Coffee House

Ukraine increases mistrust and misinformation between Russia and the West

14 April 2014

8:48 AM

14 April 2014

8:48 AM

The tense situation in Ukraine has escalated overnight. A deadline has passed for pro-Russian agitators to vacate government buildings in eastern Ukraine or face military action. There is no indication that the agitators have retreated. Meanwhile, reports from Kiev suggest that the government is trying to raise volunteer militias – perhaps in an attempt to avoid deploying the country’s armed forces, which would antagonise Russia.

Last night a special session of the UN Security Council, called by Russia, was the scene of disagreement between Russia and the western powers. Ukraine and the western powers say that Russia is behind this unrest; as Vladimir Putin tries his hand at provatskiya (as described by Anne Applebaum in the Spectator recently). The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said:

‘These armed units … raised Russian and separatist flags over seized buildings and have called referendums and union with Russia. We know who is behind this.’

The Russians deny these charges, and condemn Kiev’s ‘criminal’ actions.


These diplomatic exchanges are taking place while Russian troops (between 35,000 and 40,000 depending on which – if any – satellite image you trust) are deployed along the Ukrainian frontier. No western government, except distant America, can match such power. More worrying even than those soldiers is Europe’s continued reliance on Russia’s energy resources, which our business columnist Martin Vander Weyer described a few weeks ago.

Furthermore, energy and defence policy in European countries are a matter of priority not necessity. Britain, for example, has chosen to cut £2.5bn from the defence budget while increasing the international aid budget by the same amount. It may be ‘the right thing’ to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid; but it is no substitute for steel at moments like this. Putin, then, holds the whip in this affair – and he knows it, as the Crimean adventure proves.

These facts make the West’s policy rather strange. What does it hope to achieve in a country that it is too weak to shape? (Matthew Parris, Owen Matthews and Liam Halligan have all written pieces to that effect in the Spectator in recent weeks, arguing that the West should steer well clear of Ukraine and leave it to Mr Putin.)

But what does Vladimir Putin hope to achieve by his present policy? This morning’s papers offer a view on this question, but none is convincing. The reason for this is, I think, because Putin’s policy is not clear. After the decisiveness that he showed in Crimea, he seems cautious now (assuming that Russian special forces have not infiltrated eastern Ukraine). Serious civil unrest bubbles along his country’s border, yet all he has done is to express his mistrust of the West in the UN Security Council.

And, obviously, the West does not trust Putin. Diplomacy cannot function without trust – that’s what makes this crisis so alarming. Even if there is no further escalation in Ukraine, Western-Russian relations have been damaged, undoing some of the achievements of the post-Communist era.

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Show comments
  • colliemum

    “And, obviously, the West does not trust Putin. “

    But equally obviously, Putin must definitely trust the West, regardless, right?
    A secret visit by the CIA director in Kiev on Saturday must be extremely trust-building for Putin, mustn’t it!

  • Tom Tom

    Ukraine does not have an Army. For years it has rented it out to the Security Council to solicit hard currency for peacekeeping missions. Ukrainians seek work in Turkey where the Lira is a hard currency in comparison. The regime in Kiev is using rag-tag-and-bobtail units from Western Ukraine masquerading as “Special Forces” to intimidate – this is an old story in Central Europe.

    It is getting like Yugoslavia and the West is in the same mess as then, but this time it has unleashed the forces that will spark civil war. There is no point in teaching the Causes of WW1 when it is obvious to any student that politicians are re-enacting the Bosnian Crisis of 1912 and trying to force Russian speakers into an economic and cultural association with the EU they do not appear to relish.

    It would have been so much better to have made Ukraine a gateway between Shanghai Economic Conference and EU with a focus on energy efficiency to improve its economy. What a pity NATO thought it could pose an existential threat to Russian security just as the US and Israel plan an attack on Iran and Turkey proposes invading Syria

  • Dutchnick

    I work on a slightly simplistic view. Poland has by its own efforts
    since joining the EU in 2004 overcome
    the primitive agricultural economy it basically was to improve living
    standards, reduced corruption and overthrown the statist governance that has
    held it back. Meeting young Ukrainians over last summer I was impressed that
    they could see the model of Europe (however imperfect) compared this Russia
    kleptocratic and failed model – (yes gas can buy time but not for ever) and say
    no. They has no great political alignment but they knew that hollow tub
    thumping rhetoric actually will be date expired when they realise someone else
    has stolen the tub and it was empty anyway. It will take time, but there is a
    lot of that to come!

