Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Any State, like any person, possesses the freedom of choice. But only until a certain moment. It is precisely for this reason that we often speak about a window of opportunities that opens and closes. After the choice is made, returning to the starting point (and the swapping of the made choice with an alternative option) usually becomes impossible. However it is exactly in the same way that the choice that wasn’t made, after a certain period of time passes (during which the window of opportunities is closed) the system switches to a new state, which doesn’t assume the possibility of a replay.
The more the resources of the system are limited, the narrower the space for maneuver is. During the domination of the process of an increase in the lack of resources, the space of possible decisions is quickly reduced, contracting as a result into a dot. At this moment the system loses the possibility of choice. Its destiny becomes predetermined, and collapse is inevitable. From this point the made decisions influence only the time factor, accelerating or slowing down the process of annihilation of the system, but without canceling it.
The system under the name Ukraine passed the point of bifurcation during the period between February 20th, 2014 (in the evening of this day Yanukovych’s regime handed over Kiev to putshists) and the beginning of May of the same year, when the anti-terrorist operation declared on April 14th entered into the stage of direct armed clashes. Since this moment the Kiev regime (in the beginning Turchynov’s one, and then Poroshenko’s one) lost control over the course of events and the standard scenario of civil war started being developed.
It’s not Odessa and not Mariupol that marked the impossibility of return. The authorities still had the possibility to declare these tragic events as annoying excesses – murders were committed by fighters. Theoretically the power had the opportunity to use the Odessa and Mariupol murders as a reason for the use of force against nazi fighters of Maidan and the criminal marginals who supported them. Having liquidated the radical right flank of Maidan, it was possible to begin dialogue with Donbass, to form a government of national compromise and to begin the long process of political stabilization and economic recovery.
I won’t say that this approach would be easy to realise. It’s quite possible, and even more than probable that the contradictions that split society and tear Ukraine apart wouldn’t allow to realize the attempt of national reconciliation, having restarted the bloody scenario. But the possibility itself of a peaceful recovery from the crisis and preservation of statehood existed. Moreover, even the restarted bloody scenario would develop already according to an absolutely other scheme, within the framework of which Ukraine would have to stop its existence already by the end of 2014. The intensity of the standoff would be greater, the collapse of statehood would be almost instant, and the victims and destruction would be less.
However, the personal features of the politicians who appeared in power as a result of the February armed coup predetermined their choice to forcibly quell opponents. As soon as the army entered into the game, as soon as the military started killing civilians, as soon as artillery and aircraft began to be used against the cities of Donbass, the way back for the regime was cut off. Its political and military top brass immediately appeared as war criminals, who also committed crimes against humanity. These crimes have no statute of limitations, the prosecution of them is extra-territorial, no amnesties and no political agreements protect them against the possibility to receive a life sentence, even about 20 years after the formal settlement. And (as it was with Pinochet) the victims of crimes can appeal to the court of that country that gave no guarantees to anybody.
Thus, only the preservation of the authorities guaranteed life and freedom to the Ukrainian putshists. Thus they couldn’t hold power in the conditions of the normal operation of democratic mechanisms. The course on forcible governance from a constantly growing terroristic component was predetermined. Therefore the gradual strengthening of nazi formations, as a factor of Ukrainian policy, was also predetermined. Systemic political forces had to rather quickly clear the space for nazis.
Talks in the Normandy Format and the Minsk Agreements that followed them froze the situation – they slowed down, but didn’t stop ongoing processes. Ukraine began to decay and collapse slightly more slowly, but consequences for the population had to become, and already are becoming much more catastrophic.
I’m not sure that Angela Merkel is really as naive as she wishes to appear when she pretends that she sincerely believed in Poroshenko’s ability to implement the Minsk Agreements. At least German diplomacy during negotiations constantly proceeded from the inability of Ukraine to realize the conditions of Minsk, on which they also based their demands to Russia for concessions.
Moscow absolutely precisely treated Minsk as a means to slow down the inevitable process of disintegration of Ukraine, if not completely to avoid damage from it, then at least to minimize losses. Otherwise Russia would have no need to ignore the continuous mass violations of the Minsk Agreements by the Ukrainian side, which literally from the moment of signing openly stated that it wasn’t going to implement them.
As it was already said above, the Minsk cool down slowed, but didn’t cancel the process of degradation of Ukrainian statehood, which was developing in four main directions:
1. Destruction of the national economy;
2. Disintegration and degradation of political and administrative State structures, chaotisation of the system;
3. Loss of the international legal personality;.
4. Destabilization and destruction of the social sphere.
At the present moment, all these components of the process of the degradation of statehood reached their logical end. The last sociological research of the “Rating” group testifying that suddenly 85% of citizens of Ukraine saw that their country is in a condition of chaos, and 75% even noticed disintegration, is the first indicator of the fact that the space of possible decisions contracted into a dot.
