All posts by Helene Lavoix (Msc, PhD Lond)

Dr Helene Lavoix (MFin Paris, MSc PhD Lond), Director and Senior Analyst, is the founder of The Red (team) Analysis Society and a political scientist (International Relations) specialised in Strategic Foresight and Warning (SF&W) for conventional and unconventional security issues. She is the author of “What makes foresight actionable: the cases of Singapore and Finland” (confidential commissioned report, US government, November 2010), “Enabling Security for the 21st Century: Intelligence & Strategic Foresight and Warning” RSIS Working Paper August 2010, “Constructing an Early Warning System,” in From Early Warning to Early Action, European Commission, ed. DG Relex, 2008, “Detailed chronology of mass violence – Cambodia (1945 – 1979),” Online Encyclopaedia of mass violence, 2008 and the editor of Strategic Foresight and Warning: Navigating the Unknown, ed. RSIS-CENS, February 2011; etc. More on academia.edu. Listed on the public list curated by LSEImpactBlog: @LSEImpactBlog/soc-sci-academic-tweeters.
Gilman's twin insurgency

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 158 – Gilman’s Plutocratic Criminal Insurgency and War

Editorial – Gilman’s Plutocratic Criminal Insurgency and Current Wars – We have been monitoring and analyzing how the current paradigm is shifting, while wondering what could be the future of political authorities, both elements being absolutely crucial if we are to provide pertinent strategic foresight and warning analyses. In this framework, the article by Nils Gilman, associate chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, “The Twin Insurgency” (The American Interest) is an absolute must read. Indeed, in a compelling and masterful demonstration, Gilman brings many disparate elements – or signals – together and explains dynamically and historically how the “socialist modernist state”, i.e. this specific form of the modern nation-state we have known between 1945 and the 1970s is disappearing under the attacks of “The Twin Insurgency”: a criminal insurgency, or rather connected criminal insurgencies, attack the state from below, while a plutocratic insurgency parasitizes and undermines the state from above.

However, as illuminating as his theory is, as far as a large part of the world is concerned, we may nevertheless question the following:

“… As the social modernist state failed to realize its promise, the very notion of a revolution that aspires to a project of national-scale collective social reform has come to seem quaint. (Of course, rebels who seek to take over or direct the state toward projects of social reform do still exist: Marxian movements like the Zapatistas in Mexico or the Naxalites in India, Islamic movements like Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Moro insurgency in the Philippines. But these are arguably anachronistic phenomena.)”

In the light, for example, of the lasting and regionalizing war in Syria, of renewed war in Iraq, and notably of ISIS advances and aims, more largely of the changes at work in the greater Middle East, can we truly estimate that those movements are anachronistic?

To recognize their importance and contemporaneity does not mean that Gilman’s theory is disproved and must be discarded. On the contrary, we can build upon the latter to try understanding the various current conflicts and wars – actual and potential – and see them in the framework of a systemic conflict taking place because of the “Twin Insurgency”. In other words, while the “Twin Insurgency” progresses, it promotes the emergence of a new potential world order, which is resisted. It is resisted because the vector of the new plutocratic and criminal order is the parasitized modernist state. Indeed, those states’ actions being sub-optimal, as they have been undermined and parasitized by the “Twin Insurgency”, they provoke adverse reactions and thus a refusal of the new plutocratic-criminal order. According to various factors, new ways forward that are not the plutocratic-criminal order are created. Then, those various orders clash at systemic level, and are accompanied by a whole array of conflicts at various levels, and between different actors.  Assuming these ideas are correct, we might be in a transition phase until a new balance is found. At first glance, it would seem that, for example, the New Cold War, the conflict in Ukraine, the Arab Spring, the rise of ISIS, the evolving international relations of the greater Middle East, etc. would fit pretty well into this “enlarged” Gilman’s theory.

Grimly, Gilman concludes that the “ultimate losers” in the new order,

“individuals within the middle classes may increasingly face a choice: accept a progressive loss of social security and de facto social degradation, or join one of the two insurgencies.”

Assuming the way we have slightly amended his theory is correct, then this would mean that a supplementary choice is also open to those individuals: they may join, promote, or contribute to create one of the emerging alternatives to the plutocratic and criminal order, however without any guarantee of success.

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Plutocratic Criminal Insurgency

Featured image: Two armed Iraqi insurgents from northern Iraq, belonging to a faction of the Iraqi insurgency, which carries out attacks on American and coalition forces., 2006. By Menendj (http://ar.wikipedia.org/) CC-BY-SA-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.

information wars

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 157 – Information Wars

Editorial - Information Wars – Information or more broadly belief-based wars seem to multiply right now, relayed by many official declarations, articles and analyses, although fortunately not all.  This is a worrying phenomenon because it leads to direct polarization (enhancing feelings of threat, fear, “all because of an evil other that must be fought”) and to inaccurate analyses, which in turn also fuel polarization.

Information wars: propaganda, biases and conspiracy theories

We can see this phenomenon at work regarding Ukraine, Iraq, or, in a lesser way because the spotlight is not right now directed at this issue, China and the various disputes in the East and South China Seas. In Iraq, the way the al-Maliki government accuses Saudi Arabia to support ISIS, when actually a more objective but also complex reality (see among others Elizabeth Dickinson, “ISIS advance in Iraq forces Gulf donors to rethink their patronageCSMonitor) is at work is a case in point. We can also see it at work in this fascinating video (see it also here) of Sunday Times journalist Mark Franchetti describing his experience and work in Eastern Ukraine, underlining that people who end up being targeted by the Ukrainian Anti-Terrorist Operation are in majority neither terrorists nor Russian troops but everyday Ukrainians to a shocked public on a live show on Ukrainian TV. This video seems to be true and neither a hoax nor crafted propaganda, all the more so that its content fits with many other accounts and videos.

Most of the time when thinking about information wars, we associate it with ideology and propaganda, usually used by “the other side” (the enemy) and that must be fought as we (our side, the “good guys”) might be deceived. It is less frequently associated with biases, i.e. “cognitive errors”, that may impact each and every person and bend their understanding of a situation. In the first case there is a purpose, an intention to deceive. In the second case, there is none, but a recognition of our fragilities and imperfections. Actually, the first one may sometimes be engineered, while the second is always at work. However, and in an often confusing way, unintentionally (false or not fully true) held beliefs are often then spread intentionally as the real truth, and thus perceived by others, either more objective or with different beliefs,  as propaganda.

Interestingly, Richard Evans just published an excellent article (“9/11, Moon landings, JFK assassination: conspiracy theories follow a deep pattern“) on Conspiracy theories related to the research programme he leads at the University of Cambridge (UK), Conspiracy and Democracy, and reflecting how people can become prey to biases, without any propaganda being at work. Trust or rather lack thereof, as he emphasizes, is an important element in favouring conspiracy theories, as well as other biases as described by Heuer (Psychology of Intelligence Analysis). Evans, in the examples he chooses, also points out that shocking events, and highly tense and violent periods seem to be a favourable ground for the spread of conspiracy theories. Thus, considering the current high level of tension worldwide we should not be surprised to see untrue, unreal or ideological beliefs spreading. Indeed there is not such a difference between inexact beliefs held (whether spread intentionally or not) and conspiracy theories.

How can we actively struggle against biases and potential propaganda?

The traditional way of intelligence services evaluating information, according to the value of the source, then of the piece of information, should be applied.

We should absolutely try to use falsification rather than confirmation when testing mentally our hypotheses (see “Useful rules for foresight  from Taleb’s Black Swan” for more details). Indeed, one of the force of conspiracy theories is that it cannot be falsified, while any element or fact becomes “circumstancial evidence”, as very well emphasized by The Interpreter: “The inevitable problem of trying to pin down specific evidence of Russian involvement is that Russia’s highly competent intelligence services are unlikely to leave overt traces. Instead we must work with heavy circumstantial evidence.” In other words, for the author it seems that the less evidence the more we can be certain there is Russian involvement because we are dealing with highly efficient secret service.  Here, there is no possible falsification, but only confirmation, which takes us from the realm of science and rationality towards faith and beliefs, emotions as well as collective psychology. This emphasizes again the importance of trust as underlined by Evans.

