Experts Assess the Situation in Ukraine

Rossiya Segodnya hosted a news conference in the form of a Moscow-Kiev video conference, where the results of a survey, “The Political Situation, Parties and Politicians, Ratings. March 2015,” conducted by Ukraine’s Research&Branding Group, were presented.

The survey assesses, in particular, the current social, economic and political situation in Ukraine and the attitude of the Ukrainian people toward the conflict in the east of the country, toward the so-called antiterrorist operation and crisis resolution scenarios.

Participants in the event included political commentator Sergei Mikheyev in Moscow and sociologist and Research&Branding Group cofounder Yevgeny Kopatko and Ukrainian Policy Foundation Director Kost Bondarenko in Kiev.

The survey was conducted from March 6 through 16 in all parts of Ukraine except the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, with a total of 1,500 respondents polled.

Kopatko noted that 69 percent of Ukrainians are dissatisfied with their lives. Almost half the Ukrainians surveyed feel that the country is entering a major crisis. Over 50 percent of respondents believe that the situation in Ukraine will only get worse.

People most of all fear an armed conflict, and soaring prices and inflation. In third place is unemployment. The loss of jobs and declining incomes affect people’s living standards and therefore their satisfaction with life. The number of people who will not vote in elections is growing with every month.

Some 50 percent of respondents believe there is a risk of the conflict spilling over into other parts of Ukraine.

Regarding the future of Donbass, 48 percent see Donbass as part of united Ukraine, 20 percent see it as independent and 10 percent of respondents see it as part of Russia.

On the topical question of how relations between Russia and Ukraine have changed in the last year, 93 percent of respondents said the relations have deteriorated but at the same time the majority of Ukrainians (81 percent) feel it is impossible to settle the conflict without negotiations with Russia. Some 37 percent see a risk of war.

Generally, Ukrainians see a positive outlook for Russian-Ukrainian relations in the future. Fifty percent believe that bilateral relations will normalize but are unlikely to be what they used to be.

Sergei Mikheyev said these figures did not come as a surprise to him as an expert, and that they completely confirm the assessments that exist in the expert community.

The US has managed to create a situation where it set the Russian and Ukrainian people against each other by provoking an insurmountable internal conflict. The expert points out that despite America’s actions, the responsibility for the ongoing events lies both with the Russian and the Ukrainian sides. We have allowed this game to be played against us. As for Ukraine, it has made the wrong geopolitical choice. Ukraine should have stuck to its neutral status and played on the balance of interests between Russia and the West. It could have lived that way for decades, receiving dividends, building the country’s future and developing. However, the Ukrainian elite was drawn into a geopolitical game, or agreed to be drawn into it. There was no chance that Ukraine would emerge from this game unscathed. If Ukraine continues playing this game, it is likely to have an extremely negative impact on our bilateral relations because Ukraine is not prepared to play big geopolitics. It is a tool, or at worst, a battlefield.

Mikheyev said it is critical to understand a very simple thing: the attempt to identify Ukraine’s interests with US interests is a big mistake. Yes, there is some overlap, but these interests do not coincide. Ukraine as an independent state has its own interests, which are also different from Russian interests.

Bondarenko is confident that the poll figures are objective. The events in Ukraine have an objective side but a lot [in the public perception of these events] is the result of propaganda. The information war is far more intense than the confrontation in eastern Ukraine.

The expert believes that the present state of relations between Russia and Ukraine is not invariable. These relations will develop in the future but it is impossible to say at this point whether they will get better or worse. Nevertheless, there are prerequisites for the de-escalation of the conflict, and it should not be forgotten that there is a state border between our countries that cannot be removed, and we will continue to live side by side. For this reason alone, relations should normalize sooner or later.

Experts increasingly talk about the possibility of early parliamentary elections. It is quite possible that if elections are held in the fall, they will sideline the “party of war,” while the southeast, after recovering from the shock, will be galvanized into action.

According to Bondarenko, 2016 can be marked by a gradual improvement in relations between Ukraine and Russia, primarily in the economy and then in politics. Cultural cooperation will also play a significant role.

In any event, what has been happening over the last year and what is happening now will become a lesson both for Russia and for Ukraine.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.