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Ukraine: 'If the left movements don’t unite, only the far right will benefit from social anger'

Volodymyr Ishchenko.

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Volodymyr Ishchenko, deputy director of the Center for Society Research in Kiev, interviewed by Maxime Benatouil

March 4, 2014 -- Transform! Network

Maxime Benatouil: What root causes explain such large parts of the population joining the protests, on Maidan Square and elsewhere?

Volodymyr Ishchenko: First, let me tell you that the protests weren’t exclusively initiated by the students. It is a quite widespread misperception. The first protests were launched by various groups: journalists, civic activists, and students. All these groups share a common European dream, a very deep-rooted idea that Europe has the solution to Ukraine’s problems. To them, it means: more democracy, more justice, less corruption and a better welfare. This is a very old idea, well-anchored in Eastern European societies. Ever since the 19th century, there has been a will to catch up with Western Europe. Many Ukrainians still think that way.

I would say that it is a naive perception of what the EU could bring to the country. Most of the people have no idea of the harsh implications of a Free Trade Agreement for the Ukrainian economy and its potentially disastrous consequences on the industrial sector.

Is the so-called “language border” a relevant factor to explain the tendencies within the Ukrainian society either leaning towards the Maidan protest or rejecting it?

There are still many divides in Ukraine: the geographical divide, language divide, religion divide, etc. There is even a divide over memories, especially regarding the situation of the country during World War II. The divides correspond to different electoral attitudes. If the language factor is indeed dividing, one cannot say that all Russian speakers don’t support Maidan for example. But let me add that, in the Western part of the country and in Kiev, Yanukovych was never seen as a legitimate representative. There is a lot of social chauvinism: he was considered as a man from a little industrial area close to Russia.

The far-right party “Svoboda” and the neo-Nazi movement “Right Sector” played a central role in the revolution by protecting the protesters from police brutalities. In your opinion, can the prestige they gained be translated into political power?

Yes. Svoboda got concrete political positions in the new government. The deputy prime minister belongs to the party, so do the new minister of defence and minister of agriculture. And I could go on with the examples… The party was rewarded for organising the defence of Maidan.

Regarding the “Right Sector”, there were suggestions that it will get representatives in the new ministry of defence and the security service. It’s not clear yet. But three months ago, no one in Ukraine knew about its existence – apart from experts on radical right movements and small leftist groups countering them on the streets.

The “Right Sector” is a plural organisation gathering ultra-nationalists defending the legacy of [WWII Nazi collaborator] Bandera and even more radical neo-Nazis groups. Now, to the public opinion of Western Ukraine, its members are the heroes of the revolution. People show them a very deep respect. They are slowly discovering that the “Right Sector” is against parliamentary democracy, liberal principles and is promoting very conservative values. But still, they are generally excused because of their “heroic” actions on Maidan.

Where does the left in today’s Ukraine stand?

For the people who supported Maidan, the Communist Party is highly discredited and is seen as part of the former regime. They are paying the price of the support they gave to the Party of Regions. There are currently discussions in the parliament about a ban of both the Party of Regions and the Communist Party. Not to ban of the communist ideology as such – which would be terrible for left ideas and the further development of a new left movement in Ukraine.

This new left movement consists of many small left groups. They are lacking of unity, to say the least. Some of them tried to participate in Maidan or in the charity activities on the occupied areas, also helping people not to get injured. Others criticise the whole Maidan movement in its essence. For now, they are too weak to play any significant political role. But I’m quite optimistic for the future.

First, we need to create a united left organisation to be able to push efficiently for a leftist agenda in Ukrainian politics. With such a united left force, we could positively meet the imperatives of the forthcoming social anger that the neoliberal policies of the recently formed government will cause in a near future. People will again take to the streets. But if the left movements don’t unite, only the far-right movements will benefit from this anger.

What could come out of the next presidential election scheduled for May 2014?

The situation in Crimea will determine the stability of the political transition. It is a very sensitive issue for the Ukrainians as a whole. If the situation deteriorates, the nationalism on both sides will increase dangerously.

Many things can happen before May: a war, a civil conflict… The nationalist feelings will definitely arise among the western Ukrainians, and quite probably also in the eastern part of the country, where people might not object to a self-determination of Crimea.

