unrest

Ukraine Just The Latest Example of Obama’s Limited Global Influence

The fact is, the world is just too big for one country to exert its influence on. There are too many players, too many factors, too many problems for the U.S. to intervene in. And those they can, will probably just lead them into costly wars they can’t afford.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Americans criticise Obama for not intervening, but can their country survive economically? I highly doubt it. It’s tough to watch, but it’s smarter to stay away. That’s the reality of our world, cruel as it may be.

Swampland

Russia’s escalating intervention in Ukraine once again confronts Barack Obama with a foreign policy crisis over which his options are painfully limited, forcing him into a reactive posture that relies on tough, but largely hollow rhetoric.

Appearing on short notice in the White House briefing room yesterday, Obama warned Russian president Vladimir Putin that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” Within hours, Putin had requested and received from Russia’s parliament the authority to use force in its western neighbor, whose capital city Kiev saw an uprising against Moscow last month.

Putin appears to have calculated that the benefits of maintaining control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, home to a large ethnic Russian population and a major naval base, would outweigh any costs that Obama and the West can impose.

He’s probably right. The prospect of a U.S. or NATO military response is roughly nil. The West has…

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Putin Set To Send Russian Military Into Ukraine

Just like Georgia…

World

Update 12:26pm

The Russian parliament’s upper house unanimously approved Saturday a request by President Vladimir Putin to send military troops into Ukraine, shortly after the Crimean peninsula’s pro-Kremlin prime minister appealed to the Kremlin for military muscle.

Putin said ethnic Russians in Crimea and the personnel of a Russian military base needed to be protected for the “normalization of the political situation” in Ukraine. But the Russian president’s official request for troops seemed to be merely a formality as Moscow appeared to solidify its iron grip on Crimea.

Armed troops believed to be Russian had already seized control of much of the strategic peninsula Friday and Saturday, taking over key airports and communications centers across the region. By Saturday they had seized an airfield used for military transports, and Ukraine moved to close its airspace Saturday after reports suggested at least eight Russian troop transport planes had touched ground in the…

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Ukraine’s New Leaders Struggle to Govern Under the Gun

World

On Thursday morning, when Ukraine’s new parliament met to confirm a new government – or, as the chamber’s speaker put it, “to move ahead with a total renewal of power” – a detachment of revolutionary troops was parked right outside in an armored personnel carrier. They were not there to protect the lawmakers. They were there to warn them. “So they don’t forget who’s in charge,” said one of troops, Evgeny Sikanov, who had an axe tucked into his bullet proof vest and a portrait of Jesus painted on the front of his helmet. “If they even think about betraying the will of the people, I’m the guy who’s going to go in there and give them a spanking.”

In the past few days, threats liked that have turned the task of governing into a tightrope walk for the political leaders of the revolution in Ukraine. One week after they…

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Russia Ups the Ante in Crimea by Sending in the ‘Night Wolves’

Well, well, well. I guess no one should be surprised by this.

World

On Friday afternoon, the regular flight from Moscow touched down in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, in the south of Ukraine, carrying the leader of a Russian motorcycle gang known as the Night Wolves. Alexander Zaldostanov, an old friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wearing his usual get-up – a flaming wolf’s head stenciled onto his black leather vest – but for once he was not the most intimidating figure on the scene. Since the morning, dozens of masked troops had been sauntering around Crimea’s main airport, armed to the teeth but refusing to identify themselves. In some ways, they seemed to have the same goal as Zaldostanov, who goes by the nickname The Surgeon. They were sending a signal to the revolutionary government in Ukraine that it was no longer in charge on this peninsula.

Who exactly was in charge remained a mystery throughout the day, and a…

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No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine

So it seems Russia won’t intervene, because past history dictates that Ukraine will go back into their arms eventually. And I never knew Ukraine was in such a bad shape, and all that political infighting is news to me as well. Well, you learn something new everyday.

Again, I’m glad for Singapore’s stability. Funny how Europe is always seen as a continent filled with stable, rich, first world countries, when in fact, probably only a handful of them can boast that claim. The PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) have faced much economic turmoil in recent years. Recent news of Bosnia-Herzegovina having civil unrest. Italy’s political mess. The list goes on.

I do wish I was a Scandinavian though. I like cold places, and the countries there are advanced and provide excellent education. From what I know, Finland doesn’t have exams until high school graduation, yet ranks high in global education ratings. There’s no competition, and schools are run by educators; teachers provide one-to-one help, and it’s all to help each and every student learn.

And Sweden, Norway and other northern European countries are running out of garbage to burn for fuel, and have to import it. What? That’s mad.

And the stereotypical Scandinavian woman is strikingly attractive, blonde AND intelligent. Thanks, Vikings, for taking back home only the most beautiful of women. Now, can I please be reincarnated as a citizen of Finland? If I can’t study, at least I can go race in F1…

Man, I’m rambling again.

