Rostislav Ishchenko: Polish-Ukrainian War

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Once in a distant childhood, approximately in 1995, when I was still working in Kuchma’s administration, I formulated for myself, and then repeatedly sounded two axioms allowing to completely precisely predict without problems any of the moves of Ukrainian politicians.

The first: if you want to know how Ukrainian politicians will behave in a concrete situation, then imagine the worst possible option, and you can be sure that they will surely find a worser one.

The second: the more radical the Ukrainian nationalist is, the more opportunities they have to convert their views into real politics and the more consecutively they do this, the more surely and quicker they destroy Ukrainian statehood.

Events confirmed the absolute accuracy of these axioms in two spheres.

In the sphere of the economy, the consecutive embodiment of the slogan dissociate yourself from Russia” led Ukraine not simply to deindustrialization, as many think. In reality Ukrainian agriculture is already half destroyed (and will be destroyed completely). Ukraine already for fifteen years has imported potatoes from Egypt, Poland, and Belarus (these are only the main suppliers) and lard from Poland and Belarus. The considerable part of dairy products is imported, Ukraine never provided itself with fish. Exotic fruit is delivered both to Russia and to Britain, but Ukraine managed to become dependent on even importing such crops as tomatoes and cucumbers, which earlier it exported to the other republics of the USSR. It independently provided itself with only cabbage in 2013 (today, I don’t even know). Only the situation with the production of cheeses and chicken meat was more or less normal, and there was also enough bread in the country.

The main agricultural powers were reoriented to producing several export crops, specifically: wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds. Some of the seeds were processed locally, and sunflower oil went for export. The other agricultural export was scanty. The most important thing is that the import of concrete crops exceeded their export.

The market of rapeseed (mainly European) was buckling even before the coup [Maidan – ed]. So far everything is seemingly normal with sunflower seeds and oil. Sometimes even a small growth is noted. But Ukraine loses foreign markets of seeds in favor of Russia, because after the coup it managed (fighting against Russian transit and trying to redistribute spheres of influence in the transport sector) to kill infrastructure so much so that crop already reaped under signed contracts couldn’t be exported. Banally, it is impossible to deliver it to ports because of the collapse of infrastructure.

All of this is the result of the severance of cooperative ties with Russia, under the slogan: “Europe waits for us, everything is free there!” For sure, Europe is waiting… for free, by European standards, labor.

It is impossible to say that Ukrainian politicians, “experts”, “activists”, and “patriots” without a useful profession weren’t warned about the consequences of their economic policy. But after all, it wasn’t necessary to receive a warning – it was obvious, but not for them.

In the sphere of culture and inter-ethnic relations nationalists were also warned that the thoughtless radical nationalisation of everything that moves will lead to a civil war. Originally, the idea of Ukrainian statehood didn’t cause rejection in 90% of the population. A handful of people warned that if the building of a State starts under Petliura’s banner, then the logical conclusion of this will be the arrival of Banderism, which Petliuraism indeed degenerated into in the second half of the 1920’s-1930’s. If to start with the “harmless” declaration of Ukrainian language as “the sole State one” in a completely Russian-speaking country, then the result will be a ban on the Russian language.

The silly people at large didn’t understand this and hoped for the best. The people never understand anything and always hope for the best. But nationalists, wishing to build a powerful Ukrainian State that would make Europe and the world envious had to take into account a simple thing. For the just-created State, for its consolidation, for its development, and in order for the legitimacy of its existence to take root in the brains of its own population and the surrounding countries, there is a need for 30-50 years of internal stability and economic efficiency. During this time 1-2 generations that didn’t know another kind of statehood will have the time to be born, grow up, and enter active life. In 30 years they will make up the greater part of the working people, and in 50 years – the greater part of the population in principle.

During this time a huge number of people will learn the Ukrainian language anyway. It was also taught everywhere in Soviet schools on an equal basis with the Russian language. Moreover, even a Russian-Ukrainian will start to significantly differ from a Russian-Russian due to natural autonomous development. Quietly, without problems and excesses, by 2021-2041 it’s possible to receive a rather consolidated Ukrainian political nation – identifying itself as not Russian, even if it came from the same root as Russians, and a Ukrainian State – formally friendly towards Russia – but actively competing with it in the sphere of the economy (for sales markets) and for (inevitably following from economic competition) political influence in Belarus, Moldova, and in the Caucasus – therefore for military-political domination in the waters of the Black Sea.

With the preservation of a “Ukraine – strong and friendly towards Russia”, to which, by the way, Moscow aspired – such a result was inevitable, owing to the natural development of two State formations.

