North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ukraine still pulled east and west

Ukraine is a country of nearly 45 million, located in Eastern Europe. As one of the larger countries in the old Soviet bloc, it has remained torn in terms of geopolitics after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Whereas the Baltic States, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and several others have all oriented themselves towards Western Europe, this country has never made the jump. It, along with Belarus, have maintained trading and political ties with Russia, though Ukraine's population has steadily indicated its preference to look to the West.

Click on image for full picture
Ukraine's ambivalence towards both Russia and Western Europe is greatly influenced by its location. It and Belarus have common borders with Russia and farthest from the historic Western European countries who were the original founders of the European Union. Graphic from

Ukraine made the news this week with another outburst of protests and political tension. What was supposed to be a signing of trade and financial agreements as a first move towards membership with the European Union, turned into a row, then street protests after Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich - swayed by threats or inducements from Russian President Putin - pulled back from the step.

Click on image for full picture
Ukraine President Yanukovich again facing massive unrest. He was driven from power the first time in December 2004 during the "Orange Revolution." During the run for the Presidency in 2004, he was accused being involved with poisoning a political rival, Viktor Yushchenko, as well as the more recent jailing of another rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, which has been deemed illegal by the EU. Photo from

The history of Ukraine since the Soviet breakup in 1991 has been mainly ugly, with tainted and divisive elections, along with poisonings and imprisonment for two high profile Presidential candidates that have the fingerprints of Yanakovich supporters if not personal. Still, Yanukovich has leveraged his core support that lies to the east of the nation into the seat of power over the past 11 years beginning with his first appointment to Prime Minister in 2002. (See the post Ukraine, Poland, football and boycotts on May 5, 2012)

This map, from, shows support for Russia, and thus for leaders supporting that tie, in shades of blue

Click on image for full picture
Street protests against Yanukovich's decision to "look east" to Russia, Photo from

While Yanukovich has little support in Western nations, and is viewed as corrupt and oppressive, the painful truth is that Russia's President Putin made it clear to Ukraine that signing agreements with the EU would mean immediate and severe reduction of trade and vital energy supplies with Russia. And because Russia structured the economies of most of its satellite nations during Communism to support the mother country's needs, the infrastructure in these newly liberated countries remain susceptible to Russian influence.

Expect continued turmoil in this large eastern European nation.

No comments: