Illia Ponomarenko: Ukraine’s Friend & Foe of the Week

By Illia Ponomarenko.

Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, more than 100 years after the October Revolution he led.

Ukraine’s Friend of the Week: Steven Pifer, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine 

Remember to always think twice, as a popular pop song says. 

More than six years after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin’s euphoria is dead and gone. The sense of imperial arrogance and triumph from making new territorial gains at the expense of Ukraine is overrun by big problems that now remind of the poor decisions made in the past. 

The biggest issue of the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula is now the water supply. Since ancient times, this peninsula had basically been an arid steppe unable to give harbor to large, densely-populated cities. 

Crimea as we know it, the mountainous thriving garden, came into existence only after it became part of Soviet Ukraine in 1954 and after the famous North Crimean Canal was built to ensure constant water flow between the Dnipro River and Crimea.

Before Russia’s occupation in 2014, the canal brought some 85% of drinking water supply to the peninsula.

Now the times have changed — and Ukraine still holds the channel shut off as it has no desire to render any assistance to the power that illegally occupies its territory. 

The longer it goes, the more difficult this problem is for Russia. 

Six years after 2014, it has constructed the Kerch Bridge connecting Crimea with mainland Russia. But it effectively failed to solve the water issue. 

Now, much of the two-million population of Crimea is facing serious problems with drinking water supplies. In the region’s capital city Simferopol, local occupational self-proclaimed authorities introduce severe cuts in everyday water supplies for households. The same troubles are reported from entire districts around Simferopol and Bakhchisaray. 

The year 2020 has become the driest in the region in 150 years.

Occupational authorities are now talking about preparing for the “worst-case scenario” and even declaring the state of emergency due to the critically-low water supply. 

On Sept. 30, Russians even deployed a special aircraft to drive rain clouds toward the Crimean sky — which did not help anyway.

The situation has been so complicated that many observers often talk about a possibility of Russia’s military solution of the problem — the Kremlin might try and launch an all-out offensive in southern Ukraine to take the North Crimean Canal under control up to the Dnipro River.

No one this week has spoken out about this issue better than Steven Pifer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. 

“I can understand Russia’s concern,” Pifer asserted in an interview with Radio Liberty published on Sept. 30. 

“But it should have thought about (the problems with water supplies) before its illegal seizure of Crimea in 2014.”

Pifer also voiced a good point saying that he did not believe Russians would ever resolve on launching an offensive in southern Ukraine — simply because in order to win control over the key water canal, Russian troops would need to get as many as 100 kilometers deep into the Ukrainian territory. 

“And if you’re going to seize this canal and let the water flow, you need to have full control over it, otherwise it can be blocked,” Pifer added.

“This would have to be a rather serious military operation. I believe this would almost certainly lead to a new round of even stronger sanctions by the United States and Europe. Sanctions will help ensure the deterrence effect upon Russians should they try and undertake something like that.”

“Besides, hostilities of such a scale is are a rather difficult task for Russia.” 

Exactly right, Mr. Pifer. 

If only decision-makers in the Kremlin and many other leaders around the globe, were as thoughtful and cautious as you, the world would have been a better place to live. 

And for this, the Kyiv Post easily declares America’s former top diplomat in Kyiv as Ukraine’s Friend of the Week.

There’s always a price behind any crime, and international relations are not spared by this universal principle. Well, now good luck to the Kremlin in dealing with all the mess of its own making.

Ukraine’s Foe of the Week: Emmanuel Macron, the President of France 

It is often the case that as one looks through the news there comes the utter desire to grant some European leaders a little present. 

It could be a small framed photo portrait of Winston Churchill’s smiling face bearing the legendary politician’s famous catchphrase: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

This saying was once thrown in the face of those willing to appease growing military appetites of Adolf Hitler in the eve of World War II. And today, it would look very nice on the walls of cabinets of many European politicians, particularly of President Emmanuel Macron of France. 

On Sept. 28, the French leader during a press conference in Vilnius asserted that “…if we want a stable peace, we need to cooperate with Russia.”

“We can’t behave as if Europe is an island isolated from Russia,” he said adding that Europe and Russia had “common geography and history.” 

Well, a lot can be said in regard to the president’s words.

How many more wars do these European leaders need? How many countries does the Kremlin need to invade and occupy (like Georgia or Ukraine)? How many more assassinations must take place, how many more times chemical warfare agents must be used by Russian secret services in Europe and elsewhere against the Kremlin’s enemies? 

What else must Russia do to prove itself as a foe to the West? How long will it take these leaders to understand that the attempts to cowardly avoid friction via appeasement with Russia is always an invitation to yet another attack?

Leaders like Macron are no fools — they clearly understand that they are playing with fire trying to strike a deal with the devil. But for some reason, they are always confident that the crocodile they feed will always be turning its hungry eyes upon everyone else but them.

This mindset in high corners of Europe has already let the Kremlin commit many crimes, including against our country. 

And as Macron continues enforcing such shortsighted and weak policies towards Russia, the French leader deserves to be bearing the dubious status of Ukraine’s Foe this week.

Hopefully, the Order of Lenin is going to look fine on his suit when he shakes hands with his Russian counterpart next time. 

(c) KyivPost


  1. “What else must Russia do to prove itself as a foe to the West? How long will it take these leaders to understand that the attempts to cowardly avoid friction via appeasement with Russia is always an invitation to yet another attack?”

    We have been saying the same for 6 years, but the jellyfish would sooner spend money on endless meetings, that produce nothing but CO2.

  2. Macron is an abomination. A crapulous weasel from a historically treacherous power with plenty of experience of collaborating with fascists. There are some decent French people; none of them work in politics.

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