Finally, we need to put our hypotheses and understanding through the test of various red teaming methodologies, as explained among others by the excellent Red Team journal and redteams.net, and as we endeavour to do here.

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information wars

Featured image: Teheran US embassy propaganda gun - After the Iranian hostage crisis (1979-1981), the walls of the former US embassy were covered in mostly anti-US-murals by Phillip Maiwald (Nikopol) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Gold-russia-mdm 2014

Conflict in Ukraine – State of Play – The Oligarchs

This post of our series on the war in Ukraine will focus on the oligarchs. We saw previously how the oligarchic system functions and its impacts on the country, notably in terms of poverty and a weak, fragile, and dependent state. Here, we shall look first at the way to classify oligarchs, if any, and at the interactions among oligarchs. We shall then present oligarchs and tycoons one by one, separating them into two sections, first the wealthiest and most influential, then the others. We shall only provide details for the most influential businessmen, notably addressing their relationship to politics and to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. We shall, however, also name the others, notably to allow for monitoring.

Groups and interactions among oligarchs

Following Slawomir Matuszak (“The oligarchic democracy”, OSW, 2012),  three main oligarchic clans exist, namely the Donetsk group, the Dnipropetrovsk one, the RUE group. We can then add another category of “non affiliated”, very rich people and oligarchs and wonder if a new “group” of agriculture-oriented oligarchs might be in the making. However, as will become apparent below, groups are mainly convenient ways to apprehend reality. Pragmatism, multiple shifting alliances, struggles and sometimes bitter conflicts, Ukraine oligarchsall in the name of self-interest, with sometimes not that solid positions business-wise, govern relationships among oligarchs and with politics. The mapping depicts the relationships of the oligarchs among themselves and with political parties (click for larger image - interactive graph and very large image available to members).

Matuszak’s approach is built out of the historical evolution of the Ukrainian oligarchy. Accordingly, and without considering exceptions, the Donetsk and RUE groups would support the Party of Regions (the ex-Party of Yanukovich), the RUE actually tending to support more than one party, while the Dnipropetrovsk “clan” would rather support Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party.

However, reality is more nuanced, which confirms what Matuszak (ibid.) already underlined for the past. Tymoshenko’s controversial status, exemplified by her insufficient results at the 25 May Presidential elections (12.81%, Results of the electionTelegraf), led oligarchs, for example Ihor Kolomoisky, to support other parties such as Klitschko’s UDAR. Sergey Tihipko was both part of the Dnipropetrovsk group and deputy president of the Party of Regions, until he was expelled in April 2014.

Ukraine oligarchs
The first day of the 10th Yalta Annual Meeting: Tony Blair, Bill Clinton Viktor Pinchuk YES © 2012. Photographed by Sergei Illin, Aleksandr Indychii, Aleksandr Pilyugin and Ruslan Marchenko – Courtesy of Pinchuk Foundation

Well-introduced and part of the Western financial, business and political elite (Katya Soldak, Forbes, 24 march 2014), Viktor Pinchuk, also part of the Dnipropetrovsk group, might have become relatively removed from “domestic party politics”, rather focusing on philanthropy (Yuri Bender, Financial Times, 27 March 2014). However, this did not stop him taking a very pro-active role in building close ties with the West and the EU, including through lobbying in Washington, notably to oppose Russia (Soldak, Ibid; Forbes 2014, John Helmer, Business Insider23 May 2014 & Dances with Bears13 December 2013). His business and fortune might be facing considerable challenges, considering export difficulties, as well as lawsuits against fellow tycoons (Helmer, Ibid and 3 October 2013).

Meanwhile, Vitaly Hayduk and Serhyi Taruta, both from the Donetsk group, support Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party and tension would exist between them and Rinat Akhmetov. The other major tension and enmity would be between Tymoshenko and Firtash, with severe consequences as the current gas dispute over price between Russia and Ukraine is rooted in the struggle between the two oligarchs (see details below under Firtash).

Many of the other oligarchs and very rich businesspeople supported Yushenko’s Our Ukraine in 2004, then Blok Yulii Tymoshenko (BYuT) in 2006, when tension arose between Yushenko and Tymoshenko. Yet, the new President Viktor Poroshenko, who is now supported politically by the UDAR, also served as minister under Yanukovich.

It is also interesting to note that many businesses and holdings emphasize in their corporate communication, social corporate responsibility, community projects, philanthropy and foundations, and for some taxes paid. We might thus wonder, optimistically, if the negative consequences of the oligarchic system on Ukraine, as seen previously, which may only impact businesses and individual fortunes, as the civil war shows only too well, may not have started becoming obvious. In turn, this might have started to lead to a potential will to at least partly remedy them. Further in-depth research would be needed to assess real impact.

We shall now go  beyond categorization and look at each oligarch or influential billionaire.

Oligarchs and influential billionaires and millionaires

Nota: as stated above, this list only considers those best known and most influential individuals (and major political parties). It does not cover the whole 2013 list of the “20 richest MPs in Ukraine” (Ukraininform, 17 July 2013), nor, of course, the whole 2014 Forbes Ukraine list of the richest people in Ukraine, including because some businesspeople may also not be involved in influencing politics, although this should have to be evidenced on a case by case basis. The value of each wealth, evaluated by Forbes 2014, changes according to the date.

Rinat Akhmetov

Fortune: $12.8 B (#90 Forbes 2014, 10 June, #1 Forbes Ukraine 2014)

Business: System Capital Management (SCM). Initially steel and coal, but also electricity production, finance (banking and insurance), Fire_(3678085977)telecommunications, media, real estate, agriculture (197 000 hectares of cultivated land), etc. It has over 300.000 employees, with “average salaries higher by 52% than national average (SCM website). It paid $2.25B in tax in 2011 and “over UAH 28 bn” ($ ± 2.39 B) in 2013 (Ibid.; SCM statement 23 April 2014).

Local ties: Donetsk. However SCM group operates in 14 Ukrainian regions and 6 other countries (U.S., Russia, Italy,  Bulgaria, Switzerland, Great Britain) (SCM website).

Politics and conflict in the East: Akhmetov is considered as the major supporter of the Party of Regions (e.g. Matuszak, Ibid: 51). On 25 January 2014 (SCM statement), Akhmetov warned that use of force and loss of political life was unacceptable, which was directed at Yanukovich, and might have led, as suggested by The Guardian (Shaun Walker, 27 January), to the former president’s new attitude towards compromise. This did not however, avoid the February bloodshed in Kiev (see Setting the stage).

On 26 February, presenting his condolences to the victims’ families, SCM called notably for “significantly extend[ing] the powers of local governments” and increasing transparency and accountability of the government. Through SCM statements, Akhmetov, focusing on hte Donetsk Oblast, repeatedly warned about the risk and actual crescendo of political violence he condemned, and asserted he was for a united Ukraine, however with decentralization (2 March; 14 March11 April; 14 April; 30 April14 May) until, facing escalation, he strongly denounced the “DPR” (Donetsk People’s Republic)  (19 May 2014, 21 May). We may hypothesize that the allegations that were made against Akhmetov according to which he would have supported “separatists” or played all sides (e.g. BBC News, 20 May; The Economist, 20 May) may also have been prompted by the absence of statement regarding the incorporation of Crimea within Russia.

Akhmetov also tried to act as a negotiator between Kiev and those having seized government buildings in April (Richard Balmforth, Reuters, 9 April 2014), and organised peaceful groups and protests agains the DPR (see previous post). shelled house UkraineHis foundation helps evacuating notably children from the Donetsk oblast (Interfax Ukraine, 4 June).

Beliefs and aims: “For a strong, independent and united Ukraine.  … Ukraine is a unified and united country” (SCM statement 14 April), however needing decentralization (SCM statement 26 Feb, Ibid).

Victor Pinchuk

Fortune: $3.1 B (#559 Forbes 2014 6 June, #2 Forbes Ukraine 2014)

Business: Interpipe (with very serious debt and solvency problems – Fitch downgraded its debt to junk – considering exports difficulties, see The Guardian, 3 April 2014; John Helmer, Business Insider23 May 2014), Eastone group, Starlight Media.

