The Ukrainian tumult

Russian parliament approves use of force in Crimea

 

 

[Putin’s] going to lose on the international stage, Russia is going to lose, the Russian people are going to lose, and he’s going to lose all of the glow that came out of the Olympics, his $60 billion extravaganza. – US Secretary of State, John Kerry, during an interview in NBC’s “Meet The Press”, in response to Putin-led Russia’s decision to dispatch several thousand troops to the tumultuous Crimea, a pro-Russian autonomous region in Ukraine, now already shaken by internal split between those who support integration with European Union, and those who advocate closer relationship with Moscow.

Read a complete summary of the 2014 Crimean crisis on The Guardian.

 

 

Bonus: here is another longform article, titled ‘Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine‘, about the country’s ongoing political deadlock on The New York Review of Books. Here is the excerpt as follows:

 

The protesters represent every group of Ukrainian citizens: Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers (although most Ukrainians are bilingual), people from the cities and the countryside, people from all regions of the country, members of all political parties, the young and the old, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Every major Christian denomination is represented by believers and most of them by clergy. The Crimean Tatars march in impressive numbers, and Jewish leaders have made a point of supporting the movement. The diversity of the Maidan is impressive: the group that monitors hospitals so that the regime cannot kidnap the wounded is run by young feminists. An important hotline that protesters call when they need help is staffed by LGBT activists.

On January 16, the Ukrainian government, headed by President Yanukovych, tried to put an end to Ukrainian civil society. A series of laws passed hastily and without following normal procedure did away with freedom of speech and assembly, and removed the few remaining checks on executive authority. This was intended to turn Ukraine into a dictatorship and to make all participants in the Maidan, by then probably numbering in the low millions, into criminals. The result was that the protests, until then entirely peaceful, became violent. Yanukovych lost support, even in his political base in the southeast, near the Russian border.

The big shutdown

US Capitol building

 

 

So the recent big news is that the US government has partially ‘ceased’ to operate.

Now we all know the dysfunction going on with the authorities. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has, for umpteenth times, engaged in debates with Democrat-controlled House of Senate, and things show no signs of abating. And it does still involve the same ‘huge’ thing already reiterated in past debates: Obamacare. And thanks to each side’s persistent cantankerousness, nearly 800,000 state employees are now put on unpaid holiday, leaving their fate in the future deeply insecure.

But do we, particularly non-Americans (and I’m an Indonesian, indeed, with as yet so little background about all these falling-outs), actually have even the foggiest ideas about the recent shutdown?

The Guardian has recently released a guideline for non-American readers (especially me) to gain clear insight about this recent occurrence. Be ready for slight confusion.

Here are a bit excerpts you may want to preview:

 

Why couldn’t they agree a deal?

Under the US constitution, the president cannot unilaterally bring in legislation. And despite weeks of talks, Republicans continue to include cuts and delays to Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in the budget legislation they sent up to the Senate.

The House of Representatives is controlled by the Republican Party, whose Tea Party movement remain deeply opposed to Obamacare. They tried to use the budget as leverage to crowbar changes to the Act. The Senate, which is under the control of Obama’s Democrats, has stood firm.

Will the shutdown mean the entire US government grinds to a halt?

No, it’s not an anarchist’s (or libertarian’s?) dream. Essential services, such as social security and Medicare payments, will continue. 
The US military service will keep operating, and Obama signed emergency legislation on Monday night to keep paying staff. But hundreds of thousands of workers at non-essential services, from Pentagon employees to rangers in national parks, will be told to take an unpaid holiday.