Rostislav Ishchenko: What Will Change in Ukraine After Poroshenko

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The fall of the regime doesn’t yet mean the automatic arrival of an economic miracle. The regime had only political opponents, and not economic ones, and there is nobody who can pursue a new economic policy…

It is characteristic for people to hope for the best. Even if they definitely know that there are no prerequisites for an improvement in the situation. It is difficult for people to resign to the fact that they personally (due to their age) already have no chance of seeing their country return to normal life. And it is even more difficult to resign to the fact that their children won’t live long enough to see restoration. And if it concerns grandchildren, then the person will never recognise that a prolonged miserable existence of the whole State is possible in principle.

Of course, everybody knows the situation in Africa, to the south of the Sahara (where a normal, stable, and prosperous State is a rare exception). Everyone knows the examples of Afghanistan and Somalia, where civil wars – the end of which isn’t in sight – have been ongoing for already 50 years and destroyed the economy, having returned the most broad masses of the population practically to a prehistoric standard of living. We are aware that Palestinians since 1947 fight for the creation of their own State (in accordance with the resolution of the UN Security Council) and that the fourth generation of their children is born in exile. The tragedies of Libya and Iraq, where it isn’t known when normal life will be restored, happened before our eyes.

Nevertheless, it is characteristic for people to consider that it is enough to swap the bad governor (or the regime) with a good one and prosperity will arrive literally tomorrow. All Maidans are built on this propaganda basis (we will banish the corruptionist villain and there will be European happiness for us). But these are the same illusions that the anti-Maidan forces have.

Seeing that Poroshenko’s regime is unsteady, Ukrainian anti-fascists start discussing with pleasure the options of changing the power. The general political situation assists in their optimistic mood. The US fights against China and enters into conflicts with Europe, and the European leaders flocked to Sochi and then to the St. Petersburg economic forum to probe the possibility of forming new pragmatic relations with Russia. Support for Ukraine deflated, like a punctured ball. Kiev already accuses not just some Poles or Hungarians of “betraying Ukraine”, but Merkel and Macron. It reached such a level that Ukrainian experts started claiming that the notorious Normandy Format was invented by Germany (with the non-resistance of France) in order to sell Ukraine to Russia.

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Generally everyone sees two things. Firstly, the Kiev regime is on borrowed time. Secondly, none of the serious players are eager to fight against Russia for Ukraine. From this there is the conclusion that very little time is left to wait and suffer before the the system is overturned and adequate people will come to power. They will restore relations with Russia and prosperity will come.

This is an illusion. And a dangerous illusion at that.

Very recently I had to talk at length with a friend and colleague who forcedly left Kiev just a month ago. After him I managed to speak with several people who still remain in Kiev. All of them perfectly realise that in Ukraine and in its nearest vicinities there are no pro-Russia politicians. They also perfectly know that all disagreements between the Ukrainian authorities (whatever it may be) and the Ukrainian opposition (whoever may be a part of it) at all times only stemmed from who will plunder the country and who’s turn it is to live like a bum. They are aware that even according to the official figures the GDP of the country fell twofold and foreign trade was reduced threefold. For them it’s not a secret that not only have Ukrainian hi-tech enterprises lost foreign markets, but even the agricultural production of Ukraine is being strongly squeezed out from them.

I.e., they know that there isn’t any prerequisite for the fast restoration of Ukrainian statehood and the Ukrainian economy after the current regime falls. There isn’t anybody who can do engage in this. And nevertheless they consider that it is Russia that will be engaged in this and will in a short period of time return welfare back to the level of 2013.

They are clever people. They don’t adduce arguments like “in Ukraine there are many Russians, and therefore it is necessary to urgently make things good for them”. They make attempts to define among Ukrainian citizens the percentage of Banderists, “Europeans”, Le Marais, and Russians rather to calculate the chances of different Ukrainian parties and candidates at presidential and parliamentary elections. Their arguments are logical and deserve consideration.

They firstly say that Russia all the same can’t allow the appearance of European Somalia at its borders; secondly, that the country has a high agricultural and transit potential, so there is a point of support with which it is possible to begin restoration; thirdly, that the industry, at least partially, can still be revived.

