The partial ceasefire in Donbas and Lugansk has done little to ease the East-West information and diplomatic argy-bargy relating to Russia and Ukraine. If anything, the rhetorical exchanges have become more testy during September, after the EU and US expanded their sanctions program. This happened after the ceasefire – patchy, but thankfully still holding – was agreed between Kiev and rebel-fighters in East Ukraine.
The new measures are designed to target top state-owned energy, defence and financial services companies – including Gazprom, Lukoil, Rostec and Sberbank. The list of Russian officials subject to asset freezes and travel bans has also been extended. “Given Russia’s direct military intervention and blatant efforts to destabilize Ukraine, we’ve deepened our sanctions, in concert with our European allies,” said US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.
After three rounds of US-inspired sanctions against Russia, Moscow has finally retaliated. We’re now on the brink of a fully-blown East-West trade war. Since March, the West has imposed successive travel bans and asset freezes on various lawmakers and other prominent individuals – the most wide-ranging restrictions on Russian commerce since the Soviet era. In late July, the screw was turned even tighter, as America and then the EU limited Russian state-owned banks’ access to international capital markets.
President Putin then snapped. A 12-month ban on food imports from America, the EU, Australia, Canada and Norway was imposed and there’s talk of stronger measures to come. Diplomacy having failed – having barely been attempted – the economic gloves are now off. Will tit-for-tat sanctions between Russia and the West escalate, worsening the commercial and political damage? Or will they be contained?
Turkey’s economic potential is obvious. Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, this secular, predominantly Muslim democracy could hardly be more strategically located. With its blend of Western and Eastern cultures and fast-growing 74m-strong population, many of them young and well-educated, Turkey should be among the world’s most attractive emerging markets.
And so it has seemed. The Turkish economy has tripled in size since the early 2000s, riding an almighty wave of consumption and construction. Foreign direct investment has poured in. This ancient country, with its ubiquitous monuments and minarets, now has a multitude of skyscrapers, shopping malls and infrastructure mega-projects. These include the $11bn Istanbul-Izmir motorway, a high-speed Ankara-Istanbul rail-link and a plausible bid to build the world’s largest airport, handling 150m passengers a year.
Kateryna Kruk was born in Rivne, Western Ukraine in 1991. After studying for a Master’s Degree in Poland, she returned to Kiev last autumn, as the Euromaidan protests began. Determined to shift Ukraine towards Western Europe, Kruk became heavily involved in the protest movement. Tweeting extensively in English, she emerged as the “unofficial voice” of Euromaidan, providing a running commentary both on the protesters’ strategic positioning and dramatic events on the streets, as she tells LIAM HALLIGAN
LH: Is Ukraine part of Europe?
Ukraine isn’t only part of Europe but is also its Eastern border. This border isn’t really defined in geographical or physical terms. Cultural differences define the true border of Europe. As such, this border is rather wide and vague but obviously lies somewhere in Eastern Ukraine. Being part of Europe, belonging to it, is also a process. By observing cultural changes in Ukraine, you can see how the country is becoming more and more European.
Vera Graziadei (nee Filatova) is a familiar face to British audiences, given her role in the cult Channel 4 series Peep Show, numerous TV dramas and widely-praised theatre and film work. Born in Donetsk, to a Ukrainian mother and Russian father, she came to the UK as a teenager and was educated at the London School of Economics. But Graziadei’s passions go beyond acting. Recent events in Ukraine have left her shocked and disturbed, as she tells LIAM HALLIGAN in London.
LH: ARE YOU UKRAINIAN OR RUSSIAN?
Actually, first and foremost I’m a Brit. I swore my allegiance, took citizenship and spent my formative years here, having arrived at the age of 13. Back then, I’d tell people I was Russian but born in Ukraine. That was a kid talking. As an adult, I say I’m Ukrainian. But if I meet two people from Vladivostok and Western Ukraine, I feel culturally closer to the person from Vladivostok, even though its thousands of miles away. I’m not saying I don’t like people from Western Ukraine. I’m talking about how close I feel culturally, not personally nor in terms of friendship. So – a rather complicated answer to a simple question.
The St Petersburg International Economic Forum, now in its eighteenth year, was less well attended than usual. The absence of various American and West European CEOs, responding to pressure from their governments following sanctions on Russia, was heavily commented upon in the West.
Less widely noticed was one of the most important pieces of news to emerge from Russia since the Soviet collapse of the early-1990s – namely the $400bn deal struck between Moscow and Beijing, under which Russia supplies 38bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas to China over 30 years from 2018.
“That the Cold War ended in our lifetime without a general war and a nuclear exchange is the greatest shared boon, a true miracle of our own times. Nothing beats that – it is the thing that trumps it all”. These words were uttered two years ago by distinguished Peter Hennessy, the distinguished British historian, on BBC Radio 4. It’s revealing such a profoundly true observation is so infrequently made.
Far from celebrating the end of the Cold War, and its peaceful denouement, the Western establishment appears to long for a return to the bad old days of East-West loathing and mutually assured destruction.
Rather than building on the successful defusing of a 40-year stand-off, recognizing the vast benefits of cooperation and trade, politicians in Washington and London seem intent on renewed conflict with Russia. This sentiment has grown stronger, of course, since the outbreak of rhetorical hostilities over Ukraine.