Rostislav Ishchenko: Ukraine – the Absence of a Solution

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


With the deepening of the Ukrainian crisis the question “what comes next” is more and more actual.

It is clear that Poroshenko’s regime must either transform into an open dictatorship or be replaced by another dictatorship. And this dictatorship, having unconditional nazi features (Biletsky, Tyagnybok, “Azov”, “Svoboda”) already can’t be completely ideologized any more. It must become substantially a more “people’s” one than the nazi dictatorship in Germany. The Ukrainian Hitler (the Ukrainian Hitlers) will not have close to his/their hands a disciplined reichswehr, capable, if needed, of establishing order and putting Stormtroopers in their place. On the contrary, any regime, if it wants to keep, will increasingly rely on marginals. This is not classical Nazism of small shopkeepers. It is a dictatorship of the urban bottom and provincial criminality.

If necessary the regime can choose a new “human face”, instead of Poroshenko, who exhausted his resource. But the movement to radicalization, marginalization, and atomization both of society and power structures anyway will be continued. This is so obvious that Ukrainian politicians and experts, who already last year accused me of “Kremlin propaganda” concerning the collapse of Ukraine, now themselves unanimously started saying that “the State is breaking apart”, “the State creeps away”, “Ukraine won’t live until 2019”.

They’ve never afforded themselves such things before. Even the cleverest who understood what is going on – where it leads to they preferred not to say out aloud. It’s like if you don’t voice something, then it won’t happen. And if now they speak, it means, firstly, that they lost hope to avoid the worst, and secondly, awareness of the inevitability of the worst already penetrated society, and they are obliged to recognise conditions of catastrophe in order not to lose popularity.

From the point of view of the domestic policy of Ukraine, it means that stable power won’t appear in the near future, while tendencies for disintegration will only accrue. From the point of view of the international perspective of the Ukrainian crisis, it means that the controllability of the processes going on in Ukraine from the outside will be definitively lost. Political, economic, financial, and diplomatic arguments won’t influence the Ukrainian leaders any more (already now they almost don’t act anymore). The right of force (military argument) will become definitively decisive for the solution of both internal and external Ukrainian problems.

In front of the neighbors of Ukraine (and not only in front of Russia) the question about the expediency/not expediency of active intervention in the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis will arise. If intervention will be recognized as inexpedient, there will be a necessity to give answers to the following questions:

● how to isolate this territory for the purpose of preventing the spreading of its problems to neighboring States?

● what to do with millions of the kindred population (Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Russians) living in border regions?

● how long is it possible not to pay attention to the humanitarian disaster affecting tens of millions of people in the center of Europe?

● what to do with millions of refugees?

● won’t such a strategy already in the medium-term appear to be more expensive than the strategy of operative intervention?

In turn, if a decision on collective intervention in the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis is made, the question about resources ensuring such intervention, its volume, and its duration will also be one of the key ones. But the question of an ultimate attainable aim of a settlement, which is usually formulated as “what comes next”, will be a major one?

The fact is that it is possible to agree about a format for the elimination of terrorist gangs and about the differentiation of zones of responsibility of neighboring powers on the territory of Ukraine. It is even possible to coordinate restoration after establishing neutral order and a non-bloc Ukrainian State in some reasonable borders.

But for a normal existence the State needs a working economy and a responsible elite. Neither the former nor the latter are present in Ukraine, and their emergence isn’t expected.

Ukrainian metallurgy was driven out of the world market long before the coup and the signing of the agreement on association. India, China, and even Russia simply offered cheaper and better production. Chemical and petrochemical productions lost profitability with an increase in prices for gas and oil, respectively their niche in the world markets is already occupied. Even if they manage to restart them, who will they sell their production too? Heavy mechanical engineering, including machine-tool construction, died in Ukraine in the 1990’s and isn’t revived any more.

After a rupture of cooperation links with the Ukrainian military industrial complex, Russia created its own similar productions, but much more effective and technological. Even if to assume that the Ukrainian military industrial complex stopped delivering to customers rejected armored personnel carriers (as it was with the army of Iraq, which refused Ukrainian production), if there is a miracle and money will be found for re-equipment of the enterprises of the Ukrainian military industrial complex with modern equipment – where to search for a sales market for them?

