Down Under Musings: Of Ukraine, Trump And Much More...

In November 2013 with Ukraine’s economy on the brink of collapse, Yanukovych (elected President in 2010) chose to accept the Russian trade deal and bailout over arguably less favourable terms from the West.

Updated Jun 14, 2023 | 12:31 PM IST

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Down under musings

Down under musings

The Conflict in Ukraine: A Timeline

The demographic divide in the Ukraine has always influenced her politics and election results have usually reflected an East-West polarity. That said, it always takes a spark to set off a fire, so let’s examine that spark here.
For us to understand the ever-widening rift culminating in hostilities, we wind back in time to February 2012 when the “Kolesnychenko-Kivalov Language Bill” was introduced in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukranian Parliament) to give Russian the status of a regional language and was faced with a substantial amount of opposition. However, the Bill was eventually adopted by the Verkhovna Rada at its second reading on 3rd July 2012 and signed into Law by President Yanukovych on 8th August 2012.
In November 2013 with Ukraine’s economy on the brink of collapse, Yanukovych (elected President in 2010) chose to accept the Russian trade deal and bailout over arguably less favourable terms from the West. This was followed by a wave of protests dubbed the “Euromaidan/ Revolution of Dignity” that saw Yanukovych being deposed amidst allegations that the protests were engineered or at least backed by the CIA. Mikhail Gorbachev had been assured by the US and the UK that NATO would not expand its border eastwards in the direction of Russia and to President Putin, Ukrainian membership of the EU and/or Nato was a redline he repeatedly warned against.
In February 2014, a bill to repeal the 2012 Law was approved in the Verkhovna Rada and this provoked a negative reaction amongst the Russian speaking majority in Crimea and the Donbass. In November 2014, President Petro Poroshenko declared that the language policy in Ukraine would be amended. On 28th February 2018, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled the 2012 Language Law unconstitutional.
The Revolution of Dignity was followed by pro-Russian, counter-revolutionary unrest in the Donbass and Russian annexation of Crimea. Armed separatists proclaimed the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) as independent states.
Following multiple failed attempts to end the conflict in the Donbass (DPR and LPR), the Minsk Protocol was signed on 5th September 2014 by representatives of the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) and the leaders of the DPR and LPR, with mediation by the leaders of France and Germany.
The Minsk Protocol failed to stop the fighting and all sides convened again to sign an updated and revised Minsk II Agreement on 12th February 2015 to end hostilities, withdraw heavy weaponry from the frontlines, exchange POW’s and offer self-government to certain areas of the Donbass (to be enshrined in Ukraine’s Constitution). The fighting did not end however, and Ukraine failed to grant the Donbas the promised self-government status. It has been claimed that former German Chancellor Angela Merkle remarked later that the purpose of the Minsk Agreements was purely to buy Ukraine time. President Putin had repeatedly accused France and Germany of ignoring Ukrainian violations of Minsk I & II.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy won the Ukrainian Presidency in a landslide victory, promising to usher in unity and end Ukraine’s conflict with Russia. However, the situation hasn’t quite headed that way.
The Novo Khavkova dam explosion has both sides accusing each other of sabotage. It has unleashed a flood of water downstream at considerable risk to lives and the environment and it is believed that it would take a period of 10 years before Crimea can draw much needed water from the Dnipro River again. Ukraine has released what is purportedly a recording of a Russian soldier confessing Russia’s blowing up of the dam. Then again, Ukraine claimed to have hacked evidence from mobile phone chatter pointing the finger at Russia over the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage. Until Seymour Hersch publishing his finding indicating that it was the US that led the sabotage of the pipeline.
Crimea was part of Russia from 1753 until 1954 when it was transferred from the RSFSR to the UkrSSR. Worthy of note is that the Soviet leader at the time – Nikita Khrushchev was Ukrainian. Russia uses the results of the plebiscite it undertook in Crimea where it claims an overwhelming majority chose a merger with Russia. It must be noted though that the plebiscite was undertaken in Crimea after there were Russian boots on the ground.
Regardless of how this ends eventually, there will be no real victors. The loss of lives on both sides is both horrific and unnecessary and steadily mounting. The gender imbalance in the Ukraine will have far reaching consequences. Then there are the questions around just how many of the scattered diaspora will return once peace is restored, how will the rebuild be financed, would nations that were generous in funding the military effort be just as generous and how long would it take.

