Archive for December 19th, 2013

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Framing the fight going forward – Belarus or Poland, take your pick!

December 19, 2013

Yesterday, following the announcements of the Presidents of Russia and Ukraine, regarding the deals announced and the lack of detail therein (and detail being the abode of every devil) – I wrote this explaining the reasons why despite buying time for both Presidents, they may very well find that what was announced will gather very little traction with those protesting.

To be frank, what was announced was expected – but economics are not the reason the protesters have gathered – the ideology behind democracy, transparency, rule of law and good governance are.

If President Yanukovych has offered to turn Ukraine into an economic vassal for the Kremlin, with the intention of allowing Russia to seriously increase trade with Ukraine and buy up infrastructure and businesses  over the pre-election period in an effort to change the current balance of trade vis a vis the EU and make the DCFTA far less attractive when the EU AA/DCFTA becomes “the” election issue, well there is little that can be done other than attempts to frustrate and boycott.

The opposition now sit with 209 MPs signatures, requiring 226 to oust the government – and momentum on that front looks likely to cease, baring a political force majeure incident

What are the chances of the $15 billion in Eurobonds Russia will buy to ease the Ukrainian economy being 2 year bonds rather than longer term bonds?  All due just after any Ukrainian president begins a new tenure and thus to face an immediate Russian financial squeeze if they happen to be likely to sign the EU AA?

The chances of a contractually agreed review of gas prices every other day in case of a change in Ukrainian politics once more?

The Kremlin and Russia are far more nimble, clever and swift at making decisions – even if those decisions are self-harming to achieve its goals – than the overly bureaucratic, glacial EU.

There is but one voice in the Kremlin.  The EU has 28 Member States and 3 EU entities of significants – an entire choir – that take so long to sing in tune, the Russian solo is over and the audience leaving the building before the EU starts its performance.

It is why Russia has continually bemoaned the European agreement framed within economics and trade.  Here it can and does react faster than the EU, and is prepared to take some pain itself to be a realpolitik winner.

And the EU is at fault here.  It has allowed itself to be dragged into this geopolitical battle on Russian terms – namely framed through economics and trade in the media and Ukrainian societal arena.

It is time for the future of Ukraine to be robustly reframed with immediate effect.  It is time for that reframing to be consistently in the media.  It is time for democracy, rule of law, reduction of corruption, and good transparent governance to be made the standard around which to rally – bright burning spark in a dark void.  It should be the arguement in favour of the AA.

This should be forced to be the central election issue whenever the AA/DCFTA is brought up.  It is where Putinism and the Kremlin cannot compete.  It is why the Kremlin has steered very clear of the AA construct and concentrated on trade and associated economics of the DCFTA.

Ukraine is far beyond Russian one party/dominant party politics.  It has plurality, it has had regular changes of president and parliament – even if the entire political class are feckless beyond belief.  But it is little more than an electoral and feckless democracy.  It is far from consolidated.

It has 200,000 people protesting not over economics, but over the kind of society they want to live in and feel that will not be achieved unless the Ukrainian political class sign up to something to which they can be held accountable externally as well as internally.

The євромайдан movement, the politicians who have decided to represent the movement (which is not to be confused with the євромайдан movement supporting the politicians), civil society, the media – both domestic and international – and especially the EU, need to frame the agreement as one that delivers what is far beyond that which the Kremlin can deliver or represents.

A stark choice in the style of (democratic) governance for Ukrainians to make – “Belarus or Poland, take your pick” – for that is what the Association Agreement offers, that is what the EU will deliver with a willing Ukrainian president and parliamentary majority via an agreed and binding plan.  Now are your elections, now is your choice.

Sounds alarmist?  Well perhaps, but better than sleepwalking into a nightmare and waking to find it too late – and since when did the political class and media shun alarmist headlines anyway?

For the next 15 months, there is the EU frame.  There is the opposition frame.  There is the євромайдан frame.  There is the pro-European media frame, and most of all, there is the frame in which Russia simply cannot win.

Whilst mindful and respectful of the economic arguements, make it  the second tier issue – now get on with it!

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