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And finally, personnel. From the listed 42.5 million, according to the evaluations of these same Ukrainian experts, in the country 30-35 million of permanent population (optimistic assessment) or 28-30 million (pessimistic assessment) remain. Some also name smaller figures, but they don’t seem to be very real.

Anyway, for the last three years about 4 million people as a part of Crimea, DPR, and LPR left Ukraine as political refugees, and also about 6 million more left the country for earnings. Moreover, 6 million is not the total amount of labor migration, but only those who are absent in the country on a permanent basis.

In 2014-2016, just according to Federal Migration Service (the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for migration affairs), in the relevant structures of Russia about 1 million citizens of Ukraine applied for obtaining permanent status (citizenship, residence permit, temporary residence permit), and from them about 200,000 were in the process of registering for Russian nationality. This means that a considerable part (from 30%) who leave Ukraine aren’t going to come back initially. After 3-5 years of work abroad a similar decision is made by most of other labor migrants.

As work abroad is found first of all by qualified personnel, the quality of manpower in Ukraine falls at even higher rates than the population decreases. The Ukrainian enterprises felt an acute shortage of skilled workers of the main specialties already in 2007-2010. Since then the problem only became aggravated. The system of training of skilled workers was destroyed in the middle of the 1990’s.

Thus, even the recreated or restarted enterprises of the former Ukrainian economy will find themselves without staff and without sales markets. Nobody will build plants for the sake of plants. What difficulties will be faced is already seen at least in the situation in Crimea. The Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin on June 30th, 2017, speaking about his impression of the almost restored Feodosia plant “More (Sea)”, remembered already at the beginning of 2016 that the enterprise looked as if it had been “bombed” [after being inherited from Ukraine post-referendum – ed].

Meanwhile, the plant worked during all the time of the Ukrainian independence, its production was in demand, including abroad. The enterprise, according to Ukrainian evaluations, was kept is acceptable condition. Nevertheless, bringing it into order required three years. But the “More” plant is not the biggest and not the most difficult object of the Ukrainian industry that was in conditionally good shape.

If to accept deindustrialization as a reality and to agree with Yatsenyuk, who stated that Ukraine is an agrarian superstate, i.e. that its future is in the development of the agricultural sector, then there is a need to understand that this sector of the economy, with all adjacent productions, is capable of feeding in Ukraine up to a 20 million population. The others will be simply superfluous.

As of 2014 the rural population of Ukraine was 14 million people. Thus, work not related to their needs (i.e. in commodity production) accounts for 5-6 million. The agriculture of Ukraine loses to Europe and Russia in efficiency, mechanisation, and technological effectiveness. Its modernization will reduce quantity of jobs two-threefold. Work in the villages can be found by approximately for 2.5 million people, 6-8 million will be able to live there (as a part of the families working there). And it is the cities that must accept and provide employment to the others. Now, according to the most optimistic assessment, twice more people live in the Ukrainian cities than in the villages (in fact it is no more than one and a half). The population of the cities reduces more actively than the rural one. Only the population of Kiev is stable, due to a continuous inflow of new inhabitants.

Even if to proceed from the fact that the proportion of 1.5-2 urban inhabitants per one villager will remain, 6-8 million in the villages will give us 9-16 million in the cities, or 15-24 million as a whole in the country. I.e. from 6 to 10 million of the current population, or a half (about 20 million) of those listed turn out to be superfluous in Ukraine.

So, the industrial economy can’t be revived, and the agricultural one is able to feed no more than a half of the population. In such a situation, the marginalization and banditization of society, and finally depopulation become inevitable.

Somehow only adequate politicians could smooth out and control the process. But are there such politicians in Ukraine?

Let’s remove two extremes. Nazis, who “don’t exist in Ukraine”, and communists, who weren’t even driven into the underground — the Communist Party of Ukraine voluntary left politics so that its leaders could keep their belongings from back-breaking labour. And it’s not only communists (normal organized left-wing forces) that aren’t present in Ukraine. They discredited themselves and won’t be revived. Nazis soon also may not be present — they risk to be dissolved in general gangster marginality, especially as they don’t differ from it much.

