Rostislav Ishchenko: Why Poroshenko Will Escalate the Situation in Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


When Petro Poroshenko unexpectedly became the president of Ukraine, he had two paths.

The path to the right assumed leaning on the Russophobic nazis inside the country and pursing an anti-Russian policy in the international arena. The path to the left dictated a compromise with the Southeast, even at the price of the informal independence of Donbass and an attempt to improve relations with Russia in the new post-Maidan conditions.

The second path corresponded with the state interests of Ukraine (it at least gave it the chance to preserve itself as a state), but was immeasurably more difficult. In addition, it didn’t give anything to Poroshenko personally, or at least nothing that Poroshenko considered to be of importance. If he went along this path and won, he would merit the glory of an outstanding statesman who saved a country that was on the edge of the abyss. If he went along it and lost, then he would be remembered as the person who tried to stop the “flood”, but was broken by circumstances of insuperable force.

All of this wasn’t interesting to Poroshenko. He was only interested in the opportunity to sharply increase his fortune (which was already not exactly small). In principle, all the actions of Poroshenko (like, by the way, the vast majority of his accomplices on Maidan – those who are both known to all and not known to anyone) testify to a certain defectiveness. All of them rush towards being in power at any cost (but not all of them succeed), and aspire to use power for impetuous personal enrichment, trying to surpass the most ancient aristocratic families and the richest financial dynasties of the West in terms of volume of assets, size of palaces, and plebeian tasteless luxury.

They behave like people who in their childhood and youth were despised by their classmates, unloved by their parents, who considered that those above them underestimate their talents, and now they try to prove how this world was mistaken about them. They do it as they are able to do it, in accordance with how they understand the concept of success – they try to become the richest, because in their understanding everything can be bought with money: power, the respect of people around them, intellect, and even beauty and youth.

They aren’t alone in their delusions. Such people exist in all countries. It is precisely they who invent legends about secret world governments consisting of owners of all terrestrial capitals who are known to nobody, and for who acting billionaires, kings, and presidents are just clerks.

And there are many like this in Russia too – both in the environment of “liberal” and “patriotic” (including the “left”) opposition. They fight against their own State, connecting their personal success to its defeat and destruction. But it is only in Ukraine that they could carry out for 25 years such intensive and effective negative selection of the elite that it, as a result, entirely consists of semi-competent, but terribly ambitious morally corrupt people who are ready for the sake of their primacy to kill everyone who is cleverer, more honest, more beautiful, and more successful than them – at least in something. And Poroshenko is the first among them.

And it is precisely for this reason that he chose the first path — the path to the right, to war and murders, and to the destruction of statehood and the liquidation of the means of livelihood of 43 million (at the time of him coming to power, already without Crimea) people. This was the path of least resistance and smallest risk (initially). In the political plan there was just a need to go downstream, without interfering in the civil war and supporting the EU and the US’ attack on Russia. In the personal plane unlimited opportunities appeared for the repartition of already divided-up property in his own favor and for the re-pumping of money from the State budget into his own pocket.

The dream of the idiot came true?

You might ask: why “idiot”, if he so skilfully solved his problems? Even if his purposes were immoral, he achieved them nevertheless. Answer: because it was clear from the beginning that his success is temporary. Refusing to control events, he became dependent on probability, and it was clear that such probability wasn’t on his side.

It was possible to not manage to work out that the policy of the EU and the US in relation to Russia will inevitably change if Moscow doesn’t break within two-three years. The strategy of suppressing Russia adopted by Obama-Clinton’s team was a strategy of a geopolitical blitzkrieg. The systemic crisis undermining the foundations of American might was already in full swing and the West couldn’t play the long game. It was possible to underestimate just how durable and consolidated Russia was. Eventually, even politicians and analysts in the US (including their “great” intelligence community and even more “outstanding” private analytical structures) considered that “Putin bluffs”.

However, it’s impossible to not understand that having destroyed the foundations of the life of your people, and at the same time barefacedly profiting on the death of the State, you become so toxic that the consensus of the same unsatisfied “bad boys” (which you once were too, when you dreamed to one day become president) will be quickly created inside the country, and external partners won’t put their neck on the line for the sake of a naive foreigner who unsuccessfully tried to attach himself to their bourgeois world. It doesn’t matter for them what the local leader is called and what title he has.

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As Igor Kolomoisky – offended by Poroshenko in his deepest affections – likes to say: “It is necessary to steal from the profits of others”. Earlier bandits were simpler and formulated it more specifically: “It is necessary to be able to divide it up with others” — if not with the people, then at least with the ruling oligarchy. At least someone, at least some social class, at least some social group has to support you, realising that any governance, except yours, will be a catastrophe for them.

