Ukrainian Tragedy: Two Years On

The evolution of the situation in Ukraine since the beginning of 2014 is a real example of how leaders can destroy a state because of their mistakes and fanaticism.

This could be an interesting example for future political science textbooks, if this crisis did not involve a population of tens of millions and deaths of over 6,000. Ukrainian crisis is a real tragedy.

But this tragedy must also be studied in view of political science and economics in order to understand the ins and outs of this crisis. Also it is necessary to understand possible solutions.

Indeed, the Ukrainian crisis is now an important division factor between the Western Europe and Russia, and at the same time the crisis in the Middle East and relative terrorist threat require a revision of strategic priorities. It appeared not possible to coordinate combined actions against DAESH in Syria and to continue violent opposition on the Ukraine issue. Furthermore, the EU countries, mainly France and Germany, seem to have revised - at least in part - their policy towards the Ukrainian crisis. Together with a new realism regarding the Syrian crisis some deep disillusionment is emerging towards the Kiev authorities.

Reasons of Crisis

Nobody questions reasons of the massive corruption that characterized the political and economic system of Ukraine at the end of 2013. But this corruption is not connected with President Yanukovych. It was an endemic feature of Ukraine since the early years of independence. This corruption became unbearable in different segments of the population. That is why first manifestations took place in Maidan Place. The inability of President Yanukovych and his government to take necessary measures contributed to the process capture by the ultra-nationalist and even fascistic forces like Pravy Sektor. The attitude of the European Union also contributed to a sharp polarization of political life in Ukraine and led to further destabilization of the political situation.

The illusions that leaders of the European Union fomented about possible accession of Ukraine to the EU played an important role in the deterioration of the political situation. Part of the Ukrainian population felt that the debate meant the choice between Russia and the EU. This polarization of public opinion had an extremely deleterious effect, at a time when the Ukrainian economy was increasingly linked to the Russian one. If imports of hydrocarbons (mainly gas) from Russia have always been important, Ukrainian exports to Russia have increased sharply since the early 2000s. Economic integration, at least in areas such as metallurgy, chemistry and mechanical engineering was at that time very clear. There was no logic about the rearrangement of the Ukrainian economy towards the economy of EU countries. This did not correspond to economic trends that could be seen for several years. The combination of a justified feeling of frustration vis-à-vis of the Ukrainian elite corruption and manipulations done by the EU to the economic agenda of relations between Ukraine and Bruxelles had an explosive effect on the Ukrainian political life in 2013.

Ukraine is a new country, whose existence is undermined by divisions. They were reinforced by latest economic developments in last ten years which were characterized by strong economic relations with Russia. Russian-speaking Eastern Ukraine in early 2014 lived better than the Western Ukraine. For the latter, the European Union represented an important focal point, although largely imaginary, given the current economic situation in the EU.

The tragic events of late February established a de facto power in Kiev and caused a collapse of legitimacy of the Ukrainian state. The dissolution of the police units that just followed orders caused deep concern in the eastern regions. The logical struggle for democracy and against corruption transformed into an ethnic clash.

The leaders of the Ukrainian Parliament bear heavy responsibility for their mistakes and excesses. They sparked a civil war in their own country. This war caused more than 6000 deaths and nearly a million of refugees in the territory of the Russian Federation.

Now the Kiev government is politically divided (President Petro Poroshenko, elected in June 2014, appears in this respect as a relative "moderate") and at least technically is increasingly dependent on the United States. The American "advisers" occupy many floors in various ministries. This shows that the United States, which deliver so called "not-lethal" weapons to Ukraine, is already involved in the conflict. As to the illusions of Mme Merkel and Mr Hollande, the United States have not given their explicit consent to the Minsk agreements, and so have no chance to be respected.

We know that Ukraine is virtually bankrupt. The International Monetary Fund discussed the possibility of a $ 17 billion loan. But the conditions can not be implemented by the current government without real cease-fire. At best, if paid, it will ensure the financial stability of Ukraine until the end of the year, not more. This money will not replace a healthy economy, and significant trade relations with Russia as well as with the European Union.

