Rostislav Ishchenko: Ukraine’s Independence Day – 26 Years on the Road to the Abyss

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Independent Ukraine celebrates its 26th birthday. Even for humans this age is rather young, while for a State it is completely child-like. Nevertheless, this is nearly 40% of the time of existence of the Soviet Union. 26 years after the founding of the USSR there was 1948. It was three years since the victories in the Great Patriotic War and World War II wars were won. In one year the USSR will detonate its own atomic bomb, in three years — a thermonuclear one. In nine years the first artificial satellite of the earth will fly, and in thirteen years — Gagarin.

At the time of its creation, in 1922, the USSR was a poor State surrounded by enemies, the main battles of the civil war had just ended, but in the suburbs of the country gangs will act for another 15 years. About a half of the industrial enterprises lay in ruins. For the prevention of the full collapse of trade and providing the cities with food, the Bolsheviks were compelled to go for a strategic, ideological, and political retreat, having proclaimed instead of military communism the New Economic Policy (NEP). Millions of people were killed during the civil conflict, millions emigrated. Among those who left the country the representatives of educated classes prevailed. I.e. the State was deprived of a considerable part of professional military, scientists, engineers.

But in 26 years the path out of the abyss to the stars was crossed.

Ukrainian soldiers parading in honor of Independence Day in Kiev. 24th August, 2017

Another fate awaited Ukraine. At the time of its emergence it was the richest Soviet republic, on the territory of which 40% of heavy industry and 60% of the enterprises of the Soviet military industrial complex were concentrated. Agriculture prospered. Society was stable. There was highly skilled manpower and excellent educational infrastructure capable of training experts of any domain. In terms of the volume of the economy Ukraine was compared surely to Germany, Great Britain, and France.

All this pleasure was protected by the biggest (about one million people) group of Armed forces of the USSR, possessing the latest (at that time) weapons. The third in the world (after the US and Russia) nuclear arsenal. In ports and bases — a military and merchant fleet.

The perfect (at that time) transport infrastructure and transit (between Russia and Europe) arrangement was provided to Ukraine, the main trade routes crossing on its territory — both on the West-East line, and on the North-South line.

The source of wealth seemed to be inexhaustible. And it should be so with skilful use. But here 26 years passed. Ukraine for these years without having doubts forged a path from the stars to the abyss. Its situation is now worse than it was being in the USSR in 1922, and continues to worsen promptly. Moreover, the country practically has no space for maneuver — any possible decision only worsens the situation.

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The Kiev elite defines the position that the country found itself in with the formula: “The West betrayed us, and Russia won’t forgive us”. Despite the fact that at first sight this formula seems to be rather exact, in practice it doesn’t have anything in common with reality, but it allows to understand how a huge country with a prosperous population practically, without internal contradictions, managed in 26 years to overcome the way from wellbeing and stability to total impoverishment, disintegration, and the bloody chaos of civil war.

The formula “The West Betrayed, Russia Will Not Forgive” immediately defines for Ukraine a position of suffering. Events happen as if without Ukraine and aside from Ukraine. It is only a victim of the dishonesty of others (“The West betrayed”) and callousness (“Russia will not forgive”).

In reality, all key decisions defining both the foreign policy orientation of Ukraine as well as the ways of its internal political and economic development were made in Kiev. Moreover, the concept of “multi-vectoredness” adopted at the beginning of Ukrainian independence and formulated by Kuchma testifies to the fact that the Ukrainian authorities perfectly understood both their possibilities and the fact that the existence of these possibilities is connected to the balance of forces between Russia and the West.

Poroshenko at the Independence Day parade on August 24th, 2017, in Kiev.

Of course, at that time it was impossible to speak about a global balance similar to the one we see today. In the 90’s the consolidated collective West, which hadn’t yet plunged into a systemic crisis, was much more powerful than Russia. But in the Ukrainian question the general superiority of the West was compensated by proximity to Russia and the special character of bilateral ties. During the centuries of existence in the framework of one State the common economy was also created. Any of its parts cut up randomly couldn’t exist without cooperation ties with enterprises, which, by the will of traitors, at one stage found themselves in another State. In turn the population of Ukraine and Russia was connected by millions of bonds and felt like one nation.

In such a situation Kiev was objectively interested in actively participating in Russian integration projects, irrespective of the strategic results the heads of Ukraine would like to receive. If the integrational intentions of Ukraine were sincere, the cumulative effect from the association of two of the largest splinters of the Soviet economy would allow much earlier and with smaller losses for both countries to overcome the crisis of the 90’s. Such an association would have also activated centripetal forces in the post-Soviet space. It could have been possible to avoid some internecine conflicts, others would have taken place in a softer form, and mediation would have more chances of success.

