Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ukraine's "civilizational choice" - a Pyrrhic victory for Russia?

The latest decision by the Yanukovich government to delay any decision about the possible signing of an association agreement with the European Union has been greeted by a mix of shock and outrage by the Western corporate press.  Unanimously, it was decreed that this apparent reversal by Yanukovich himself was the result of Russian blackmail, ruthless power politics and even not-so-veiled threats.  Finally, the media presented this latest development as a personal victory for Putin and a strategic victory for Russia.  In yet another triumph of form over substance western commentators offered lots of drama and hyperbole and very little explanations about what has really happened.  I propose to set aside all the ideological hype and begin with a few basic reminders.

What is "The Ukraine" really?

The Ukraine in its current borders is a completely artificial entity created by the Soviet regime whose borders have no historical basis at all.  In many ways, the Ukrainian SSR was a "mini-Soviet Union, only worse" whose population had suffered horrendously during most of the 20th century (and before).  Furthermore, it is often overlooked that during the early Bolshevik regime, the Nazi occupation, the Soviet regime after WWII and since independence after the fall of the Soviet Union the Ukraine has undergone a steady process of "West-Ukrainization": the language, political culture and even national myths historically associated with the Western Ukraine have been forced upon the rest of the country which has resulted in constant tensions between the generally pro-Western West and the generally pro-Russian East and South.  Finally, to say that the Ukrainian economy is in a deep crisis would be an understatement.  Not only did the Ukraine inherit a lot of very heavy and outdated Soviet industry, it has been completely unable to use any of it to begin a truly local production of goods and services.  The only segments of the Ukrainian economy which have done reasonably well are those providing goods and services for the much larger Russian economy.  In the process, however, these better segments have either become completely dependent upon Russian investments, or have actually been acquired by Russian companies.  None of the above, however, is enough to explain the absolute disaster which has befallen the Ukraine since its independence.  For that, we need to take a look at the Ukrainian political elites.

Who has been running the Ukraine since independence?

Formally, Presidents Kravchuk, Kuchma, Yushchenko and Yanukovich.  In reality, however, since its independence the Ukraine has been in the iron grip of Ukrainian oligarchs.  This is the single most important thing to keep in mind to understand the entire dynamic currently taking place between the EU, Russia and the Ukraine.  In Russia the Presidential regime defeated the oligarchs, in the Ukraine the oligarchs defeated the Presidential regime.  In fact, the Ukrainian oligarchs are very similar to their Russian counterparts of the Eltsin era.  The tragedy of the Ukraine is that there has been no "Ukrainian Putin" and what could have happened in Russia without Putin did actually take place in the Ukraine.

To say that the Ukrainian political elites are corrupt would be an understatement.  The reality is much worse.  All Ukrainian politicians are absolutely unprincipled political prostitutes who can be bought and sold and who have no personal values whatsoever.  None.  It is quite pathetic to read in the Western press that Yulia Tymoshenko is some kind of firebrand nationalist while Yanukovich is pro-Russian.  This is laughable!  Tymoshenko and Yanukovich and, frankly, all the rest of them (Klichko, Symonenko, etc.), are political chameleons who have changed their affiliations many times and who will gladly do so again.  And just as the Russian people were essentially manipulated, powerless and apathetic under the regime of the Eltsin's oligarchs, so are the Ukrainians today who are simply not given any decent person to vote for or support.

The Ukraine between the EU and the Russian-backed customs union

The reason why the association agreement between the EU and the Ukraine was presented by all the political parties (except the Communists) as a "civilizational choice", a "strategic decision" and an "inevitable step" is that it was highly beneficial to the Ukrainian oligarchy which is absolutely terrified of Putin and who wants to keep its current position of power at any cost.  True, a majority of Western Ukrainians want to join the EU but they never would have had the political clout and, frankly, the money to force Yanukovich and the Party of Region to initially appear to support this.  No, the real center of gravity of the pro-EU activism can be found in the Ukrainian oligarchy and its discrete but powerful "friends" in the West - the very same forces who threw their full support behind Eltsin between 1990 and 2000: the Anglo-Zionist empire and its European vassal states.  In contrast, the opposition to this association agreement with the EU was mainly found in the small to medium business circles in the Eastern Ukraine which is essentially dependent on Russia and who would have immediately collapsed into bankruptcy if Russia had reduced its investment in joint programs.   Regardless, the way the Ukrainian elites dealt with this issue made public opinion basically irrelevant.

A "civilizational choice" made by a small corrupt elite?

