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December 7, 2021

Ukraine: The struggle for Europe (IV)

Prior to detailing the position of the Kremlin ‘hawks’ about the Ukraine crisis, therefore another ‘school of thought’ accepted by them, I quote the opinion of a well-known Russian expert, also a politician (now he leads a green party), toward what is going on in Ukraine. The expert is Vladislav Inozemtsev, who considers that at Kiev we are witnessing a new political phenomenon, in which the society makes responsible the ruling elites for the lack of a good management. And this settling of accounts  no longer takes place – in the conditions of globalisation and history’s acceleration – through vote, at a certain number of years, but as soon as this defective management becomes obvious. Elections no longer legitimise such leaderships, because they are only the option of an insignificant part of the electorate that comes to polls (10-15 pc, even less). The winner of the “battle for Kiev” – Inozemtsev says – will certainly be Europe, “because it recognizes the legitimacy of the Ukrainian opposition’s actions, because it owes its current condition to the revolution of 1989 and because it has spent decades developing its ability to respond to democratic demands.

And, of course, because the Russian authorities that point to a political ‘legitimacy’ gained through rigged elections cannot but lose in such a confrontation. That, in my opinion, is more a cause for optimism than pessimism.”
Answering the questions of the ‘Kommersant’ newspaper, S.  Glazyev has a totally different opinion that hints to another option taken into consideration by Moskow, besides the position of the ‘hawks.’ For Russia – he says – the main concern is that Ukraine “should not split apart”, being possible a form of federalisation of the country which is nothing new for Europe. Giving the example of Greenland, which has a large autonomy toward Denmark, he mentions that the West and East of Ukraine can have priority economic relations with EU and Russia, respectively. Western Ukraine thus can have an accord with the EU, while the East of the country with the customs union formed by Russia: “Today, economic, cultural and human ties between the regions of eastern and western Ukraine are less than the links between south-eastern Ukraine and Russia and between the western regions and the EU”. But this should not mean the splitting of Ukraine, as a certain form of federalisation is needed, with a proposed large economic autonomy and a double international geopolitical azimuth.
One can thus notice the lines of a different ‘school of thought’ in Kremlin. It takes into consideration keeping the unity of the Ukrainian state – a subtle allusion to the results of the 2008 war, when two new independent states were created through force – and recognised – by Russia on the territory of Georgia, while maintaining the ties between this federal state and Russia even in the conditions of Western Ukraine gravitating toward Europe. Does this ‘school of thought’ try to avoid a new ‘Georgian solution,’ i.e. a forceful intervention (war) by Russia? It is a possibility that must be taken into consideration, because at Moscow one of the starting points for the evaluation of the own position with regard to Ukraine and the recent evolutions in this country consist of rejecting by all means a split in the destinies of the two states. And the most original suggestion of a European-Russian condominium over a federalised Ukraine clearly shows this ‘red line’ of the Russian position. Penetrating this ‘red line’ – it is suggested – is inacceptable for Russia.
The possible arguments of this ‘school of thought’ are mentioned in detail by an article recently published by ‘Russia in Global Affairs’, a magazine of international politics, which hosts the analyses of the most informed Russian experts in the field. The analysis seems to identify, in economic and political terms, the appearance of this geopolitical orientation in Moscow, which accepts a ‘condominium’ over Ukraine by Russia and the EU. The article bears the title Crisis in Ukraine: A catalyst for long-overdue change? And is signed by Stanislav Tkachenko, vice-rector of the State University of St. Petersburg, an expert of international relations. The brief overview of the article is significant in itself: “Russia and Ukraine’s future prosperity lies in developing European-style democracies. Integrating Ukraine’s economy may create a window for reform” in both states, thus affirming the geopolitical unity between Russia and Ukraine, as well as their common destiny on European bases. Presenting the history of the economic evolution of Ukraine in the post-Soviet years, the authors points to the 60 pc economic decline and the very strong economic ties with the Russian economy (commerce worth almost USD 60 bln in both directions in 2012), as well as the ethnic relations (almost 8 million ethnic Russians) and military ones (the base of the Russian Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol). In an attempt at restoring an economic system that the last two decades proved incapable of taking off through neo-liberal measures, “Kiev had expected Brussels to come up with a modern version of the Marshall Plan, and those expectations were dashed. In effect, Ukraine was being invited to join a Eurocentric model as one of its periphery states”. As a counterparty, Russia offered “a more attractive short-term development path as a partner in the Moscow-led integration bloc called the Eurasian Union./…/” But the author sees the Russian offer as unlikely to be sustainable on a long term: “Experts are well aware that the effective functioning of a modern state depends on such institutions as strong property rights and market sophistication”, affirms the author. Or, he adds, present-day Russia cannot achieve these desiderata. If Ukraine’s inclusion in the ‘Eurasian Union’ would be followed by European-style necessary reforms, which Russian economists have been demanding for several years, then “the protests in Kiev’s Independence Square and the unexpected rapprochement between Russia and Ukraine could have long-term positive consequences for both countries./…/Russia and Ukraine are united in that their future prosperity lies in developing European-type democratic societies.” Russia however also aspires to be a ‘gravity center’ of the global power, which comes in contradiction with the interests of EU and USA. The project of integrating Ukraine in the Russian sphere will be able to determine the creation of windows of opportunity for a real modernisation of the political-economic system of both states, but Moscow will not be a passive witness to Kiev’s orientation toward the EU. The leaders of the ex-Soviet states have similarities in regard to their own visions of today’s world, one of these being “that they tend to downplay the concept of ‘values’ as a motivating factor for national policy, preferring instead to focus on ‘interests ‘, both national and personal.” And he concludes: “Russian leaders are convinced that international relations within the Commonwealth of Independent States (as the loose-knit organization of former Soviet states is known) is a zero-sum game territory. That means every defeat suffered by a partner from outside the region translates into a victory for Russia. Such outsiders would include the U.S. and China, as well as the EU. Any attempt to understand the economic consequences of the current events around Ukraine without taking into account this worldview of the regional elites is bound to fail.”
It is evident that the author of the article expresses the position of both schools of thought in Moscow – that of the Kremlin ‘hawks’ on using the force to ‘quell’ things in Kiev, or that of the joint Russia – EU condominium over a federation formed by the West and East of Ukraine. The idea is that the geopolitical unity of the former Soviet space is an unconditioned ‘red line’ and the Russian elite stands united in this orientation and firm in considering any foreign intervention in this space as doomed to fail. Of no less importance is the outlining of the fact that Russian elites want Russia to be a global power centre, which is a level of ambition that also needs the Ukrainian resources.
The Russian position – expressed by bought schools of thought with audience in Kremlin – is no good omen for a peaceful solution to the present crisis in Ukraine. What is happening, since Monday, February 17, in Kiev is a demonstration of overtly affirming this position. A real civil war seems to be developing in the capital of Ukraine, as well as in other parts of this country.

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