Tuesday, 03 October 2017 07:33

New Geopolitics: The Ukrainian Factor. Part 2

Petro Kopka. COSA head of research programs

Quo Vadis, Ukraine?

Given the current state of affairs in Ukraine, this famous phrase sounds less like a rhetorical question and more like an ominous prophesy with each passing day.

It is primarily the fault of the Ukrainian authorities and politicians at large that until recently, Ukraine had been viewed by its neighbours as a country under Russian influence and to some extent, Russia’s responsibility.

Due to internal issues in addition to a feeble and directionless foreign policy, up until the Vilnius summit in the autumn of 2013 where Ukraine was supposed to sign the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, both the West and Russia had reached a certain consensus on which path of development Ukraine would choose next.

Therefore, when the then-president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the Association Agreement, no one in Europe, least of all Germany, was particularly surprised.

Considerable amount of time may pass before all the details surrounding the events in Ukraine in 2013-2014 will come to light, that is, if they will ever be known. Nevertheless, certain suppositions might be made even based on indirect evidence.

For instance, it is a safe assumption to say that, given Ukraine’s catastrophic loss of agency in international affairs, Russia could not help but use this opportunity to convince, say, Berlin that both sides would be more comfortable and safe if Moscow preserved its total control over Ukraine. It does not come across as too fantastic an idea if we recall that the Ukrainian political elite under Yanukovych was not characterised by high quality.

The West, especially the leading European nations preoccupied with integration issues, considered it more advantageous to “dump” Ukraine so it would not be a nuisance than carry on a dialogue with authorities, who were not seriously planning to engage in European affairs or practice European values, but used the EU Association procedure as a bargaining chip in their dealings with Russia.

The United States under Barak Obama viewed Ukraine as a solid mass of corruption worthy of attention only as far as necessary to prevent the infection from spreading beyond its borders.

The Kremlin had been working on both the Western countries and high-ranking politicians in Ukraine for a long time, and this was the result. The practice of using natural gas as a means of political pressure and blackmail was first employed against Ukraine, while profits from gas sales returned to Ukraine as multimillion bribes used to corrupt local politicians and officials as well as to create what is commonly known as the fifth column.

While up until 2010 Russia’s influence over Ukraine could have been described as a special operation, after “Yanukovych and co” came to power, the country started slowly devolving into a real Russian protectorate where key positions were occupied not by Russia sympathisers but by Russian nationals, all under the passive eye of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration.

Adding to the bleakness of this picture was the unchallenged dominance of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in religion-related matters and omnipresence of the Russian content in the Ukrainian media.

Such was the situation in Ukraine and its neighbourhood in the late 2013. Ukraine’s treasury was empty, which is why the 15 billion dollar credit offered by Moscow as an incentive to reject the EU Association was extremely opportune. Ukraine was becoming more and more financially dependent on Russia, but it had no choice as without this money, the next year’s state budget would have been unfilled.

Ukraine’s political system was in shambles. Political corruption was at an all-time high. Votes were routinely purchased in Parliament. Small and medium-sized enterprises were mostly ruined. The Party of Regions, from the highest-ranking official to the lowest, were busy taking over other people’s businesses.

Internationally, Ukraine was virtually ostracised. As most nations of the world were leery of the Ukrainian kleptocratic government, Ukraine’s well-trodden diplomatic path led to Moscow, where the Kremlin’s political “spiders” used Ukrainian mankurts to further entangle Ukraine in a web and turn it into a half-finished product to be consumed in due time.

Experts knew these developments had gone too far and a change could be brought about only by tearing down the existing system and replacing it with a new one.  At the same time, as several leading Ukrainian politicians stressed, evolution was out of the question. The situation had grown so bad that only radical methods of resistance could change Ukraine’s future course.

Euromaidan was just such a method of resistance, but we shall not dwell on it here, as this Ukrainian phenomenon was extensively described in our research in 2015-2016. We shall only add that, as more than three years following Euromaidan have shown, the Ukrainian Revolution became a bifurcation point after which it is impossible to return to the past.

Background information. A system is in a bifurcation state when instead of a linear path of development where growth trajectories are limited and predetermined there is a virtually unlimited number of ways the system can develop further. It all depends on the objectives of the new system and the internal state of its predecessor.

No system regardless of its initial state can simultaneously transform both its internal structure and the manner of its interactions with the environment. Systems usually lack resources and energy for such large-scale metamorphoses, while a country, being a social system, lacks human resources as well.

Moreover, according to the synergetic laws of rhythm, a sudden and drastic change from one state to another could ruin a system.

Therefore, it will take some time before a system shaken by changes reaches homeostasis, i.e. an ability to self-regulate dynamically. Until then, the system will remain in an unstable state with numerous deviation from its main trajectory of development.

Meanwhile, the system’s internal structure will be especially vulnerable to external influence, as we currently see in Ukraine. This is due to the fact that the new system, which has replaced its dying predecessor, has not yet formed a general attractor and this is what makes it unstable.

Having passed its point of no return in the late 2013 to early 2014, Ukraine has only just started on a difficult path that leads out of the old and long-established “Russia-centric” system. Although the way Ukraine walks this path may look ambiguous, the world has come to believe that this time, the country is really changing is trajectory and showing true resolve to join the global democratic system. To a great extent, this became possible thanks to the policy towards Ukraine Putin’s Russia has been pursuing.

Nevertheless, complete integration into the global system requires drastic internal changes, including the removal of all the fringe politicians carried over by the new-old Ukrainian political elite from the pre-Euromaidan times, as these politicians look like complete anachronisms able to infect the system being painstakingly built by the Ukrainian society who had to sacrifice so much (including human lives).

These politicians also repulse major foreign investors, which hampers Ukraine’s progress in the economic, political, and social areas.

To be continued...

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