Before the beginning of the events in Crimea, I would have said that there will be two competitors for the Western electorate – Tymoshenko and Klytshko – and that a unifying figure will arise in the eastern part of the country to represent its specific interests. This would have led to difficult elections with contentious results.

But the crisis in Crimea changes everything. People of western Ukraine won’t let their sovereignty on Crimea fade away: they will have strong demands for nationalist candidates. The nationalists might play even a larger role.

[Volodymyr Ishchenko is a Ukrainian sociologist studying social protests. He is the deputy director at the Center for Society Research in Kiev, and editor of COMMONS: Journal of Social Criticism. The Transform! network is associated with the Party of the European Left.



'It was a real revolution': An interview with Vasyl Cherepanyn

In English, French (below) and attached

'It was a real revolution': An interview with Vasyl Cherepanyn

Vasyl Cherepanyn is the Head of the Visual Culture Research Centre in Kyiv and editor of the Political Critique magazine (Ukrainian edition). He was one of the organisers of the Post-globalisation Initiative conference held in Kyiv in June 2013, in preparation for the counter G20 in St Petersburg. (1) Recently, he participated in a debate with “indignados” activists in Madrid. (2) Christophe Aguiton and Nicola Bullard interviewed him on 6 March 2014.

Tell us about your involvement with the Maidan movement? (3)

VC: Visual Culture Research Centre has been involved in Maidan since December. We have helped organise an education programme at the Open University of Maidan for people living in the square called “Global Protest” which located the Ukrainian uprising in the broader context, in particular the Arab Spring, indignados and Occupy. We knew that police were taking injured protestors from the hospitals to the police headquarters, so we organised a big network of people to guard those in hospital.

Leftists and social activists were involved in many different activities, including medical services, SOS Maidan -- a kind of alternative media, legal aid and information hotline for the Maidan movement.

We hear a lot about the presence of neo-Nazi and fascist groups in the Maidan. Can you tell us who was there?

VC: First of all, let me say that there is a real Western blindness about the Ukrainian situation. The context is somehow beyond the Western imagination. Yes, the far Right was there, but it was a real revolution, and in a real revolution all the oppositional forces are present. Everyone was there -- except, of course, the oligarchs and the small elite of super rich.

To contextualise the role of the far Right it is important to remember the sequence of events. The so-called “Euro Maidan” started on 21 November 2013. The pretext for the mobilisation was the President’s refusal to sign the trade agreement with the EU and in the early days there were journalists, students -- and the far Right who joined in a typical parasitic fashion. The neo-Nazi Svoboda Party was the first parliamentary party to join the movement, which gave them a certain visibility. Then on 29 November there was a crackdown. This only enlarged the protests and after that we could see that all the social sectors and opposition political forces were there. This was when the Euro Maidan became the Maidan and as the protests grew, the role and influence of the far Right decreased.

I know that for some in the Left it is impossible to be part of a movement if the far Right is also there. But reality is not as pure as political theory and, in my opinion, the role of the Left is to participate and engage. As a final detail about the far Right, there is now a competition between the Svoboda Party and the Right Sector, a new group formed in Maidan that includes radical nationalist organisations and a some of the football hooligans.

The most important point is that the engine of Maidan was the people not political parties or organisations: ordinary people who came out to the square and who stayed until victory. Some paid with their lives.

Another criticism from some left organisations in Europe is the prohibition of the Communist Party in Ukraine?

VC: The Communist party was not forbidden. There was an initiative to forbid both the Party of Regions, Viktor Yanukovych’s party, and the Communist Party, when they voted together on 16 January this year to ban demonstrations and to control NGOs and independent media. This initiative didn’t go through, and of course no party will be forbidden. But you have to know that the Communist Party is communist only in name: its only program is nostalgia for the Soviet Union welfare state. There’s nothing communist in that!

What about the role of the trade unions?

VC: The official union federation was on the side of the authorities, however the independent federation was with the protests. In fact the head of the federation was in the Maidan Council. There was an effort to organise a general strike but this proved impossible: oligarchs own the factories and industries and they cracked down immediately on any attempts to organise strikes. There were some strikes in central and western Ukraine, mainly in the white-collar sector. I believe if we had succeeded in organising a general strike, the protest would have been even bigger and less violent.

