Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another Win for Yanukovych and Russia - Europe is Next

KievImage via Wikipedia

The government of Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was dismissed today after a no-confidence vote passed with 243 of the 450-member parliament. The work now begins for Victor to form a new majority coalition. It needs to be remembered that individuals don't count in coalitions - only the parties as a group.

Party of Regions is the largest party in the parliament with 172 seats. To form a majority, PoR needs another 55 seats and Yanukovych has 30 days to do it. If he can -and that will not be easy - he will have another 60 days to create a new government for approval by the parliament. Yanukovych’s 172 seats, in addition to the Communist Party (27 seats) and Lytvyn (20 seats) are not enough to provide the required 226 seat majority - only 219. Close but no cigar. A minority is not permittd to nominate a PM.

The other blocs are the former Prime Minister's BYuT and the former President's Our Ukraine. It is very unlikely that these blocs will enter any coalition with Yanukovych, although not impossible.

If Yanukovych can't pull of a new majority, he will have to call a snap election. A new election is probably not what the MPs want because it is likely that Lytvn's bloc and Our Ukraine will be wiped out. What to do? What to do?

At this point, however, this is yet another win for Russia, and the changes have begun. Today as well, the head of the energy firm Naftogaz, Oleh Dubyna, was dismissed. Dubyna was a close ally of Yulia Timoshenko and of Viktor Yushchenko. Naftogaz management has been a target for Russia. This is the beginning of a purge to oust key people of whom the Kremlin doesn't approve or are connected to either Tymoshenko or Yushchenko. The metals industry will be on that list.

Aside from consolidating its gains in the Caucuses, Central Asia and Ukraine, Russia is now turning its attention to the dismantling of NATO, beginning with France and Germany.

Germany is already in thrall to Russia, both economically and to leverage its power within the EU. Almost completely dependent on the Kremlin for energy, the German government will show no willingness to challenge Russian actions in the Caucuses, including the overthrow of the Georgian government, or in Eastern Europe.

France, apparantly, is eager to sell modern, non-defensive weapons systems, like the Mistral, to Russia and threw a party for Medvedev in Paris this week. Surely noted in Tbilisi, Warsaw and the Baltic States was Medvedev's and Sarkozy's comments as reported here.

Russia and France took their courtship to a new level in Paris on Monday, entering talks about the sale of four French warships to Moscow, standing together against nuclear-minded Iran and urging a new global financial order.

A key business deal signed during Medvedev's pomp-filled visit Monday - giving France's GDF Suez a 9-percent stake in the Nord Stream gas pipeline project run by Russia's Gazprom - runs counter to efforts by U.S. and other European countries to lessen Europe's dependence on Russian pipelines and gas.

Medvedev, noting that French investment in Russia last year surpassed that of the U.S. for the first time, said, "That means we are on the right track." He urged French investors to help modernize the Russian economy Tuesday as the two countries' build major new energy, transport and even military partnerships. Addressing an audience of powerful business leaders from Russia and France on the second day of a visit to Paris, the Kremlin chief hailed what he said was an "unprecedented" economic partnership. "It is impossible to imagine relations between Russia and France without economic ties," he said at the French employers' association MEDEF, calling for Russian and French firms to buy stakes in one another.

"This truly strengthens relations," he said, inviting French investors to a economic forum in St Petersburg in June, where he hopes their expertise will "give the Russian economy an opportunity to adapt to modern life."

Medvedev hailed Sarkozy's "courage and will" when he sought to negotiate an end to Russia's war with neighboring Georgia in 2008. He said NATO - an alliance that Russia views as a U.S.-driven vestige of the Cold War - was no help in ending that war, but that European partners were. "What does this show? This shows that we ourselves should solve European issues," Medvedev said. Sarkozy said, "France defended the interests of Europe. ... We did it without using our army, we did it without threats."

Sarkozy seems to think that he defended European interests in mediating the war between Russia and Georgia. He defended France's interests, not Europe's. And, he has conveniently forgotten that Russia has not complied with key requirments that it agreed to in the settlement document, such as removal of forces. It is, in fact, building new bases.

Again, the free hand being delivered to Moscow is a direct result of the Iraq adventure, the continuing Afghan war, the economic recession in the US and its obsession with Iran. Regarding the latter, it is time to start assessing the options.

Attacking Iran is, to be blunt, stupid. There are simply too many variables and the inevitable instability in Iraq, disruption of oil from the Gulf and asymetrical attacks from Iran's allies in the Middle East, make that decision - however much the wants it - impossible. The other option is accepting a nuclear Iran. The third option is something else. It involves looking at overlapping and more important interests.

Nixon to China.

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