UKRAINE-Emergency

This text has been translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia. I made some corrections and improvements, updating it as far I was gaining some new informations.

  •  (1)  The movement protesting the power of President Yanukovitch, the basis of which was a revolt against corruption far more than a will to join the European Union, has been overtaken by ultra-nationalist  elements, some of which belong to small fascist group. These elements have deliberately sought confrontation by shooting at the security forces, putting at inconsiderate risks others demonstrators who found themselves held hostage. These militants, coming largely from “Pravogo Sektora” or from the « Svoboda » party, an openly anti-semitstic organization, carry a heavy share of responsibility for all dead people on Maidan Square. Their number oscillates between 10,000 and 20,000; they were (and are) a minority in the protest movement, but they became politically dominant as the situation kept degrading and the violence of the clashes increased. It was they who tried to storm the Parliament, provoking the response of the security forces and triggering the sequence of events, which brought about the flight and then demise of Yanukovitch.
  • (2)  It must here be reminded that the President and the Parliament have been regularly elected. But these elections allowed to measure just how much Ukrainian politics were marked by a division between the Russian (and Russian speaking) populations mostly concentrated in the East of the country and the Ukrainian speaking populations, part of which live in the regions which, before 1914, were either part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or of Poland. Ukraine is a new country, born in 1991 more or less by accident. Its existence is made frail by these divisions. The latter have been reinforced by the economic evolutions of the past ten years, which saw the relationships with Russia rapidly developing. Eastern Ukraine, Russian speaking, lives better than Western Ukraine an issue frequently overlooked. For the latter, the European Union represents an important pole of attraction, even if it is an imaginary one, when taking account of considering the present economic situation of the EU.
  • (3)  The legal power, that is President Ianoukovitch, carries too a part of responsibilities in these tragic events, be it through a disproportionate use of force at the beginning of the demonstrations, or through its hesitations later on, which demoralized a large share of its supporters. It has been incapable to oppose itself to a minority logic, which expressed itself even in the parliament at the occasion of the vote, in early February, of the law depriving removing Russian language of its official language status (besides Ukrainian). This vote appears today to have represented a symbolic turn for it made the confrontation tip from a logic of a fight for democracy and against corruption to a logic that is much more nationalist-ethnicist. The Russian as well as Russian speaking populations of the regions of the East of Ukraine and of Crimea could only be legitimately concerned over the rupture of the pact on which independent Ukraine was based since 1991.
  • (4)  But the legal opposition has also a share of responsibility, particularly through its incapacity in enforcing compliance with the accords signed with the President. It let itself be politically overtaken by the ultra-nationalist groups and could not nor knew not regain control over them. It also let itself be lulled into illusions and delusions as to the support which the countries of the European Union could bring to it.
  • (5)  Following the tragic events of the end of February a de facto power put itself therefore in place in Kiev, provoking a collapse of the legitimacy of the Ukrainian State. The dissolution of units of police, which had merely obeyed orders, provoked a deep and profound disquiet in Eastern regions. The fact that several ministers from the provisional government are coming from « Svoboda » is too deeply concerning population of Eastern Ukraine. This was linked to the demise of the compromise on which actually Ukraine was built. It is to be added that some in the EU either through sheer ignorance or through malevolence have overlooked consequences of this compromise break-up. What we are witnessing since February 28, that is, the taking of power by pro-Russian groups in Crimea, in Kharkov, in Donetsk and even in Odessa, is only the logical result of a fight for democracy and against corruption which turned to an ethnic confrontation. This could explain why we are witnessing now mass demonstrations in Eastern Ukraine where the support to the elected President have been conspicuously low during the movement first part (November et early December). The large rallies we could see on March 1st are the ultimate proof that the Russian-speaking population is now uprising too. It is in this context that one must understand the military intervention of Russia, which is now taking place. Russia has direct an interest in the security of the region. This is shared by some Ukrainian people as we learnt on March 2nd that the head of the Ukrainian Fleet is no more recognizing the Kiev government and the Ukrainian frigate operating in the Aden Gulf has raised the Russia flag. It must be added that there are in Ukraine no less than 17 nuclear reactors and numerous centres where fissile materials are stockpiled. This is representing yet another danger for the security of the whole region.
  • (6)  No one, Nobody, under these conditions, has an interest in an antagonist partition of Ukraine, except for extremist groups, some of them seeming quite free to roam the road around Kiev right now. It is not in the interest of Russia, granted that it would gain what it already possesses de facto, that is, the majority of Ukrainian industry. A brutal partition would then give Russia few advantages but put her in an uncomfortable position of a long period of confrontation with the EU and the United States. Nor it is in the interests of the EU either, for it would have to literally carry on its shoulders the burden of Western Ukraine (and one half of the population). May be some are still harbouring the fallacious hope that European integration would solve at once all Ukraine economic problems. But we have plenty of experience that integration without some large monetary transfers is doomed to fail. The economic cost would be extremely high, with at least 12 to 15 euros billions a year for several years, in a situation where nobody wants to pay for anybody anymore. It would also be repeated go on over many years, for one cannot see how the situation of Western Ukraine could better itself in the short term. Financial consequences would be important too, for European banks, particularly Austrian banks are heavily exposed to the Ukrainian risk. Moreover, the EU would be held responsible for the situation in Central and Western Ukraine and, with a rapid rise in disillusionment, it would have to confront the rise of pro-Russian sentiments in this population. May be had Mrs. Merkel gambled too far on Ukraine. But the old adage stands true: “if you break it, you own it”. The EU has contributed to the destruction of Ukraine and will have to pay the price for that.
  • (7)  It is therefore an urgent necessity that leaders of the EU and the Russian leaders meet and agree on a peaceful exit from this crisis. All threats, done from Washington or elsewhere will not solve or even ease the current predicament. It is urgent to establish a roadmap for a federalisation of Ukraine, while maintaining its territorial integrity. Material guarantees must be brought to the Russian speaking population, and the ultra-nationalist groups must be urgently disarmed and rendered powerless and reduced to impotence. Ukraine can live as a sovereign nation, but at the condition first that the initial compromise on which Ukraine was based could be rebuilt and second that it would find economic buoyancy. This implies today its specific forms of economic integration. As it happens, only Russia and the Eurasian Union are in a position to provide a true engine for the development of the country. The European Union must stop thinking that Russia will finance a hostile Ukraine. Russia, on its side, must understand the political and cultural tropism towards Europe of a part of the Ukrainian population. Conditions of an understanding allowing the country to find back its stability, both economic and political, are possible. They actually correspond to the interests of the EU as well as of Russia. We must hope that the ideology of confrontation will not take the overhand and that reason will triumph.

Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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