By Leonid Savin (nsnbc) : First of all, the situation in Ukraine is not as simple as it is being described by the Western media and Brussels/Washington politicians. The protest was started just before the Vilnius summit of the Eastern Partnership at the end of November 2013. Actually, most of protesters didn’t read the proposed agreement about the association with the EU, but were galvanized by leaders of the oppositional parties (Svoboda, Udar, Batkivschina). The slogan was that Ukraine is part of Europe (yes, of course, there was no doubt about this), but only a few interested individuals knew that such an agreement of association had previously been signed with… Jordan, Morocco, and some other countries.
This document was developed as tool of the EU’s soft power for engagement of the African and Eastern European markets. When President Yanukovich did not sign this agreement, the West initiated a colossal campaign against him: from political and diplomatic pressure to direct support of the Ukrainian opposition. We must take into account that the opposition, both nationalistic and liberal, was supported by the EU and USA years before through grant program.
Klichko’s Udar party was especially supported by Germany (he is also a resident of Germany). Russia has supported the decision of the Ukrainian president and provided a large discount for gas supplies and a loan of $15 billion. This gesture of good will was interpreted by the opposition and Ukrainian right-wing nationalists as the imperial ambitions of Moscow. From this point of view, Yanukovich is a puppet of Russia.
Some Ukrainian oligarchs also started to actually support the opposition because they are not pleased with Yanukovich and have their own funds abroad. Of course, there were long consultations between these oligarchs and Western politicians for how to better increase the pressure against the president, and the protests were intensified. We see that the general frontline of the protests was captured by ultra-radical groups similar to the Black Bloc of the antiglobalist movement a few years ago, but with a different political orientation.
These right-wing groups committed most of the violence during the protests (the destruction of Lenin’s memorial, attacks on police with Molotov cocktails, the ‘occupying’ of governmental building), and the political opposition was an umbrella that brought together these radicals. In reality, neo-Nazi radicals are strongly against the EU and European values and have no any road map for the future of Ukraine. They are funded by an umbrella of opposition groups (300 UAH for a day’s stay on Maidan and 2000 UAH for those who attacked police with Molotov cocktails. 1 $ US = 8 UAH) and both structures (the political opposition and neo-Nazi urban insurgents) choose the victims – it is the president, the Party of Regions, and the police.
After violent attacks near the ministers’ offices, parliament issued new laws pertaining towards addressing responsibility for such acts of protests and violence. But even these measures did not provide a cure for the crisis. On 25 December, three policemen were captured by extremists (one was wounded by a knife) and illegally held in one of the captured buildings in Kiev. The same day, Yanukovich proposed giving the post of prime minister to the leader of the Batkivshina party (Yatsenyuk) and the post of vice-prime-minister to Klischko (they refused).
Despite Western allegations otherwise, there really wasn’t much police violence, and the government does have the legal right to use such power if need be. In two words, we have a conflict between the established legal structures (president, parliament, other governmental structures) and those with self-proclaimed legitimacy (the opposition with mass support), as described by Carl Schmitt. The problem is that the opposition is very active, but the followers of the president, government, and order are passive. When the “Euromaidan” civil activists in Kiev and other regions began their street blockades and use of violence, the majority of Ukrainians did nothing and hoped that the police and the security service would intervene. But a paralyzed police force cannot perform their own standard functions because the opposition describes such measures as “violence against the people”.
The current problem is that the opposition umbrella does not have control over the violent neo-Nazi groups in Kiev and other regions, and some opposition leaders are nervous about their own place in any future political system in Ukraine. Another problem is that the “Euromaidan” activists have raised support from abroad (including from the Ukrainian diaspora) under the idea of “the people fighting against an authoritarian regime”. The masses do not usually understand the complexity behind such situations, and thus, they are profitably manipulated by those who are directing the destabilization.
The Strategic Landscape
The general context of these (and previous) protests may be found in the political system of Ukraine – it is liberal capitalism. For the last ten years, the social sector was destroyed, and Ukraine experienced a rapid rise in unemployment. Many citizens therefore needed to go abroad for work (Russia, Poland, and the European countries) or immigrate. When the “Orange Revolution” started in 2004, there was lots of optimism. The majority believed in changing the status quo and there were many calls of “Yes, we can!”. But this process of reorganization was twisted and stagnant.