This is absolutely what Ukrainian nationalists now aspire to. In addition, such a result would also be financed by Moscow, which invested and was going to continue to invest tens of billions of dollars in the Ukrainian economy. Moreover, if nationalists didn’t destabilise the situation in Ukraine, “Gazprom” wouldn’t give a hint at the desire to invest tens of billions of dollars in the construction of circumventing “streams”, and Europe wouldn’t support this idea either. I will remind that at the end of 2004, negotiations on the creation of a tripartite (Russia-Ukraine-EU) consortium on control of the Ukrainian gas transit system were almost completed. The implementation of this agreement assumed precisely the investment of these same tens of billions (6-10, only at the first stage) of dollars for the modernisation and expansion of the transit potential of this same Ukrainian gas transit system.

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The idea of a consortium was buried by Yushchenko, under shouting about the unique property of the nation – the gas transport system, the handing over to Russia of which was allegedly desired. But Yushchenko – who, with his eccentricity, gifted to “Gazprom” some tens of billions of dollars because he disrupted the gas contract (gas for $50) and with the help of permanent gas wars with Russia, and who convinced Europe of the need to stop unilateral dependence on the Ukrainian gas transit system – looks like a moderate politician and weighed economist in comparison with the current “leaders” of Ukraine.

I will remind that Ukraine should pass the point of return (with the formation of the separate Ukrainian nation and a quite competitive State) between 2021 and 2041. Now it is 2018. There is civil war in the country – which can expand, there is progressive depopulation, financial and economic collapse, and the absolute inability of the central authorities to control not only the country but also themselves.

This is the result of the implementation of the political concepts of Ukrainian nationalists. Of course, the tendency of the Ukrainian oligarchy to commit theft – unrestrained at minimum, senseless at maximum – played a role. But it’s not theft alone that destroyed the country, but the fact that for the sake of ensuring the freedom to thieve, power was consciously delegated to more and more radical and less and less adequate nationalists who saw their task as the full dismantling of State political and economic structures and also the atomisation of society. Because of dense ignorance they considered political-administrative and economic functionality to be inherent in any State, and also public relations as “heritage of the damned Soviet Union” that should be destroyed so that on its ashes beautiful Ukrainism with a cherry garden near a house and bees that buzz above the cherries all grow by itself together with Europeans, who will finance all of this pastoral, without forgetting to build water closets and hyperloop for the natives.

Now, when all the cultural, internal political, and economic heights of developed nationalism were already reached, and the peasant paradise in which Galushki jumps into one’s mouth still hasn’t arrived, brainwashed Ukrainians were possessed by a new super-idea. The Ukrainian paradise on earth isn’t simply achievable – it is already almost reached. But as has been the case since prehistoric times, when ancestors of future primacies still hunted trilobite in the Cambrian seas, everything was spoiled by Russia [sarcasm – ed]. If only Russia didn’t exist… More precisely: when it won’t exist anymore, it is then that Ukraine will start to live happily and to the utmost.

It’s not that this idea is new, but earlier there was nevertheless a discussion among the nationalist masses: is there a need to completely annihilate Russia (with all its population, and at the same time with foreign Russians) or nevertheless is it enough to divide it into 20-100 dwarfish States, establishing in each of which a new Ukrainian order (of course with the help of NATO’s bayonets – after all, Ukrainians are not fools to carry the load all by themselves when it’s possible to lie under cherry trees and to lazily govern on behalf of Americans any Germans, French, and some other Swedes ensuring the supervision of Russians). Today every self-respecting Ukrainian nationalist knows that Russia is the chthonic evil [sarcasm – ed]. It’s impossible to correct or reformat it, or to even use it for hard labor. Only its full destruction will finally open in front of Ukrainians the gates of the lost paradise.

I think that the only thing that Ukrainian “patriots” were lucky with is that their dream has practically no chances of being realised. More precisely, it has chances, but only in such a form that definitely doesn’t assume the preservation of Ukraine, as well as the rest of the world, because why would we want a world without Russia?”. However strange it may seem – even now, when the Ukrainian authorities declare that Russia attacked, and Ukraine courageously fights against it, protecting Europe from Russian gas – the remains of Ukrainian statehood exist only thanks to Russia. If there was no Russia or if it wasn’t able to play an active role in world politics, then the border of Poland would’ve passed along Rostov and Bryansk long ago.

Unlike Ukraine, Poland really possesses one of the strongest armies in Europe. At present it is stronger than the Bundeswehr and concedes (apart from the Russian one, which all of Europe taken together is not able to compete with) only to the Turkish, English, and French (the latter two because they possess nuclear weapons) ones. For example, the Germans can quickly correct the situation. Before 1936 the German army was also much weaker than the Polish one, and in 1939 two and a half weeks were enough for the Germans to stop the Polish State from existing, and the command of the Armed Forces and the government fled the country. Whereas Ukrainians on the battlefield will never have anything to counterpose the Poles. At least because they don’t have the industrial production necessary for the creation and provision of a modern army. Moreover, it is enough for the Poles to block food export to Ukraine, and Ukraine will thus have nothing to feed its people and army.