Local ties: Dnipropetrovsk

Pinchuk filed lawsuits against Henadiy Boholyubov and Ihor Kolomoisky, who counter-attacked, potentially creating tense relations with Rinat Akhmetov (The Guardian, Ibid; Helmer, ibid).

Politics and conflict: He supported the Maidan revolution (Yuri Bender, The Financial Times, 27 March 2014). Pinchuk actively lobbied for a UE-West oriented Ukraine and against Russia, notably in Washington, and through various fora, way before the start of the Ukrainian crisis (Soldak,, Ibid; John Helmer, Ibid. & Dances with Bears, 13 December 2013).

Henadiy Boholyubov

Fortune: $2.1 B (#876  Forbes 2014 6 June, #3 Forbes Ukraine 2014) – Holding: Privat group, see below Ihor Kolomoisky – Dnipropetrovsk

Ihor Kolomoisky

Fortune: $1.8 B (#1020 Forbes 2014 6 June, #4 Forbes Ukraine 2014) 

Business: “Privat group” not formally incorporated; businesses are held through  Privatbank, the largest Ukrainian bank (e.g. Dragon Capital) or “Privat-Intertrading” (see Metallurgy in Ukraine). Held with Henadiy Boholyubov and Oleksiy Martynov -#24 Forkes Ukraine 2014 (Ibid.). Activities: metallurgy, mining, oil, petrochemical, food, air transport, media. Fighting a lawsuit brought by Pinchuk in London (Forbes 2014; Helmer Ibid.).  

According to Matuszak, “Privat was known for its extremely aggressive way of doing business” including using violence (Ibid: 30; 104-107).

Local ties: Kolomoisky is native from Dnipropetrovsk, most businesses of the group are based there, but also operate in the whole of Ukraine, Romania, Russia, U.S. (Matuszak: 104; Metallurgy).

Politics and conflict in the East: Although Kolomoisky usually lives in Switzerland (Forbes 2014), he nevertheless takes an active part in Ukrainian political life.  He supported UDAR in 2012 (JTA, 20 Feb 2014; Olszański, Ibid.), and, in March 2014 was appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (Interfax Ukraine, 3 March 2014), position from which he made stringent declarations and financed (from early May onwards) a Dnepr Battalion paramilitary group to fight against the DPR, the Dnepr battalion (Roula Khalaf and Roman Olearchyk, “Ukraine governor offers bounties to keep separatists at bay“, Financial Times, 16 May 2014). At the end of April, pro-Russians in Donetsk had attacked the office of the PrivatBank (AFP 28 April 2014).

Kolomoisky convened on 11 May a congress of territorial communities of southeastern Ukraine, notably “to counteract military aggression of the Russian Federation and terrorist acts against Ukrainian government” and put to consideration the “creation of a united Self-Defense and Territorial Defense Headquarters and volunteer battalions of the Ukraine’s Interior Ministry” (Interfax Ukraine, 7 May 2014). The salaries of those groups are partly paid by businessmen (Khalaf and Olearchyk).

He also created a system of bounty to capture Russian weapons and “terrorists”, not hesitating to “warn” a pro-separatist leader of the existence of a $ 1 million bounty on his head (Khalaf and Olearchyk). Meanwhile, Kolomoisky’s allies would be posted to other regions’ local government positions (Ibid.).

Beliefs and aims: According to Matuszak, Kolomoisky – as most oligarchs – is motivated by self and business-related interests rather than by ideological ones (Ibid: 73). However he recently took a strong anti-Russian stance and started a “fight” with Putin (e.g. Khalaf and Olearchyk, AFP, 28 April 2014; Reuters, 6 March 2014; Alexander J. Motyl, “Ukraine’s Orange Blues“, WorldAffairs, 11 April 2014).

Vadim Novinsky

$1.6 B (#1106 Forbes 2014 6 June, #5 Forbes Ukraine 2014) - Holding: Smart Holding Group - Shareholder of Akhmetov’s Metinvest (24%) – Metallurgy, steel – Russian origin, becomes Ukrainian in 2012 (Forbes) – MP for the Party of Region, he finally voted against violence in February 2014 (Reuters, 21 February 2014).

Yuriy Kosiuk

$1.5 B (#1172 Forbes 2014 6 June, #7 Forbes Ukraine 2014) – Holding: MHP (Ukraine’s largest agricultural holding according to Forbes) – Agriculture, commodities, trade.

Petro Poroshenko

Fortune: $1.3 B (#1329 Forbes 2014 10 June, #6 Forbes Ukraine 2014)

Business: Roshen group (Confectionery); 5 Kanal - television channel; Leninska Kuznya - shipyard (Wikipedia).

Local ties: Born in Bolhrad, Odessa; raised in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine (Pravda).

Politics and conflict in the East: A supporter of Yushchenko and Our Ukraine since 2002, although having contributed to create the Party of Regions (AJE, 23 May 2014), Poroshenko has held various official positions throughout the years, notably in 2005 “Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC)… minister of foreign affairs for several months in late 2009/early 2010… and minister for the economy from March to December 2012″ (Matuszak: 28, 108-109; Ukrainian News, 7 June 2014).

Petro_Poroshenko_addresses_EuromaidanAn early supporter of the Euromaidan revolution (AJE, Ibid.), he campaigned on higher living standards, fighting corruption, ending “war and chaos” in the East, working notably with Russia on this, closer relations with the EU up to integration, never recognizing the loss of Crimea to Russia, and preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine (DWAJEprofileBloomberg25 May 2014. He promised early parliamentary elections, that should take place in Autumn 2014 (Bloomberg25 May 2014) and to sell his businesses, save Channel 5 (AJE, 23 May.)

Poroshenko was elected as President of Ukraine on 25 May 2014 (54.70%, Results of the electionTelegraf), and sworn in on 7 June. As soon as elected, he vowed to end the insurgency in the East “in hours” and that there would be no negotiations with terrorists (The Guardian26 May 2014). In his inauguration address, Poroshenko emphasized:

I want peace and I will secure the unity of Ukraine. Thus, I begin my work offering a peaceful plan.
I strongly urge everyone who illegally took weapons in their hands to lay them down.
In response, I first of all guarantee the exemption from criminal responsibility for those who do not have blood of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians on their hands. And those who is not involved in funding terrorism. Second, controlled corridor for Russian mercenaries who would like to return home. Third, peaceful dialogue. Certainly, not with “strielky”, “abvery”, “bisy” and other criminals. I am speaking of the dialogue with peaceful citizens of Ukraine.” Address of the President of Ukraine during the ceremony of inauguration, 7 June 2014.

shelling Slavyansk While relentless fighting goes on in both Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the new President wishes to see a ceasefire implemented during the week 9-15 June 2014 (Interfax Ukraine 9 June 2014), which obviously did not happen. Instead, war seems to settles in as in their counter-attacks to the continuing Kiev Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO), on 14 June, for example, the insurgents shot an Il-76 transporter near Luhansk, which led to the death of 49 servicemen of the Ukrainian army (e.g. AFP, 15 June 2014, The Telegraph). Poroshenko also decided to open a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to leave the zones of anti-terrorist operations on 10 June (Interfax Ukraine, 10 June 2014), however, according to the speaker of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic, no such corridor would so far have been created (Itar-Tass, “Donetsk Republic leader: no humanitarian corridors in Ukraine” 15 June 2014). Independent sources do not seem either to have reported their creation.

Assuming the new, legitimate President finally succeeds relatively rapidly , which, considering the isolation of the Donbass insurgents is not unlikely, two major risks seem to exist here, which could imply liabilities for the future, from a strong and united Ukraine’s point of view. First, a bloodbath for the fighters in the East could take place, when it would increasingly seem they are in majority Ukrainian (Alec Luhn, “Volunteers or paid fighters? The Vostok Battalion looms large in war with Kiev“, The Guardian, 6 June 2014). Second, assuming insurgents in the East comply and surrender, the major difficulty will be to implement all the presidential decisions fairly, notably considering the weakness of the state and the involvement of various groups in the ATO we saw previously.