The situation in Ukraine has been characterised as pro-Europe versus pro-Russian, with the country divided in two. Indeed, talk of federation and the new parliament’s decision to not recognise Russian as an official language give the impression of a country deeply divided.

VC: First of all, the 2012 parliamentary decision to make Russian an official language is unconstitutional, as the Constitution says clearly that Ukrainian is the official language. However, even through the 2012 decision was unconstitutional, I think the recent decision of the new parliament was a mistake and they are now stepping back from that decision. It’s important to remember that almost 50 per cent of the people at Maidan were Russian speakers.

Speaking more generally, the discourse about “two Ukraines” was popular in the 1990s, just after independence, when some intellectuals theorised the historical division of Ukraine, the west having been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the east of the Russian Empire. However, by the 2000s this idea didn’t pass the test of reality: Ukraine stayed as one country and Maidan proved this.

Maidan happened across the country, not only in Kyiv but also in Odessa, Kharkiv, Donetsk, and even in Sevastapol in Crimea. In January, there was a wave of actions to seize administrative buildings, all over Ukraine. In the east, where Yanukovych's party, the Party of Regions, controls all the state apparatus, the repression was very harsh: activists were attacked by special police and criminals and there were kidnappings, shootings and torture.

I see the talk of federation as a sign that the regime was losing control: this was a desperate attempt to hang on to power. The reality is that Ukrainian people are more concerned about economic and social problems than about cultural myths that are used as propaganda against our unity.

And how do you see the situation now in Crimea?

VC: The history of Crimea is specific. It has the status of an autonomous republic within Ukraine and it is of tremendous strategic value to Russia. For many years the Kremlin has funded pro-Russian organisations, including some who present themselves as leftists and use leftist discourse to spread propaganda.

Basically, though, the military occupation by Russia is a putsch: a counter-revolution against the protests. What happened in Ukraine is Putin’s worst nightmare: he needs to use all his means -- both military and propaganda -- to discredit political alternatives in Ukraine (including the leftist one) and by extension, in Russia. But the reality is that the Ukrainian situation is now out of Russia’s control.

What should the Left in Europe (and elsewhere) do now?

VC: As usual, the EU and the West have been too late to act. We needed sanctions in December, but better late than never. And the Left too has been slow to act. We expected international protests to support Maidan and to put pressure on the EU and the US to act in a more decisive way, but there was nothing. There was no real international solidarity.

But we can see that Maidan also threatened the EU. Maidan was for an alternative Europe and we found the way to fight for rights in a real, radical and democratic way. Maybe this is why the EU was so slow to act.

The Left needs to be more active and more informed. It should not be repeating Putin’s propaganda that fascists occupied Maidan. The Left needs to pay more attention to the context and understand that Maidan was a real social protest, and that Ukraine had a real revolution.

What about the Left in Ukraine?

VC: There is now a new political space where the Left can be more visible and influential. Before the political landscape was occupied by the neo-Nazis and the oligarchs. This has partly changed.

Now the most active force is the Ukrainian people. Maidan was a proof that the masses are the real engine of revolution and progress. The Left cannot go on as before -- elitist and sectarian. Now we have to be more inclusive and to work with the broader masses. We have to open our perspectives, to keep it real, and to engage in all possible social issues. Rather than the content, the form of our activity is important.

Of course we need to build new platforms such as social centres and to institutionalise some of the Maidan initiatives. But most of all, the Left needs to go outside and listen to people. Every defeat of the Left is a victory for the far Right. We need to listen to what people want, and not only pay attention to our idols of the past. The absence of political practice creates theoretical hallucination.

Vasyl Cherepanyn, Christophe Aguiton, Nicola Bullard

1. The Post Globalisation Initiative is supported by several organisation at the international level, including ATTAC France. Many organisations from the Ukrainian left participated in the conference.
2. See and the Mediapart article
3. Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) is the main square in Kyiv and has been the site of political protests throughout Ukraine’s history. It was named Independence Square in 1991.


La révolution ukrainienne: Interview de Vasyl Cherepanin

Vasyl Cherepanin dirige le centre de recherché “Culture Visuelle” de Kiev et est l’éditeur de la version ukrainienne du magazine "Krytika politiczna" (Critiques Politiques). Il a été un des organisateurs de la conférence organisée par l’initiative « Post Globalization » à Kiev en juin 2013 (1) en préparation du contre-G20 de St Petersburg et qui a participé le 2 mars 2014 aux débats avec les militants « Indignados » de Madrid. (2)

Interview réalisée le 6 mars 2014 par Nicola Bullard et Christophe Aguiton

Tout d’abord que faisais-tu pendant le mouvement Maidan ?