  • Jez

    Dear David Blackburn,

    If you cannot see an almost 100% similarity between the Maiden situation and recent events in the East of Ukraine, then you cannot be looking at this situation with honest impartiality.

    This is only an opinion;

    The key is history- and not that recent. The Baltic States, the Ukraine before them (the whole of it) and even Russia itself didn’t have it’s populations expelled, disfranchised and / or exterminated by the Russians people. It was the ideology of Marx. Due to it’s core dynamic; ‘equality’ then lots of previously subjugated people wanted in and would use extreme policies to make sure it went through. By the time it crumbled several generations later, to eliminate any remaining Nationalist sentiment Millions of ‘Good Communists’ had been dropped into these places now outside of the Russian Federation.

    There was immediately a fall down situation; Ethnic Warfare due to multiculturalism in it’s hardest possible form; actually enforced previously down the barrel of a gun, a massive power vacuum filled by the most vilest form of capitalist bandits and ex-Super Power’s population stunned into forced submission.

    This has to be one of the most long term mismanaged foreign policy disasters from the West since the betrayal of Poland in WW2.

    The mentality the West’s Diplomatic Core across the board has been infantile at best and almost Kamikaze like at worst.

    Putin is being forced into a corner here after the Crimean Crisis.

    The EU / John McCain Roadshow must be recognized as the catalyst that catapulted this worst case scenario into life.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Outstanding summary.

      The best thing here was always to give it all time, and 20 years isn’t even a blink of time. There was no reason for NATO to expand so rapidly into these countries. A more tempered approach, with economic suasion at its root, would have been far more productive. Instead, we wound up with a blunt approach led by a collection of clueless muppets, people who must have been specifically chosen for their sheer incompetence, as that is the only plausible explanation for their involvement.

      • Jez

        I cannot understand the mentality of a foreign policy that seems to mirror identically the West’s post Iraq ‘crash it through, throw it up into the air, hope for the best when it lands’.

    • Curnonsky

      Soviet Russia abandoned internationalism in favor of Slavophile nationalism under Stalin – as anyone who lived under Soviet rule in Eastern Europe can tell you, Soviet rule meant Russian rule. The commissars pursued the very same expansionist foreign policy that the tsars did before them – and that Putin does today, and any smaller, weaker state that they covet will always be a target no matter who is in charge in Moscow. All this babble about NATO “expansionism” conveniently forgets that NATO was set up to defend against Russia’s aggression, something commentators who have never experienced seem to find benign and even laudable. In a way the Putin fanboys here echo the weaklings in the US and EU governments who think that he can be mollified by the right package of pullbacks, concessions and throwing smaller states to the wolves. Good luck with that.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …and you seem to echo the neocon nutters who have recently given the world the Libya fiasco, and now Syria and Ukraine.

        Bombs away, eh lad? And throw cash at it, which will surely work wonders, same as it always has for you types.

        • Curnonsky

          Ah, the time-tested “neocon” canard…despite the fact that Libya, Syria and now Ukraine all happened during the reign of militantly anti-neocon Barack Obama. Cue dark conspiracy theory in 5…4…3…

          You devotees of the little colonel remind me in no small measure of the devotees of a little corporal not so long ago.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            What on earth makes you fantasize Barraco Barma isn’t a neocon, lad?

            The guy who quadrupled US troop counts in Afghanistan? Who’s now garrisoning troops in Australia? Who pushed those Libya, Syria and Ukrainian fiascoes you speak of?

            Are you really this blind to reality?

            It’s amusing how you neocon nutters think. And remember, lad, you neocons are properly described as socialist nutters who want to go bombs away everywhere.

  • FF42

    I think Mr Putin is wearing a tie again. See photo. It’s the new, assertive Russia.

  • Ravenscar

    This is a calculated gamble by Vladimir Putin, the West will ramp up the rhetoric but when all is said, there’s not a lot they will do. President Putin, has troops on the border, he wants Kiev to give him the excuse and launch some sort of feeble offensive and then the Russian President will march the troops in to save the Donbas – checkmate.

    Britain, Germany, the EU have dabbled in the Ukraine, we will all pay the price:

    […] Strangely enough, among those who could be said to have played a part in the events leading up to the current, worsening crisis between Russia and
    Ukraine is David Cameron.

    Few remarks in the past year can have rung louder alarm bells in the Kremlin
    than his hubristic boast in Kazakhstan last July that he looked forward to
    the day when the European Union would stretch “from the Atlantic to
    the Urals”.