The second indicator is the common belief in the need for a change of power. People discuss the need for a “third Maidan” (and even waits for it to begin), systemic politicians demand early parliamentary (and now also presidential) elections, nazis still successfully put pressure on the authorities, which adopts and legalizes via legal decisions all their initiatives, but at the same time constantly declare their readiness (and desire) to remove Poroshenko (and together with him also the remains of the systemic political elite that are entrenched in the Rada) by force.
The third indicator is the mass adoption of laws, more rigid than those that the Rada voted for on February 22nd-23rd, 2014, which were the reason and the cause of the leaving of Crimea and the beginning of civil war (despite the fact that it didn’t enter into force). The present laws that exist (already adopted) and bills (that will undoubtedly be adopted) go much further. It is enough to remember that the head of the SBU Gritsak suggested to impose criminal liability for expression of doubts about the existence in Ukraine of freedom of speech.
I.e., the power lost legitimacy in the opinion of the people, lost the possibility of preserving the democratic facade and is compelled to move on to direct terroristic governance, which sharply lifted the political weight of the nazi fighters united in battalions and regiments of the National Guard and the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as high-ranking political radicals (Turchynov, Avakov, Parubiy). All of them more and more become the real power in Ukraine, while Poroshenko turned into a facade political figure, which is still tolerated, but not for much longer.
Radicals need war in order to quickly, definitively, and irrevocably bury the hopes of systemic politicians for the preservation of the illusion of a democratic procedure in the form of elections. Poroshenko also could’ve tried to benefit from an intensification of military operations, but he is not capable of doing this – this step is too risky. That’s why in recent weeks Turchynov and his environment constantly state either about the need “to take Moscow“, or about a fast solution to the Donbass question in the “Croatian way”, or about the need to replace the sputtered-out anti-terrorist operation with something “more adequate for the situation” (the pretext to adopt a new law).
In turn, Poroshenko and his thawing environment let it be known that they don’t support a revision of the anti-terrorist operation format, and also hint at an imminent meeting with Trump, during which Ukraine must get “strong support”. Without having an internal resource for a standoff with radicals, Poroshenko tries to convince them that the West continues to support him. However, they don’t believe it.
As we see, affairs again head towards war. It is improbable that with the most favorable-for-themselves outcome of an internal fight, Turchynov, Parubiy and company will immediately declare war on Russia. Most likely in the beginning they will try to intensify war in Donbass, having replaced the anti-terrorist operation with another format that assumes a more active participation of the army. By the way, if they are in time, then they will declare war on Russia a little bit later.
In turn, war, against the background of the announced double growth of utility payments, which 60% of the population already don’t pay any more, will definitively beat off internal social stability, will demand a strengthening of repressive measures in the rear of the fighting army, and will stimulate the further disintegration of Ukraine into independent and semi-independent territories.
The Ukrainian tragedy enters its last, most long phase. The question is what does Russia have to do to stop the consequences of the Ukrainian collapse? The answer to this depends on what task is assigned priority by the country’s leadership.
It is obvious that if it was a question of defending ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and also its Russian-cultured inhabitants (the same ethnic Russians, but considered as Ukrainians), then active actions would’ve been taken a long time ago. It is in the same way that it is already too late to save the Ukrainian economy. There is practically nothing left to integrate into the EAEU, except a ruined territory and a three-dozen millions impoverished population, from which 15 million are hostile to Russia and want to be integrated into Europe.
The priority task for Russia lying on the surface is the closing of its borders from contact with radical gangs, and also the creation of an anti-migrant buffer that will be able to stop millions of illegal immigrants fleeing to Russia from the Ukrainian ruin and arbitrariness. It would be quite good if both tasks were solved by the beginning of 2018 – the margin of safety that remains for Ukraine is not big at all.
Such a buffer can be created due to an expansion of the territories of the DPR/LPR up to the borders of regions, and also the creation of one more (Kharkov), and at most two more (plus Zaporozhye) the People’s Republics. Later, it would be expedient for the Republics to merge into a confederation of East Ukraine (or Novorossiya) with its center in Kharkov (the first capital of Ukraine, the university and industrial city, moreover its administrative structures are kept in working order by Kernes).
Besides the practical task of preserving the borders, such a confederation, and in the forefront the conglomerate of People’s Republics, can act as one of the subjects of negotiations on the future of the country. It will be able to conduct negotiations with other subjects of the broken-up Ukraine, and within the framework of international formats (at least in the same status as the DPR/LPR in Minsk).
It should be noted that the mechanism of the border buffer is rather flexible and malleable, and its functionality is limited only to the imagination of the user. In particular it allows to suspend the question about the further destiny of the Ukrainian lands until better times. At the same time, this confederation can be expanded due to the accession of new former Ukrainian territories, and if needed, nothing prevents to integrate it quickly (or any of its confederative part) into Russia.
An initially small territory and population of the confederation will seriously lower the costs of Russia for maintenance of its viability. Later, a mechanism for the creation of a new economy can be worked out on its base in place of the destroyed one, and at the following stage already the budget of the confederation will have to pay in whole or in part for renovation of the again-attached territories, if they will exist.
Certainly, the option with the buffer isn’t ideal, but any other (even the option not to do anything – just to look) are more expensive financially and risky politically.
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