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Ukraine’s Rada Row

April 27, 2010

Quite the “row,” as the British would say, broke out today in Ukraine’s parliament (or Rada) as eggs and smoke bombs were thrown, not to mention this exciting donnybrook. The causa causans for all the fun was the vote over whether to extend a lease to Russia allowing them to use the Sevastopol (Black Sea) port for their Navy. The deal entailed Russia getting the port until 2049 in return for a 30% reduction on gas prices (and trust me Ukraine can use that deal at the moment). In the end, the Ukrainian Rada agreed to ratify the deal. The irate “nationalist” opposition in the Rada reacted fiercely to the decision (as per the events in the chamber) and protests are planned for the coming days.

Debate has sprung out over who’s getting the shaft on the deal and, of course, over whether this is just another step in Russia’s plans to conquer the world through economic terrorism! The Western media is falling in line with the usual reaction. An AP article reads:

With the Black Sea Fleet deal, Putin can check off another goal as he sets about reasserting Russia’s political, economic and military authority over its former Soviet neighbors. Since Russia itself acquired a semblance of stability on the back of high energy prices after the chaotic 1990s, it can afford to use economic incentives to gain obedience from its neighbors.

Another blogger from the Financial Times seems to think that by having a foreign country’s base in their country this will somehow hurt Ukraine’s chance of getting into the EU.

While I’m not particularly interested in taking sides on the deal, I think it’s worth pointing out something very important about these debates. Namely that the idea that the opposition in Ukraine or pretty much anyone in the West is principally against the idea of a foreign country having a base in another country is laughable. It might be worth noting the US has over 730 military bases and over 2.5 million U.S. personnel in over 100 countries around the world. Think the AP uses the words “authority” or “obedience” when discussing the presence of these US bases (let’s not even get into the “economic incentives” part) in other countries? Do you think the Ukrainian opposition would, in principle, be against any of these US bases? Doubt it. So, if they want to argue against the bases for other reasons (like they just hate Russians and don’t want them in their country), then fine, but the idea that it encroaches on their “sovereignty” is silly in terms of logic.

As for the argument that Ukraine can’t be in the EU because of foreign bases is even more ridiculous, since, well, I’ll let you all figure out if there any US bases in Europe (think real hard). On the surface, the EU can pretend all it likes about things like Russian bases in the Black Sea, but we all the decision to admit Ukraine is ultimately an economic one at the end of the day.

You can see the much different Russian side of the events here at RT. They characterize the deal as a “new dawn.” A bit rosy of an evaluation, no? Regarding Yanukovych’s desire to cooperate more economically with the Russians they inform us that:

This statement proves that the Ukrainian leader is truly working on behalf of the Ukrainian people, and not simply for a narrow political agenda.

Well, actually he’s interested in working on behalf of the Ukrainian people who voted for him (namely the Russian speaking Ukies in the East), which as far as I can tell is certainly a “political agenda.” Interestingly, they do point out that even Tymoshenko, ever the heroine of all things anti-Russia now that she lost the election, was likely to negotiate on the port extension had she been elected.

Update:  Natalia Antonova has a nice little post reminding us that Crimea historically has been a part of Russia for centuries in response to a comment from a protestor quoted by the BBC.

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