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The touching attitudes of Poles towards Banderists is well-known. At the same time Ukrainian Banderists definitively lost connection with reality and threaten Poland with sabotage and even a direct military attack. The law on giving the Banderist flag a status similar to Petliura’s State one was introduced in the Rada. The authors of the law don’t hide the fact that for the first time such a defiant bill is directed not against Russia, but against Poland. Its like saying: if Poles don’t really respect Ukrainian “heroes”, then let’s hang the Banderist flag everywhere to spite them.

If it is succeeded to adopt the law it will be a stronger severance of diplomatic relations. No Polish politician will be able to come to Ukraine, where they will be obliged (and Banderists won’t miss the chance to enforce it) to pay respects to the Banderist flag on an equal basis with Petliura’s one. The Poles have nothing against Petliura – he gave to Pilsudsky all the West of Ukraine up to the Zbruch. But Banderists massacred hundreds of thousands of peaceful Poles on their own initiative and behaved with brutality while being at the service of the German, and this is remembered by the Polish people. Regardless of how certain politicians want to pretend that all of this didn’t happen (and there are such politicians in Poland), they don’t risk doing this because a conciliatory position concerning Banderism means a wolf ticket closing the doors to Polish politics.

Ukrainians antagonise the Poles, forgetting that Poles are not Russians. It is Moscow that can for decades ignore pip-squeaks squealing near its borders, and then just casually brush them away from the world chessboard together with half of Europe. Poland isn’t a big State, the squeals from its eastern border are audible across the entire territory. The Poles are a nervous nation, morally exhausted by the numerous defeats that turned the Jagiellonian empire – stretching in 1490 from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea and from the Oder almost to the upper courses of the Volga – into a small leftover of their former greatness, completely dependent on the good will of great powers. The slightest thing, and they immediately grab a saber and jump on a horse.

Now Poland, in its desire to punish in an exemplary manner persons who went too far, is restrained only by the fact that beyond the eastern borders of Ukraine looms Russia, which Poland doesn’t want for all the tea in China to have a common border with. But there was a time when it both seemed like and didn’t seem like Russia existed, because it was weak. So we can, extrapolating to our present historical precedent, approximately imagine what Ukraine would be like without Russia.

In 1587, right after the unsuccessful Livonian war that weakened Russia, Sigismund III Vasa – the successor to the Swedish throne (which he received then and lost) and the descendant of Jagiellon on the female line – was chosen as the Polish King and the Grand Duke of Lithuania. In the following 20 years Russia was torn apart by internal problems. In the beginning the Kalita dynasty was stopped (with Fyodor Ioannovich’s death). Then the new Godunov dynasty couldn’t establish itself on the throne. Its falling meant the success of the adventure of the Polish magnate Mniszech, who relied on False Dmitry I. False Dmitry, however, didn’t remain the Tsar for a long time – a year later he was killed, having enthroned Vasili IV Shuysky. But Sigismund already realised that if some Mniszech could put his protege on the Moscow throne, then he – a great king – will be able to occupy it even more so. And he pushed his army to Moscow.

Shuysky didn’t put up a good defense, treachery blossomed in the capital and its vicinities. In 1610 he was overthrown, and power passed to boyars. But the boyars’ government – Seven Boyars – felt very uncomfortable tête-à-tête with the people and quickly elected as the Russian sovereign the son of Sigismund – Prince Władysław, the future king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Władysław IV Vasa. The fulfilment of only one condition was demanded (quite reasonable for the one who was going to govern a devoutly believing orthodox country) – the transition to Orthodoxy. Sigismund disagreed with this condition, and as the Polish garrison was already in Moscow, he tried to govern Russia through his deputy – the commander of the occupational troops.

All of this led to known events: the First and Second people’s militias, the siege of the Kremlin by Minin and Pozharsky, the defeat of the de-blocking army of Chodkiewicz, the capitulation of the Polish garrison, the Convocation of the Zemsky Sobor, and the election on Mikhail Romanov’s tsardom. But war with the Poles stopped only in 1618, after the unsuccessful campaign of Prince Władysław on Moscow in 1617. And Russia was obliged to give the lands of Smolensk and Chernigov-Seversky to the Poles for peace, more precisely – for the Truce of Deulino for 14.5 years. In 1632-1634 there was one more unsuccessful for Russia Smolensk war with Poland, which came to an end with the Treaty of Polyanov – confirming the conditions of the Truce of Deulino.

