“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Blood Flows in Ukraine

While Congress Does Nothing

After the House and Senate fail to reach a deal on legislation to help Ukraine, Congress recessed for a 10-day vacation.

 A police officer escorts a wounded participant of an anti-war rally during clashes with pro-Russian demonstrators

Blood flowed in Ukraine’s streets Thursday as the threat of a Russian invasion intensified — but after huffing and puffing for weeks, Congress pulled a signature move: It did nothing.

The House and Senate recessed for a 10-day vacation after failing 
to reach a deal on legislation helping Ukraine and punishing Russia.

Members are not scheduled to return until March 24.

“A shameful day,” declared Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), 
after blasting his own party for the delay.

 Thursday's clash between pro-Russia and pro-Ukranian demonstrators was the worst violence since Ukraine’s
 pro-Moscow government fell last month and Russian troops took over the Crimea peninsula.

While Congress failed to act, thousands of Russian troops were on the move, massing along Ukraine’s eastern border — heightening fears of an invasion.

In a sign of the escalating tensions, a young pro-Ukraine protester was stabbed to death in clashes between demonstrators in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

Carrying Russian flags and chanting for Russian President Vladimir Putin, 
2,000 demonstrators broke through a police cordon to attack 1,000 protesters voicing support for Ukraine’s government.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Thursday a "shameful day" 
after blasting his own party for Congress's failure to reach a deal.

It was the worst violence since Ukraine’s pro-Moscow government fell last month and Russian troops took over the Crimea peninsula.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Russia risks “massive” political and economic consequences if it does not enter into“negotiations that achieve results” to end the crisis.

And Secretary of State Kerry told a Senate committee that a U.S. response 
“can get ugly fast” if Russia annexes Crimea.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has told lawmakers in Washington Wednesday that he did not mind a delay.

Residents of the pro-Russian region will vote Sunday on whether to become part of Russia. President Obama has denounced the referendum as illegitimate.

Yet, despite the deepening crisis, Congress was divided about what to do.

The Republican-controlled House and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, controlled by Democrats, each have passed legislation. But the bills have differences that might prove hard to reconcile, especially as the two bodies bad-mouth each other.

Both measures call for a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine — 
but the Senate’s includes potential penalties against Russia and reforms of the International Monetary Fund.

Congress is now on a 10-day-break with nothing passed for legislating to help Ukraine and punish Russia.

“The IMF money has nothing to do with Ukraine,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) fumed.

House Republican leaders are also furious that the Senate would pay for its legislation with money intended for the Pentagon, including $160 million in aircraft, missile and Army procurement.

“To fund reforms at the IMF on the backs of our troops is just loony,” said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, downplayed the failure of Congress to act.

He said that while it would be useful to quickly pass a bill with sanctions, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — who on Thursday paid a visit to Heartland Brewery in Times Square — had told lawmakers during a visit to Washington Wednesday that he did not mind a delay.

“There was no sense of urgency about whether it happens now, or two weeks from now,” Corker said.

War games: Putin launches new military exercises on Ukraine border

The drills came four days ahead of a referendum in Crimea on whether to join Russia. 
The West has called the vote illegal

The mobilization of 8,500 Russian troops flew in the face of Western pledges of sanctions against the country should it annex the Black Sea peninsula following Sunday’s referendum. Sec. John Kerry spoke briefly with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Wednesday, making it clear there will be costs if Russia's path continues.

The war games flouted pledges from the West of tough sanctions against Russia.

Russian troops mobilized again on Ukraine’s border Thursday 
as Vladimir Putin tightened his stranglehold on Crimea.
About 8,500 troops participated in military exercises, launching artillery and rocket launchers, 
and practicing firing at an enemy up to nine miles away, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

It was the second-biggest military exercise Moscow has ordered since the crisis began; 
the first, involving large infantry units, began days before Russian forces seized Crimea
 and ended three days after Putin declared his right to invade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to practice war games on Ukraine’s border Thursday.


  1. Injuries, fatality reported in east Ukraine clashes between rival rallies

    At least one person died and 10 were taken to hospitals with injuries following clashes between rival rallies in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Reports said that eggs, fireworks and smoke grenades were used in the unrest.

    Tensions erupted in the Ukrainian industrial center of Donetsk on Thursday, where the Russian-speaking population has been rallying in support of creating an eastern Ukrainian autonomy and against the decisions of the coup-imposed government in Kiev.

    A rally of Ukraine’s integrity supporters was taking place in Donetsk at the same time and place as anti-government protest.

    According to local media reports pro-Maidan activists started provoking the pro-Russian crowd, by shouting far-right slogans “Glory to Ukraine” and “Glory to heroes”, loudly demanding the respect of Ukrainian territorial sovereignty.

    Clashes between the rival rallies reportedly erupted after a crowd of demonstrators broke through a police cordon separating the crowds. Law enforcers were trying to take provocateurs away in police buses.

    It was not immediately clear, how many people were injured from both sides of the clashes, but reports indicated that some had their faces bloodied in the fight.

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