Ukraine: after Geneva

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The Geneva negotiations on the future of Ukraine have resulted in an ill-fitting coat. Granted, there has been an accord, and it must be welcomed, but the countries of the European Union and the United States continue to talk about sanctions against Russia. This is incoherent. If there was indeed an accord, sanctions must, obviously, be called off. And if one wants to persist with the sanctions, it means that there was no accord, or that one is intent on the failure of the accord that one has signed. Strangely, such duplicity doesn’t elicit any criticism or comments in the French press, maybe because France is a party in this…

But above all, the Ukrainian provisory leaders, the Prime Minister, Arseni Yatseniuk, and the interim President, Olexander Turtchinov, seem incapable to react in a sensible manner to the situation they are facing on the ground. This can be seen by the errors they have committed, and which they continue to commit on several points, testifying to their disconnection from the real situation of the country. These errors are three in number:

  1. There is first of all the error about the present situation and the measures to be taken to avoid a civil war. These two leaders have signed an accord for disarming the militias. This is a positive step, but one that should have been taken a month ago. Today, this is no longer – alas – where the problem lies. In maintaining in its wording the « anti-terrorist operation » which the Ukrainian Armed Forces are supposed to be carrying on in the East of the country, they are proving their incapacity to take into account what is really happening. This operation, which was to expulse the anti-government militants from public buildings, has failed. Some units let themselves be disarmed by the crowd, which shows that we are indeed in presence of a popular uprising and not merely of the actions of « armed groups.» While maintaining the principle of this operation, presently devoid of meaning, they lose more credibility by the day. What was needed was an accord freezing the situation of the ground, together with a withdrawal of the Kiev troops. Lacking these, trust cannot be re-established and the risk of violent incidents will remain very high.
  1. Then there is the error as to the political solutions which must be brought if one wants Ukraine to have a future. The leaders in Kiev have declared that they want to take measures to guarantee the status of the Russian language and proceed to an important decentralization, the terms of which remain however vague [1]. If these measures had been announced on February 25th, they could probably have stopped the crisis. But presently, taking into account the distrust against the leaders in Kiev, the total loss of legitimacy which affects them, these measures are dramatically lagging behind events. The anti-government militants of Eastern Ukraine wants precise guarantees on the future statute of their rights and on the constitutional situation of Ukraine. As long as the provisory government will behave like a King who purports to « grant » liberties to his people, it will hit a wall of distrust and opposition[2]. At the risk of repeating myself, I state again that the provisory government must announce elections to a Constitutional Assembly or, failing this, the establishment of a vast commission of national reconciliation, so that all parties can make their voice heard and attempt to find an agreement on the future of Ukraine. So long as the leaders in Kiev will not understand that they do not represent the totality of the country, because of the circumstances of their arrival to power, and that they are only one of the tendencies which are expressing themselves today in Ukraine. Their legitimacy does not go beyond the circle of their supporters. This is also true of the movements who are acting up in the East of the country. This is why what is needed is either a reconciliation conference, or the election of a Constitutional Assembly, both solutions allowing to associate the East of Ukraine into defining the future of the country. Any proposal remaining short of these solutions is condemned to failure.
  1. There is finally a profound error on what the United States and Europe are ready to consent in order to support the de facto government in Kiev. As early as February 27th, it was clear that the EU was dragging its feet as to the sums that would have to be contributed in order to stabilize the Ukrainian economy. On February 28, the German minister of foreign affairs declared that the EU could commit itself to the tune of… 1 billion euros. However, in view of the present collapse of the Ukrainian economy, it’s between 20 and 25 billion euros a year which will have to be provided, over 4 to 5 years at least. On March 3rd, the United States Congress committed itself to contribute one billion dollars. There are indeed promises, spreading between 20 and 35 billion, but concretely nothing is coming, nor will anything be coming before some time… Manuel Barroso committed himself in the name of the EU for 11 billion euros, but without giving a precise date. The EBRD too has committed itself to lend 5 billion euros, but between 2014 and 2020. The IMF could commit itself to the amount of 14-18 billion dollars, according to a statement of March 27th. One can see that the promised sums remain well short of those needed, covering at best a year and a half, that is, up to the end of 2015. But, what will happen afterwards? Moreover, up to now, the sums really committed are no more than 2 billion.  Russian journalists are putting all this to good use [3]. Not only are the leaders in Kiev discovering that there is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip, and ‘twixt promises and realities, but they also notice that this aid would relieve the Ukrainian economy only temporarily. The only solution for Ukraine consists in a rapid resumption of economic relations with Russia.


Rather than talking of « sanctions » against Russia, would it not be better if those in charge of French politics, the President and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, talk the discourse of reality to the Ukrainian leaders? It is clear that the EU cannot have a common foreign policy on this point (as on many others, for that matter…) But France and Germany have a policy, or at least they should have one.

This policy must first consist in taking one’s distance from the countries of the EU who have unilaterally taken extremist positions on the Ukrainian question, such as Poland. A Polish newspaper [4] is actually telling how the government of its country has materially aided the militants of « Pravyy Sektory » to organize the provocations which have led to this disastrous situation.

It must then consist in telling the Ukrainians that they must expect nothing from the EU and that it is in their interest to get reconciled, and to quickly find a terrain of economic understanding with Russia.

Finally, it must not threaten new sanctions and, when an accord will have been found between Ukraine and Russia, put an end to the present sanctions which only revive the memory of the « cold war » in Europe, and which in reality are pleasing only the Americans.



[3] See the blog of Anatolij Charij, URL :

[4] See « Tajemnica stanu, tajemnica Majdanu » in NIE, n°13/2014. URL :


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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