Is there anybody left amongst Eurasia-watchers in the West that hasn’t condemned the Ukraine for suspending preparations for agreements that would’ve taken it closer into the EU’s fold? Until recently, they’d expected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to enter history as “the man who brought the Ukraine into Europe” by signing an Association Agreement (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) at the two-day Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius this week. However, that plan fizzled, as many Western experts have it, because “imperialist” Russia strong-armed Yanukovich into an 11th hour about-face. The decision created a backlash in the Ukraine, where the parliamentary opposition now wants Yanukovich impeached for state treason. Thousands of protesters hit the streets of Kiev to force a change of mind in their president. As a recent poll shows, even 47 percent of supporters of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions support the Ukraine’s association with the EU.
Therefore, why would a leader up for re-election in less than 15 months from now balk at granting the wishes of his constituents? At least, shouldn’t he have put this important issue before the public in a referendum? The short answer is… it’s the economy, stupid. According to the Ukrainian government, Russia imports more goods from the Ukraine than all of Europe does, whilst supplying the Ukraine with almost two-thirds of the natural gas that it consumes. Many of these goods come from the eastern Ukraine, which, together with the Crimea, is the power base for Yanukovich and his supporters. Russia already made it painfully clear that the billions that the Ukrainian economy has already lost because of recent trade restrictions introduced by Moscow would only be the beginning if Kiev signs the AA and DCFTA.
Reuters reported that EU officials claim that Russian officials told the Ukraine that introducing EU requirements would cost as much as 100 billion USD (3.3 trillion Roubles. 106.6 billion CAD. 110 billion AUD. 73 billion Euros. 61.2 billion UK Pounds), whilst Russia cutting off trade and imposing other restrictions on the Ukraine would’ve cost them 500 billion USD (16.4 trillion Roubles. 533 billion CAD. 550 billion AUD. 365 billion Euros. 306 billion UK Pounds). Even though the EU knew that Russia would punish the Ukraine economically, it shied away from offering a comprehensive package to compensate for Kiev’s potential losses. As former Clinton Administration adviser Andrew Weiss rightly put it, “What the EU came up with is a kind of partnership on the cheap”.
However, suppose Moscow didn’t act in its national interest in anchoring its post-Soviet neighbours. Let’s also imagine that, for some reason, Moscow would keep in place trade perks favouring Kiev, even though that’d expose its producers to EU goods re-exported onto the Russian market through the Ukraine. Even then, the Ukraine still couldn’t afford westward integration on the terms the EU is offering. By Yanukovich’s assessment, the proposed EU agreements would require the Ukraine to spend 160 billion USD (5.3 trillion Roubles. 171 billion CAD. 176 billion AUD. 117 billion Euros. 98 billion UK Pounds) to shift to European standards by 2017. Most probably, Yanukovich is exaggerating, but even if it cost only one-tenth as much, it’d still be a hefty sum for a nation whose budget deficit is more than 6.5 billion USD (Roubles. 7 billion CAD. 7.2 billion AUD. 4.8 billion Euros. 4 billion UK Pounds). On top of that, reportedly, the IMF refused a loan that the Ukraine needs to prop up its economy, unless Kiev doubles gas prices for consumers. One has to ask, would leaders in the EU double gas prices for their voters and divert billions of dollars needed to pay pensioners and public servants to satisfy someone else’s expectations only a little more than one year before an election?
If Yanukovich lost the February 2015 presidential election, it wouldn’t just mean that Yanukovich would be out of a job, it’d also mean that he and his allies would lose business assets and face possible jail time. After all, that’s what he did to former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko. Why should any future Ukrainian leader treat him any differently? If Yanukovich were to sign the EU agreements as they stand, the economy would suffer and he’d probably lose to whichever rival his arch-foe Timoshenko backed in 2015. Having lost part of his core supporters over the pain inflicted on the Ukrainian economy and budget by a combination of Russia’s punitive measures and costs incurred by bringing Ukrainian standards in line with those of the EU, he’d still fail to win enough voters from amongst the pro-Western crowd, who largely hate his guts. In short, Yanukovich’s decision to suspend the EU drive is the rational choice of a politician concerned with his own survival.