Beliefs and aims: According to his campaign and first actions, Poroshenko is a heartfelt nationalist, who will fight for the integrity of Ukraine, and is not afraid of harsh decisions. He believes in rapprochement with the West, notably the EU, but also NATO (Matuszak: 64), yet without cutting ties with Russia.

Kostyantin Zhevago

$1.1 B (#1543 Forbes 2014 6 June, #8 Forbes Ukraine 2014) – Business: Finances and Credit (banking), Ferrexpo (mining, London stock exchange), machine-building etc. (Matuszak: 110-111 – Lives in London (Forbes).

He has been many time a MP including twice for the Blok Yulii Tymoshenko (BYuT) and, in 2012, as independent for the city of Komsomolsk, Poltava Oblast (Matuszak: 29, 41; Wikipedia; Ukrinform, ibid.).

Serhiy Tihipko (website)

$1.0 B – (#1570 Forbes 2014 6 June, #9 Forbes Ukraine 2014) – Business: TAS Group (finance, industry: steel work, real estate, ventures: pharmacy, green energy, agriculture, etc.)

He is part of the “Dnipropetrovsk Group”. He has held various governmental positions in most governments (Matuszak: 102), including vice Prime Minister in the Yanukovich government.  He joined the Party of regions in 2012 and was excluded in 2014 when he refused to withdraw his candidacy to the presidential elections for the party’s candidate (“Ukrainian parliamentarian accuses Party of Regions of betraying interests of Ukraine“, Voice of Russia, 7 April 2014). He accused the Party of Regions to promote separatist ideas in Eastern Ukraine (Ibid.). He received 5.23% of votes during the elections (Results of the election, Telegraf). He would be planning to reactivate his former political party, Strong Ukraine (Novostimira.ua), and promotes support for the internally displaced people from Donetsk and Luhansk (Novostimira.ua, 6 June 2014), pointing out that “the state failed to prevent armed conflict”.

Dmitry Firtash (personal website)

Fortune: $500 million (Agustino Fontevecchia and Yuri AksyonovForbes, 14 March 2014)

BusinessGroup DF - Chemical industry, gas sector, banking, titanium industry, media. According to James Delingpole’s interview with Firtash, “his companies employ more than 100,000 people, with an annual turnover in 2012 of $6 billion” (“Don’t call him an oligarch“, The Spectator, 19 April 2014). Group DF, among others, holds Nadra bank, which would own Nadra Yuzovskaya LLC, which signed with Shell over the exploitation of shale gas in Yuzovskaya (Rusmininfo).

Local ties: Firtash is from Sinkov (Syn’kiv, Ternopil oblast). He promotes there specific developmental aid projects (biography), and, “in September 2012, the largest agricultural complex of the Western Ukraine ‘DF Agro’ (Sinkov) was built in the village of Sinkov” (biographyagribusiness GDFForbes Ukraine, 21 March 2013, the link to the DF Agro returns 404).

Politics and conflict in the East: Firtash is part of Matuszak’s labelled “RUE group”, one of the key supporters of the Party of Regions. He also supported President Yushchenko, then the choice of Yanukovich as candidate for the Party of Regions in 2010. Yulia Tymoshenko and Dmitry Firtash are enemies after their dispute regarding Naftogaz in 2009, Pipelines_in_Ukrainewhen Tymoshenko succeeded in eliminating RosUkrEnergo – and thus Firtash - as agent in gas trade with Russia. This move costed dearly to Ukraine as the price of gas in the new contract signed between Naftogaz and Gazprom was much higher compared with the previous system, Delingpole mentionning it doubled (Matuszak, Ibid: 30, 33, 50-53; Delingpole, Ibid.). Indeed, it is in this unfavourable new contract that is rooted the current gas price dispute between Ukraine and Russia (Reuters, “Russia’s Gazprom says Ukraine fails to pay debt by deadline“, 16 June 2014). Matuszak also notes that “representatives of the RUE Group were intensively lobbying for” Tymoshenko’s imprisonment in 2011 (71).

For the 2012 elections, Firtash would have been one of the main backer of UDAR (Tadeusz A. Olszański, “After the parliamentary elections in Ukraine: a tough victory for the Party of Regions“, OSW, 7 Nov 2012). For the 25 May 2014 presidential elections, Firtash supported Poroshenko and helped organize the meeting between Klitschko (UDAR) and Poroshenko, which led to the former desisting in favour of the latter (“David Herszenhorn, “Brash Ukrainian Mogul Prepares to Fight U.S. Bribery Charges“, The New York Times, 6 May 2014). According to Jackson Diehl, “the candidate’s staff denies it” (“Looking for the winners from Ukraine’s election“, The Washington Post, 26 May 2014).

Firtash is seen – rightly or wrongly – by many as “the main figure in the pro-Russian faction among the Ukrainian elite” and even sometimes as “merely a figurehead, who only represents the interests of other people (not necessarily originating from Ukraine)” (Matuszak, Ibid: 18, 50), which may go a long way towards explaining his arrest in Austria on 12 March 2014 at the US FBI request.

Beliefs and aims: Firtash stresses his philantropic activities, including “Mr. Firtash’s enterprises have been promoting the social and economic development of municipalities where they are based” (personal website) and Ukrainian studies in Cambridge. His commitment is to an Ukraine he wishes to be “strong, neutral and independent” (Interview (2) by Inter TV Channel, 12 May 2014), which includes his aim to make the country independent energetically (ibid.). he also points out that “Ukrainians must come to a consensus on the key issue: what kind of ideology they need” (Interview (1) by Inter TV Channel, 12 May 2014). He supports decentralization and federalization, but not separatism (Interview (1)). Previously, speaking in the name of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine he presides, he suggested that businesses should “elaborate options on how we can help the budget, how we can support the army. We want to formulate a proposal and then forward it to the government” (24 March 2014).

Other politically involved and influential tycoons

Andriy Verevsky

$ 667 million (#12 Forbes Ukraine 2014)

Business: Kernel holding S.A., (incorporated in Luxembourg), largest “Ukrainian” holding company for trade and export of grain. It “leases 400,000 hectares of prime farmland in Ukraine, with a focus on the central and central-western parts of Ukraine” (Kernel, Farming). Two other companies in Krasnodar region, Russia (Forbes 2014).

Verevsky is from Poltava, Poltava Oblast.

MP for the Party of Regions, he was stripped of his role by court decision because he also has business activities (sic!) (Interfax Ukraine, Kyiv Post, 5 March 2013).

Oleg Bakhmatyuk

$ 623 million (#13 Forbes Ukraine 2014) 

Business:  Avangardco Investments Public Ltd, Eggs; UkrLandFarming PLC, the world’s eighth-largest land cultivator, cultivates about 560,000 hectares in Ukraine Ukraine agriculture(Roman Olearchyk and Lucy Hornby “China looks to Ukraine as demand for food rises“, Financial Times, 5 Nov 2013). US Cargill buys 5% in UkrLandFarming in January 2014 (Forbes Ukraine 2014); banking. Interested in developing ties with China and Asia  (Olearchyk and Hornby).

Initially Avangardco developed in Ivano-Frankivsk, then Central Ukraine, but is largely present throughout Ukraine (see company map).

Supported the Tymoshenko bloc (Alexander Reid Ross, “Solidarity Ukraine-Style“, 6 February 2014).

Serhiy Taruta

$ 479 million (#17 Forbes Ukraine 2014)

From the Donetsk Oblast, he was appointed governor of the region by the interim government (Luke Harding, “The billionaire parachuted in to run Ukraine’s most troubled region“, The Guardian, 25 April 2014).

Yuriy Ivanyushchenko

$122 million (#60 Forbes Ukraine 2014)

Ivanyushchenko is from Yenakievo in Donetsk, but his business’s sphere of influence could be mainly in the Zaporizhia and Odessa Oblasts and allegedly involve violence and mafia-like behaviour (Matuzsack: 43-45).

He is an MP for the Party of Regions, part of “The Family,” group close to Yanukovich, and on the EU Black list (Matuzsack: 43-45; Itar Tass 15 April 2014).

