Striving To Understand The Ukraine – And Not Forget About Venezuela

While a truce lasted less than 24 hours, there is more hope that an agreement signed on February 21 to hold early elections will be have more longevity. If the agreement lasts, presidential elections would be held before December 2014. They had been set for March 2015.

With events developing on an daily, even hourly basis, it is important to cut through the rhetoric to fully understand what is at stake.

In an effort to cut through the somewhat simplified good-guy-bad-guy coverage of the crisis in the Ukraine, Anne Applebaum, who describes the situation as “murky,” offers a guide to the words and phrases that should elicit skepticism.

“Often, those cliches are intended to serve the interests of those who use them. Sometimes they are just bad simplifications,” she writes in the Washington Post.

Rhetoric aside, Applebaum reminds readers that at the root of the Ukrainian turmoil is “a deep, fundamental disagreement about the nature of the state, the country’s international allegiances, its legal system, its economy, its future” and the “the least we outsiders can do is avoid foolish stereotypes when discussing their fate.”

The European Union’s Failure
While many fingers are rightly pointed at Russia when assigning blame for the violence and chaos in Ukraine, Ulrich Speck, a Visiting Scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, properly notes that the European Union and its member states are not without blame.

Russia has not been shy about its intentions to block Ukraine from allying itself with the EU, but the bloc failed to act.

“Member states left the lead to Brussels—the European Commission and the European External Action Service—even when it became clear that the EU was moving toward a geopolitical power struggle with Moscow against its will. Member states failed to back up Brussels-led bureaucratic processes with substantial political power and diplomacy,” argues Speck, who believes that quite simply “the West did not grasp the gravity of the situation.”

This week the EU decided to impose sanctions, but Speck questions “whether punitive measures can change the calculations of Ukraine’s key actors, who have become locked in an existential struggle.”

Venezuela Burning While World Focuses On Ukraine?
Carl Meacham expresses his belief that attention has been concentrated on the violence in Ukraine to the detriment of the people of Venezuela. For many weeks the protests against the administration of Hugo Chavez’ successor, Nicolas Maduro, have been peaceful, but recently they turned violent with three confirmed deaths, at least 60 injured, and more than 100 protesters and students arrested.

Meacham says it is not necessary for the Obama administration to become more involved now, but that it is important to define “a cohesive policy for Venezuela” moving forward.

“Ultimately, it is not always practical for the U.S. government to take the lead in regional discussions on Venezuela. But in light of the fundamental human rights being threatened — and given the lack of a definitive hemispheric voice condemning recent developments — now could be the time for the United States to step up, perhaps, as a start, by calling for an emergency [Organization of American States] meeting on its own terms,” writes Meacham.

The protests, however, are resulting in the emergence of divisions among South American nations with Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador supporting Maduro, while Colombia, Chile, and Peru have not.

Eyder Peralta of National Public Radio offers a primer on Leopoldo López, the leader of the group calling for Maduro’s ousting.

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