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The next time Russian troops crossed the Polish borders was only in 1654, following the results of the decisions of the Zemsky Sobor of 1653 on accepting the Russian citizenship of Zaporozhian Cossacks with its cities and lands. This happened after the numerous requests of Bogdan Khmelnytsky, who lost another civil war of Cossacks against the Polish king.

Such revolts as Khmelnytsky’s revolt at the end of 16th-beginning of the 17th century were about ten (some larger, some smaller). They were generally quelled by the forces of magnates. Occasionally it was necessary to attract the King’s troops. In 1637-1638 two last large revolts of Pavlyuk and Ostryanin, after which the decade named by Polish chroniclers as the years of golden calm arrived. Khmelnytsky’s revolt was the largest (against it even the “commonwealth movement” – all-Polish militia – was convened), but its outcome was predetermined too.

All Cossack revolts that shook Poland during this period were caused by the policy of Catholic expansion on orthodox territories carried out by Sigismund and his successors. But the possibility itself of carrying out this policy and the long-term (nearly half a century) absence for Poland of problems from the civil war ongoing in its southeastern territories were defined by the progressing military-political weakness of Russia during the period between the end of Livonian war and the end of the 1730’s, when Moscow in general had recovered from the consequences of distemper.

There wasn’t that same force that constantly looms behind the Eastern border of Ukraine to the fear of all Polish authorities. And Europe heavily spat on the problems of Cossacks and other Orthodox Christians – like how they spit on them now. With the absence of the Russian factor Poland was free to do what it wanted on its eastern borders. In fact, Khmelnytsky’s revolt happened for this reason, and for this same reason it gained a considerably bigger scope than the previous one, because the arbitrariness of Catholic magnates in the conditions of the crown’s full non-resistance to evil by force extended from common people who nobody cared about to the part of orthodox military elite quite integrated into the Polish system. I will remind that Khmelnytsky himself was a sotnik, and his first victory at Yellow Waters was caused by the transition to his side of the registered Cossacks consisting of nearly a half of the unit of Stefan Potocki. I.e., the crown was opposed by the orthodox military elite, which also felt oppression.

And nevertheless, Khmelnytsky’s cause was doomed if it wasn’t for the support of Moscow. After the quelling of the revolt and the punishing of the revolters and those who were simply passing by, Poland would enjoy a new decade, two decades, or even three decades of “golden calm”.

By the way, the seizure of West Russians’ (Ukrainian and Belarusian) lands by Poland and Lithuania happened at the beginning of the 14th century, at the time of the greatest military-political weakness of the Russian State. In fact, Russia, which Ukrainian “patriots” so actively fight against, is the only State in the world that not simply behaves quietly towards Ukrainian independence, but also repeatedly supported and provided for it – by the way, because of the Ukrainian inadequacy and, as a rule, to its own detriment.

It is very difficult to destroy Russia. Even our sworn enemy western “friends” don’t set such a task for themselves. They try to weaken Russia quite pragmatically to such an extent where it will be possible to organically include it in the western model of world order with a third-class role. Let’s say that they manage to do this. Who, then, will need Ukraine, which chose the role of anti-Russia for itself. Why is anti-Russia needed if the Russian question is solved?

But the Poles remember everything. They didn’t forget Bandera, nor Khmelnytsky, nor Haidamaky. Ukrainian “patriots” do everything to irritate old Polish wounds, to pour salt on them and force the younger generation of Poles to ask themselves a question: “And why do we actually look at these bandits, who are proud of their ancestors’ fanatics?” And only the fear of being left tête-à-tête with Russia restrains the fair anger boiling in Polish hearts.

So if Ukrainian nationalists were clever, they would pray to Russia and be on friendly terms with it until they are blue in the face. Because only Russia guaranteed them sovereignty, internal stability, territorial integrity, and economic prosperity. And they destroyed all of this with their own hands, contrary to the efforts of Russia, which spent huge money and political resources until the last moment on saving unreasonable Ukrainian “patriots” from the collective suicide of a nation that hasn’t yet been born because of their [Ukrainian “patriots” – ed] own efforts.

Of course, Russia, like the US, Poland, and other normal countries, is guided by generally pragmatic interests, although the healthy altruism of a nation confident in its forces isn’t alien to Russian politics, which indeed distinguishes it from the politics of the “world community”. But after all, it is precisely the ability to correctly define the coincidence/discrepancy of interests on every separate time span that is indeed the art of politics. Instead of trying to take possession of this art, Ukrainian “patriots” dream about the neighbor’s cow dying. It gives the impression that when the Lord distributed reason to people, they [Ukrainians – ed] grabbed all available hatred, because there wasn’t a queue for it.

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