Jim's Blog

Can the unthinkable happen? Will Putin Back down and Pull out of East Ukraine? : A Well Thought Out Scream by James Riordan

UK6Russian President Vladimir Putin is not known for backing down. However, his continued setback in the Eastern Ukraine may have him considering that very option.  While most of the bickering between the United State and Russia has been centered around the question of whether or not Moscow’s interfered with the last U.S. presidential election through disinformation, propaganda, and other means, the important issue boiling just beneath that conflict is Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine.  Not only does it threaten Ukraine’s survival as an independent, democratic state, but it also raises the question that will the future of an international order be based on rational discussion and unified agreements or raw military power.

Though there have been many discussions and fears that President Donald Trump might ignore the entire Ukraine crisis in favor of building better relations with Putin, the Trump administration now seems to have taken the position that the Ukraine situation must be resolved for relations between the two most powerful nations in the world to improve.

 

For the first time since 2014, the Kremlin may be looking for a way out of the Donbas. While the Crimean annexation has been a winner for Russian President Vladimir Putin in domestic terms, his plans for a second secessionist rump state across southern Ukraine—the “Novorossiya” project—did not play out as intended.

UK3Three years of occupation and low-level conflict in the Donbas have strengthened Ukrainian national identity and resolve, without seriously derailing the reform process or implementation of the EU association agreement.

By now, Putin has figured out that sanctions are not going to be lifted for free and that transatlantic unity is not as easy to break as he expected. Plus, he now needs to reckon with the possibility that the United States will deliver additional defensive weapons to Ukraine, which will make it harder to launch any new offensives without the risk of significant casualties—a sensitive issue for Putin at home.

United States officials have developed a reasonably coherent strategy aimed at achieving a diplomatic solution, and they have appointed a capable diplomat, Kurt Volker, to carry it out.

This strategy will only succeed if the United States remains strong, united with our allies, and uncompromising in our principles. That means refusing to recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and insisting on its return to Ukraine, however long it takes.

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In the case of the occupied areas of the Donbas, it means maintaining and, if necessary, increasing the pressure until Russia agrees to end its occupation and restore Ukrainian sovereignty in full, as called for in the Minsk agreements.

So it seems that the new US strategy is beginning to work, and Putin’s September peacekeeping proposal may indicate that he is considering ways to cut his losses.

He may not make a decision until after Russia’s 2018 presidential election. And even then, it’s not yet clear whether he will opt for full restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty over the Donbas, or whether he might seek to freeze the conflict and create another puppet state like Transnistria.

The challenge is to convince Putin to choose the right path: full Minsk. We should test him at the negotiating table by proposing a robust peacekeeping force that could ensure full restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty, while at the same time showing him that the costs of continued occupation will only rise over time.

The mandate for a peacekeeping force should be clearly defined as implementing Minsk in all its aspects, not just protecting the OSCE monitors as Putin proposed. The force should have free access to all the occupied territories, including the authority to secure the entire international border.

UK4This is a sine qua non so that Russian weapons transfers across the border can no longer take place, and so that the little green men and “volunteers,” once they’ve gone home, cannot come back in. The peacekeeping force should have the authority to enforce the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons, establish law and order, and ensure the safety of the civilian population, including returning refugees and IDPs.

Ideally, it should oversee the installation of an interim UN civilian administration that would restore effective governance, prepare the ground for elections, and facilitate the transition back to Ukrainian sovereignty.

None of this will happen without steps to pressure Putin to negotiate seriously. On sanctions, it is important that the administration avoid further delay in making use of the additional authorities contained in the new sanctions law, in consultation with our European partners.

Just as important, the administration should promptly submit the report required by the legislation on Russian oligarchs close to the Putin regime. While not spelled out in the legislation, this could serve as the basis for additional targeted financial sanctions on the main cronies whom Putin depends on for political support, and who are directly or indirectly complicit in the ongoing aggression against Ukraine.

If the oligarchs who make up Putin’s base see their access to the international financial system and their ability to travel in the West at risk, they could increase the pressure on Putin to make a deal in the Donbas.

The administration should follow through on its repeated statements of support for providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. In the short term, Ukrainian commanders seem most interested in non-lethal equipment like additional counter-battery radars, reconnaissance drones, armored vehicles, and secure communications.

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But if Russia refuses to de-escalate, lethal systems such as anti-tank weapons may be needed as an additional deterrent against new Russian offensives. The actual delivery of these weapons could be conditioned on developments on the ground.