    Idiocy, we have a lunatic at the helm of a Westminster town council pretending to govern – a UK pro EU administration which understands nothing of history, still less of the Russian people, their insecurity and deep loathing of these prognosticating children – some might call ‘politicians’. The EU and Britain have turned our great potential allies into enemies – how stupid are we [the British electorate] who vote these clowns in to power?

    • alan

      And it’s odds on in 2015 we’ll do it again.
      Care of decades of infantilising, wet nursing and botton wiping the larger portion of the populace can only absorb sound bites. Few do detail.

    • Dutchnick

      My youth spent worrying about the cold war and the communist take over of the world now seems a joke. Forget the old divisions, the young, educated industrious citizens of tomorrow have no great political alignment they just want freedom to think, get educated and have a better and safer living standard than their parents. Russia will eventually fall into line and Europe will just get better. Romania and Bulgaria have actually improved and will keep doing so inspite of the negative reporting. No, I am optimistic it will take time for it to work through Europe and even political Islam will fall to education and free thought, it is just a question of time scale.

    • Tom Tom

      Why shouldn’t Russia have troops on its border ? India has them in Kashmir and Saudi Arabia has them in Bahrain; the US has its troops in Jordan and Afghanistan and on Okinawa where residents want them gone

  • CharlietheChump

    Armed men storm police stations and raise the Russian Flag. Hardly a cautious move.

    What does Putin want? Everything back to Mother Russia that was lost after the Soviet collapse. If that is one piece at a time, so be it.

    Lets just keep donating to foreign dictators, that’ll do it.

    • Tom Tom

      This happened in Basra when the British army folded; it happened in Libya when the British RAF bombed; it happened in Kosovo when the British RAF bombed Serbia; it happened in Afghanistan where the British Army failed yet again; it happens in Nigeria with Boko Haram…….

  • Raw England


    And remember: The sinister, horrifically massive cost of immigration, neo-Liberalism and multiculturalism is the SOLE cause of our terrifyingly weak and impotent position. We are now UTTERLY powerless because these things have DESTROYED us in every way.

    • dado_trunking

      Nigella, I told you to stay off the white stuff didn’t I?

    • HookesLaw


    • El_Sid

      We are now UTTERLY powerless because these things have DESTROYED us in every way.

      What exactly do you suggest we do militarily in Ukraine, even if we spent twice our current defence budget? We couldn’t stop Russia doing what she wants in Eastern Europe in 1945 when our defence budget was many times bigger than it is now (relative to GDP).

      • Raw England

        I don’t know.

        What I do know is that the sinister administrators ‘running’ our nation have given Russia the power to turn off our gas supply at will.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Get rid of the stupid and costly windmills, dig up and burn domestic coal (or import it from North America), frack up some domestic natural gas… and maybe the imported gas taps wouldn’t be so significant.

          • Raw England

            I agree.

            • dado_trunking

              USC coal with carbon capture
              source of technology: Germany.
              source of fossil supply: Russia, Columbia, US etc.

              CCGT (latest standard)
              source of technology: Germany
              source of fossil supply: Norway, Qatar, Holland etc.

              Wind turbines and renewable technology
              source of technology: Denmark and Germany
              source of energy supply: free

              Who is fighting over supply market share (coal) as if they were Mafia dons?
              Yet, who wins every time?

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …you socialist nutters?

        • dado_trunking

          coal but never mind – same thing innit?

          • the viceroy’s gin

            You greenie global warmingist envirowhackos are the same thing, innit?

          • Raw England

            Is Coal even a good thing anymore? Is it useful? I don’t know.

            I think we need a lot more nuclear stations.

        • Tom Tom

          Rubbish. We don’t buy gas from Russia. We buy it from Norway. Anyway Japan is now committed to nuclear rather than be dependent upon gas imports so gas prices should fall. I wish the Us would start exporting gas so its domestic price increased to world market levels and depressed its economy then it would have to cut Defence spending dramatically

          • the viceroy’s gin

            The envirowhackos are forcing the US to replace their existing use of coal with natural gas, meaning they are already suffering an economic hit over their energy production reconfiguration. It will be some years before their coal production and use cycle is completely destroyed, I should think, and then the export will likely begin as you mention.

  • paulus

    Pull the Russian army back, you have made your point, Lets not sleep walk into a conflict

    • the viceroy’s gin

      If the EUSSR and NATO formally announced a pullback, I’m sure the Russians would do so also. So far, the NATO membership nonsense appears on the table somewhere.