Poroshenko not only didn’t understand this, he also didn’t guess it and didn’t reflect on it. He was sure that if indeed he manages to break through into the presidency, then afterwards everything will be wonderful: the West will support him simply out of immemorial Russophobia, and he will multiply the internal opposition by zero, leaning on the West’s resources, including on its political support. Owing to his egocentrism, Poroshenko couldn’t even imagine that the West can turn away from him and support some other Ukrainian politician. After all, Poroshenko is so compliant, so yielding, so flattering and tender, and so quick to grab instructions. And the fact that he steals… oh well, others will steal too.

Poroshenko especially couldn’t believe that the West can turn away from Ukraine in general. But he can’t be criticised for this, since all the Ukrainian elite weren’t able to believe this for a long period of time either. Even now, Ukraine explains the change of the West’s attitude towards it by saying that “Putin bought everyone off”. Moreover, this still isn’t believed by everyone in Russia too (and not only among “leading experts on social networks concerning all matters”, but also among quite sensible people having a specified education and working experience).

Once again, I will repeat: the fact that objective circumstances developed against Poroshenko isn’t his fault — it happens to everyone. His fault and even trouble is that, having chosen the path of least resistance, he refused to control the circumstances, leaving himself to the mercy of probability. But probability has been kind to Poroshenko for a long time already; it allowed him to collect billions and to become president. A reasonable person would be cautious, they would think that the path from the very top only descends, but Poroshenko was betrayed by an illness characteristic of the Ukrainian elite — accuse intellectual insufficiency.

If he, like Tatiyana Chornovol, was suffering from a documented mental disorder, then there would be no problems. Incapacitated persons have judicial immunity, but how he got this job — let Nuland answer, since it was she who recommended him for the job. But stupidity isn’t a circumstance that absolves guilt in any Criminal Code. That’s why long before the expiration of his presidential powers, already by the middle of 2016, Poroshenko didn’t doubt that a loss of power for him would inevitably lead to the loss of property, capital, freedom, and, very possibly, his life. He is too hated by the people (including by the ruling oligarchy) and the subsequent government needs a whipping boy too much.

However, Poroshenko also made a big blunder concerning the question of preserving his power. While he still had the opportunity to organise the forceful suppression of his opponents (in the format of an informal coup), he was afraid of the West’s reaction to such arbitrariness and hoped that the West will forbid harming him anyway. But, at the time when the West made it clear that they don’t really care, Poroshenko’s opportunities to use force were very limited, and perhaps even more limited than he realises.

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That’s why today Poroshenko places a stake on both disrupting the elections and winning them. This can seem like nonsense. What can someone who is hated literally by the entire country and whose team has already started to abandon them hope for? But it is necessary to understand that we are dealing with a Ukrainian politician, and Ukrainian politicians believe in any nonsense. After all, Yanukovych believed that if he doesn’t disperse the Maidan that the West organised in order to kill him, then the West will understand that he isn’t a bad guy at all and that he himself will be able to give the order to disperse Maidan later.

Well, and if someone is going to cancel/win elections, then they must have the corresponding strategy. And here it is necessary to pay tribute to Poroshenko. I think that the reason he made a choice that is logical in his situation is not because he has a great mind, but rather because he has a limited outlook that doesn’t allow him to find non-standard moves. A choice in favour of consistency. He again moved along the path to the right.

Poroshenko started playing a game called “one doesn’t swap horses while crossing the stream”. I.e., the country is in crisis, it is at war, the Motherland is in danger, and only Putin’s mercenaries can oppose the president in such a situation.

But people in Ukraine have already gotten used to there being a slow conflict in the Southeast of the country, and the sharpness of their feelings in relation to Crimea’s “change of nationality” became more blunt. In addition, people found out that it is possible to go to Crimea on holiday like before, it’s just that it became more comfortable and there is more order. Most Ukrainians are ready to renounce Crimea and Donbass so that the dollar, utilities, and salaries become “like they were under Yanukovych”. Therefore, people in Ukraine must feel a danger right where they live, directly under their house windows.

For the sake of this Poroshenko is ready to commit serious and bloody provocations, which would give him a formal reason to appeal to the patriotic feelings of the population, accusing his competitors of surrendering State interests. And if this doesn’t help, then it is always possible to remember that elections can’t be held in the conditions of a civil conflict. At first it is necessary to calm passions, and for this purpose – to introduce martial law and to punish those who are guilty of inciting the conflict, which purely incidentally will be most influential competitors.