VC : Le centre de recherche Culture Visuelle a participé à Maidan depuis décembre 2013. Nous avons aidé à organiser un programme d’éducation dans le cadre de l’université ouverte de Maidan pour ceux qui étaient sur la place appelé « Global Protests » qui a cherché à situer l’insurrection ukrainienne dans un contexte plus large, celui des insurrections du printemps arabe, des mouvements Occupy et Indignados et des différents mouvements sociaux que le monde a connu en 2013. Nous avons participé également au réseau de protection des militants blessés qui étaient dans les hôpitaux et qui risquaient d’être enlevés par la police.

Les groupes de gauche et les activistes ont été impliqués dans beaucoup d’acitivités, en particulier « SOS Maiden », une sorte de média alternatif et d’aide juridique pour le mouvement Maidan.

Beaucoup de commentaires insistaient sur le poids des fascistes et des néo-nazis sur la place Maiden et dans l’insurrection qui a mis fin au pouvoir de Viktor Ianoukovitch, qu’en penses-tu ?

VC : Je pense que c’est, en occident, de l’aveuglement sur ce qu’est la réalité du mouvement en Ukraine. Bien sur l’extrême droite était dans la mobilisation, mais c’était une vraie révolution et, dans une vraie révolution toutes les forces d’opposition étaient présentes. Tout le monde était là, sauf bien sur les oligarques et la petite élite des super riches.

Pour contextualiser le rôle de l’extrême droite, il est important de rappeler la séquence des évènements. Ce que l’on a appelé « Euro-Maidan » a commencé le 24 novembre 2013. Le prétexte à la mobilisation a été le refus du président de la république de signer l’accord commercial avec l’Union européenne et dans les premiers jours le mouvement était formé de journalistes et d’étudiants, ainsi que l’extrême droite qui les a rejoints dans un esprit de parasitisme. Le parti néo-nazi Svoboda a été le premier parti parlementaire à rejoindre le mouvement, ce qui leur a donné une certaine visibilité. Puis, le 29 novembre, il y eu l’intervention des forces de l’ordre sur la place. Cela a élargi le mouvement et à partir de là tous les secteurs sociaux et toutes les forces politiques d’opposition ont été là. A partir de là l’Euro-Maidan est devenu Maidan et plus le mouvement grandissait plus le rôle et l’influence de l’extrême droite se réduisaient.

Je sais que pour certains, à gauche, il est impossible de participer à un mouvement si l’extrême droite est également présente. Mais la réalité n’est pas aussi pure que la théorie politique et, à mon avis, le rôle de la gauche est de s’engager et de participer au mouvement. Un dernier détail à propos de l’extrême droite, il y a maintenant une lutte entre le parti Svoboda et le « Secteur de Droite », un nouveau groupe politique formé par des organisations nationalistes et une partie des hooligans du monde du football.

L’aspect le plus important est que le moteur de Maidan était le peuple et pas les partis ou les organisations politiques : des gens ordinaires qui sont venus sur la place et qui sont restés jusqu’à la victoire. Certains l’ont payé de leurs vies.

Une autre critique venue de certaines organisations de gauche en Europe a été l’interdiction du Parti Communiste en Ukraine ?

VC : Le Parti Communiste n’a pas été interdit. Il y a eu une initiative pour interdire à la fois le Parti des Régions, le parti de Viktor Yanoukovytch, et le Parti Communiste quand ils ont voté ensemble, le 16 janvier de cette année, la loi qui interdisait les manifestations et qui mettait sous contrôle les ONGs et les médias indépendants. Cette initiative n’a pas abouti, et, bien sûr, aucun parti n’a été interdit. Mais vous devez savoir que le Parti Communiste n’est communiste que de nom : son seul programme est la nostalgie pour l’état providence de la période de l’Union Soviétique, il n’y rien de communiste dans cela !

Et quel a été le rôle des syndicats ?