Providing defensive weapons would not represent an escalation. Since major fighting ended two years ago, Russia has provided state-of-the-art equipment in huge numbers to the so-called militias, as well as several thousand Russian regular troops and mercenaries. As the victim of aggression, Ukraine deserves help defending itself.

The aim of providing more arms to Ukraine is not to encourage the government to seek a military victory, which Kyiv knows is impossible. Rather, the purpose is to help Ukraine protect its forces and reduce casualties, to deter the Russians by raising the costs of further aggression, and to increase pressure on Russia to negotiate seriously on implementing Minsk.

 

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Will this be enough to alter Putin’s calculus? There’s no guarantee, but I think it will make a difference. It’s not a coincidence that Putin floated his proposal for peacekeepers just weeks after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talked up the possibility of lethal defensive weapons, and after Congress passed the sanctions bill by an overwhelming margin.

Even if tighter sanctions and increased security assistance don’t change Putin’s calculus on the Donbas, they will make it more difficult for him to destabilize Ukraine. Indeed, in the final analysis, the best leverage against Putin’s ambitions in the Donbas will be the success of Ukraine’s transformation into a prosperous, democratic society.

The Author

James Riordan

James Riordan

Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by Amazon.com. Riordan’s The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco) was called “One of the best how-to books ever written” by the Los Angeles Daily News and “The ultimate career book on the music industry” by Recording, Engineer & Producer. Critics described Riordan’s The Bishop of Rwanda as “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” and The Coming of the Walrus, Riordan’s novel about the 60s as “the definitive book on the era” and “a hilarious tale of a harrowing search for the greatest truth of all”. With the release of A Well Thought Out Scream and Madman in the Gate, Riordan pushed the boundaries again with poetry/song lyric books that contain hundreds of stunning, beautiful and poignant images from artists and photographers from all over the world. In the summer of 2013 a new edition of The Coming of the Walrus was released to rave reviews followed by The Kill Switch. The author of thirty-three books, James Riordan’s career began in the music industry where as a songwriter, manager, producer and concert promoter he worked with several well known artists. In 1976 he began writing a newspaper column, Rock-Pop, which he later syndicated. Riordan soon became one of America’s premier rock journalists with articles reaching millions of readers including those of Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Circus, Musician, and newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and The Kansas City Star. His reputation for relating on a one-to-one level soon led to interviews with George Harri-son, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Mandrell, Crosby, Stills & Nash and countless others. His first book, The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco in 1980) became the largest selling book ever written about the music business. The guide to “succeeding in the music business without selling your soul” was praised by Variety ,The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune, Billboard, Record World and many more. The Platinum Rainbow became an industry-wide phenomenon and interviews with James Riordan were aired on over 1200 radio stations and numerous television talk shows. Next Riordan collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Jason Miller on a mini-series for network television (The Irish) and a movie of the week for CBS (Bless Me Father). In June 1991, William Morrow & Co. published Break On Through to outstanding sales and reviews. Riordan worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s film of Morrison’s life, The Doors, which led to his writing Stone’s biography. Published by Hyperion /Disney in December 1995, Entertainment Weekly called STONE “an unflinching biography... enough spectacle to fill a month of daytime-TV talk shows.” The New York Post said reading the book was like “the sensory overload of watching all of Oliver Stone’s movies back to back.” Riordan was interviewed by Inside Edition, People Magazine, The Tom Snyder Show, and many others. From 1997-2000, Riordan created and co-starred in a local television program, Kankakee Valley Prime Time, which won six Crystal Communicators, three Tellys, and earned Riordan a Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Nomination for Writing the program. In the summer of 1999, James Riordan wrote, directed and starred in Maddance, an hour long dramatic project which won Crystal Communicators for Drama, Writing, Acting and Directing. On April 9, 2000, James’ 16 year old son, Jeremiah, was killed as a passenger in an accident that involved three drunk drivers. Shortly after this, James founded Make it Stick which works to warn teens of the dangers of substance abuse and publishes a magazine distributed to high school students. In 