Archive for December 18th, 2013


Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you time – Russia/Ukraine

December 18, 2013

Before I get started, I was torn between the eventual title of this entry or “Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you a hooker – Russia/Ukraine” – I am still unsure which I prefer, but this is free to read and hardly worth my time deliberating over the title.  Headline writer I am not after all.

Anyway, onwards!

On the back of the latest statement by the EU, and as has been expected for the past 10 days, the meeting between Presidents Yanukovych and Putin produced a massive cut in the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas, from well over $400 to $268.5 per 1000 cubic meters (around 33% reduction), as well as the purchase of $15 billion of Ukrainian Eurobonds – financed through purchases from the Russian National Welfare Fund -, thus easing the current governments immediate economic problems – despite the deals being very short of the detail in which every devil lives.

How well what appears to be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” deal with regard to as yet undecided detail will work, remains to be seen.

Undoubtedly, President Yanukovych will present this as an economic victory – and perhaps it is – but more importantly for President Yanukovych, it probably secures his future until at least the March 2015 elections.

President Putin has bought himself – and President Yanukovych – time, but that is perhaps all he has managed to do when it comes to the inevitable Ukrainian-Russia divorce.

Economically, President Yanukovych can now wait out the євромайдан movement – however, євромайдан is not a protest that was driven by economics.  It is driven by ideology.

Depending upon the resolve of the Ukrainian people who turn up in Kyiv day in and day out, night in and night out, President Yanukovych may find that his “economic victory” gains very little traction with a movement far more concerned with the ideals that underpin democracy – rule of law, freedoms, reduction of corruption and generally competent and transparent governance.

Both Presidents Putin and Yanukovych may yet discover that whilst money may have bought them time, it will not have bought them the love required to abandon the democracy framework within the Association Agreement – whether it be signed or not during President Yanukovych’s current tenure – and that would seem unlikely now.

If money can’t buy you love, money can buy you relief – even if that is temporary.


In short, this may not prove to be enough to insure President Yanukovych is reelected within plausible parameters of electoral fraud and despite no love between Russian and Ukrainian presidents, any other Ukrainian political leader with a chance of winning the next elections does not bode well for Russian attempts to continue to frustrate the Association Agreement.  It will become a major election issue.

Somebody else’ signature may yet adorn the EU Association Agreement before the end of 2015 – and the only possible counter to that is to begin to steadily apply that AA democracy framework now, even if the agreement remains unsigned between now and 2015 – or ever.

Would it be too perverse to consider that by applying and implementing that democracy AA framework now to appease the євромайдан movement and dull the subject as an election issue simultaneously, on the back of today’s Russian economic lifeline, circumstance may conspire to lead to a more democratic Ukraine within a Eurasion Union should Yanukovych win a second term?  – Definitely too perverse for me to consider seriously at this juncture, and the oligarchy wouldn’t go for it either within the current envisaged Eurasion Union framework – but recently it seems stranger things happen here on a daily basis.

Anyway, the Russian deals, short as they are on detail, seem likely to keep President Yanukovych in office until 2015 – not that there was ever much doubt of that happening anyway.

The opposition remain without any plan other than to encourage and watch the Ukrainian people get cold in the squares of Kyiv and other cities.

Ukrainian civil society seems to be turning uncivil once more.


The EU seems content to look on speaking highly of the civic movement but being able to do little more via the traditional communication channels due to unpopular politicians from all parties, and a disconnected civil society who have almost no trust amongst the protesters.  It seems to have given up trying to convince the Ukrainian public that are still unconvinced by the EU Association Agreement as well.

How can the EU do something tangible to show their solidarity with the Ukrainian society protesting?  Throwing yet more money at an untrusted civil society seems like a policy fraught with danger and which has thus far been ineffective historically.

A speedy introduction of Visa-free tourism within Schengen for biometric passport holders and/or the threat behind closed doors to those with influence and a shady past (thus all) within the political and business class regarding investigations into their European assets and where the money came from that bought them? –  A realpolitik shocker from the EU?

It surely cannot allow this movement of “Europeanness” to pass or fizzle out without positive tangible result – Where else within Europe would they find such belief in their model that would manifest itself so visibly?  Not amongst that many domestic audiences to be sure.

Russia knows that currently Ukraine will not join the Customs Union as it wants, but has at least stopped the EU in its tracks in Ukraine.  If it can’t have what it wants, it has (until 2015 at least) prevented what it didn’t want.  The Russian propaganda machine now has 15 months to project into every living room in Ukraine 24/7 the trashing the EU agreement, as does President Yanukovych as the hero of the hour for averting economic collapse (and righting the wrongs of the Tymoshenko’s gas deal just to put icing on the cake).

Thus the future of the democratic Ukraine that those at євромайдан are protesting for is seemingly left in their hands alone – for an effective domestic or regional champion they can trust and seems capable of delivering tangible support to their desires is notable by its absence and/or impotency.  The determination and perseverance of  євромайдан is all they currently have when the ineffective political cheerleaders have been removed.

Nevertheless, most genuine transitions to democracy are driven from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down.  A cold winter and a long haul lay ahead for those intent on achieving democratic reform – and those of us who remotely care about democracy and good governance have a duty to do what we can to help.


Happy Birthday Mykola Azarov – (Is it time to retire?)

December 18, 2013

Today is Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s birthday – С Днем Рождения Николай

He was born on 17th December 1947.

Today, that makes him 66 years old.  Today that takes him past the mandatory retirement age  from public service of 65, according to Ukrainian law.

As it seems the opposition cannot unseat him through votes of “no confidence”, and the President will keep him for as long as is possible simply because he is at the end of his political life and has no sights on any higher office, you have to wonder why the opposition have not made a big (if somewhat sarcastic) effort of celebrating this birthday and highlighting the law and his age.


Is this yet another instance whereby the rule of law applies only to those without immunity (and thus impunity)?

Nevertheless, some will wonder why, Mr. Azarov who could have walked away from the entire political mess unscathed due to reaching mandatory retirement age today, has not taken a politically attractive route out as set by law.  Why wait to be ousted or sacked at some point?

Perhaps, with the opposition parties having no plan, civil society now beginning to turn upon itself, he feels he can and will outlast the protesters at євромайдан who have no single politician or united civil society that they all trust and can rally behind.

I wonder if he will get a US$ loans and cheaper gas from Russia today to ease the Ukrainian 2014 budget – well it is his birthday!

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