In trying to convince the Ukrainian people to support the association with the EU the Ukrainian oligarchs and their Western supporters very skillfully "framed" the issue to such a degree as to make it unrecognizable and to make it impossible for the people to express their opinion.  Think of it - if the choice between an association with the EU and a possible participation of the Ukraine into a customs union with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and others was truly a "civilizational choice" - would a popular referendum not be the only proper way to make such a dramatic decision?  Yet, in reality, the decision was made by one man only: Yanukovich.  Furthermore, is it even correct to speak of a "civilizational choice"?  Most polls ask the Ukrainians if they want to join the EU, but that is not at all what is being offered to them.  What is offered to them is only an association with the EU: a deal with was also offered to countries such as Chile, South Africa or Egypt (see here for more details).  This is not at all a first step towards a membership into the EU (Turkey signed such an association in 1964 and is still waiting; does anybody believe that Chile will join the EU?).  As for the entry into a customs union with Russia, it still has to be negotiated so at this point it is impossible to know for sure what the final terms of such a union would be (though the general outline is pretty clear).  And yet, poll after poll after poll, the same question is being asked: "do you want the Ukraine to join the EU?"  Here is an example of this in Wikipedia:

So what is really at stake here?

The short answer is  that what is at stake here is the future of the Ukrainian oligarchy.  The more complex answer is that what is at stake here is what the West can gain by co-opting the Ukrainian oligarchy into its sphere of influence.  In practical terms this means that as long as the West agreed to keep the oligarchs in power it could gain many very real advantages from the Ukraine such as a market for EU goods, cheap labor, the possibility to deploy NATO forces in the Ukraine (without necessarily offering the Ukraine to join NATO) and, first and foremost, the rock-solid guarantee to be able to dictate its terms to the Ukrainian oligarchy which would have no other option than to be hyper-compliant to any Western demands.  Furthermore, the West very much sees this as a zero-sum game, what the West gets - Russia looses.  While not catastrophic by any means, the severance of the current economic ties between Russia and the Ukraine would most definitely hurt Russia, at least in the short term.   Furthermore, the West also believes that an association with the EU would prevent any further integration of Russia and the Ukraine. That is, I believe, probably true, simply because no real integration between the Ukraine and Russia is possible as long as the Ukrainian oligarchs remain in power.

The real objective of the Anglo-Zionist empire in the Ukraine

Just before Barak Obama got rid of her, Hillary Clinton made an amazingly candid admission about the Empire's real goals in Eastern Europe.  Here is what she said:
There is a move to re-Sovietise the region.  It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.
Simple, direct and clear.  Even the use of the expression "re-Sovietise" shows that Hillary and, frankly, most of the Western elites are still completely stuck in a Cold War paradigm in which every Russian move is necessarily an evil one and the West and Russia play a zero-sum game.  In the logic of these people, any loss for Russia is by definition a good and highly desirable outcome for the West.

What better way for the Empire is there to "slow down or prevent" any integration of Russia and the Ukraine than to offer the Ukrainian oligarchy an association deal with the EU which would cost the EU nothing and which would inevitably trigger a trade war between the Russia and the Ukraine?

Russian objectives in the Ukraine

Russian objectives in the Ukraine are pretty straightforward.   First, Russia believes that a customs union with the Ukraine would be mutually beneficial.  Second, Russia also hopes that, with time, such a mutually beneficial union would serve to deflate anti-Russian feelings (which are always stirred up by the Ukrainian political elites) and that, with time, the Ukraine could become a member of the future Eurasian Union.  Third, judging by its bitter experience with Central European countries, the Baltic States and Georgia, Russia definitely hopes to prevent the Ukraine from becoming the next colony of the Anglo-Zionist Empire in Europe.  Finally, a majority of Russians believe that the Russian and Ukrainian people are either one nation or, at least, two "brother nations" who share a common history and whose natural calling is to live in friendship and solidarity.

Are the Russian objectives in the Ukraine realistic?

Ironically, Russia faces exactly the same problem in the Ukraine as the Anglo-Zionist Empire: the Ukraine in its current borders is a completely artificial creation.  Everybody pretty much agrees that the Western Ukraine and the Eastern Ukraine have almost exclusively opposite goals. On all levels - language, economy, politics, history, culture - the western and eastern parts of the Ukraine are completely different.  The center, and the capital city of Kiev is a mix of both east and west while the south is really a unique cultural entity, different from the rest of the country and which is even more diverse than the rest of the country.  An armchair strategist might suggest that the "obvious" solution would be to break up the Ukraine into two or more parts and let each part chose, but this "solution" has two major problems: first, breaking up an artificial country is an extremely dangerous thing to do (remember Bosnia or Kosovo!) and, second, there is absolutely no way that the West and its Ukrainian nationalist puppets are ever going to accept such a "solution" (they even insist that the Crimean Peninsula must forever be considered a part of the Ukraine, even though it was only donated by Khrushchev to the Ukrainian SSR  in 1954!).

Furthermore, I believe that an even deeper analysis of the consequences of an integration of the Ukraine into Russia should be made before jumping to conclusions.  If, indeed, the Ukraine is a "big Bosnia", does it make sense for Russia to want to bring this "big Bosnia" inside its otherwise very prosperous union with Belarus, Kazakhstan and others nations to the east?  I do not argue against the argument that history clearly shows that the Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and all parts of one historical/cultural body.  What I am saying is that the Ukrainian part of that body is suffering from a very dangerous form of gangrene and that I do not see how Russia and the rest of the (future) Eurasian Union could heal this member.