Does the “Classified Document Case” against Trump stand on wobbly legs?

The FBI indictment against Trump has been unsealed to reveal 37 charges relating to the seizure of documents at his residence at the Mar a Lago Resort. The charges brought against Trump include the removal of documents, espionage and obstruction of justice. The most serious charge being espionage with the seizure of documents that relate to Nuclear and Military secrets that cover both the US and her allies.
While it is fair to call this “a serious error in judgement” on the part of Trump, the Courts would need to look at whether he breached the Law and is guilty of criminal offence.
Here is what the Law states:
(United States of America) National Archives:
Presidential Records (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22)
§ 2205. Exceptions to restricted access
Notwithstanding any restrictions on access imposed pursuant to sections 2204 and 2208--
(1) the Archivist and persons employed by the National Archives and Records Administration who are engaged in the performance of normal archival work shall be permitted access to Presidential records in the custody of the Archivist;
(2) subject to any rights, defenses, or privileges which the United States or any agency or person may invoke, Presidential records shall be made available--
(A) pursuant to subpoena or other judicial process issued by a court of competent jurisdiction for the purposes of any civil or criminal investigation or proceeding;
(B) to an incumbent President if such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of current business of the incumbent President’s office and that is not otherwise available; and
(C) to either House of Congress, or, to the extent of matter within its jurisdiction, to any committee or subcommittee thereof if such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of its business and that is not otherwise available; and
(3) the Presidential records of a former President shall be available to such former President or the former President’s designated representative.
Notably therefore, under Sec. 2205, it does seem that as a former President, Trump would be permitted to access and store such documents.
The Court may decide on either looking at precedents in similar situations from the past or decide on setting a new precedent.
What might those precedents be:
The “documents in a socks drawer” - Bill Clinton
Hilary Clinton’s use of her personal server for work emails as Sec of State
Joe Biden’s lawyers’ “voluntary surrender” of documents that he held at multiple locations, including his garage at the house where his son Hunter was renting out accommodation and could potentially have had access to those documents. Those documents that date to the time when he was a Senator were legally in his possession. However, those documents that date to his tenure as Vice President in the Obama Administration would come under a cloud as they aren’t covered u/s 2205. If Former President Obama was to come out and state that he had “declassified” those documents, that would introduce another interesting twist to the tale.
Interesting to see how the court adjudicates, therefore. Regardless of which way the verdict falls though, the dust isn’t likely to settle on this one for a long time.
Trump supporters (over half of Republican voters at this point) claim that this is yet another manifestation of the witch-hunt against him, and Trump knows how to use “media attention” in his favour. This could either cement his candidacy for the Republican ticket or grant momentum to Ron De Santis’ campaign. There is also the possibility that the Democrats fancy the odds of beating Trump in 2024 than another candidate from the GOP.
Biden’s own 2024 campaign could have the wheels come off the wagon as Sen. Robert J. Kennedy Jr drives his own campaign forward or the Hunter Biden laptop saga blows up to topple skeletons out of the Burisma cupboard.

California Dreaming?

