Tag Archives: ukraine

What the UK can learn from the Dutch referendum

With just under three months to go the EU referendum, the low turnout and overwhelming majority against the Ukraine-EU Association Treaty in a Dutch referendum is not a good omen. It is a good moment to take stock. The campaign is about to start, with the official designation of the Remain and Leave campaigns due soon. What lessons can the UK learn from the Dutch referendum experience?

The good news first: the UK referendum really matters, whereas the Dutch one did not. The Ukraine-EU Association Treaty is important geopolitically but for the average Dutch voter, ratification will not change their daily lives. It allowed them a protest vote seemingly without consequence. Those that could bother to vote – less than a third of voters, with many supporters staying at home in the hope that the required 30% threshold would be missed – predictably took that opportunity with both hands.

Here, the EU referendum will have a very real impact on people’s daily lives. That should focus minds but there is a risk: a referendum is rarely about the subject on the ballot paper. Only when the question is crystal clear and on a topic of relevance to the voters will the campaign focus on that. The Scottish referendum campaign was a good example of where that worked well. Everybody could relate to the question at hand and because it was such a momentous decision, people were extremely engaged in the debate.

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Is Ukraine lost?

 

Is Ukraine lost? Again? Is the social contract between state and citizens fundamentally flawed?

We are now well past the “honeymoon period” of the post-Maidan street protests that ultimately led to the rather fast departure of the then president Yanikovich, who fled to Russia in 2014.

A spate of ministerial resignations at the start of 2016, an economy in dire straits and with a huge external debt overhang, having lost up to a third of its economic base from the loss of territories and ongoing conflict with Russia and being supported by western-supported international financial institution packages including dollops of soft EU macro-financial assistance, a false dawn with the so-called Orange revolution in 2004 and the Maidan of 2014…so which way reform?

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Hawks and doves: equidistant foreign policy?

Five years ago, the Liberal Democrats held the centre ground in the coalition formation negotiations between left and right. Equidistance is a loaded word, one that cynics will laugh at as vacuous. However, five years later, neither of the two main parties seem sufficiently interested in foreign affairs.

This party could be equidistant between doves and hawks in foreign policy. To illustrate the dove-hawk twin hybrid, below are three examples. I am not necessarily endorsing the following as solutions and they are not exhaustive in terms of detail. They are merely prompts for a debate.

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Russia, ISIS, globalisation and the EU – Norman and Tim answer foreign affairs questions

LDV recently put some questions on foreign affairs to the two leadership contenders. Here are their responses.

1. Can you summarise in around 100 words what a liberal foreign policy looks like in your view?

Tim Farron:

Liberals are proud and passionate internationalists because we believe in the rights of all people – no matter what they look like, what they believe or where they are – to live in peace, free from poverty, ignorance and conformity. We understand that only by working with other countries through strong international institutions can we make that a reality and build a fairer, greener, freer world.

It is in neither Britain’s interests nor the world’s to close ourselves off, but also that intervention abroad must be rooted in international law, decided through international institutions and clearly justified on humanitarian grounds.

Norman Lamb:

Our Party is proudly internationalist. Our leaders have often been lone voices, Paddy demanding rights for British citizens from Hong Kong, Charles opposing the Iraq War, Nick in taking on Nigel Farage‎

I share these courageous liberal values‎. Liberal values are universal – they do not respect borders.

For me Britain should play a global role and prompt Europe to do more for peace, in tackling poverty and climate change, and in standing up to oppression.

We must also be able to defend those who need our protection, our allies, and ourselves. Enduring adequate funding for our armed forces means debating Trident’s future when our world is far more threatened by terrorists and cyber attacks than by nuclear war, and pursuing reform to make sure our forces are effective and efficient.

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Opinion: Liberals must stand up to Russia over Ukraine

The weekend after the party gathered in Liverpool, Liberal Youth gathered in Leeds for our spring conference. There was plenty of campaigning, socialising and of course stimulating debates on policy. Stuart Wheatcroft has already written an excellent summary of the motion we debated and voted for on Ambitious Liberalism; for my part, I submitted a motion on Russia’s actions against Ukraine.

In writing this motion, I aimed to cover the two principal reasons I believe any self-respecting Liberal must stand against what Russia is doing in the region. Firstly, they are attempting to forcibly thwart the will of the Ukrainian people. When the Ukrainian people expressed a desire to look to the EU, they did not at the same time express a desire to go to war with Russia. They are seeking a better life; one bounded by democratic accountable institutions – the same promise extended by the EU to the former Warsaw Pact countries. In attempting to smear the Kiev government as a group of “fascists” as well as sending troops to occupy portions of Ukraine, Russia has attempted to corral the Ukrainian people into giving up these hopes for a brighter future.