Let’s consider two main forces that oppose Poroshenko and seek power (or participation in power) after him. Tymoshenko’s “Fatherland” and the “Opposition Bloc”. Both can be called moderate “eurointegrators”. Both spoke about the need to to come to an agreement with Russia. It would seem that they are pragmatists capable of controlling a neutral Ukrainian State, building with all neighbors equal business relations.

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Strangely enough, both already tried, and neither succeeded. Moreover, Europe and the US likes them no more than Russia does. That’s why Poroshenko was completely suddenly appointed as President. It is released-from-prison Tymoshenko (“who suffered for the cause of Maidan”) who was the alternative to him, with who the West dealt with as the Prime Minister twice, and for which reason therefore didn’t trust her.

Being ideologically “eurointegrators” in foreign policy and conductors of the oligarchical republic in domestic policy, they are essentially non-electable by principle. To come to power they need, firstly, a split, forcing people to vote for “their own bastard” so that “another bastard” doesn’t come. Secondly, they need political radicals in active politics so that society sees what danger systemic parties saved it from. That’s why all Ukrainian politicians financed nazis and, eventually, made them a real political force (armed and ready to use violence).

I.e. these political forces in themselves aren’t neutral. “Oppositionists” from the bloc of the same name hate the DPR/LPR and other “terrorist-separatists” no less than the Blocs of Tymoshenko, Turchynov, or Poroshenko do. Yes, they oppose war in Donbass. So, they opposed Nazism in 2004-2014, which didn’t prevent them from financing nazis, to employ them for work, and to push them into big-time politics.

Their real attitude towards the sides of the conflict in Ukraine is well seen in the recent attempt of the team of Poroshenko to jail the editor-in-chief of the site “” Igor Guzhva. Guzhva informationally supports the “Opposition Bloc”. He is socially close to them. And well-known lawyers and support in the press and at the political level immediately came to Guzhva. In four days after his arrest he was freed.

Yury Apukhtin sat in jail without trial for more than two years, received a real term and the prosecution considers that it is necessary to increase this term by twofold. “Oppositionists” don’t especially worry about his destiny.

Why is there such a difference? Because “Opposition Bloc” is opposition “not against his majesty [Poroshenko – ed], but it IS his majesty’s”. They also consider that Crimea and Donbass must be returned under the control of Kiev. But, as they can’t succeed by force, they hope that Russia will give all this back to them simply “for good behavior”. They also hate the DPR/LPR. Perhaps even more so than the Ukrainian “eurointegrators” and the nazis close to them. For the latter, the war for Donbass is a matter of principle (while the principles can change, especially when there are not enough forces for their realization). For many leaders of the “Opposition Bloc” Donbass is lost economic assets and political influence converted into money.

And Ukraine for “oppositionist”“eurointegrators” is a no less valuable asset than for nationalist-“eurointegrators”. Even more so. Nationalist-“eurointegrators” would like to sell Ukraine to the US and Europe on the cheap, and then leave on the gained money to live in the US or Europe. “Oppositionists” also are not against living outside Ukraine, but wish to own it independently, because for them no sum is reasonable and sufficient enough (after the reception of which it isn’t necessary any more). They want to plunder Ukraine always. And when Ukrainian resources actually come to an end, they expect help, credits, and investments from the US, Europe, and Russia. Moreover, they are absolutely sure that everybody must give them money, because otherwise how can it be possible to live.

In general, strangely enough only the nazis and the bandit marginality have a program of changes. Their slogan of de-oligarchisation means an attempt at building something similar to bandit-anarchist “republics” of the times of the early 20th century civil war. And this for sure assumes the destruction of the foundations of the present regime. All others wish only to return to the blissful times of Yanukovych, but already without Yanukovych.

According to them, it has to occur approximately in this way.

Early parliamentary elections take place, in which the “healthy forces” win. The president resigns and until the end of the term of his power fades into the background, having delegated real power to the government responsible before parliament, or he is moved away (via impeachment or having compelled him to voluntarily resign). The “healthy forces” come to agreement with Russia and receive back Donbass, which increases their authority within the country and beyond its limits. The “healthy forces” begin negotiations on conditions if not for the full return of Crimea, then the recognition of it as Ukrainian. Russia, of course agrees. After all, they are “healthy forces”.