In contrast, if Yanukovich were to enter the Ukraine into the Customs Union of the Eurasian Economic Community, he could at least count on enough loans and gas discounts from Russia to prop up the economy long enough to win the 2015 election. Yet, Yanukovich knows from experience that siding with Russia, which seeks to anchor the Ukraine to itself, has its disadvantages. Upon his inauguration in February 2010, Yanukovich undertook a number of steps to accommodate Russia. These included cancellation of his predecessor’s campaign for recognition of the so-called Holodomor famine of the early 1930s, suspension of Ukraine’s drive for NATO membership, and an agreement to extend the stay of the Russian Black Sea Fleet until 2042. In the opinion of his aides, the overtures made to Russia early in Yanukovich’s presidency achieved little, other than a modest discount for gas. The perceived failure to re-ignite the relationship prompted Ukrainian First Vice-Prime Minister Valery Khroshkovsky to quip, “It all started as light flirtation, but it ended in hardcore porn”.
Therefore, Yanukovich is most likely to continue balancing between the EU and Russia… a policy his mentor and former president Leonid Kuchma described with the Russian saying, “A smart calf sucks milk from two cows”. For now, his hope must be that the trilateral talks between EU, Russia, and the Ukraine that he proposed would allow him to somehow integrate into the Western European economic space whilst preserving the perks of trading with Russia. However, whether the EU and Russia would continue to put up with Yanukovich playing them off one another is another matter.
30 November 2013
Western “Russia watchers” are sunk in hidebound orthodoxy, self-imposed tunnel vision, and self-satisfied scholasticism. They wish to believe that the USSR is dead and gone, and that communism is an ideology relegated to the dustbin of history. In a recent post, I compared two parades on Red Square… one in 1963, one in 2013. There was no substantive difference between the two. Indeed, had one not known about the August events, one would’ve concluded that the USSR was still alive n’ kicking, as strong as ever.
The Victory Banner led the parade, almost all the music played by the bands was of Soviet vintage, there were Orders of Victory emblazoned on the buildings and Orders of the Red Banner on the combat vehicles. If you watched the Pervy Kanal broadcast, the announcer even gave his narration in a voice pattern modelled after that of the famous presenter Yuri Levitan! One could forgive a modern Rip van Winkle if they thought that VVP was the General Secretary of the KPSS and that the USSR was in full flower.
Yet, the Western “experts” don’t see that. At the same time, they see Russia everywhere (and too strong) and nowhere (and too weak). Of course, this isn’t an observation of reality… it’s an orthodoxy more rigid than any found amongst Hard Shell Baptists and Wahabbis (who’re less different than either of them think!). Most of all, they’ve “buried” communism. You see, “the Market” won and “Socialism” lost… if the “experts” don’t parrot that down to the last iota, why, their corporate paymasters (either direct or indirect) would fire them. Therefore, they refuse to see that the Reds WERE right… “Lenin lived, Lenin lives, and Lenin will live!” In other words, the communist movement hasn’t died in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine. It not only survives, it’s grown, especially, since the economic meltdown in the West.
I believe that the Ukraine broke off the EU negotiations because Pyotr Simonenko, the head of the KPU, vetoed it. I believe that he talked it over with Vladimir Sabodan, who blessed his action. The Westerners believe their own propaganda, therefore, they don’t see the truth. Simonenko is vital to Yanukovich’s coalition in the Rada; ergo, he has a veto. Russia wasn’t involved to the extent that the “experts” believe. The unfounded claims of the Galician diaspora in the West, which is extremely Russophobic, fooled all the Western clerisy. They don’t believe in or look for the truth… they take Galician folly at face value, which leads to crank conclusions. It’s a classic case of GIGO.
I don’t hate Galician Uniates, but I’ll speak the truth plainly, I’ll speak out about what I see. If rank n’ file Uniates knew what kowtows their leadership made to the Vatican and to Langley, why, they’d be back amongst us in a heartbeat! However, they won’t listen to us… the propaganda is continual and it does have effect. I’ll simply say this… you can have Fr Mikhail Shuvar, who went to an early grave after suffering grave injury at the hands of a Uniate mob, or you can have Hilarion Alfeyev, who sucks up to and is obsequious to the very Uniate hierarchy that sanctioned the attacks on Fr Mikhail. I’ve chosen… what about you?
The Red Heart still beats… the EU veto is proof of that. Do watch what goes on and who’s doing what… it’ll be an education…