While some segments of the Ukrainian economy do have an interesting potential for Russia, most of it is a disaster with no chance at all for reform.  Politically, the Ukraine is a slow-motion disaster where corrupt politicians fight with each other for the chance to get money and support from the local oligarchs and their western patrons.  Socially, the Ukraine is a ticking time-bomb which must explode, sooner or later, and while Russia can continue to bail out the Ukrainian economy with loan after loan after loan, this cannot go on forever.  Finally, the western Ukraine is a Petri dish of the worst kind of Russophobic hysteria, often crossing into outright neo-Nazi propaganda, which will never accept any deal with the hated "Moskals" (Russians, or "Muscovyites" in the nationalist lexicon).

The frightening fact is that in its current configuration the Ukraine is headed for disaster no matter who prevails, Yanukovich or the opposition.   Just look at what the "liberals" and "democrats" achieved during the rule of Eltsin's oligarchs: Russia's economy completely collapsed, the country almost broke up into many small parts, Mafia dons ran the entire underground economy while Jewish oligarchs literally pillaged the wealth of Russia and relocated it abroad, while the media was busy feeding the Russian people absolute lies and nonsense.  Well, today, exactly the same type people are running the show in the Ukraine.  

The big difference

Looking back to what happened in the past 20 years or so it becomes immediately apparent why the Ukraine ended up in its current nightmare while Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan did so much better.  The answer has three words: Nazarbaev, Putin, Lukashenko.  I listed Nazarbaev first because he always was for an integration with Russia and its allies - Kazhakhstan never really wanted its independence in the first place and it was literally pushed out by Eltsin and his "democratic" allies Kravchuk and Shushkevich).  Putin only showed up on the political scene a full decade after Nazarbaev had tried to do his best to maintain a single post-Soviet country.  As for Lukashenko, he is a complex and eccentric personality who follows a rather bizarre policy towards Russia: he wants to integrate Belarus with the very market-oriented Russia while keeping Belarus and its economy and society in a "neo-Soviet" condition.  For all their differences, Nazarbaev, Putin and Lukashenko have emerged as three powerful figures who did get their local oligarchs under control and who have thereby prevented their countries from becoming Anglo-Zionist colonies.  In contrast, no real national leader has emerged in the Ukraine: every single Ukrainian politician is a joke and a puppet in the hands of private interests.

Ukraine's "civilizational choice" - a  Pyrrhic victory for Russia?

At this moment in time, the Western media is trying to present Yanukovich's decision to delay any further negotiations on the association with the EU as a huge strategic victory for Putin and Russia.  I personally disagree.  While it is true that by this decision Yanukovich has delayed the collapse of the Ukrainian economy this is only a delaying tactic, nothing in substance has changed.  Furthermore, while it is vital for the Ukraine not to sever its current economic ties with Russia, this is not true for Russia, especially in the long run.  Of course, an economic collapse of the Ukraine would be bad news for Russia too who really does not need its big neighbor to go down the "Bosnian scenario" lest Russia be pulled in, which it almost inevitably would.  But having avoided an immediate disaster in the Ukraine is hardly something I could call a "strategic victory" for Russia.  One could make the case that the best option for Russia would be to take some huge scissors, make a deep cut along the current border between Russia and the Ukraine and relocate the latter somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  This not being an option, the next best thing would be to make it possible for the Ukraine to break up into its natural components and integrate the Eastern Ukraine into the Eurasian Union.  Alas, at this moment in time, this option is as impossible as the first one.  What is then left for Russia?  What is the "least bad" option Russia can try to make the best of?  Exactly what it is doing today: try to prevent a complete collapse of the Ukrainian economy while hoping for a "Ukrainian Putin" to eventually emerge.  A "Ukrainian Putin" would be a real patriot whose first priority would be to get rid of the Ukrainian oligarchs, the second one would be to clearly indicate to the Anglo-Zionists that they are no longer welcome in their capacity as colonial overlords, and third to try to get the best deal possible for the Ukrainian people in a future Eurasian Union.  So far, there is absolutely no sign of such a figure emerging in the Ukraine.

So yes, Yanukovich's last minute change of mind is good news for the Ukraine and for Russia, but this is hardly a victory of any kind for Putin or Russia.  First, I would not put it past Yanukovich to change his mind yet again (the man has no principles or values to speak of).  Second, we already see that the Empire is going absolutely apeshit with rage over this latest development and that the US and EU will spare no efforts to orchestrate yet another revolution in Kiev.  Same thing for the Ukrainian opposition which now will get a huge influx of dollars from the West to create as much chaos as possible.  As for the Ukrainian people, they will be given no option at all other than to express their opinion in opinion polls asking the wrong question.  Finally, as long as the current Ukrainian oligarchy remains in power, there will be no reason at all to hope for any meaningful improvements in the plight of the Ukraine and its people.

The Saker