2001, he founded Jeremiah’s – A Place to be Yourself to give teens a place to hang out away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Force to close by its incredible growth rate, Jeremiah’s was recognized as one of the fastest growing and most successful teen centers in the United States. In 2004, Toastmasters International named Riordan Communicator of the Year for Central Illinois, the YMCA gave him their Service to Youth Award and the United Way named him the Outstanding Volunteer of Kankakee County. Returning to writing, Riordan went to Africa to write The Bishop of Rwanda, (with an intro by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren). In November of 2006, Harper Collins released a new edition of Break On Through followed by The Coming of the Walrus (Image Workshop) in December and The Bishop of Rwanda (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) to rave reviews (“Powerful …plumbs the depths of God’s forgiveness and finds no bottom – Publisher’s Weekly). In 2011, he won the Pledge For Life Harold Award for his work with area youth. In the summer of 2012, Lee and Shane Stanley (Gridiron Gang) optioned Maddance as a feature film followed by Apothecary Films optioning The Kill Switch in 2013 and Omni Films optioning Final Service to film in May. Riordan joined the staff of the Mancow Syndicated Television and Radio show in January of 2014 and is now seen and heard across America on a weekly basis. His biography is included in Who’s Who in Entertainment , Who’s Who in Poetry and Contemporary Authors of America. James Riordan – Works Books The Kill Switch, novel with Andrew Dahlmaine, Stonegate Ink, 2013 The Coming of the Walrus, Trade Paperback Editn, Image Workshop 2012 Springboard To Heaven ( Jojo Sayson Adventure), Image Workshop, 2012 The Elijah Collection, novel collection with Bill Myers, Zondervan, 2011 The Well Thought Out Scream (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 Madman in the Gate (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 The Deadly Loyalty Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Ancient Forces Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Enemy Strikes with Bill Myers (Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 Deception with Bill Myers (Book 2 Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 The Bishop of Rwanda (Finding Forgiveness) Thomas Nelson, March 2007 Paperback Edition May, 2012 The Coming of the Walrus (What Really Happened in the '60s) IW, 2006 Break on Through (The Life & Death of Jim Morrison), Morrow, 1991. (New York Times Bestseller, Published in 5 languages, Hardcover, 5 Paperback Editions, Harper Trade Paperback November, 2006) Stone (The Controversies, Excesses & Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker), Disney/Hyperion,1995. (Published in 3 languages, Hardcover, Paperback Edition). Making It in the New Music Business, Writers Digest Books, 1987, (Second Edition, Revised and Updated 1991, Two Hardcover Editions) The Platinum Rainbow (How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul) 250,000 copies with Bob Monaco, Swordsman Press, 1980, Twenty-Three Editions, Revised 1988) 25 Year Anniversary Edition, 2005 Capture the Wind (Microphones) w.Tom Lubin, Literary Mouse Press,1989 Private Biography of Russ Kalvin, founder of Kalvin Corp., 1990 Private Biography of Steve Stefano, founder of Joico Hair Products, 1993. Mystery of the Invisible Knight (Book 2 in the BloodHounds Series) with Bill Myers, Bethany House,1997. Matters of the Heart (The Life & Times of Edgar Cullman), Culbro, 1997. The Curse (Book 7 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1997. The Undead (Book 8 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1996. The Scream (Book 9 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1998 The Ancients (Book 10 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1999. The Cards (Book 11 Forbidden Doors Series) with Bill Myers, Tyndale,2000 Films Final Service, co-written with Gary Moore and based on his book, Omni Productions, to be filmed in May, 2014. Maddance, Writer/Director/Lead Actor, Search Engine Films, Simmcomm, 1999. (Winner of 4 Crystal Communicators including Best Drama, Screenplay, Director, Male Actor – Austin, TX.1999) Performance (The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Screenplay, Lancit Productions 1998. Returned to Author when film division closed)Rewritten2009 Shadowdancers, Story & Screenplay, Story with Bill Myers, 1997 Dr. Babylon, Story 1996. Air Guitar, Story & Screenplay, 1994 The Platinum Rainbow, Story & Screenplay, 1993 Television/Video Kankakee Valley Prime Time, Writer, Director, Producer, 1997-2000. (Nominated for Midwest/Chicago Emmy for Writing, 1998, 3 Telly Awards, 4 Crystal Communicators 1998-2000). Angels Among Us (The Amtrak City of New Orleans Train Disaster, Co- Producer, (Telly Award, 2000). River Valley Sports Authority, Producer, 1999-2003. I Hate The World (Hypnoises Music Video), Writer/Director/Producer, Crystal Communicator for Best Music Video Concept, 1998). The United Way (Video) Crystal Communicator for Best Video for a Charitable Organization, 1998.

If it isn't money and it isn't fame and it isn't sex... then what... God?

— James Riordan, 2000

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