Tariel Vasadze

$104 million (#74 Forbes Ukraine 2014)

Ivan Fursin

$ 55 M (#99 Forbes Ukraine 2014)

David Zhvania

less than $ 50 M?, still qualified as oligarchs, e.g. (JTA, 20 Feb 2014) – Party of Region.

———-

Featured image: Part of  “Gold from Russian bank” by By History of Geo (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0  via Wikimedia Commons.

Red (Team) Analysis

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 156 – The Caliphate, War in Syria and Beyond

Editorial – The Caliphate, War in Syria and Beyond – The victorious offensive of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq should not come as a surprise. It has been in the making for quite a while, the “while” changing according to the perspective, starting with the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S. led coalition and their destruction of the Iraqi state apparatus (see notably Paul Mutter, “Maliki’s most solemn hour“, The Arabist).

Nevertheless, the impacts of the capture of Mosul are multiple and crucial. ISIS has not only expanded its territorial basis, but it has also won moral and “face”, resources, including large amount of money, becoming the wealthiest Islamist competing state actor (and not “non-state actor”, or “terrorist group” because those ideas tend to be confusing, hiding real objectives and leading thus to wrong answers) and weapons (among others see notably Jack Moore, “Mosul Seized: Jihadis Loot $429m from City’s Central Bank to Make Isis World’s Richest Terror Force“, IBT). Those, together, will enhance the mobilization power of ISIS as well as its capabilities, probably facilitating and accelerating further victories.

The fate of the war in Syria may very well have been modified as a consequence, making notably our scenario 3.1. An Islamic Al Sham more likely but still not immediate as the scenario seeing the continuity of war remains the most probable. We shall most probably see more intense fighting as other actors increase their support to their favourite side. Could we also see as a result a temporary alliance of all sides against ISIS, that would somehow be spearheaded by the latest rapprochement between Turkey and Iran (e.g. AJE “Iran and Turkey want Middle East stability“). This does not seem very likely, including considering the “New Cold War” and continuing insurgency and “anti terrorist operation” in Ukraine, but it cannot be ruled out.

A further regionalization of the war seems likely, as tension and fear escalate, and as the aim of ISIS is to reestablish a Caliphate: compare the photo of the earth from Google map in feature image, with the Map of the Caliphate in 750 by Sheperd, William R. Historical Atlas. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911, below.

Caliphate, ISIS, Iraq, Syria, weak signal, Red (Team) Analysis

Various state actors will act to try stopping all threats seen as Islamist, according to their own most pressing needs. Obvious potential flash-points, where we have risks of rising tension and interventions are Libya, Lebanon. How will Egypt and the Gulf States react to counter the rising threat? May Jordan remain an oasis of peace and calm in those circumstances?

The impact of ISIS advance may also be felt as far as China, which has had to face an increase in allegedly Islamist attacks lately, as well as globally, notably through a rise in energy prices.

How will the U.S., which does not want military intervention anymore, and Europe answer, when ISIS and the Caliphate philosophy (see detail in scenario 3.1. Ibid) are about war and military conquest? Shall we see as a result  international norms evolve, further away from the primacy of peace and the outlaw of war?

Click on the image below to read on Paper.li

Risk, war, Iraq, ISIS, strategic warning, horizon scanning, weak signal, Caliphate

 

Explosions 2014

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 155 – Narratives at War: EU-US vs Russia vs Crowdsourced?

Editorial – Narratives at war: There is a fascinating discrepancy at work between narratives found in the news. They vary according to the type of actors upon which one focuses. Actually the difference between some of them is so huge that one wonders if they describe the same world. Furthermore, if those narratives are rooted in the conflict in Ukraine they do not stop there but interact with and impact other areas and dimensions.

Narrative One originates from the U.S. and Europe, with slightly varying emphases according to American or European origin. It runs somehow as follows: The conflict in Ukraine is (almost) over, thanks to legitimate democratic elections and the new Ukrainian President elect Poroshenko, who has outlined his peace plan. The next step is thus, according to the last decades of peace missions and operations, the organisation of peace according to known recipe, hence Barroso starting announcing a donour conference for July (see G7 struggles to find common approach to Russia | World | DW.DE). If ever things were not going as past experience has shown they ought to happen, then it means that Russia is certainly manipulating events (Ibid). Meanwhile, “Russia ‘revanchism’” is now a top U.S. threat (see Breaking Defense); NATO deployment is increased on European territories (see all related article in The Weekly), while Europe and Europeans try to find a less extreme way forward between the U.S. and Russia.

Narrative Two is from Russia, and agrees that peace is foremost in Ukraine and should now be organized, also thanks to Ukraine legitimate President elect and his peace plan (see ‘Russian troops in Ukraine? Got any proof?’ Putin’s best quotes from French media talk“, RT). Unsurprisingly, Russia, however denies all involvement in the conflict. If things do not work out, it thus declines any responsibility, instead hinting at an American responsibility in creating the conditions for civil war. Meanwhile, the U.S. in the “New Russia Doctrine” (Defense News) are cast as a threat to stability for manipulating the happenstance of “colour revolutions”.

However counter-intuitive this may seem, we have here two very similar narratives, which does not stop the violent conflict between both alternatives. This looks very much like the return to a new Cold War that has been frequently underlined.

But things do not stop here, we also have a Narrative Three emerging, this time not from classical media and diplomatic channels, but from crowd-sourcing, using both classical and new media. Here, the focus is on the war at work in Eastern Ukraine, with videos that are not so dissimilar from those posted on Syria, everything being equal. This narrative thus undermines and seriously questions Narratives One and Two. Actually, war is not at all over in Eastern Ukraine. If Narrative One and Two are created to allow for diplomatic exchanges, an overall international appeasement of the situation and to give hope for peace, then Narrative Three may be seen as counter-productive, even if it is certainly closer to reality.

Behind those different accounts and narratives, we see at work different ways to understand the world, one where external political actors are all-powerful, and the other where processes of escalation between parties (notably warring ones) have their own dynamics, which are partly independent from those powerful actors.  Behind Narratives One and Two, there is a hope or a belief that by 7 June, when Mr Poroshenko will officially become President, the ATO renewed offensive will have succeeded, and as it will have been done by the interim Ukrainian government, the new one will be able to appear, at least externally, as benevolent, thus peace  will come back.

Yet, what if things do not work out this way? What if political dynamics are more complex? The forces of Novorossia in Eastern Ukraine appear to be quite isolated, indeed not benefiting  from any classical support found in wars. However, if we stop only looking at states entities and elites and consider individuals, then, are they that isolated? Could such individual, uncoordinated support change the course of state actors and elite wishes? Could the two similar phenomena of individual Russians, on the one hand, and individual Europeans, on the other, involving themselves in, respectively, Ukraine and Syria  - by the way a phenomenon that is not at all new, as shows the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War – be a signal that Narrative One and Two are wanting?

Click on the image below to read on Paper.li

Red (Team) Analysis, Weak signal, political risk, War

 

Featured image: Explosions - Some of the ground display from the Miramar Airshow – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Crown 2014

Conflict in Ukraine – State of Play – The Oligarchic System

This post is the second of the series on the conflict in Ukraine and starts a review of the various domestic actors. It focuses on the oligarchic system, its dynamics and challenges.

On 15 May 2014, steelworkers working for oligarch Rinat Akhmetov took over the city of Mariupol in the Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, as reported by Andrew Kramer for the New York Times, even if the People’s Republic of Donetsk seems to have kept power (e.g. Roza Kazan, 18 May 2014), after Akhmetov released a first statement video (see original 14 May, with subtitles). Meanwhile, Kim Sengupta for The Independent, writing on the 9 May attack on Mariupol mentions that “An assortment took part in the assault, including a private army supposedly bankrolled by an oligarch – the “men in black”. On 19 May, Rinat Akhmetov released another video (here with subtitles) titled: “Emergency statement of Rinat Akhmetov on the situation in Donbass”, in a way very similar to a statesman, taking a strong position against the Donetsk People’s Republic (see previous post, forthcoming for actor analysis), underlining not only the economic risks to the people and the region but also risks of “genocide”, and calling his workers and employees to protest and act peacefully against war. He then addressed the next day a rally and broadcast a message on his TV station  (see also – and contrast – accounts by The Economist, BBC News, The Independent). Women and men such as Rinat Akhmetov seem to wield a powerful influence. They are called the Ukrainian oligarchs.