The leaders were politically impotent, and corruption increased by leaps and bounds. The governmental system became more rotten than it had ever been before, and this process continued to accelerate. When Yanukovich returned to the presidency, he did not do enough to pursue radical changes to this trend. He cares more about his own “clan”, and this began the conflict between the oligarchs.
As I wrote above, some of them began to support the opposition (whereas they had supported Yanukovich in the past). The feeling of “yes, indeed” penetrated the minds of some oligarchs and they began to play their own game. Yet, they did not understand that another game was already in effect and that they were simply pawns within it!
Yanukovich understood that associating with the EU would be the last major political decision he would make. After the agreement, he would have to release Yulia Timosehnko (the former prime minister) from jail, and there is even a chance that he himself would then be sent to jail! Secondly, EU association would mean the implementation of protective tariffs from Russia. Russian gas would then be sold to Ukraine for the same price as it is to the EU. For example, in 2014 it would be about $370-380 per 1000 cubic meters, but Belarus would only be paying $175!!!
The difference can most certainly be felt, especially when one thinks about the economy’s industrial complex. In the process of building the Customs Union and the Eurasian Union, Russia will be very sensitive about any economic vectors near and around its own space. Ukraine would lose access to the huge Russian (but also Belarusian and Kazakh) market for its own goods, as well as the cheap goods coming out of the Customs Union. But the protesters do not think in geopolitical norms. They only rely on emotions…
European leaders are really confused. The European and US politicians need to stop and think before they continue to act, as they do not fully understand what it is they are doing. In the EU, we see much more police violence during protests than is the norm. When information about right-wing neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine entered into the Western media, there was cognitive dissonance. When Ukrainian Jews were attacked by the same protesters standing in Maidan, there was a strong reaction from the international Jewish community, but the European establishment once more expressed cognitive dissonance.
They wanted a planned and manipulated reality, but real life is different than their constructed images of it. They even wanted to present different images and pictures of what is happening. After two people were killed, new questions emerged: what is happening inside the opposition’s camp, and why can’t the opposition leaders control the radical groups under their own umbrella? I think that the European security services have knowledge and experience in dealing with leaderless resistance movements and insurgent anarchism, but the recognition of this occurring in Ukraine would also lead to the recognition that the Ukrainian government must use force to combat this extremist (even with European assistance)! In actuality, the EU does not have special think tanks or well-educated analysts that focus on Ukraine. Therefore, the European community does not have enough information about what is happening there, what its roots are, and what the possible tree of scenarios could be.
The Goals of the Ukrainian Opposition
The opposition wants to organize new presidential and parliamentary elections because that is the only legal way to change the power system. Because new presidential elections are scheduled for March 2015, this crisis is a serious test for Yanukovich. For the opposition, it is chance to get more publicity, because until now, they were supported only by some regions. And with the promotional aid of the EU and US, such a goal will be easier. On the other hand, they do not have a single leader to rally behind, so we could see an internal battle be waged inside the opposition’s camp in the future.
Ukraine actually has a very clear electoral map where one can see which region votes for the Party of Regions and which support the nationalists’ parties. If confidence in Yanukovich decreases, then he will lose support from the East and South of Ukraine (his classic base of electoral support). Nonetheless, Yanukovich is a legal president and he will not leave office before his term is over – this is certain. His post is guaranteed by the Constitution, and he has already proposed a plan for ending the crisis. The opposition does not have any such constructive ideas, and they speak with the language of ultimatums. This attitude is impossible to use in any normal negotiations, and the EU understands this very well. Therefore, they (the outsiders) cannot propose anything and just have to wait to see what happens.
The Role of the Media
Most of the Ukrainian and European media take an incendiary position. There has been a lot of misinformation spread about the events in Kiev. Some US media outlets have used strategic rhetoric, for example, the Foreign Affairs magazine issued by the Council on Foreign Relations used the word “ceasefire” in an article about the process of ongoing negotiations between the authorities and the opposition.