World

Vladimir Putin has been here before. A decade ago, when he was starting his second term as Russia ’s President, a popular uprising broke out in Ukraine. It took no more than a few weeks to break the bond of centuries between the two biggest countries in Eastern Europe . The current revolution in Ukraine looks very different. Unlike the peaceful Orange Revolution, this one has been violent and has dragged on for months. But the questions it has forced Russia to ask are much the same: To what extent should we intervene? When do we cut our losses and accept Ukraine’s drift toward the West? What would we gain, and what would we risk, from using our military to regain control?

Then, as now, these questions have been hotly debated in Moscow. Then, as now, Moscow watched its ally, Viktor Yanukovych, get ousted by mass protests. Then, as now…

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Russia Orders Troop Maneuvers Amid Ukraine Tensions

World

President Vladimir Putin ordered massive military exercises involving troops in western Russia, as pro-Western Ukrainian revolutionaries charted a new course in Kiev.

The military exercise is meant to “check the troops’ readiness for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation’s military security,” said Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who added that Putin ordered the exercise Wednesday afternoon. The troop maneuvers will begin Friday and will last four days, and involve ships of the Baltic and Northern Fleets and the air force.

Shoigu did not make any reference to Ukraine, which shares a border with western Russia, the Associated Press reports. Opposition figures there are setting the groundwork for a new government after toppling the Russia-supported President Viktor Yanukovych. A Russian lawmaker promised Tuesday to protect pro-Russia activists in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, where Russia has a major naval base.

It remains to be seen what kind of pressure Putin will…

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Thailand

The Shinawatras have long divided the country in two. The poor peasantry love the Shinawatra family, who do their best to make the farmers’ lives easier. The richer people believe that they are corrupt, and there are question marks over the Shinawatra family’s wealth and acquisitions. Furthermore, the majority of the voting citizenry are poor, and they could well have targeted them as their voting base, hence creating programs to help the needy.

And while brother Thaksin is in exile, sister Yingluck is desperately fending off the opposition. Thailand’s political situation is a mess, and there’s no sign of improvement in the near future. The military could yet pull another coup d’etat at request (or for personal motives), and from what I know, the king has not spoken either. The capital is crippled by the long-running protests, which have erupted into sporadic violence.

Is there a solution? I’m not sure. Shinawatra’s influence in politics is immense. Even after Thaksin left the country and his party was disbanded, the new party formed under Yingluck won a huge majority of votes. The majority of the country loves the Shinawatras, and any democratic process will see them form the government. The opposition government formed after Thaksin was overthrown was just as corrupt, and ineffective; it’s unlikely they can ever win an election fairly.

Is a military coup the only way out? That’s not going to work long-term either, because people will revolt. That’s not to mention the military’s reluctance to intervene this time. If there’s no power to gain from getting involved, Thailand’s already significantly power military will probably avoid it. Can the king do anything? He can speak, and people will listen, but will they obey and let Yingluck continue in office? I doubt it.

Eventually, Thailand could collapse into a state of anarchy. There’s just no easy solution to fix the long-standing political issues that have plagued the country.

I’m lucky to live in a stable country, even if Singapore might not be the freest country in the world. Freedom is important, but freedom without growth? Is that desirable? Not to me. Am I a socialist then? I’m certainly more left-wing than right. Am I rambling now? I think so.

Maybe when the king speaks, Thailand can finally find unity via compromise. If not, then it’ll be a long while before the Shinawatra influence wanes enough for other parties to step up.

Ukraine

Ukraine was probably unknown to most people until recently, when the country was torn apart by violent revolution. It’s quite the terrible situation there, and while I don’t condone the use of violence to achieve things, sometimes it’s necessary to wrest control from the corrupt.

I don’t know too many details about Ukrainian politics, but I see those pictures of the opulent home that the deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, and it’s pretty clear that the upper echelons of the Ukrainian government have dirty hands. That they obeyed Russia and refused entry into the European Union implies that there may be some greasing of palms from their bigger neighbour.

The people revolted, and as terrible as the situation on the ground must be, I think it’ll probably do good overall. It won’t be easy to completely shake off the influence of Russia; but reducing it to manageable levels is possible, and joining the EU might provide some reprieve. A reliance on natural gas might also be weaned as trade doors open into the heart of Europe, and Ukraine could well blossom away from Russia’s overbearing presence.

Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison, and that’s great news too. The revolution needs a figure to rally around, and she could be it (even if she has had her share of controversies). Maybe Vitali Klitschko will be a better rallying point than Tymoshenko; he’s built his fame as a boxer, and is probably popular in Ukraine. That he loves his country and is willing to lead it after a successful sporting career, instead of just retiring, could mean that he will run the country properly; for the people and not for personal gain. How well he does if he gains office is another matter.

The revolution could yet lead to more violence, however. Even though the government has been replaced, Ukraine is really split in half, with a pro-Russian south-east and pro-EU north-west. Russia could yet march on Kiev, and there are signs that this could really erupt into war. Russia’s never been afraid of invading neighbours on paper-thin excuses. Georgia was a victim of this, and the same thing could happen here, splitting the country in half.

Given the very distinct two halves of the country, it might not be a totally bad thing. But war is always bad, and that’s something I hope never occurs.