What are oligarchs? What is the system labelled “The oligarchic democracy” (2012) by Sławomir Matuszak in his excellent report and what does it imply for the country? Who exactly are those oligarchs? Which roles do they play or could play in the crisis? Those are crucial questions that need to be tackled if one wants to hope understanding what is happening in Ukraine, and to have as clear as possible a vision of the potential futures for the crisis. We shall address here the first two questions, as we need to have a broad understanding of the system, its consequences and the challenges even oligarchs have to face, before to turn to the other questions (forthcoming).

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1024px-High-speed 2014

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 153 – The Paradox of Change?

Editorial – The paradox of change? Reading through the multiple crowd-sourced articles of the Weekly, what stands out is a perception of an acceleration of change. In itself, each flashpoint or problem is not new, and has been either underlined or monitored for months and even for years for some of them. Yet, when we look at all of them together, then it seems that they tend to become real, accumulate, or worsen in an accelerating way.

We may wonder if the acceleration – assuming it is not “just” a question of perception – does not come from the following phenomenon, among certainly others: despite stressing upcoming changes, these emphases may remain at a very shallow level when those changes are – consciously or not – equated with something undesirable. As a result, real assessment of situations and decisions taken are one step – to be optimistic – behind, done out of past habits. Then, refusal to consider properly ongoing changes ends up accelerating them, possibly in a way that is more adverse than what could have happened. Take, for example, the awareness of the end of the U.S. dominated unipolar world. It has been underlined for years, including in the U.S.:

“With the rapid rise of other countries, the “unipolar moment” is over and Pax Americana—the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945—is fast winding down.” (Global Trends 2030, Dec 2012 : x)

Yet, when those countries that were known to be part of the new poles of the multipolar world – among them, for example, Russia and China – act accordingly, then surprised outrage results, while complex explanations to crises recede (read for example Oliver Bullough “Stop forcing Ukraine into a narrative of Moscow versus Washington” The Guradian). This immediately puts everyone on an escalating path, considering the power available to all actors in this multipolar world, the aim of the ascending poles to see the changed world happening and the intrinsic escalating power of erroneous explanations and related misunderstandings.

Thus, when change is coming – and it always is – what would matter is not only identifying those changes but also the way actors truly perceive them. From this perception will follow action located on an spectrum ranging from resistance and fear, which will accelerate change and possibly make the result less favourable, to acceptation and ability to seize opportunities to bend changes to one’s advantage. Assuming this hypothesis is correct, then it pleads methodologically for an abundant use of scenarios, simulations and role playing.  At the level of analysis, it emphasises, if it still needed to be considering the existing literature on the topic, the importance of the role of perceptions in international politics.

Click on the image below to read the Weekly on Paper.lipolitical risk, international system, weak signals

 

Featured image: High speed by By Paolo Neo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

hearder map 2014

Conflict in Ukraine – Setting the Stage

The crisis in Ukraine started on 21 November 2013 with the Euromaidan protests in Kiev. Six months later, it is threatening to become a full-blown civil war with severe global impacts, unless the situation is stabilized. mariupol APC, conflict in UkraineIt is thus very important to assess the short to medium term plausible futures for this conflict, including if stabilization occurs or seem to take place, as the country and the international world will have been impacted. This post starts a series on the conflict in Ukraine, which aims at providing the most possible useful analysis of the situation. As we did with Syria, the series will focus on the states of play for the actors and the situation on the ground, a necessary foundation for any proper strategic foresight and warning regarding the conflict.

After outlining our analytical framework to overcome the difficulties related to propaganda, we shall define and present the three phases of the conflict, so far, and their dynamics and evaluate if we are in the case of a war in Ukraine.

Propaganda, reality and analysis

The analysis regarding Ukraine is particularly interesting and potentially fraught with difficulties because of “The War on Truth in Ukraine“, as underlined by Keith A. Darden, an associate professor at American University in his New York Times op-ed  (27 April 2014). Indeed, the situation is highly and violently polarized at both national and international level, and accompanied by corresponding advocacy, to put it mildly, actually propaganda and thus psychological warfare.

It is thus, ideally, all the more important to provide as dispassionate an analysis as possible, because, without it, no proper assessment of the future is possible. It is the only way forward towards both de-escalating the overall situation and strategically, whatever the actor and the goal, seeing one’s goal met. It is also the role and duty of scientists and non-partisan, a-political think tanks to present the most possible unbiased analysis, in a way similar to the Intelligence “speak truth to power”, because only realistic and comprehensive analyses may lead to proper actions and contribute to avoiding costly mistakes and unpleasant surprises.

Yet, we should also not ignore that what one side sees as propaganda, is often revered as “Truth” by another side, or is a vital element of his/her strategy to attain a goal. No amount of effort would convince those who believe strongly in their perspective and their aim that it is only this, a specific worldview, indeed grounded on some facts but interpreted specifically and most often partially. Furthermore, what one side or one actor (understood here collectively) believes will determine how its cognitive filter will sort out information, ignoring some pieces and considering others and then how it will interpret those facts.

conflict in UkraineMoreover, as far as some facts are concerned, it will be impossible to know with a one hundred per cent certainty what really happened Conflict in Ukrainebefore archives are open and declassified, which means waiting at best 30 years, most often longer for topics related to national security. Even intelligence services with the huge means at their disposal sometimes get it completely wrong, as reminds us the wide literature on multiple intelligence failures (see the excellent bibliography on intelligence maintained by J. Clark).

Thus, besides the most outlandish and outrageous propaganda that can be discarded at the level of facts – but still needs to be considered at the level of beliefs held, how are we to proceed? Rather than fighting against this reality, we need to turn it to our advantage. We shall, of course, rely first on scholarly work, when it exists, for in-depth knowledge, and on investigation journalism, when it is done. Then, we shall try to consider those facts that can be known and that are usually included in all reports and news articles, or rather that can be identified by considering all sources, however being careful with the interpretation given to those facts. Our work here is eased by the relatively large amount of raw information available thanks to new media and social networks, such as videos, photos, or exchanges on twitter or other media.

As overall framework, we shall consider that “All the actors’ beliefs present a vision of reality bent to their respective beliefs and goals. Out of the interactions between the actors motivated by their beliefs and related goals emerges a future Reality, “the Truth,” that is then apprehended and interpreted according to each actor’s information filter and capabilities to gather information” (Lavoix, Nationalism and Genocide, 2005: 195) As a result, listening and paying attention to all actors will give us their beliefs, their goals and their most probable next actions, as well as emerging potential future(s).

Phases of conflict and casualties

Before to start analyzing in detail the actors we need to have a broad understanding of the situation, including identifying if we already are faced with a war, and to assess the overall dynamics, which we shall then refine in the course of the analysis, over the series of posts.

In international relations, two benchmark may be used to specify a situation.  The first option is also the easiest one and is quantitative. It is used by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program and considers that “A conflict, both state-based and non-state, is deemed to be active if there are at least 25 battle-related deaths per calendar year in one of the conflict’s dyads” (see definition of the item “active” conflict).

conflict barometer
Assessing violent conflicts, Conflict Barometer 2013, p.9

The second benchmark is both qualitative and quantitative and grounded in the work of the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research, as explained previously (see “how to analyze future security threats (5): scenarios and crises“). Its assessment is more complicated and the methodology is well explained in the latest yearly publication of the Conflict Barometer 2013 (25/2/2014, pp. 9-10). The crisis in Ukraine entered the Conflict Barometer at level 3, i.e. violent conflict, in November 2013.

We shall thus evaluate what is happening in Ukraine against those two benchmarks, meanwhile recalling the broad dynamics of events.

