The National Interest: Where will the Ukraine?

The National Interest: Куда пойдет Украина?

© RIA Novosti, Grigory VasilenkoRussia will soon carry out his plan for the abandonment of Ukraine as from the canal to enter the Western markets, and changes in political priorities and strategic assessments of Europe and America can seriously reduce the importance of Ukraine.When in 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine whose name means “suburb” or the border between Russia and Central Europe, became the main thermometer to measure the degree of relations between Moscow and the West, writes the American edition The National Interest.

The last 30 years America in its policy towards Ukraine was guided by the aphorism of Zbigniew Brzezinski: Russia with Ukraine is an Empire (and therefore a threat to the security of the Euro-Atlantic region); and Russia without Ukraine has a chance to become a “normal” country (and will be in equilibrium with the main European powers France, Germany, Britain and Italy)…

If Ukraine after 1991 was led by the presidents of the type of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country could take advantage of its position as a key state, connecting Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian worlds. Becoming the Euro-Atlantic bridge, Kiev would avoid the security dilemma in relations with Russia, but could use their leverage (because after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine remained the main link between Russia and the West) to talk with Russia from a position of strength and almost full equality. But the vicissitudes of Ukrainian domestic politics prevented to do it…

To paraphrase the words of Robert Kaplan about Greece, Ukraine had hoped to continue the affair with Russian money, seeking marriage with the West

Since 2004, Russia has developed a new strategy. She began to look for ways to reduce the importance of Ukraine as a corridor connecting Russia with Europe. This has led to the emergence of new pipeline (“North stream”) that would connect the newly built infrastructure and energy export in St. Petersburg directly with Germany…the Former President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, having seen the difference between the words and deeds of the West during the Georgian conflict, made the following conclusion: “isn’t there anyone really think that we need to deal with Russia, and in this case, someone will stand on our side? I am sure that neither the EU nor the US and not lift a finger”.

The history of the Maidan in 2014 are well known, with the exception of one moment. Several hours later, after the mediation of the EU in Kiev signed an agreement on holding early elections, Yanukovych was overthrown and forced to flee to Russia. And Russians began to move…

Russia’s efforts have already begun to change the geo-economic landscape. For several years, Russia will complete the construction of detours around Ukraine and cut ties with Ukrainian industry…

Elaborate and carefully analyzing various aspects of contemporary international politics and the role of Ukraine in it, the author proposes:

“Let’s look at two possible scenarios for the situation when President Zelensky. They are both equally likely given recent events.

The first scenario I call “optimistic” for Ukraine. It is based on the premise that Zelensky will be able to maintain its electoral coalition. Deputy Executive Director of the IMF Vladyslav Rashkovan said that Zelensky was able to enlist powerful people’s support and trust, the reflection of which were the results of the presidential and parliamentary elections. This gives him the right to exercise decisive action in the fight against corruption and the oligarchic system, and Ukraine has a unique chance to get out of chronic post-Soviet stagnation.

In the coming years a political movement Zelensky will be able to break the backbone of the old Ukrainian oligarchs, and the new group of politicians could take a cue from the Baltic countries, which in the 1990s and early 2000s, the years went on difficult steps. This will allow Ukraine to meet the conditions for joining the EU and NATO. Effective anti-corruption measures will also create the conditions for impressive growth.Actually Rashkovan believes that with the proper leadership and with the right incentives Ukraine to the middle of the next decade will surpass its former Soviet neighbors in terms of development and closer to the Central European countries.

This scenario assumes that if Zelensky will be able to demonstrate success in implementation of reforms, it will receive additional political and economic support from the United States and Europe.

A new Euro-Atlantic consensus on the issue of sanctions, which will facilitate the election of Joe Biden to the post of President of the United States in 2020 (this is the only candidate, really interested in Ukraine and very knowledgeable about it) will make Turkey and Germany to change its position in the question of Russian pipelines. And then “Gazprom” will remain a burdensome property on the bottom of the Black and Baltic seas.

Russia will be forced again to use the services of Ukraine as the main transit country in supplying gas to Europe. This will help new Western investment in its energy transit infrastructure. Accordingly, in this scenario, the tension between NATO and Turkey will be broken, and Ankara will once again become the southern Outpost of the new strategy to contain Russia.

In Russia, however, Western pressure and internal corruption lead to the collapse of the economy, which will be accompanied by a political crisis caused by the failure to ensure a sustainable process of transfer of power from Vladimir Putin.

In conjunction with the “demonstration effect” of successful political reforms in Ukraine that will lead to the orange revolution in the Russian version. Moscow will lose the opportunity to intervene in the Affairs of Ukraine, and may even be forced to withdraw from the Crimea. Of Ukraine will open a direct route to the action plan for preparation for NATO membership, and it will start the process of joining the European Union.The second scenario I call the “Russian realization”and the picture is quite different. According to this hypothesis, Russia is paving its own routes to bypass Ukraine, and this country is on the sidelines. Ukrainian citizens continue to emigrate to Russia to work in industrial plants, built to replace the traditional suppliers of Ukraine.

