Andrey Golovachev: Why the West Will Lose in Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The most awful nightmare of the West is a repetition in Ukraine of the same processes that earlier happened in Moldova and Georgia. Namely the disappointment of the population of these countries in euro-prospects and, as a result, the transition to a multi-vector policy. Or, if to reject euphemisms, the restoration of economic and political relations with Russia and the recognition of its interests in the post-Soviet space.

This happened in Georgia, where almost by force the US’ protege Saakashvili was ousted from power. This also happened in Moldova, where the pro-Russian Igor Dodon was chosen as President, whose first visit after the election was precisely to Putin. The experience of these two countries shows that the period from the beginning of euro-euphoria up to the final disappointment is on average about 8-10 years.

Why did such transformations happen in Moldova and Georgia, and why will similar processes inevitably take place in Ukraine?

The reason for this lies in the fundamental inability of the West to reform the society of these specified countries according to western values. When the West stages color revolutions in such countries, it undertakes a task that is excessive for itself. All color revolutions take place (or rather, are carried out!) only under anti-Russian slogans, which, of course, lead to a rupture of economic relations with it. As a result, these countries, “winning freedom”, immediately fall into a difficult economic situation, which the West isn’t able to bring them out of into their own markets because the economies of these countries are completely uncompetitive. In order for them to be able to compete with the West it is necessary to invest in these countries hundreds of billion of dollars in technology, training, education, infrastructure, building democratic institutes, and so on over several decades. It is impossible to implement such capacious and long-term programs – only somewhat eccentric Lithuanians put trust in the Marshall Plan for Ukraine. Therefore, after 8-10 years of patience and expectation of the European miracle, people start to become disappointed and gradually return to old, “pre-revolutionary” life.

We will consider how all of this happens using the example of Ukraine. The victory of Euromaidan led to a trade war with Russia and a twofold collapse of GDP when converted into dollars. With the help of IMF credits for 2 years (2014-2016) it was succeeded to stabilize the budget due to a deep devaluation of the hryvnia, an increase in utility tariffs, and cuts to social programs. All of this led to the fact that, according to different estimates, up to 70% of the population found itself below the poverty line. All of this is unpleasant, very difficult, but… it is possible to bear provided that after macro-economic stabilization economic growth due to the inflow of investments begins – both internal and external.

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But investments in Ukraine didn’t arrive. For the first half of 2017 there was almost zero volume of investment, while only a simple reproduction of the infrastructure of Ukraine needs at least $5 billion annually. The West praises Ukraine for the achieved stabilization, for aligning energy costs, for transferring tariffs to market prices, for cleaning up the banking system, but… investments don’t arrive. And for one reason – corruption of power, corporate raids, lawlessness of law enforcement bodies, lack of rule of law, subordination of the courts to executive power, impossibility to protect property rights and to achieve fulfilment of contracts, etc. I.e. the most important thing for the sake of what Maidan was staged is absent – real reforms!

The West perfectly understands that Ukrainian society won’t be able to tolerate poverty and deprivations for a long time without clear prospects, that it is necessary to provide by all means an inflow of investments, otherwise a kickback in moods will start, and the coming to power of pro-Russian forces. I.e., the Moldavian-Georgian scenario will start being implemented, but so far the West is powerless to change the situation.

Europe and the US looked through its fingers at how Poroshenko put power in his pocket, how he changed Yatsenyuk for his Groisman, how he concentrated more and more functions in the Presidential Administration, in the hope that the President will exercise this power for the carrying out of resolute reforms and the fight against corruption. However, these hopes were naive.

