First, the recent resignation of Aivaras Abromavicius from the position of Minister of Economic Development and Trade did not appear to be coordinated with either the reform camp in government or with Western creditors; otherwise we might have seen mass resignations. Rather, this appears to have been a personal effort by Abromavicius to put the government's reform efforts back on track after significant evidence that established political and oligarchic elites were falling back into their old habits of using the political process for their own interests.
Abromavicius has gone on record suggesting that the country's Western reform orientation is currently in the balance. He has stressed the remarkable reforms instigated thus far—against significant odds—but has added that the old oligarchic and political order is staging a fight to come back. His decision to "fall on his sword" is an attempt to rally the forces of reform, including Western creditors, civil society, and the general population, in defense of the country's reform orientation.
Another part of that difficultly resides in understanding just how far the Ukrainian military had come leading up to Debaltseve. As of March 2014, the military was comprised of roughly 130,000 battle-ready soldiers and was "chronically underfunded, corrupt, poorly-educated, and ill-equipped," according to one account. Moreover, compared to the Russian military, the Ukrainian military was at a complete disadvantage at the onset of the conflict; by 2014, the Russian military was not only six years into an expansive modernization program but was also spending nearly fifty times as much on its forces.
And yet, despite years of being downsized and underfunded, the Ukrainian military performed valiantly in June and July 2014, almost defeating pro-Russia separatists before the Russian military interjected at Ilovaisk. Even during fighting in Debaltseve, the Ukrainian military showed glimpses of effectiveness but ultimately couldn't overcome pro-Russian forces supported by Russian logistical and material support.
Plan seen taking heat off Gulf Arab states over role in war on ISIS, putting onus on the United States to do moreSaudi Arabia’s offer to deploy ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Syria is seen as putting pressure on the Obama administration—which has been urging its Arab Gulf partners to ramp up their efforts—to itself take on a greater military role in Syria.
“[US Secretary of State John] Kerry has been going around saying, ‘Everybody has to do more. Our Arab allies have to do more,’” said David Ottaway, a Middle East Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “They’re saying, ‘OK, we’ll do more, but you have to do more.’ And they know the US is not going to do more, so they’re not going to have to do more.”
“As a diplomatic ploy, I think it is a wonderful way of taking the heat off them and putting it on the United States,” he added.
It is true that the recent association agreements with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia are larger than previous EU treaties. They include provisions to establish so-called Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas between the three countries and the EU. While one can argue that these treaties are somewhat novel, this is hardly enough ground to elevate the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement to an issue suitable for a national referendum. In view of the agreements' relative inconsequentiality for the Netherlands' future, organizing a popular vote on one of these treaties is just plain bizarre.
In October, I wrote a scorecard that assigned points to each party responsible for breaching, breaking, or not fulfilling aspects of Minsk. Russia scored minus ten and Ukraine scored minus two. Efforts to pretend that Russia is just a mediator in the Minsk process are a sham. Russia's guiding hand, including resupply of weapons and soldiers, are all over the conflict.
A smear campaign has once again been started by political factions for whom the truth is inconvenient. “The Minister was incompetent, the Minister moved too slowly, the Minister was inexperienced, the Minister had ulterior motives,” etc. The chorus is both familiar and pathetic. It hails from the best Soviet practice of disinformation, which is still well-practiced in Putin’s Russia and too often echoed in Ukraine.
It cannot go unnoticed that one by one, Ukraine’s finest reformers are being pushed to resign from the cabinet. These include Oleksiy Pavlenko, Minister of Agriculture; Andrei Pivovarsky, Minister of Infrastructure; and Alexander Kvitashvili, Minister of Health. All have resigned but have since retracted under pressure. Rumor even has it that Serhiy Kvit, Minister of Education, is under threat.
These developments have rattled nerves and escalated tensions in Northeast Asia. The outrage over North Korea’s flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions has reverberated worldwide, yet China, North Korea’s sole ally, has refused to back tough measures that would raise the cost to Pyongyang of its behavior.
North Korea’s refusal to abide by Chinese entreaties not to launch a rocket is a remarkable display of disrespect toward Beijing. It also raises a key question: Is there a limit to China’s willingness to tolerate North Korea’s behavior?
All are counterproductive.
Since the bilateral talks and optimistic statements by US Secretary of State John Kerry about possible peace in Ukraine, Russian proxies in Ukraine responded by moving people and weapons westward from Donetsk and re-escalating violence near Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
Clearly, offering an olive branch doesn't work. Only tightening the noose will.
International partnerships, technological innovation, addressing cybersecurity challenges seen as critical to realization of environmental goalsInternational partnerships, technological innovation, and addressing cybersecurity challenges will be key to turning a global commitment to clean energy into reality, according to a senior US energy official.
More than 190 nations agreed to curb rising global temperatures through carbon emission reduction and renewable energy technology adoption at the climate talks in Paris in December of 2015.
Leader describes peace deal with leftist FARC rebels as an ‘irreversible moment’Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, wholeheartedly believes that his attempt to end the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running war will bear fruit, the big challenge, however, will be convincing Colombians that “peace is going to be marvelous.”
“Most Colombians have never seen one single day of peace… They think peace might be bad,” Santos said in Washington on February 3. He compared this terrified reaction to that of a prisoner who is to be released after spending decades behind bars. “We have to teach them that...It is much better to have peace than it is to have war,” he added.