  • Peter Stroud

    It is clear that the independent Ukraine has never really worked: perhaps it should always have remained part of Russia. One thing is certain, the EU should never have started its meddling. Neither should there have been any suggestion that NATO membership was on the cards. Those journalists who have suggested we keep well away from the problem are, in my view, absolutely correct.

    • HookesLaw

      Pathetic. Blame the EU for Russian military agression?

      • Tom Tom

        What military aggression ? It is the US and UK that wage unending war – the US has launched 7 wars in the past 12 years. Russian troops in Russia is a threat but US/UK troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Special Forces in Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Ukraine…….that is no threat

  • swatnan

    Crimea was a clear cut case that it was Russuan all the time, but with some other Cities in the East its not so clearcut, they being not overwhelmingly Russian speaking. So Russia had better tread carefully and wait because inevitably the Kiev Govt will collapse and Ukrainians come round to the view that their future actually lies with ERussia and not the West. Thats when the Russians should swelcome the prodigal sons back.

  • Bonkim

    Europe will not get involved in a military conflict and will not like the US to get involved – loss all round for the west with little to gain even if they win militarily. Would anyone want to take responsibility for a bankrupt and divided Ukraine?

    It is always not what you get – but what you lose – and Europe/US will lose much for getting nothing. Britain has no interests in Ukraine.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      They want the US involved heavily in the EUSSR, the whole corrupt gaggle of shysters. Ukraine fits their purpose.

  • @PhilKean1

    I have long said that I wished the Berlin wall had never have come down. I could never understand the mentality of those who believed they could expand the EU’s power and sphere of influence by encroaching on territory that would always end up bringing Europe into conflict with Russia.

    And I have always stated my belief and hope that the only thing that can free the British people is if the EU suffers some sort of catastrophic event. Either by economic collapse or through some sort of conflict.

    So it is indicative of the desperation some of us now feel that, bad and dangerous though the current situation in Ukraine is, we hold out the hope that it may help to bring an end to the much hated Socialist EU experiment.


    • Colonel Mustard

      The “Socialist EU experiment” accelerated when the Wall came down. Communitarianism (Communism’s gentler elder brother) suddenly re-emerged from the shadows and found its way into the establishment at all levels. “Leading beyond authority” (and apparently any accountability) was promoted by a non-government organisation of remarkable and rapid influence started by a former editor of Marxism Today using funding of unknown origin.

      Eastern Europe no longer serves as a stark warning of what happens when authoritarian governments impose top down socialism by creating an apparatchik class. But it is some irony that the West is now busy imitating that failed model as Eastern Europeans migrate here seeking a better life.

      • Shazza

        Well said Colonel. To make matters even worse, they deliberately imported a culture which refuses to assimilate into this new wannabe superstate.
        I fear it is not going to end well.

    • Shazza

      This debacle is the direct result of the EU blowing kisses at the Ukraine and promising them a wedding and expecting Russia to pay for the wedding.

      The hubris of Ashton, Barroso et al knows no limit.

      • In2minds

        Indeed – “mistrust between Russia and the West” –

        Should that be mistrust between Russia and the EU?

        • Shazza


    • dado_trunking

      You see, your position is fully congruent with that of a great lady before not only our people but the world lost interest in what she had to say.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …you mean Lady Gaga, of course.

        Socialist nutters of the world unite!

    • HookesLaw

      Well its nice to see you comiong out in your true colours. Nasty dirty ones.

      • @PhilKean1

        Hey, unlike the Europhile Liberal-left, my colours are on display at all times.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Your reply to me has been moderated. I’m not surprised. Try ‘codswallop’ or ‘tripe’ instead of a male chicken.

        And try reading my comment rather than putting your own fanciful interpretation on it. I wrote nothing about the current state of Poland other than to observe that the sort of Soviet-sponsored communist government they used to suffer under seems to be the model for a ‘lite’ version being developed here.

        Why do you get so enraged by other peoples views? You can’t control them much as you might like to. And as a supposed “conservative” that should represent a warning to us all.

    • Tom Tom

      The West made a mess of Central Europe. It should have been linked to the US Dollar not the Euro to encourage GROWTH and Russia should have been bedded into the European economy as raw materials supplier, market, and transit route to China

  • Andy

    Russia doesn’t give a damn what Europe thinks. I read a couple of weeks ago that visitors to Vladimir Putin, waiting for their audience do so in a room dominated by a huge portrait of Tsar Nicholas I. Says it all really.