Somewhere in the middle of 2016 the West began to understand that it isn’t able in any way to convince and force Poroshenko to start the systematical and deep reform of law-enforcement and judicial systems. After this the President’s relations with the West entered into a phase of prompt cooling. At the end of 2016 the IMF suspended crediting, first of all because of the categorical unwillingness of the President to create an anti-corruption court, the blocking of the work of NABU, and the politicization of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the SBU. Besides this, the IMF obviously tried to directly control the activity of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and the Ministry of Finance. In response Poroshenko didn’t appoint a new chairman of the NBU, and Danilyuk was reeled in using a criminal case so that he can’t forget who is the master here. It is remarkable that as the IMF suspended crediting, Danilyuk was forced instead to distribute 3 billion eurobonds among investor-scavengers and necrophages, which was successfully realized at a not-so-bad rate of 7.375%. Poroshenko made it known to the IMF that he is ready to live further without its crediting if pressure put on him regarding the creation of an anti-corruption court continues.

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The situation began to heat up. The West unambiguously took Saakashvili’s side in his conflict with Poroshenko, which softly hinted that, if needed, the West is ready to use “their guy” to sweep away the President. Mustafa Nayyem and Sergey Leshchenko were urgently mobilized for the organization of meetings in support of anti-corruption court.

A week ago the first Deputy managing director of the IMF David Lipton arrived in Ukraine, who clearly made it known that without the creation of an anti-corruption court, crediting won’t be resumed, which, in fact, will mean a rupture of relations with the IMF. The European Union, except for the Baltic dwarfs, also took a principled stand vis-a-vis Poroshenko.

The fight of the West against Poroshenko reaches its apogee, and on the agenda there are two questions:

1. Will the West be able to force the President to start carrying out systematical anti-corruption reforms?

2. If not, then what?

It is possible to immediately answer the first question negatively. The problem is not so much in Poroshenko’s unwillingness to fight against corruption, but in the fact that he simply has no forces and possibilities to go against his own class [oligarch – ed]. He has nobody to lean on: law enforcement bodies won’t support him, there is no majority in the Verkhovna Rada, and society as a whole is dissatisfied with the President and in general is absolutely politically indifferent. The President can’t even lean on the wide class of small and medium business, which in 26 years didn’t even find the time to create a party or to somehow unite to defend their interests and to oppose oligarchs. That’s why even if to simply imagine for one minute that Poroshenko went crazy and blazed with desire to eradicate corruption, his efforts will have sad consequences for him.

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And if it is like that, then the West has no other option except to prepare for Poroshenko’s replacement. This will not give anything from the point of view of carrying out reforms, but the West simply has no other option. It is precisely this prospect, which the President, seemingly categorically doesn’t agree with, that defines the logic of all his actions. The defensive reaction of the President concerning the attempts of the West to sweep him away will include:

  • repressions against potential candidates for President;

  • consolidation of clans in the Verkhovna Rada around himself through the opening of criminal cases. The last striking example is the criminal case against Levochkin;

  • a union with the organized criminal group “People’s Front”;

  • the activization of military operations in the anti-terrorist operation zone;

  • the kindling of nationalist hysteria;

  • rapprochement with hawks from the Pentagon, etc.

How all of this can end is difficult to say, but it’s clear that it’s nothing good for the country.

Another thing is interesting. How quickly, in difference from Moldova or Georgia, the West choked from their own attempts to reform Ukraine and came to almost open opposition with its political power. The West appeared to be powerless to reform the small (2.5-3 million) societies of Moldova and Georgia, and 45-million [population – ed] Ukraine is simply beyond the power of officials from Washington or Brussels.

The main problem is that Ukrainian society still hasn’t politically ripened for the need for reforms; it is passive, engaged in simple self-survival, and blames the same IMF for high tariffs. While without the help of societies, without its pressure on the authorities, the West isn’t able to cope with the corrupted elite. What the West is engaged in are ridiculous and naive attempts to force the present corrupted elite to fight against their own corruption. Poroshenko’s replacement – for example, Tymoshenko or somebody else, can’t change anything in the prevailing social system of relations. This demands many decades of natural evolution, and not paid maidans.

The West eventually will inevitably lose in Ukraine as it lost in Georgia, and in Moldova. It already almost lost and already frankly doesn’t know that to do with Ukraine, it’s at an impasse. But most of all, of course, Ukraine itself will lose.

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