First phase: Euromaidan

Conflict in Ukraine, EuromaidanThe conflict in Ukraine started on 21 November 2013, notably on a backdrop of severe financial difficulties (see forthcoming post, The Oligarchs -1) with the Euromaidan protests in Kiev. On this day, the Ukrainian parliament failed to vote the law to release jailed former Prime Minister Yiulia Tymoshenko, which de facto meant suspension of the negotiations for the signature of the Association Agreement with the European Union, when joining the European Union was seen as an ideal by many (BBC News, 21 Nov 2013). Meanwhile, ex-President Yanukovich announced the dialogue with Russia was pursued, when Russia was feared and rejected by those favouring the European choice (Al Jazeera, 21 Nov 2013). As a result, “opposition party Batkivshchyna [see below] leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk [now interim Prime Minister] called, via Twitter and Facebook, for protests (which he dubbed as #Euromaidan)” (Wikipedia). 

All on  [Euromaydan]! Yanukovych did not understand other languages, in addition to the Maidan. So we have to show that the Government is us!, join us

The first phase of the crisis lasted until ex-President Yanukovich was ousted by a 328 majority vote out of the 450-seat Verkhovna Radaat (the Ukrainian Parliament) on 22 February and fled (for details and related constitutional problems on number of votes (constitutionally 338), motivation and procedure, see Daisy Sindelar, “Was Yanukovych’s Ouster Constitutional?“, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, 23 Feb 2014). On 26 February, the new government (see graph below) was presented and voted by the Radaat the next day.

Conflict in Ukraine, interim government

New presidential elections must be held on 25 May 2014 (Sindelar, Ibid.). They are currently considered as the crucial objective to reach by the international society of states, although, as time passes and escalation progress (see below), they may or may not have the stabilizing effect that most seem to expect, assuming they can properly be held on the whole territory of Ukraine, as defined by the interim Kiev government, the U.S., the E.U. and its member states.

Casualties amount for this phase to 142 deaths (129 protesters and 13 policemen – Wikipedia “list of people killed during Euromaidan“) and more than 1500 wounded (Ukrainian Pravda, 20 Feb 2014).  On 20 February, the shooting of what was then estimated to “at least 88 people” by snipers (the death toll reached 126 people Wikipedia, Ibid), while heavy fighting was taking place, created outrage and shock and finally led to the victory of the protesters (BBC Ukraine crisis timeline).

Another consequence was the dissolution on 25 February of the Berkut police, the Ukrainian elite anti-riot police force created in 1992 with “4,000-5,000 members stationed across Ukraine”, Berkut, Conflict in Ukraineheld responsible by the interim government for the 20 February’s deaths (BBC News, Ukraine’s Berkut police: What makes them special?” & “Ukraine ‘disbands elite Berkut anti-riot police“, 26 Feb 2014). Ukraine, as a state, thus saw its legitimate monopoly over violence lowered: not only was it deprived of an elite force (the question of what to do with a force that starts being seen as illegitimate is a difficult one), but men trained as special forces were now idle and potentially feeling punished for having followed orders.

Second phase: the rise of protests in the SouthEast

The second phase flared as the first ended, with protests in Crimea, on 23 February, “to declare allegiance to Russia” (Howard Amos, “Ukraine crisis fuels secession calls in pro-Russian south“, The Guardian, 23 February 2014). Meanwhile, on the same day, the Radaat in Kiev decided to annul the 2012 law “On the principle of State Language Policy” (see Ukraine Parliament 23 February session 13:03), which allowed, in each region, the use of other official languages besides Ukrainian, if a language is spoken by at least 10% of a region’s population (see Law; Sabra Ayres, “Is it too late for Kiev to woo Russian-speaking Ukraine?” The Christian Science Monitor, 28 Feb 2013).

In other cities, anti-Russian acts by Maidan demonstrators, such as the dismantling of monuments to Lenin or Russian military figures, alienated those 2014-03-08._Митинг_в_Донецке_086Ukrainians who held dear a Russian and Soviet past, as reported among others by Ayres (ibid.) in Kharkov, for example. Protests that were dubbed “pro-Russian” spread throughout the Eastern and Southern part of the country, countered by pro-Kiev interim government demonstrations.

Other causes may also be at work and would necessitate a full analysis, for example the issue of shale gas in the Donbass region with the Yuzovsky site involving Shell, while Chevron has won the  Olessky site in the Lviv region (e.g. “Post-Soviet Countries Poised to Join the “Shale Revolution”. The Multinationals Will Help“, Oil & Gas Eurasia, 24 June 2012; Calihunter, “Shell: Ukraine ~3.6 trillion of unexplored shale natural gas in the eastern provinces“, Roosh V forum; News of Donbass, 28 April 2014 and News of Donbass “articles on shale gas in the Donbass” – use Chrome to translate pages in Russian). In the same line of thoughts see also the controversial appointment of US Vice-President Joe Biden’s son to the board of a Ukrainian gas company (Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist, 13 May 2014). The possible existence of those causes, however, does not change the escalation process and the polarization that must be addressed.

On 27 February, regional administrative buildings were seized in Crimea, followed by similar moves with various fates in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, etc. as some buildings changed hands many times (for a detailed list, see Wikipedia, 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine, Timeline; for a perspective from Russia: RT “Ukraine Turmoil Live updates“; for a perspective from the U.S.: Radio Free Europe “Live blog Ukraine in Crisis“).

Putin_with_Vladimir_Konstantinov,_Sergey_Aksyonov_and_Alexey_Chaly_4The second phase may be seen as ending with the incorporation of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to the Russian Federation, procedure finalized between 18 and 21 March 2014 (Russian President), after a referendum held on 16 March (for details, e.g. Wikipedia).

Ukraine considers this territory as occupied by the Russian Federation (law 15 April 2014 4473-1; Kyiv post, 6 May 2014).

From the United Nations General Assembly’s point of view, which voted on 27 March on a “resolution calling upon states not to recognise changes in the status of the Crimea region“, 100 states supported the resolution, 58 abstained including all of the BRICS, 11 voted against and a further 24 chose not to be present, including Israel. Thus, as suggested by Ian Kearns and Denitsa Raynova, the isolation of Russia is far from being total (“Is Russia really isolated on Ukraine?“, European Leadership Network,1 April 2014).

Nonetheless, the absorption of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol in the Russian Federation heightened the international polarization and the perception by the interim Kiev government and part of the Ukrainian population as well as by the U.S., the E.U. and the European states of an all-powerful Russian hidden hand behind all events,  which underlies the rounds of individual financial and economic sanctions imposed against Russia, the latest being imposed on 12 May 2014 (e.g. CBCNews, 13 May).

By contrast, it is important to understand that, from a Russian perspective, American and European actions can similarly be perceived as aggressive against Russia, as well shown by historian Nick Ottens (“Russia’s Crimea Invasion Follows Decades of Perceived Humiliation“, legend natoOffiziere.ch, 5 March 2014). Casualties for this phase amount to two deaths and four wounded Simferopol Incident, Wikipedia).

500px-NATO_partnerships

Third phase: escalation and conflict

The third and current phase is about the escalation taking place in Eastern and, so far in a lesser way, Southern Ukraine. The milestones, which can be identified and upon which we shall come back in forthcoming posts, show clearly an escalation and the spread of the conflict to civilians, who are increasingly forced by events and shocks to take side as fear and outrage spread. Furthermore, a most likely unintended consequence of the extreme focus on Russia as “omnipotent culprit” by the U.S., the E.U. and European member states is that, by the same token, events on the ground, as they continue to unfold, also appear to be dismissed or belittled. As a result, protesting populations most probably feel at best misunderstood and abandoned, as indicates the tweet below, at worst opposed and aggressed, which only further polarizes the overall situation.

Meanwhile – and logically as grievances of part of the population are not heard – the interim government and the international players also see events spiraling out of control.