In general all these arguments are correct. I could even choose a dozen more. Moreover, I could give examples of the numerous wonderful growth spurts of economies that forever lagged behind, and in certain cases were razed to the ground.

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So why is the expectation of the fast revival of Ukraine a dangerous illusion? I, in principle, am inclined to think that revival won’t ever arrive within the framework of Ukrainian statehood. And the fragmentation of Ukraine with the integration of fragments into neighboring states, firstly, is a long process (it is impossible to do it on a whim “because there was a desire” to liquidate the founder State of the UN). Secondly, even such a succession of events doesn’t promise us the “Ukrainian economic miracle” in the foreseeable prospect.

Because all considerable economic growth spurts always took place under the leadership of an adequate national elite that worked to the bone and forced others to work, at the same time building a system of international political and economic unions so that the development of the national industry and its entry into the world markets was favorable for partners.

The US invested tens of billions of dollars in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Maybe you won’t believe it, but in Ukraine too they invested tens of billions (including through the IMF). If to add the investments of the EU to this, then it will be more. At the same time Russia, due to the low prices of energy carriers, and other, favorable for Ukraine, imbalances in bilateral trade, subsidised Kiev a sum threefold more than the West invested in it. If to add everything up – western credits and financial aid, Russian credits and the sums made by Ukraine from trade preferences – then it will turn out that in 27 years of independence over 400 billion dollars were poured into Ukraine via different channels. These are two of every three dollars of the State budget of Ukraine during this time.

And? At the moment in Ukraine there is neither a State nor an economy, and the next IMF credit tranche of one billion dollars that the country has been expecting for one and a half years (and, obviously, it won’t receive it) is anticipated in Kiev as a way of curing all problems.

In fact, not only the huge money invested in Ukraine by its multi-vector partners was stolen, but Ukraine itself was stolen too. The territory and the population remained, but the State and the economy are absent. And there is also no local elite that would be ready to assume responsibility for a spurt towards the “economic miracle”. Poroshenko’s opponents now again promise the people “a salary of $1,000” after their coming to power. Yatsenyuk in 2014 promised more, but now appetites of the now impoverished population decreased. But in general, it is the same.

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The opposition’s lack of the concept of recovering the Ukrainian economy and also an alternative foreign and domestic policy convincingly demonstrates that Poroshenko’s opponents yearning for power don’t plan to change anything, except the surname of the owner of the pocket that the main financial streams flow into. In such a situation, any help – whether it be from Russia, Europe, the US, or all of them together – becomes senseless. Thieves only know how to professionally steal. And Ukraine is too big to provide a triumph of the law at the expense of external management.

I observe with horror how Ukraine repeats the situation of the 17th century with an accuracy of a millimetre. Back then this territory already departed from Poland, but hadn’t yet definitively passed over to Russia. The civilisational catastrophe named as “Ruin” was the result of the domination of the local elite. The multi-decade years of civil war, infinite top coups, the split of the country and society, destruction of even that economy (antediluvian, focused on grain export) that existed under the Poles, the loss of a third to a half of the population. Does it remind you of anything?

And, in the same way as now, Poland and Russia in the 17th century weren’t interested in the fact that European Somalia froliced on their borders. But nobody could do anything. Because any attempts to lean on the local elite made it clear that you again have a swindler, a thief, a rascal, and a traitor as a partner.

Tens of thousands of sensible administrators won’t come from anywhere. Responsible politicians won’t be sent neither from Moscow, nor Berlin, nor from Washington. And help will not arrive until people appear who are able to effectively use external help. Unless its humanitarian (under the protection of “blue helmets”).

So the fall of the regime doesn’t yet mean the automatic arrival of an economic miracle. The regime had only political opponents, and not economic ones, and there is nobody who can pursue a new economic policy. Well, and without a financial-political basis, the military-political superstructure of the State also has no resources for restoration and continues to degrade.

The cycle became complete. It is only left to wait for when the international environment develops in such a way that the neighbors will be able to be engaged in establishing order on the borders. At the same time they will return those who survived to civilization. But this won’t happen any time soon.

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