Poroshenko didn’t lose hope of receiving autocephaly – unclear for who – from the hands of the Constantinople patriarchate. It will immediately explode the religious situation in the country, since it was already declared that immediately after obtaining autocephaly the schismatics who would thus be legalised will start expropriating not just certain temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, but all its monasteries – including lavras, temples, parishes, and communities. As there is no guarantee that Fener will risk attracting the anger of Moscow in the present conditions, Poroshenko prepares a spare option — declaring the creation of the Ukrainian local church via a State act (with the same consequences).

At the same time, during the last week alone, in the military sphere, the order was given to the Ukrainian Naval Forces to ensure free passage of Ukrainian vessels through the Kerch Strait, and also about the withdrawal of all voluntary formations from the zone of the Operation of United Forces (the former ATO). If to mean a provocation in the controlled military collision in the Southeast, then these are indeed those measures that are necessary for its preparation.

It is clear that Russia won’t start sending destroyers to chase away and sink Ukrainian rubber boats. At the same time, an armed escort of vessels by motorboats and lifeboats from the Ukrainian Naval Forces will put every attempt by the Russian Coast Guard to carry out an examination on the cusp of an armed conflict. Full-scale wars don’t start because two motorboats opened fired at each other. Keeping half the Black Sea fleet in the Azov water region at full military readiness in order to put pressure on the psyche of Ukrainian sailors is unprofitable and senseless if it doesn’t sink everything that leaves Ukrainian territorial waters under a naval flag. And if it does sink them, then it means war.

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Thus, tension and conflict conditions in the Azov water region must increase, but in such a way that the red line isn’t crossed. And if a couple of Ukrainian naval rubber vessels will indeed be sunk together along with their crew due to imprudence, then it will be only beneficial for Poroshenko — it will confirm the “danger level”.

The same concerns Donbass too. Voluntary battalions are miscontrolled, they don’t always implement the orders of the command and are inclined to doing what they want. They were tolerated at the contact line because their tendency to spontaneously shell the positions of the DPR/LPR and to carry out periodic local attacks completely correlated with the military-political strategy of Kiev. But if a large-scale provocation is being prepared, which must have an effect on the population like an exploding bomb, but not lead to a conflict with Russia or at least a full offensive of corps deep into Ukrainian territory, then undisciplined volunteers will be an essential hindrance. Central command, in order to avoid unforeseen consequences, must control everything reliably – up to the last soldier.

Well, and finally, Poroshenko, along with his Ministry of Foreign Affairs, started working on disrupting the tripartite negotiations (Ukraine-Russia-EU) on the gas issue (preserving transit through Ukraine, which Kiev itself tried to obtain).

As we see, provocations are being expanded to domestic, international, and military policies — in all spheres available to Poroshenko. Thus, should he succeed, he hopes to then receive support from Trump’s opponents in the US and in the EU. The sharp aggravation of the military-political situation concerning Ukraine will give them an argument in favour of refusing to continue dialogue between the presidents of Russia and the US. It is doubtful that Trump will be able to overcome the pressure that would be put on him. And this means that the situation that is so frightening for the EU and outrages American hawks will return to how it was before July 16th, 2018, and Poroshenko will be one of the main persons involved in such a U-turn — the guarantor of Kiev pursuing the correct policy.

Having once gone on the path to the right, Poroshenko isn’t able to stop any more. He will look for the support of less and less adequate people and more and more anti-Russian and aggressive forces, raising the stakes like a gambler seeking to recoup what they lost. This compels his opponents to look for an alternative, more moderate position. But at this stage they have so far been unsuccessful. At a minimum, Avakov – who hinted about the need to reach an agreement with Donbass on the basis of a compromise – was immediately obstructed, because during the post-coup period, any thought about the possibility of a compromise was too actively excised from politics.

So it is unlikely that Poroshenko’s opponents will be able to play a peacekeeping role. Most likely, this would bring them success during elections, but they won’t be allowed to come to elections with such a position — they will be accused of treason and jailed. That’s why the only way they can outplay Poroshenko is if they raise the stakes even higher, causing conflict situations to spiral out of control, when it will be possible to accuse Poroshenko of being unable to resist challenges.

All of this doesn’t inspire much optimism concerning the near future of Ukraine, although it is necessary to say that Avakov’s attempt to reduce the potential of conflict testifies that, at a minimum, a part of the Ukrainian political circle isn’t ready to further bank on an escalation and would like to exit internal and external conflicts.

The only question is: how big is this part, and how ready is it to overcome the physical resistance of the Nazis raised, fed, and armed by them, and who don’t want any peace? Judging by the fact that all of them, like Poroshenko, over the last four years have assuredly moved along the path to the right, the probability of there being consistent systemic resistance to the policy of provocations is extremely low.

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