It’s a tragic story that is unfolding in the state of California with people leaving her iconic cities – Los Angeles and San Francisco in sizeable numbers with many citing concerns over a deteriorating Law and Order situation.
Californian Lawmakers have been passing some “very interesting” laws worthy of a “look at, sit up and go hmmm”.
Back in 2014, Californian voters passed Prop 47, which downgraded certain thefts and drug offences from felonies to misdemeanours. This statute raised the minimum amount of stolen goods from USD400 to USD950 for a theft case to be classified as a felony. Surprise, surprise! There has since been a dramatic rise in theft across the state. It goes further, in that it allows felons serving prison terms to petition for resentencing under the new classifications. Those who have already served their terms can also have their past convictions reclassified as misdemeanours. While this might be viewed as a very touching case of compassion and kindness, there would also be those that would see it as another “nail in the coffin” for struggling small businesses.
Fast forward to 31st May 2023 and it looks like shoplifting is set to get a whole lot easier, for on this date the State Senate passed a controversial Bill (by a vote of 29 to 8) that would make it illegal for store employees to confront thieves. The Democrat Senator David Cortese of San Jose authored SB553 requires employers to maintain violent incident logs, provide active shooter and shoplifter training and to discard policies requiring workers to confront suspected active shoplifters.
According to Cortese, the Bill is intended to “help employers keep employees safe at work”. The Bill is pending review by State Assembly Committe.
The Hunter Biden Laptop Saga – Don't hold my beer just yet.
Time will tell just how secure the lid is going to stay on this story!
If it does blow up before the 2024 US Presidential Elections, it would very likely smash Joe Biden’s prospects of a second term at the Oval Office.
As the story goes, in early December 2019 a Delaware computer store owner named John Paul (JP) MacIsaac contacted the FBI about a laptop that Hunter Biden had left with him, as he believed that he had found evidence of criminal activity on the laptop. On 9th December 2019, the FBI issues a subpoena for and takes Hunter Biden’s laptop. In August 2020, JP in not having heard back from the FBI, emails Rudy Giuliani who was under FBI surveillance at the time. In early October 2020 Giuliani reportedly forwards the email to The New York Post.
It is claimed that on 13th October 2020, Hunter Biden’s lawyer – George Mesires, emails JP as they had just been informed by The NY Post that it was to publish the story about the laptop the next day.
It is further claimed that later that evening, FBI Special Agent - Elvis Chan sends 10 documents to Yoel Roth (Twitter’s then Head of Site integrity) through Teleporter (a one-way communications channel from the FBI to Twitter).
14th October 2014 – The NY Post runs it’s explosive Hunter Biden story. Within hours, Twitter and other social media outlets censor the NY Post story, preventing it from spreading and undermining its credibility. The FBI through all of 2020 is alleged to have repeatedly primed Roth to dismiss reports of Hunter’s laptop as a “Russian hack and leak” operation.
The rinse and repeat with FB: CEO Mark Zuckerburg is claimed to have stated that the FBI repeated the same insinuations of a “Russian hack and leak” operation to Facebook.
It is a well-established fact now that Hunter Biden received payments from entities in Ukraine and China for purported services in which let’s just say “he had no requisite expertise at”.
It’s a bomb that’s ticking away alright, we just don’t know how long a fuse it is on.

Has the Eagle replaced the Canary in the Mine?

It just might be the case insofar as the economies of Western Europe go, sadly.
It is never smooth sailing when there’s trouble in the engine room.
Europe’s economic powerhouse, Germany is in recession. Destatis, the federal statistical agency has reported that Germany’s economy contracted by 0.5% in the December quarter of 2022 and by 0.3% in the March 2023 quarter.
Higher energy pricing is the beast devouring the economy, driving down output while fanning the flames of inflation which stood at 7.2% at the end of April 2023.
While the German Council of Economic Experts have forecast a 0.2% growth in GDP this fiscal year; Jorg Kramer, Chief Economist at Commerzbank is reported to have said “All important indicators in the manufacturing sector are pointing downwards”.
While governments in “Western democracies” point the finger at pandemic driven disruption, ongoing supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine, there is no denying the fact that huge infusions of cash by governments into their local economies are also to blame in fair measure for the stubborn inflation across the West. In facing an erosion of spending power with both inflation and the higher cost of borrowing, the consumer is forced to cut back on consumption.
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