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A longer read for the weekend… Edward Lucas on the threat posed to peace by Russia and what the West should do about it

edward lucasEdward Lucas worked for Paddy Ashdown, has helped at by-elections, and was active in the National League of Young Liberals (NLYL) and the Union of Liberal Students (ULS). He’s better known, though, for being a senior editor at The Economist and an expert on energy, cyber-security, espionage, Russian foreign and security policy and the politics and economics of Eastern Europe. In 2008 he wrote The New Cold War, a prescient account of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. In 2011 he wrote Deception, an investigative account of east-west espionage. And earlier …

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Alex Salmond should apologise for his poor call over Vladimir Putin

paddy ashdown - paul walter“Lib Dem Statesman Paddy Ashdown”. That’s how the headline in Paddy’s Sunday Mail article describes him.

Paddy is writing in response to Alex Salmond’s comments on Vladimir Putin . As a reminder, this is what Salmond said:

Obviously, I don’t approve of a range of Russian actions, but I think Putin’s more effective than the press he gets, I would have thought, and you can see why he carries support in Russia.

“He’s restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing. There are aspects of Russian constitutionality and the intermesh with business and politics that are obviously difficult to admire. Russians are fantastic people, incidentally; they are lovely people.

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Opinion: Russia and the Great Illusion

imageIn 1910, British journalist Norman Angell published “The Great Illusion”, arguing that the integration of the global economy was so all-embracing and irreversible that future wars were all but impossible. Released shortly before the outbreak of the Great War, the idea that humans had outgrown their propensity to mass slaughter did not stand the test of time for long.

We face today a similar dichotomy in Putin’s Russia. Europe and Russia are intertwined in mutual trade dependency and the major oil companies – BP and Shell among them – are increasing …

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Tim Farron MP writes…Tales from the Spin Room

Clegg Speech 40Last night I was in the spin room doing my job as President, walking around and saying Nick had won.  It wasn’t hard to appear convincing, because he was brilliant. It was certainly easier than when I have to speak to the media after some by-elections!

I thought Nick won last night on both style and substance. Though of course as a Lib Dem, I would say that.  As a party we like facts and evidence. Watching last night, those things were very light on the UKIP side of the …

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Opinion: In every conflict, there is always more than one side to the story

Protests in UkraineIt is always tempting to view the world in black and white. When Good is pitted against Evil, who in their right minds would want Evil to succeed? We can all happily unite behind Good and therefore feel Good about that ourselves.

Sadly, the world isn’t like this. This may seem like an outrageously obvious statement, but it is not intended to be patronising. Reactions from various politicians to recent events have given the impression that many political conflicts are indeed black and white.

When the Arab Spring began over 3 …

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Opinion: Some facts about Ukraine and Crimea

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians in pro-Europe rallyGiven some of the comments being widely made about the crisis in Ukraine, particularly those defending or minimising the actions of Russia, I thought it would be worthwhile to point out some facts about the situation and counter some of the popular myths. They doesn’t necessarily establish that one side is completely right or wrong but they are worth bearing in mind.

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Opinion: Ukraine is a crisis which we cannot back off from

ukraineThe insertion of Russian troops into the Crimea has profound implications for the security of Europe. It is like Europe has been awoken from a deep, snug slumber.

At I said in the emergency debate on Ukraine at the Spring Conference in York last weekend, events in Crimea have shown Russia breaking every principle in the international law rule book. The fact that it has intervened covertly, supposedly to protect Ukrainians of Russian origin, has profound security implications for the European Union’s Eastern borders – and in particular in the Baltic States …

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Opinion: York conference debates tough UK approach to Ukraine crisis

shekhovtsov_ends_468wAt our spring conference in York, there was an emergency ‘Topical Debate’ on the Ukraine crisis.

The debate reflected United Kingdom attitudes to the Ukraine crisis, but there were some far-reaching implications for some of the views expressed. Importantly, the UK was a signatory to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, whereby Ukraine gave up its massive nuclear weapons stockpile in return for full guarantees of its territorial integrity – an agreement now clearly breached by one of its other signatories, the Russian Federation.

Today, the UK has military surveillance aircraft flying along the Polish and Romanian borders with Ukraine, monitoring Russian military activity, and military assets also monitoring Southern Ukraine including Crimea, and its Russian borders. If diplomacy fails, the UK would almost certainly be involved in any military measures that follow.