VC : La fédération syndicale officielle était du côté des autorités, mais la fédération syndicale indépendante était dans le mouvement. La direction de la fédération syndicale était dans le conseile de Maidan. Il y a eu un appel à la grève générale, mais elle n’a pas eu lieu : les usines et les industries sont dans les mains des oligarques, et ils ont cassé toute tentative pour organiser des grèves. Il y en a cependant eu quelques-unes à l’ouest et dans le centre de l’Ukraine, principalement dans le secteur des employés. Je pense que si nous avions réussi à organiser une grève générale, le mouvement aurait été encore plus massif et moins violent.

La situation en Ukraine a été analysée comme une division en deux du pays, les pro-européens contre les pro-russes. Dans ce contexte les propositions de transformer le pays en fédération et la récente décision du parlement de ne pas reconnaître le russe comme langue officielle ont donné l’impression d’un pays profondément divisé ?

VC : La décision prise par le parlement de faire du russe une langue officielle était en fait inconstitutionnelle, la constitution disant clairement que seul l’ukrainien est la langue officielle. Cependant, même si la décision de 2012 était anticonstitutionnelle, je pense que la récente décision du parlement a été une erreur, et celui-ci est d’ailleurs en train de revenir sur cette décision. Il est important de rappeler que plus de 50% des participants à Maidan étaient russophones.

De façon plus générale, le discours sur les « deux Ukraines » était populaire dans les années 1990, juste après l’indépendance quand des intellectuels théorisaient la division historique de l’Ukraine, l’ouest dans l’empire austro-hongrois et l’est dans l’empire russe. Cependant, dès les années 2000, cette idée n’a pas passé le test de la réalité : l’Ukraine est resté unie et Maidan l’a prouvé.

Maidan a eu lieu dans tout le pays, pas seulement à Kiev, mais aussi à Odessa, Kharkov, Donest et même à Sébastopol, en Crimée. En janvier nous avons eu des actions pour se saisir des immeubles administratifs dans toute l’Ukraine. A l’est, où le parti de Yanukovych, le Parti des Régions, contrôle toutes les institutions étatiques, la répression a été féroce : les militants ont été attaqués par les forces spéciales et il y a eu des kidnappings, de la torture, des fusillades.

Je pense que le régime a avancé l’idée de fédération quand il a perdu le contrôle de la situation : cela a été une tentative désespérée de garder le pouvoir. La réalité est que le peuple ukrainien est plus préoccupé par les questions sociales et économiques que par les mythes culturels qui ont été un instrument de propagande contre notre unité.

Et comment vois-tu la situation actuelle en Crimée ?

VC : L’histoire de la Crimée est spécifique. La Crimée a un statut de république autonome dans l’Ukraine et elle représente une valeur stratégique immense pour la Russie. Pendant des années, la Russie a financé des organisations pro-russes, y compris certaines qui se présentent comme d’extrême gauche et utilise un discours radical dans leur propagande.

Mais sur un plan basique, l’occupation militaire de la Crimée est un putsch : une contre-révolution contre le mouvement. Ce qui est arrivé en Ukraine est le pire des cauchemars pour Poutine : il a besoin d’utiliser tous les moyens – de la propagande à l’intervention armée – pour discréditer l’alternative politique en Ukraine, y compris l’alternative de gauche (et par extension la discréditer en Russie elle-même). Mais la réalité est que la situation en Ukraine est maintenant hors du contrôle de la Russie.

Qu’est-ce que la gauche, en Europe et au-delà, devrait faire maintenant ?

VC : Comme toujours l’Union européenne et l’occident ont réagi trop tard. Nous avions besoin des sanctions en décembre, mais il vaut tard que jamais. Et la gauche a été également trop lente à réagir. Nous espérions des manifestations internationales pour soutenir Maidan et pour mettre la pression sur l’Union Européenne et les Etats-Unis pour qu’ils agissent de façon plus déterminés, mais cela na pas eu lieu. Il n’y a pas eu de solidarité internationale.

Mais nous pouvons voir que Maidan a aussi inquiété l’Union européenne. Maidan était pour une Europe alternative et nous avons trouvé la voie pour nous battre pour nos droits de façon radicale et démocratique. C’est peut être aussi pour cela que l’Union européenne a été aussi lente à réagir. La gauche doit être mieux informée et plus active. La gauche ne doit pas répéter la propagande de Poutine qui dit que les fascistes occupent Maidan. La gauche doit prêter plus d’attention au contexte et comprendre que Maidan a été un vrai mouvement social et que l’Ukraine a fait une vraie révolution.