The future of Ukraine depends on the agreement between Russians and Europeans. More directly, the immediate survival of the country largely depends on the assistance provided by the European Union.

This would enable Germany and France, if they dared to speak loud towards Washington, to involve the United States into the peace process. Otherwise, the entire cost of Ukraine crisis is linked exclusively to the United States. It is clear that in that case the Congress would refuse to finance such expenditures, which in the next five years could reach $ 90- 120 billion.

The economic question is, perhaps, that what could help to a realistic application of the Minsk agreements, however, on two conditions: Germany and France impose their conditions in Washington and that these two countries go out of the sterile and imbecile game of the total blame on Russia while, as we can see, the warmongers are elsewhere.

No peace, no war?

Without an implementation of the political component of the Minsk Agreement, life tends to be organized on the basis of a de facto independence of Lugansk and Donetsk regions. It is clear that this way of life is anything but easy. The total population of the areas under the insurgents control is about 3 million people, including about 1 million refugees fled to Russia. The continued fighting on the front line prevents any serious effort to rebuild anything at the moment, except the restoration of the railway between Lugansk and Donetsk. Moreover, Kiev authorities are interested to keep the population of Donbass in serious insecurity and in an atmosphere of terror.

The Kiev government has suspended payments of pensions that looked like a recognition that Kiev no longer considered Lugansk and Donetsk under its jurisdiction. Remember that the Russian government had always maintained the payment of pensions in Chechnya in the period of Dudayev’s self-proclaimed rule. One of the points of the Minsk-2 agreement was precisely to ensure the recovery of these payments. Needless to say, Kiev continues to oppose it. The population is largely dependent on the Russian humanitarian aid, except a minimum of continuous production of coal out of the mines and some plants.

Let’s say this: it causes a gradual depletion of the hryvnia in the Donbass and the rise of Russian ruble. Moreover, given the better strength of the ruble against the hryvnia, the ruble has massively become savings vehicle and the account unit in Donbass. But the question of the circulating currency is eminently political. The Minsk-2 agreements provided the end of the economic and monetary blockade by the Kiev government. The non-implementation of a large part of these agreements, in particular the political and economic aspects, of course, makes acute the question of the monetary status of these regions. The issue of sovereignty, through the issue of monetary sovereignty is very important for the insurgent regions.

And then what we see now: Do Donetsk and Lugansk want to have the status of autonomous republics within Ukraine, which means revision of the Constitution, or are they moving towards a de facto independence, which won’t be recognized by the international community? Russia, for now, is inclined to the first solution, while the leaders of DNR and NRL prefer the latter.

European fatigue

Europeans begin to feel fatigue on the Ukrainian crisis issue. Few people today doubt the fact that Ukraine is now a "failed country" or "collapsed country". The Ukraine institutions still are under the influence of the oligarchs and corruption is getting worse.

The French position began to change in recent months. This development is less spectacular than on Syria, but it is no less important. According to certain statements of Quai d'Orsay, it is really tired of the Kiev government position, which does not want to implement the Minsk agreements. French politicians begin to regret, but probably too late, to be influenced by a diplomatic logic dominated in the EU institutions with disproportional influence of the Polish and Baltic positions on this issue.

Germany, too, begins to evolve on the Ukrainian issue. For months Berlin has adopted a hysterical anti-Russian position. Now they understand that if the USA manage to saddle the Ukrainian burden on the European Union, it is Germany that would have most to lose. In fact, we went back to the situation of 2012/2013, but after a year of civil war in Ukraine.

It seems that only Great Britain and the United States continue to support an aggressive stance against Russia on Ukraine, while in other European capitals there is weariness with corruption, incompetence and the political cynicism that dominate in Kiev. This gives perhaps the main chance for a settlement of the Ukrainian crisis in the coming months.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.