Such a discourse is symbolic of a war of conscience against the state of Ukraine. Blogs and social networks are also effective in advancing this campaign. If one looks at a map of the “Euromaidan” hashtag, most activity will be seen as coming from three locations – Kiev, Washington, and London! Alternative media can also be of use in finding out more information about various figures of the opposition, for example, Oleg Tyagnibok of the Svoboda Party (formerly the Social-Nationalist Party of Ukraine), statements from his hate speeches (mostly against Jews, Russians, Poles, and communists), his background, and where he gets his money from to fund his current activities.
Ukrainian MPs, the prime minister, and even oppositional leaders (Klichko) already recognized that there have been manipulations and interference from abroad. This means that external influence has already happened. If regime change occurs, this will not mean anything good for Ukrainians. Radicals are radicals under any regime. They will use Molotov cocktails again, but this time, the target of their attacks will be the EU’s occupational regime, the degraded culture of the West, banks, and corporations (under the auspices of honor and Ukrainian independence, of course). This type of bourgeois right-wing nationalist that we currently see on Maidan will be emancipated in the near future.
Some oppositional leaders will get preferential treatment from the West, while a select few will be used as technical actors during the consequent engagement of Ukraine with the West. European institutionalism is a good tool for gradual reforms, but with the rise of Euroscepticism, especially in the neighboring countries of Hungary and Slovakia, this will no longer be as easy as before. The “Palestine-ization” of Ukraine could worryingly occur. There is a serious present crisis affecting the state system, political processes, national identity, geopolitical thinking, and sovereignty. I think that the key decisions that we see in the upcoming days will address each of these topics. Then we will see a test that can gauge the actual sovereignty of Ukraine.
The Geopolitical Scale
In this crisis, the main geopolitical actors are trying to get new experience in order to use it for their own benefits. Russia is following a clumsy strategy of engagement and acts more reactively than proactively. The EU seems to be a timid actor, as the Ukrainian vector had been a fault line in the European strategy for many years. Because of the economic crisis and problems with its own identity within the EU, Ukraine is perceived as a difficult partner.
The homogenization of the Ukrainian space would not go as easily as previously planned, and Ukrainian society is divided in their vision of the future. The US continues to battle against Russia and the Eurasian Union. For this reason, Ukraine is a good place to wage such a campaign. The timing is on the side of the US, because the Olympic Games in Sochi may distract the global public (in a similar fashion as the 2008 Olympic Games in China provided a cover for Saakashvili’s regime to begin military aggression against South Ossetia). In this situation, Ukraine loses its geopolitical maneuverability very quickly. The moderate balance that served as a useful political tool for Ukraine’s external activities during the presidency of Leonid Kuchma no longer works. This is because in a geopolitical sense, Ukraine does not understand the necessity of a strong alliance with Russia and the Eurasian bloc, as without it, the country will be slowly devoured by the EU and manipulated by the US. Separatism could also possibly occur in Ukraine.
The first mirage of this processes emerged in 2004, but now the situation is more complex and there will be more than two separate pieces if this scenario becomes reality. The Zakarpatie region (bordering Hungary and Slovakia) does not want to be in an independent Western Ukraine. The Crimea has some Tatars who generally supported the “Euromaidan” events, so a conflict in the Crimea Autonomous Republic is also possible there, especially when we take into account that many Tatars have already been waging jihad in Syria and now have experience in military insurgency.
Any results of “Euromaidan” will be negative both for the Ukrainian people and regional geopolitics. The society inside of the country is divided, and part of it thinks in the framework of revenge and resentment (both sides of the current conflict). The process of reconciliation will not be fast and easy. The only possible way for a positive political development would be innovation, but the Ukrainian political elites are lazy and do not have enough intellectual skills and experience to devise such innovations, as neither do the opposition. European and US advisors will not bring winning ideas to the Ukrainian opposition. The radical nationalistic sector thinks only about the realization of their own ideas which are similar to xenophobia and Nazism. Because of the activity of these aforementioned elements, there is no possibility to marginalize and “freeze” them.
The oligarchs will also try to use radicals as a frontline to further their own profit. It is very strange that the nationalists cooperate so closely with the cosmopolitan oligarchs and the neoliberals in Ukraine, because the doctrine of Ukrainian nationalism is against oligarchy and globalization. This alliance thus symbolizes nothing besides the hypocrisy that is standard for business interests involved in politics. Therefore, the new state of a hypocritical Ukraine is the most plausible scenario that we will have in the future.