In a few weeks time Ukrainian voters will be going to the polls to elect a new president to replace Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the country for the safety of Russia amid a Tahrir Square-style, people power uprising. The Cabinet of Ministers has no lack of urgent agenda items to deal with. Several pitfalls lie ahead:
A Keystone bomb would deliver several payloads: punishment toward anti-American Venezuela; proceeds toward Canada which buys more goods and services from the U.S. than the European Union does; punishment toward Russia by casting into the markets more Venezuelan oil and replacement of Venezuelan oil with Canadian oil that is $30 a barrel cheaper.
What can the missing Malaysian airliner and the Russian takeover of Crimea have in common, aside from competing for airtime on the 24-hour news channels? Let's consider this common thread: both events demonstrate the absence of any working, collaborative governance system to deal with crisis coupled with the irrelevance of many of the post-World War II multilateral agreements and practices.
Perhaps if this had been a one-time occurrence it would be easier to digest, but the fact is Russian president Vladimir Putin has a shameful record when it comes to just about everything. He has never hesitated to put political rivals behind bars, even going as far as jailing the protest band Pussy Riot.
At the end of the day, it will always be the people who suffer, and Ukraine has a long history of suffering. There are enough populations who feel abandoned by a Ukrainian Ukraine to fight for Russia, and enough who are ready to engulf Kiev in flames in order to show their desire to move away from the perceived dangers of an Eastern block and take their place among Western nations.
Crimea is a pity, and likely victimized by Moscow pressure, but the reality is that Ukraine is a failed state without a government, a constitution that can be enforced, an army that can be called upon to defend its people or an economy. If I lived in Crimea I'd vote for the devil I know (Moscow) rather than the devils to come (Kiev).
The mood on Maidan Square in central Kyiv remains decidedly grim after a referendum widely branded as illegal and illegitimate took place in Crimea on Sunday. Two Ukrainian kozaks loudly beat drums in a rhythm that is normally used in the call to arms. It serves to heighten the sense of foreboding. Now that Crimea has been hived off from mainland Ukraine, "what next?" is the question on everyone's minds
Despite the very tangible political or economic benefits it could bring, Russia never considered peacefully ceding any of its remaining territorial holdings to its neighbours. During the 1998 financial crisis for example, President Boris Yeltsin never thought of selling the sparsely populated, almost vestigial property of Sakhalin Island in the north Pacific to a cash-rich, land-poor Japan, even as Russia desperately needed hard currency to prop up a crashing ruble. If and when Crimea votes to leave Ukraine for Russia, Western economic sanctions will surely follow if Russia happily embraces the peninsula.
On the evening of March 5, anchor Liz Wahl resigned from Russia Today-America at the end of her 5 p.m. broadcast. While it's not fair to speculate that Wahl made her dramatic exit in order to score a new, and potentially higher paying, job, it is certain that her patriotic exit will likely be rewarded by American media.
The West, and especially the English-speaking West, has wrongly taken sides in the present conflict in Ukraine. Instead of making empty promises or threats, our message should be clear and decisive: "What is happening in Ukraine is a matter that its population has to sort out for itself. But, if asked, we will work with all interested parties to mediate a speedy and peaceful resolution." No more, no less.
Take your time finding the right table at the right restaurant. You'll be there awhile -- might as well get comfortable. The bottle of vodka is to be served cold and of high quality. The person that picks up the first bottle is in charge of pouring and pacing shots for the entire night, even once you change venues...