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Opinion: Ukraine – Next Steps

ukraineAn international affairs policy wonk could be forgiven for thinking that April Fools’ Day had come early. After all, the last 72 hours have seen the Russian Federation occupy Ukraine’s Crimea, and apparently threaten to attack Ukrainian forces in Crimea if they don’t surrender. Such an action is in direct violation of the 1994 Bucharest Memorandum, the OSCE’s Helsinki Final Act, and Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

The use of force without the explicit authorisation of the UN Security Council has a very specific name: aggression. The Nuremburg Tribunal described aggression as the “supreme international crime”: aggression starts wars, destroys lives and is a visceral attack on the international rule of law.

Simply, aggression is international gangsterism of the highest order.

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Paddy: We’re one mistake away from war in Ukraine

Paddy AshdownWhenever there’s a horrible international situation, I always want to hear what Paddy Ashdown has to say. He’s very wise on all the intricate web of international relations, agendas and history. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s worth listening to because he’ll tell it exactly like he sees it. He makes it all so much more real.

He’s just been on Murnaghan talking about the situation in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he confirmed my feeling that the world is a very much more scary place this weekend.

He was very clear that one foolish mistake could tip a volatile situation into war. That, he said, could be one “trigger-happy” Russian soldier opening fire, a Ukrainian misjudgement of a situation. Something that could very easily happen in the heat of a tense moment.

He said that it wasn’t clear what the Russians were up to. He said it was possible, but unlikely, that their ambitions were limited to securing their international treaty defined rights of access to the port of Sevastopol rather than wider territorial gain. He likened Putin’s stance to Hitler’s over Sudetenland as opposed to the modern Western view that the fate of nations is subject to the view of its people.

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Graham Watson MEP writes: The time has come for the EU to take decisive action over Ukraine

The past twenty four hours has seen the situation in Ukraine escalate from serious to critical. We are only now seeing the true extent of the clashes between police and anti-government protestors, with the number of fatalities standing at 26 but set to rise as the violence continues. What is clear is that last night’s attack on protestors by the police was at the direct order of the Ukrainian government. While the government claimed it was simply aiming to restore law and order, the underlying motive was for President Yanukovych to reassert his legitimacy. As far as I am concerned, …

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Opinion: Britain should offer more support to pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine

Liberals have common cause with pro-democracy protestors in Ukraine

While UKIP and the Tory Right want to take Britain out of Europe other nations are clamouring to join the EU, not least in the Ukraine where pro-EU protests have been taking place for several months now. They want to be ‘in’ for the same reason as the Liberal Democrats, to boost jobs and investment. Europe is not a threat to national sovereignty but a guarantor of democratic and economic stability across the continent.

 As Ukraine protesters are seeking to free their country from Kremlin interference so too the collective influence of European nations

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Ukraine – why they want to be in

Tim Farron, who’s chair of the European election campaign as well as party president, has been writing all over the place on all sorts of EU issues at the moment. The other day it was fish, and now he’s taking a look at why many in the Ukraine are protesting in the streets for closer ties with the EU.

It is easy to get lost in the hysterical UK debate and lose perspective on the EU but we must remember that Europe remains a beacon for hope for millions of people in countries like the Ukraine and in autocratic Belarus.

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Opinion: Demonstrations in Ukraine demonstrates the importance of European unity

Within the confines of our islands, during the protracted debates over Britain’s relationship with the EU, it is perfectly easy to forget what is patently obvious to the majority of continental Europe – European unity matters. As Ian Traynor at the Guardian has pointed out, the mass demonstrations in Ukraine show that the EU still offers hope to many on the peripheries of the continent. Indeed, it is probably extremely difficult for Nigel Farage or indeed any British Eurosceptic to understand the waving of the EU flag as an act promoting national self-determination …

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LDVideo: Jeremy Browne “reserves his position” on the Government’s Euro 2012 boycott

When is a boycott not a boycott? When England confounds expectations by playing well.

That appears to be the more-than-a-little confusing Government message during the Euro 2012 football championships being held in Ukraine, where there are continuing concerns about its ‘selective justice’ system. No government minister has attended a match yet, and that boycott will extend to this Sunday’s quarter-final against Italy.

But the Government has refused to be drawn on whether its boycott would continue if England reach the semi-finals. You can watch Lib Dem foreign office minister Jeremy Browne attempt to justify this inconsistency to Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Daily Politics here:

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The Saturday debate: Do we pay too much attention to news from the US?

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

The tragic killing of six and injuries to thirteen others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, have received heavy coverage in the UK media, not only in response to the shooting itself but also following up the story subsequently. Yet other recent political deaths from countries around the world have received, at most, very little media coverage in the UK.

There are partial explanations – such as the murdered Nigerian politician being a local government figure rather than a national figure and the

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