The most salient milestones are:

  • The declaration of the Donetsk People’s Republic on 6 April 2014 (e.g. DPA and Reuters, “Pro-Russian activists declare Ukraine’s Donetsk an independent republic“, Haaretz, Apr. 7, 2014);
  • The start on 15 April of operations by the interim government dubbed “anti-terrorist operation” (ATO) as fighters in the East had refused to lay down arms (e.g. The Guardian, Al Jazeera, 15 April);
  • The short-lived international attempt at de-escalating the situation with the 17 April Geneva agreement (signed by the interim Ukrainian government, the E.U., Russia, and the U.S. see EEAS official pdf Geneva statement140417_01_en); Casualties by then would amount to three people having been killed (Wikipedia, 16 April Donetsk)
  • The re-launch of the ATO on 22 April, notably against the Donetsk oblast focusinmilitary map 12 may slavyanskg more particularly on Slavyansk and surrounding areas (e.g. The Irish Time, 22 April);
  • The declaration of the Luhansk People’s Republic on 27 April (e.g. Adam Justice, International Business Time, 27 April 2014);
  • A renewed “ATO” offensive always on the same areas beginning 2 May (e.g. The Guardian live 2 May 2014),
  • 2 May ended with the tragedy of Odessa involving “pro-Russian” and “pro-Ukrainian” civilians and activists and police forces, where many pro-Russians died burnt alive as they were blocked in the Trade Union building where 2014-05-04._Протесты_в_Донецке_021they had taken refuge (see The Guardian for a live blog, see RT, Odessa slaughter for an account from the “pro-Russian” side; see also Andrey Tselikov, “Tragedy and Confusion in Odessa“, Global Voices, 3 May 2014, for the shock and polarization linked to the tragedy). According to Kim Sengupta from The Independent (7 May 2014) “The dead are still being counted from Odessa’s terrible fire: it was 31 at first, then went up to 48, while the number of injured has risen to 200. “
  • Mariupol 9 May 2014The dramatic attack on 9 May 2014 on Mariupol civilians commemorating victory over Nazi Germany leaving between 9 and 20 dead (Kim Sengupta, “Ukraine crisis: Terror and disarray mars vote for self-rule in east of the country“, The Independent, 11 May 2014), figures being disputed (see RT Timeline, May 10, 20:49 GMT)
  • The referendum for or against self-rule held in Donetsk and Luhansk, denounced by the interim government in Kiev, by the U.S., the E.U. and European member states, that Russia had asked to postpone but that was nevertheless organized.
    This referendum was certainly not organised according to most sophisticated standards (e.g. among many others Sengupta “Tens of thousands vote…” and Adam Withnall “Chaos, confusion and violence …“, The Independent, 11 May 2014). 2014-05-11._Референдум_в_Донецке_016However, those people who voted believed in its importance (e.g. Sengupta, 11 May), while potential local opposition to the referendum remains unknown, but could be translated in the future by voluntary internal displacements or “civil” fighting within the area. The results announced were overwhelmingly for self-rule (e.g. RT, “Referendum results …”, 11 May 2014 ) and led to
  • Vic day DonetskThe extremely quick surprise demand by the Donetsk People’s Republic to Russia “to consider its absorption into the Russian Federation to “restore historic justice” (Matt Robinson, Reuters, 12 May 2014).
  • The ultimatum by the Donetsk People’s Republic to the forces of the Kiev interim government to leave their territory expiring at May 15 22:00 local time (20:00 GMT) (Euronews, RT Timeline).
  • The overtaking of Mariupol from separatist forces by steelworkers and miners working for oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and their deployment in four other cities on 15 May. The workers will constitute “Volunteer People’s Patrol” (Andrew Kramer, New York Times, 15 May 2014). However, on 18 May, freelance journalist Roza Kazan reports that “police confirms cooperation with reps of #Donetsk People’s Republic to restore law & order “.
  • Meanwhile fighting continues.

According to Bloomberg quoting the UNIAN news service, “At least 40 people have died in two months of fighting between government forces and rebels in Donetsk” (Bloomberg, “Ukraine in ‘Undeclared War’ With Russia as Rebels Unite“, 13 May 2014). Actually, as the ATO started in mid-April, we are talking here about four weeks of fighting, with the bulk of deaths taking place in May. Eleven dead, including 7 ATO military, should be added to this count up to 15 May (BBC News 13 MayRT Timeline). “At least 14 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 66 injured since the beginning of the military operation in Eastern Ukraine. The numbers were given as of late May 6 by the Ukrainian information agency UNIAN, based on security service data” (RT Timeline 7 May 12:13). Meanwhile, according to RT on 5 May, “since March 13, when clashes started spreading across the region, nearly 500 people have asked for medical attention” (Nota: we do not know if this includes people injured in Odessa – RT Timeline, May 5, 15:19).

For the third phase, up until 15 May, we would thus have an estimate of 99 people killed, counting Odessa. Since November 2013, an estimated 243 people died while more than 2000 were injured.

Considering the high and mounting number of casualties, way above the “25 battle-related deaths”, we are clearly in the case of an open conflict for Uppsala.

intens 1If we use the intens 2HIIK methodology, we obtain the estimative monthly table below. For the light use of heavy weapons, contrast with Syria, for example where we have a heavy use of heavy weapons. The personnel involved is estimated for all sides, including police, army and “fighting activists”. Destructions are assessed to be taking place along one dimension, cultural, a common and similar feeling of “Ukrainian-ness” that would be shared by all people. However, since the referendum economic destruction seems to be increasing (e.g. video by Graham Philips Andrievka Destruction. There is no clear evidence regarding the existence of refugees and IDPs although Russia mentioned an increase in migrants since February then of illegal migrants towards Slovakia in May (RT, “Slovak PM: Growing inflow of illegal Ukrainian migrants to Slovakia raises concern“, 16 May 2014). According to our assessment using the HIIK methodology, there is war in Ukraine.

Ukraine conflict, intensity, war

It would be crucial to integrate the perspective of war when making declarations or when acting – even if one does not say so officially – to make sure that adverse unintended consequences are not added to an already dramatic and volatile situation.

This sets the grim stage upon which actors interact, as we shall start exploring next, with the oligarchs.

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(updated 20 June 2014) Featured image: Crowdsourced Map for 16 May around Slavyansk – The application Military Maps was developed on the Russian social network Vkontakte (read “Crowdsourcing Ukraine’s Rebellion“, Global Voices, 4 May 2014). The app on VK coud initially be accessed here (no need to login), and the page of the group here. The map on Ukraine has now (20 June) moved to FB and can be accessed here.

1024px-Wheat_Tomsk 2014

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 152 – Forgetting Food Security?

Editorial – Forgetting food security? While the tense stand-off between the U.S., the E.U. and European member states on the one hand and Russia on the other does not abate and spreads to space, while most focus on the fossil fuel component of the Ukrainian global crisis, one crucial element of this energy that is vital for human societies, food, tends to be forgotten (for food as energy, see e.g. Thomas Homer Dixon, The Upside of Down, 2008). It is, however, usefully re-called to out attention by Chris Martenson’s article “Rising Resource Costs Escalate Odds of Global Unrest” (via Peak Prosperity on Zerohedge). True enough, if you head to the FAO monitoring of the global food situation, so far things are looking all right. Furthermore, according to Informa Economics Inc., as reported by Pratik Parija for Bloomberg, “World output in 2014-2015 will reach an all-time high for a second straight year of 713.1 million tons, even with smaller U.S. and Black Sea crops”.

Yet, as Martenson points out, nominal prices are still above those of 2008, which then triggered food riots. Furthermore, Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of both wheat and coarse grain, while Thailand, also knowing turmoil, is a major exporter of rice. So far, according to the FAO the conflict in Ukraine has not had any impact on its wheat exports, but would this last if the conflict goes on? What could happen if the Russian Federation were reducing or even banning exports of cereals on strategic grounds, as an answer to rounds of sanctions felt as unjustified and efforts at further expanding NATO and the EU, when analysts underline the Russian feeling of encirclement, or/and because of extreme weather events, as in 2010 - note this year forest fires arrived early in Siberia (The Siberian Times, 6 April 2014)  (e.g. Russia’s Crimea Invasion Follows Decades of Perceived Humiliation“, Offiziere.ch; BBC News, “Russia ban on grain export begins” 15 August 2010)?

On a less dramatic note, check also the very interesting article on the future of the internet, and many others.

Click on the image below to read the Weekly on Paper.li

weak signal, strategic warning, political risk

 

Featured image: Wheat in Siberia, Tomsk by Afonin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons