Ukraine of the Third Decade

The third decade of the 21st century has started. It seemed that this century started quite recently and that everything was still good.

Russia already had Putin, and the country had already (since Primakov’s premiership) started to get a little out of the hole. In Ukraine, Kuchma‘s second term began. The country showed good dynamics of recovery growth. There was no “cassette scandal” and “Ukraine without Kuchma”, from which the subsequent two Maidans grew. The contradictions that split Ukrainian society were not yet irreconcilable. The main problems of the post-Soviet crisis seemed to have been overcome. Reintegration of the post-Soviet space seemed not only possible, but also desirable (only questions about pace, timing and depth were disputed). The future seemed more interesting than problematic.

20 years have passed, and the world around us has changed qualitatively, it became unrecognisable. And in the last 10 years it has changed more than in the previous 20. Although it was in the 1990s that the most serious social, economic, and political shocks seemed to occur, but the surrounding world felt like an apartment that had not been repaired and cleaned for a long time, but everything was familiar, recognisable, and the changes (dust and dilapidation) were not critical. Everything still seems to be able to come back. Even the first Maidan in Kiev was not perceived as an irrevocable u-turn, as the final redrawing of the political landscape. It did not implement this function, which is why the second Maidan was needed.

The final change in the surrounding world took place between 2007 (Putin’s Munich Speech) and 2015 (the conclusion of the second Minsk Agreements).

The changes affected the whole world, which entered into a phase of open destabilisation caused by the systemic crisis and the struggle for the future of the new world order. Europe is no longer a “quiet haven”, a neat home for nursing millionaires wandering through well-groomed paths among cut lawns. A crowd of Afro-Asian migrants broke into the old continent and started to transform it quite successfully in their own way. In response, xenophobic sentiment increased in Europe, and right-wing parties started to gain strength.

Despite all European pacifism and well-deserved tolerance, this clash of civilisations cannot end peacefully. The stage at which internal contradictions could be resolved by compromise has already passed. Migrants do not want to give up their acquired rights, on the contrary, they seek to gain new rights, and traditional European societies try to gain stability by returning to their roots and forcing the “foreigners” to respect local traditions.

A bloody conflict is already inevitable, although today the vast majority of European experts do not consider it to be so. The multimillion-strong masses have already come into motion, the inertia of which is enormous. They cannot be stopped, just like how it is impossible to order an ocean liner flying forward at full speed “stop right there!.” Even if an iceberg is seen on the deck of the Titanic, it doesn’t mean that the Titanic can avoid hitting it.

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In the United States, the struggle between Trumpists and anti-Trumpists (right-wing conservative patriots and left-liberal globalists, industrial and financial bourgeoisie, entrepreneurs and bankers) is growing. Their contradictions are unsolvable, they almost broke into civil conflict in 2016 and have not taken a single step away from the edge of the abyss since. No matter how the story of Trump’s attempted impeachment comes to an end, and the fight for the presidency in 2020 in general, the war between Trumpists and anti-Trumpists will not stop and its heat will only increase, until one of the warring factions finally destroys its opponent (at least politically and financially-economically, but possibly physically) and consolidates its power within a new stable system.

It’s good if Americans can figure out their domestic relationship in the next decade. In a sluggish form, the conflict could last all 30 to 40 years, all the while devouring the lion’s share of US resources.

But the most dramatic change has occurred here, in the space between the Prut, Neman, and Volga. The strengthening of Russia caused a nervous reaction from the elites of the former European republics of the USSR, who saw in this strengthening the danger of losing domination on the territories captured after the collapse of the Union. They became the main apologists of the idea of deterring Russia, with the forces of Eastern Europe, relying on the collective resource of the weakening West.

As a result, the ever-burning conflicts on the western border, which Russia risks being drawn into every minute, become a civil war on the ruins of the former USSR. The former republics, declaring these conflicts as international ones, are in fact talking about “wars of independence” from Russia. I.e., they do not consider their independence toe be definitive and fully legitimate until it is sealed with blood. Latently, they still feel united with Russia in a political space centered in Moscow. This concerns even the Baltic states that left for the EU and NATO, not to mention the others.

No super-friendly actions of Russia and no concessions of Moscow will change this situation. It stems from the post-Soviet elites’ internal conviction of the illegal nature of the territories under their jurisdiction. Similarly, on a subconscious level, they believe in Moscow’s desire and willingness to restore its sovereignty over lost Western Russian lands.

At the same time, Russia itself is getting closer to the “2024 problem” – by the time it is necessary to solve the issue not just of keeping Putin in one form or another as a guarantor of the stability of the system, but in the real transition of power, not even from president to president, but from one generation of politicians to the next.

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Today in the country there is a running-in of young people in ministerial and governor positions. It takes place with varying success. But it is too early to say that the problem has been solved or at least the algorithm for solving it has been worked out. It is necessary not only to transfer power to the next president without shockwaves, but also to maintain the flexible political course of the last 20 years, which allowed Russia to become a world power from nothing. And this requires not one, albeit talented, political figure, but a team capable of working in a coherent manner.

Over the next five years “problem-2024” will increasingly absorb the attention of Russian elites and society. At best, against this background, Russia’s international activity will not weaken (but will not increase), at worst – for some time the country will plunge into solving internal problems, cutting international activity to a minimum. It is good if in 2024 the system will immediately reboot and continue to operate in the usual way. It would be worse if a transition period of some length is needed.

The foregoing indicates that in the next five years Ukraine should expect a gradual (but rather rapid) reduction in international interest in it, its crisis, and its problems. This trend is already visible. 2020 is likely to be the last year in which coordinated international efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis will still be possible. Then every outside player will get more and more immersed in their own problems.

Kiev clearly does not understood the situation and plans to work on the international stage in a format that has been developed in decades: under pressure to agree to anything, but then to comply with nothing and in principle it is easy to violate any agreements. The conflict of Ukrainian foreign policy will continue. Kiev in principle does not understand what a compromise is, as for them politics is a zero sum game – if someone won, then someone has to lose. That is why every victory of Ukraine (whether real or virtual) turns very quickly into a defeat in public opinion. Society records a lack of progress in the realisation of its dreams. Hence the conclusion that victory is not won (for victory is the realisation of desires). If Ukraine did not win, then it lost, and someone else won.

In an already heightened conflict, no one needs such a conflictual partner. Consequently, Kiev’s international isolation will increase. This will be facilitated by the growing internal conflict between the Soros hatchlings (who control the government) and the KolomoiskyAvakov group, who control Zelensky and the power [use of force by neo-Nazi gangs – ed] resource. If Kolomoisky and Avakov do not fight at the most inappropriate moment, then the fate of the Soros team is foregone. It will have to leave, and the longer it resists, the more sins it will be accused of and the tougher the treatment its key figures will receive.

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A further fight for superiority between Kolomoisky and Avakov is also inevitable. In this fight, both must try to attract to their side the remnants of Soros’ former team, naturally ideologically reformatting them. Under these conditions, the growth of radical nationalism will be in demand, as it is a natural ideology that is organically applicable to confront not only Russia, but also the same Soros, as well as Europe. Also, in the course of the fight between the centers of oligarchic power, the political space should be sufficiently hard cleansed of independent projects. In this sense, Medvedchuk risks the most, but also Tymoshenko plus Akhmetov, Poroshenko, and Pinchuk (each of whom is still trying to play an independent political role, too).

At the same time, it should be borne in mind that not only jailing members of their circle (Tymoshenko, Lutsenko, Efremov, Aleksandrovskaya), but also murdering them (Kirpa, Kravchenko, Chechetov, Semenyuk-Samsonenko) have long been a part of the arsenal of the Ukrainian political elite. The assassination of President Yanukovych did not take place, but was planned. Accordingly, in case of another escalation of domestic political competition, none of the representatives of the Ukrainian elite (up to the very top of it) is immune from the most unpleasant scenario. No one will feel sorry for ordinary journalists, experts, and activists who just happened to be there. Any political activity in Ukraine (anywhere and on any scale) becomes deadly.

What has happened until now will seem to be an absolute triumph of law as soon as the struggling groups of Ukrainian oligarchs will finally realise that even if the US chargé d’affaires in Ukraine, William Taylor, will have the same trouble as the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, nothing will happen to them for this. And even more so, no one will prevent them figuring out their relationship with each other.

Ukraine finally gets what it has declared as its national dream – full will and freedom from any foreign interference. Now she has to realise how scary the reality she aspired to is. The February 2014 days in Kiev, the May days in Odessa and Mariupol, and the summer in Donbass do not appear to have taught the Ukrainian public anything and it will still shove its fingers into the electrical outlet. But the ambulance won’t be coming. All are busy.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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