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If Ukraine wanted to use only Russia to solve the question of integration into the EU and NATO, its active participation in integration projects would’ve shown to the West that solving issues that are important for the West in Ukraine (the destruction of enterprises competing with western ones, and the creation on its territory of an anti-Russian ideological springboard) is possible only in the event of Kiev’s integration into the relevant structures. In regards to the Baltic States, Bulgaria, and Romania the EU didn’t have any qualms with their accession in order to solve analog problems. And a small place could have been found for Ukraine too. Moreover, the inevitable competition in such an option between Kiev and Warsaw for leadership in the East European region would allow the EU to maneuver more successfully between the ambitions of recently acquired members.

NATO troops at the parade in honor of Independence Day in Kiev. 24th August, 2017

But all these opportunities were not only not used by the Kiev authorities. They even didn’t notice them. Ukraine quite consciously headed to the West. Thus, in the most sheepish form and execution. Kiev already revealed its cards in the mid-90’s, having officially declared that European integration is a strategic objective, and that it intends to achieve its realization at any cost.

So if it is at any cost, then it is possible to demand anything from it. And the West wasn’t ashamed to do it. The liquidation of high-tech branches of industry, the transition to low redistribution production and to the supplying of raw materials and food, wild privatization, the destruction of academic science and the system of training in engineering and personnel – all of this was done within the framework of demands imposed by the West in general, its structures, and certain countries.

Ukraine made small, but strategically significant territorial concessions. Romania received 70% of the shelf near the Snake island, which during the time of the USSR Bucharest didn’t even dare to think of laying claim to. Romania also improved its position vis-a-vis control over the mouth of the Danube. Ukraine presented to Moldova an exit to the Danube near the port of Giurgiulești. As a result the Ukrainian Danube ports began to decay because of the Moldavian and Romanian competition, and the Ukrainian Danube trade started being curtailed in the second half of the 90’s.

At the US’ “request” Ukraine refused the Bushehr contract — and it went to Russia instead. At the “request” of the EU Ukraine stopped the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the working blocks of which didn’t present a danger, but actually electric power was generated regularly.

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All compensation promised by the West still remained only promises. There also wasn’t any success concerning the joint-EU production of the An-70, for the sake of which Ukraine slowed down cooperation with Russia and actually ruined an already-ready plane.

At the parade in honor of Independence Day in Kiev. 24th August, 2017

And everything continued along the same curve until the already current authorities signed the agreement on association, the essence of which can be shortly explained as so: Ukraine agrees to destroy any enterprise on its territory, except those whose work the European Union will find to be favorable and useful for itself.

Kiev politicians considered that their demonstrative russophobia, the severing of cooperation ties with Russia, and implementing all of the wishes and recommendations of the West will provide them with their support and integration into the EU and NATO. But why does the West need to give them something — either to them personally or to Ukraine as a whole — if the Kiev politicians themselves, with their own hands and free of charge, solved the West’s problems vis-a-vis Ukraine.

The Ukrainian industry will never again be included in cooperation with the Russian one any more (there are already neither the plants, nor the qualified specialists), and it means that Moscow won’t gain a synergetic effect from interacting with Kiev, but will even be compelled to spend time and resources on creating duplicate enterprises. And the creation of transit routes bypassing Ukraine — including the main gas pipelines — doesn’t happen in one day isn’t inexpensive. Russia solves all these problems and it will solve them, but time and resources could have been spent more productively.

Of course, there are expenses. The economy of Ukraine collapsed, the population grew poor, the State lost income, the food supply of both the population and the elite contracted. It made civil war inevitable. When there isn’t enough for all, there is always war, and inventing a good reason and a formal pretext is not a problem.

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko speaks at a military parade in honor of independence Day in Kiev. 24th August, 2017

But are civil war and the economic and demographic catastrophes in Ukraine indeed the West’s problems? When the scouring sponge loses its potential, I throw it. I don’t become angry at it and I don’t feel gratitude to it. It is simply not needed anymore. It is precisely in this way that the West behaved with Ukraine. And why should it act any differently and care about solving those problems that even the Ukrainian elite aren’t interest in?

So the West betrayed nobody. Ukraine made its choice itself. And Russia, in general, has nothing to forgive. Ukraine made its choice, Russia drew its conclusions. After all, you won’t return Crimea to Kiev in the event its elite apologizes and changes their geopolitical orientation. And also there is practically nobody to cooperate with in Ukraine now concerning the economy.

It is said that if God wants to ruin someone — he deprives them of reason. Probably, he very much became angry with Ukraine, because all of its ruling elite descended into madness.

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