denials when the EU was initially reluctant to do so (on sanctions against Ukraine see Ukrayinska Pravda, August 24, 2011).

The second is that Kyiv over-played its geopolitical hand partly because of inconsistencies in Western policies. Western sanctions are only applied to one (Belarus) out of eight “consolidated authoritarian regimes” in the CIS, as defined by Freedom House ( Why should Kyiv not assume Ukraine would be treated like superpower Russia or oil rich Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan where there are no sanctions – rather than like Belarus where there are sanctions in place?

The third is that Western Europe is home to many Eurasian oligarchs and deposed elites from kleptocratic regimes. London has nearly half a million oligarchs, businessmen, and political and economic refugees from the CIS. EU member Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, both offshore tax havens, account for 40 percent of foreign investment into Ukraine (

Why should Kyiv not assume that the EU is duplicitous, criticizing Kyiv on the one hand while accepting opaque income brought in by Eurasian elites on the other. The EU does not have the tough money laundering laws such as those in f the US.

The fourth factor is that countries can get away with more democratic failings under “enlargement-lite,” (i.e. EU enlargement without a membership perspective) ( Kyiv had a record of sustained attacks on democracy even before Tymoshenko’s imprisonment (e.g.: the corrupt formation of the parliamentary coalition, changing the constitution, local election fraud, incomplete judicial reforms, media censorship, Security Service intimidation of civil society, and arrests of Lutsenko and other members of the 2007-2010 Tymoshenko government).

Kyiv is right to be confused as to why Western criticism of its actions only began after Tymoshenko was arrested in summer 2011, and which then became a torrent in October when she was sentenced. Why did the EU continue to negotiate with Kyiv throughout the Yanukovych administration’s rollback of democracy in 2010-2011, which sent a signal to the Yanukovych administration that they could continue with more democratic failings under “enlargement-lite?” The Ukrainian authorities continue to insist that democracy is flourishing on their watch (see interview with Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, Die Welt, March 13). There would have been fewer misunderstandings today if the US and EU had set red lines in 2010 that the Yanukovych administration could not cross if it wished to integrate into Europe. The Yanukovych administration’s policies are set toward an authoritarian path because they have opened up three Pandora’s boxes.

Firstly, criminal code articles 364 and 365 used to sentence Tymoshenko could be used to sentence Yanukovych and his allies if they are voted out of office. If the parliament votes to decriminalize them, as Yanukovych promised EU leaders in fall 2011, Tymoshenko would be freed and win the presidency in 2015.

Secondly, the investigation of the 2009 gas contract opens a precedent for investigation into all other gas contracts, including the badly drafted April 2010 Kharkiv Accords that gave Ukraine a fictitious 30 percent “discount” on the gas price in exchange for an extension of the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol (see Chow, “Bad deal all around,” As Margarita Balmaceda has written, all of Ukraine’s gas contracts were opaque and benefited members of the elites across the political spectrum (see her Energy Dependency, Politics and Corruption in the Former Soviet Union, Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2008). If it returned to power, the opposition would likely accuse Yanukovych and his administration of high treason for the Kharkiv Accords and, if that were to happen, place Ukraine’s gas pipelines into a gas consortium.

Thirdly, accusations of Tymoshenko’s alleged involvement in a 1996 contract killing could become a precedent for opening investigations into countless other killing, especially in Donetsk, Crimea and Odessa where they were especially prevalent and were never resolved. Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka was chief prosecutor in Kramatorsk from 1986, then deputy prosecutor in Donetsk oblast, and chief prosecutor in Donetsk from 1998-2003. Deputy Prosecutor-General Renat Kuzmin held senior positions in Donetsk regional prosecutors’ offices before moving to Kyiv (for background to the murders in Donetsk in the 1990s see

The Yanukovych administration cannot leave office after opening the above three Pandora’s boxes and is prioritizing the consolidation of a domestic monopoly of power and rent seeking over European integration (see recent empty rhetoric on Europe at; It is time to understand their policies using their rationale and thereby understand the path they have set themselves on toward an authoritarian state; Western policies in response should then be formulated accordingly. Now is not the time for contemplation but for action.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Moscow Plans to Dispatch Ethnic Russians to the North Caucasus

By Valery Dzutsev

On March 22, the current Prime Minister of Russia and the next President of the country, Vladimir Putin, held a government meeting dedicated to his campaign promises. One of the responding ministers, Minister for Regional Development Viktor Basargin, said that his agency was preparing a plan for a massive return of ethnic Russians to the North Caucasus that would be ready in “3-4 months” (, March 22). Basargin quoted Putin’s article on ethnic issues that was published on January 23, 2012 in the run up to presidential elections in Russia. In the article for the first time the top Russian official agreed with the Russian nationalists’ long-held claim that [ethnic] Russian people are the “core” people of Russia that hold the country’s “matrix” together (, January 23).

Now the Russian government seems to be intent on implementing this idea in practice and the North Caucasus should become the “pilot project” in this regard, according to minister Basargin (, March 22). According to the Russian observer Alexander Podrabinek, Moscow plans to dispatch 50,000 families to the North Caucasus per year. Podrabinek wonders where these people would come from (, March 22). The government in Moscow appears to be especially concerned about ethnic homogeneity of Ingushetia and Chechnya, where only negligibly small ethnic Russian populations are left in place.

Ironically, the Russian government’s plans to relocate ethnic Russians to the North Caucasus to affirm control over this region in the long run might backfire and end up alienating even those territories that have been relatively calm. Indeed, the North Caucasus is one of the most densely populated areas in the Russian Federation. The region suffers from a lack of jobs, but not a lack of a workforce. While highly skilled workers might still be in demand in the North Caucasus, there are very few enterprises that need high skilled labor. Even if Moscow found those extra 50,000 ethnic Russian families willing to relocate to the North Caucasus, they would largely compete for livelihoods with the locals, resulting in skyrocketing conflicts between the native people of the region and ethnic Russians.