Like the “orange movement” since 2004, the coalition “public Servants” in Parliament breaks up, and in Ukrainian society is intensifying process of polarization, especially due to the fact that Zelensky begins negotiations with Russia. To the surface of the old inter-regional contradictions in Ukrainian politics, and the government abandon economic reforms demanded by the West. Even today, the famous Explorer of Ukrainian politics Andreas Umland concerned about the following:

The parliamentary majority Zelensky consists mostly of beginners with no experience in public office… These newcomers in the Parliament will work in a political environment where clearly lacks the established institutions of government, but corruption persists. They will have to make decisions and implement them in a country where the rule of law is not yet entrenched. They will also face numerous political and personal challenges, including tempting offers from Ukrainian oligarchs. It is possible that they are not ready.

For this reason, the IMF felt it necessary to warn that delays in implementation of key reforms “can increase the vulnerability of the Ukrainian economy and become an obstacle to further cooperation with the International monetary Fund”.

The political changes in the US and Europe might also have an impact on Ukraine. Angela Merkel two years will retire. In Europe, gaining the power of populist movements, and the growing Ukraine fatigue. This increases the likelihood of an easing of European sanctions, the actual recognition of the annexation of the Crimea and consent with the fact that the Eastern border of the European world is on the Vistula.Poland is gradually drifting towards authoritarianism, and that other European countries, especially Germany, do not want to subordinate its interest in improving relations with Russia preferred against Poland to Ukraine. The chaotic process of Brexia led to the fact that disappeared, another key supporter of the pressure on Russia. And the governments of France and Germany after Merkel and Macron will want to normalize its relations with Russia.

If Biden defeated in the primaries or in the General election, it will greatly reduce the chances of a recovery continue the Euro-Atlantic consensus on the question of pressure on Russia over Ukraine.

And finally, even if in Russia there is political tension in connection with the transfer of power in 2024, the failure of the movement Zelensky will mean that his Russian associates there is no example to follow in the face of Ukraine, and they will not be able to fight for change.

In addition, if the Russian economy recovers, it will disappear part of the motivation, which caused a wave of protests in 2019, such as economic stagnation and corruption.

Of course, the problem is that the pessimistic scenario of the “Russian realization” is the default option. Because the West is not making a concerted and United efforts, depriving Russia of its ability to create routes to bypass Ukraine, Moscow at best may opt-out of its services as a transit country for its energy resources, making it in the next two years.Even the strategy to reduce the negative effects, offered by negotiators Merkel (Russia continues to partially use the services of Ukraine for transit) would lead to a significant loss of income for Ukraine. EU and US are unlikely to be able easily and quickly to compensate for these losses. Russia will continue to send its flows of energy in roundabout ways…

At the same time, if the West will not go to direct and radical action aimed at undermining the Russian economy, Moscow has enough forces to continue their operations in Ukraine so that the country could not come close to joining NATO and the EU.

As the political coalition Zelensky heterogeneous, and the support of voters is not monolithic, the main question which is able to destroy the base of support Zelensky is Russian. Especially that one wing of the “public Servants” prepared for possible compromises, and the other strongly against anything that could be construed as a surrender of Ukraine.

Russia has a clear strategy, which it implements in respect of Ukraine, on the basis that the future course of this country would have the most serious consequences for Russian interests, as they interpreterpath the current Kremlin team. Therefore, Russia is ready to take risks and costs in order to prevent Ukraine’s integration with the West, or weaken the threat to its interests from a unified and cohesive Euro-Atlantic world.

In contrast, the West has the perfect set of prospects and results, but he is much less willing to bear the costs and losses to see their preferred scenario.

Moreover, the failure of the policy in relation to Ukraine will cause disappointment among three leading European powers, and even from distant America, but will not be a powerful blow to their interests.To these questions there is no single Euro-Atlantic response, and there is a separate Polish, Romanian, German, French and Italian answers. In addition, there are significant inconsistencies in the views of the Washington foreign policy establishment and conservative “middle America”.

In the past, the corruption and incapacity of the Ukrainian authorities became the justification for the refusal to Ukraine in the stated goals, which, in the words of Congressman Henry Hyde, is the “full integration of Ukraine with the West and the protection of that country, its institutions”.

Election Zelensky has created a problem which at the moment is that the West now has a partner, whom he presumably was looking for. Will there be a third chance for Ukraine to a different result, asks the author, in concluding his extensive analytical material.The material is based on a translation of the site inosmi.EN

Author Nikolas Gvosdev, the famous American scientist studying Russian-American relations. Speaks in the media as an expert on U.S. foreign policy and international relations when they affect Russia and its neighbors.

With the full version of the article can be found here.Andrei Nikolaev

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