Et pour la gauche en Ukraine ?

VC : Il y a maintenant un nouvel espace politique dans lequel la gauche peut être plus visible et plus influente. Auparavant la vie politique était monopolisée par les néo-nazis et les oligarques. Cela a en partie changé.

Maintenant la force active, c’est le peuple ukrainien. Maidan a été la preuve que les masses étaient le vrai moteur du progrès et de la révolution. La gauche ne peut pas comme elle l’était : élitiste et sectaire. Nous devons maintenant être plus inclusifs et travailler avec les larges masses. Nous avons à ouvrir nos perspectives, de les maintenir dans la réalité et nous engager dans toutes les questions sociales possibles. Plus que le contenu, la forme de notre activité est vraiment importante.

Bien sûr nous devons construire de nouvelles plates-formes comme des centres sociaux, et institutionnaliser quelques initiatives issues de Maidan. Mais plus que tout, la gauche doit sortir et écouter le peuple. Toute défaite de la gauche serait une victoire pour l’extrême droite. Nous devons écouter ce que veut le peuple et ne pas seulement prêter attention aux idoles du passé. L’absence de pratique politique peut créer des hallucinations théoriques…

1. l’initiative Post Globalization est soutenue par de nombreux mouvements sur le plan international, dont ATTAC France ; plusieurs mouvements de la gauche ukrainienne ont participé à cette conférence, dont « l’opposition de gauche » dont un des animateurs a été interviewé par des militants du Parti de Gauche

2.Cf et l’article de Médiapart

Don't believe the Russian propaganda about Ukraine's 'fascist' p

Don't believe the Russian propaganda about Ukraine's 'fascist' protesters

The Euromaidan was a place of multi-ethnic national solidarity in the face of repression – Putin only seeks to justify his aggression

by Olexiy Haran, Thursday 13 March 2014 06.04 EDT

The Kremlin uses many kinds of falsifications to justify its aggression against Ukraine and plans to annex Crimean peninsula. One of which is that the mass protests of Ukrainians against the corrupt and bloody regime of Viktor Yanukovych, called the Euromaidan, was a gathering of far-right extremists intent on imposing nationalist rule over all other ethnic groups in Ukraine.

But the Euromaidan was anything but this. Although many Ukrainian nationalists passionately joined in the protests in central Kiev against Yanukovych's plans to get Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union instead of signing a forward-looking association agreement with the EU, the maidan was a place of multi-ethnic national solidarity in the face of repression. One shouldn't forget that Sergey Nigoyan, the first victim of police ruthlessness in the Maidan, was an ethnic Armenian who came to support the protest from the Russian-speaking Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine. Jews actively joined the ranks of protesters and a religious Jew headed one of the maidan self-defence units, passing command status to his Ukrainian deputy every Friday after the beginning of sabbath.

Crimean Tatars – a Sunni Muslim ethnic group that ruled in Crimea before it was captured by Russia in 1783 – have backed the maidan since its early days and now decisively oppose secession of the peninsula, let alone its accession to the Russian Federation. They still remember how, in 1944, their people were forcibly moved to central Asia under Stalin's orders with their land and houses transferred to ethnic Russians. That is where the Russian demographic domination of Crimea stems from.

Not a single representative of ethnic or other minorities has yet complained about the worsening of their position since the victory of Ukrainian democratic revolution. Instead, these minorities have articulated their desire to have an association agreement with the EU signed as soon as possible, which will bring additional safeguards against any discrimination or violation of human rights. Moreover, it is with the deployment of Russian troops in Crimea that swastika signs appeared on the walls of synagogues in Simferopol. And it is the chief rabbi of Ukraine Yaakov Dov Bleich who publicly suggested holding the G8 summit in Kiev to show support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Under European supervision, Ukraine could introduce guarantees for the protection and development of its cultural and ethnic diversity. But this possibility is diminished by the lack of a robust western response to Russian aggression. This risks demonstrating to all nations that force is a swifter way to achieve your objectives than dialogue and rule of law. I only hope we all remember the consequences this position has had for the continent in the past.

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