Ukraine again starts eurointegration, but Russia opens in front of them the markets, reduces gas prices, and gives them multi-billion credits (after all, the authorities have “healthy forces”). The West also gives a lot of money (after all, Russia gave). In addition, the EU reconsiders the terms of agreement about association in a way more favorable for Ukraine.

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Where nazis, “heroes of the anti-terrorist operation”, militiamen of Donbass, and simple Ukrainian bandits go is not clear at all, but, probably, it is again Russia that has to somehow solve these problems.

The political space of Ukraine for 25 years was cleansed of any alternative. That’s why only infantile “eurointegrators” remained there. They can be nazis or communists, they can be cleverer or sillier, they can preach the theory of a multi-vector foreign policy or lean on the slogan “Away from Russia”! Their main idea will always be the same: “Let’s integrate into Europe and everything will be good for us. Everyone will give us money – both Europe, and Russia. The most important thing is to be integrated”.

The project presented by the acting systemic Ukrainian politicians exhausted itself. The alternative to it are the nazi and bandit outlaw marginals, assuming to raze the system to the ground and to divide up the assets, and then things will be just however they are.

Such political elite not only can’t bring Ukraine out of crisis or prevent its further deepening. It can’t control the country even in the conditions of relative stability. This elite constantly recreates the system that demands resource pumping from outside, which is originally small, but in the process of squandering Soviet heritage and the growth of appetites of the elite, it becomes bigger. What they will be paid for is all the same for them: for neutrality, for war with Russia. They even would be ready to be at war with Europe if they were paid for it by Moscow and if Moscow also would fight on their behalf. The main thing is to be paid.

In connection with what was stated above, from my point of view the situation developing in Ukraine at this stage has no positive outlook. The acting elite isn’t capable of governing as before and doesn’t desire and isn’t able to reform the system. The victory of an alternative political force leads to a change of Nazi-oligarchical diarchy for nazi-bandit autocracy, which almost instantly initiates the disintegration of the country.

The external forces capable of bringing order in Ukraine have nobody to lean on inside the country politically (not only Russia, but also the EU and US). Both systemic and non-systemic elites do not conform to the demands of the moment. The emergence of new systemic elites is impossible as the economic basis that should form the foundations for the new elite is destroyed, and it can’t be recreated into its previous form. In the next few years Ukraine has no opportunity to feed all its population (from a third to a half have to find work for themselves outside the homeland).

In these conditions any external intervention directed towards the preservation of Ukraine as an independent State can’t be effective. At this stage Ukraine’s neighbors can resolve only issues of their own security from the threats proceeding from its territory and wait for a change of circumstances. Over time, probably very soon, the problem of an inefficiency of the local elite will be solved by the development of the Ukrainian crisis. The radicalization of confronting groups, their readiness for adopt the most drastic measures against each other and an increase in the hatred of the population towards the elite in general leads to its (elite) destruction and/or forcing out of the country.

The space for the emergence of new elite will be cleared in extremely difficult and even tragic conditions, but the destruction of State structures, the elimination of inadequate elite, a reduction of the population, and the raising in front of those who remain the question of survival assumes that people who will take in such conditions responsibility upon themselves for governance at least of separate communities will rely on the unconditional support of citizens and will be able to fulfill the duties only in conditions of the effective implementation of the program of the community that elected them.

It is senseless to accelerate this difficult and tragic process by attempts of “using for peaceful purposes” the current Ukrainian elite, and leads only to resource and reputation losses. If for 25 years, during five attempts, the same people consistently lead the system towards collapse, then it is possible not to doubt that for the sixth, seventh, and eighth time the result will be the same.

Russia for three years can’t reformat the small bureaucracy of Crimea, which doesn’t in any way desire to give up its Ukrainian habits. Even the European Union won’t be able to reformat a huge, split in a civilisation way Ukraine. The political body is ill in the same way that the physical one is. Crisis can lead to death, or it can lead to recovery and the acquisition of immunity. But nobody can say in advance how the process will come to an end. Up to now the Ukrainian crisis didn’t reach its apogee.

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