  • Count Dooku

    Putin is to blame for the mess in Ukraine. What was a political dispute a la the Orange Revolution quickly turned to a geopolitical crisis after Putin sent troops to Crimea.
    It was an immensly dumb move given that his interests in Crimea were never under threat. Let’s see how this plays out. You don’t start things like this without having an end game. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      There were no troops sent to Crimea. They were already in Crimea, by treaty. And yes, after the elected government of Ukraine was overthrown, and the usurpers immediately outlawed the Russian language, the Russians obviously took all that as a huge threat to their national interests. Putin had end game well in mind. He’d gamed this out long ago, unlike the EUSSR and US muppets.

      • Curnonsky

        Not true, Russia sent thousands of Spetsnaz troops in mufti to occupy Ukrainian government buildings in Crimea. Now they are following the same script in eastern Ukraine. Treaties have about as much bearing on the situation as NATO security guarantees at this point.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Yes true. Russia had treaty rights to have troops in Crimea. Those treaties do have bearing, notwithstanding your bleatings to the contrary.

          • Curnonsky

            They have a treaty allowing them to maintain military bases on Ukrainian soil, not to roam around seizing Ukrainian territory at will. Otherwise, why were their special forces troops wearing uniforms without insignia while they invaded? Why not be open about it? Do you really think Putin tosses and turns at night wondering what would happen if he tore up a treaty or two?

            • the viceroy’s gin

              They have a treaty allowing them to have troops on Ukrainian soil, lad. If you think that treaty has been abrogated, or the wrong uniforms were being worn, or the wrong pizza being eaten, you should go sue somebody. Your whining isn’t doing you much good.

              The Ukrainians voted to be a part of Russia. You’re conflating matters to think anything other than this occurred there. It doesn’t matter if Putin is a miserable swine. Both things can be true.

              Like I say, the Russians long ago gamed this all out. That’s why it went so swiftly and bloodlessly. They knew it was a done deal, long before it ever happened. The demographics were the critical part of their analysis. Crimea is Russian, and long has been.

              The mistake is the EUSSR and US muppets forcing the issue and forcing Russia’s pat hand to be played. That’s the only moronic thing that occurred here.

    • Tom Tom

      Britain should not have troops in Falklands, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland as it is provocative. You should read up on the agreement between the EU and Ukraine which had the EU Defence Agreement (ie NATO) as a direct threat to Russia

  • Frank

    Russia will carry on until the west shows that it is serious by adding thousands of names to the lists for sanctions and travel bans.

    • Rhoda Klapp8

      Are those bans and sanctions on individuals legal? On what basis? Are there criteria, or are some people being picked on as an easy target by governments with no guts to do it properly?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, they need to get tough and show them who’s boss, UN style:

  • Hello

    “arguing that the West should steer well clear of Ukraine and leave it to Mr Putin”

    Right, but what would the implications be for the Senkaku islands then? Or the Falklands? The Crimea is not the only piece of disputed territory in the world.

  • Sean Lamb

    “Meanwhile, reports from Kiev suggest that the government is trying to
    raise volunteer militias – perhaps in an attempt to avoid deploying the
    country’s armed forces, which would antagonise Russia.”
    More likely because they can’t deploy the armed forces, who won’t attack their own cities.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “These armed units … raised Russian and separatist flags … We know who is behind this.”

    And when protestors in Kiev were waving EU flags, could we not also hazard a guess who was behind that?

    I saw on TV that the leader of the revolutionary government had the EU flag displayed alongside the Ukrainian flag at a meeting; rather jumping the gun on that.

    • HookesLaw

      Typical nonsense from a bigoted nuitjob. This issue really shows you up for the ignorant idiots you are.

      • @PhilKean1

        Says the person who is totally against leaving the EU, but suspiciously supports Cameron’s “promise” to offer a referendum if he wins a majority.

        Sort of reinforces my belief that the only people who fall for such trickery are the gullible and those who’d never countenance leaving.

      • @PhilKean1

        Just heard the good news.

        EU leaders are being forced to impose further sanctions on Russia which will hurt THEIR economy more than it will Russia’s.
        This can only be a good thing for those of us wanting to see a continued degradation of the Euro and the EU.

        • Tom Tom

          Stupid. France has £1 billion warship order from Russia; and without Russian gas the petrochemical industry will have to relocate from Western Europe to Russia

          • @PhilKean1

            And your point is?

      • Tom Tom

        Mirror, mirror on the wall….

    • Curnonsky

      Perhaps those benighted Ukrainians believed that belonging to the EU was preferable to living under Russian rule (something which they have no little experience with). But then I’m sure you and the little KGB colonel know what’s best for them.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …as do you, apparently, lad.