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!


  1. Klitschko – stilll has the problem of the residency ‘requirements’. The RADA could still pass that bill without too much problem no? What can the West do about it? (and some in opposition will be relieved too). There’s also Svodobda – which equals in increase in support for Yanuk and a bigger split in western Ukraine (and a big headache for the West)

    • He has a very big problem. The Constitution states 10 years resident in Ukraine, but does not define “resident”. Tax resident he is not by his own admission. Is resident more time in country than out of it – Is that each year for ten years or on average over ten years? Even then it will be a case of literally counting the days.

      There is also a split in the PoR itself to consider. The oligarchy may have been temporarily bought off but that will not remain good for long. The rank and file MPs are not overly impressed right now and demanding major changes in the government – issues with the crumbs falling to them in the food chain maybe, but others do genuinely prefer the EU to being a Russian vassal. A PoR split when 47% of their voters favour the western direction would be a disaster for them.

      Then there is the question of whether Yanukovych himself will run. If Putin thinks he has bought Ukraine and Yanukovychs ratings are beyond fraudulent manipulation towards the summer of next year, will Yanukovych not run and allow Mr Putin’s men, either Kluyiev or Medvedchuk to be the PoR candidate instead?

      Unknown waters at the moment.

      • Bulldogs fighting under the carpet? -although at the moment they seem to be keeping the carpet quite smooth and steady.

  2. 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.

    Isn’t this a problem though in a poor country where many people have a hard time making ends meet. It might appeal to computer programmers and other yuppies but whose first priority is well – sausage.

    • You may think so – but then when poor people are royally stitched up like this and their money to buy sausage stolen because of a corrupt prosecutors department, then they too search for that bright burning spark in a dark void.

      • I’m still dubious.Take the last Presidential elections – . Half the country voted for Yanuk and POR. They were voting for sausage (a.k.a stability) and perhaps against western Banderanism. Nothing here for democracy and freedom and it hasn’t changed after two years only disappointment as for the sausage. As for the other half – Yat’s. Tiph’s and Yush’s measily total count in my eyes. Tymoschenko’s voters (the majority)? Could anyone have mistaken her as standing for or representing the ideals of democracy, rule of law and free press, no corruption etc etc.

      • Living in what is supposedly a PoR heartland, the loss of faith in PoR is almost tangible amongst large numbers of the Odessa society. However, that does not translate into opposition support by extension of course. Of the opposition, the only one likely to make even a small gain amongst Odessa voters would be Klitschko/UDAR (as the previous mayor Gurwitz is now UDAR and is generally thought of in degrees of magnitude better than the recently sacked PoR Mayor). There is still no love for Batkivshchyna or Svoboda. How all of this plays out at the polls remains to be seen though. Good chance of an UDAR mayor, but as for the chances of a majority voting for Klitschko rather than Yanukovych (forget Yatseniuk and Tyahnybok here) it is far too early to say.

        As for those who may genuinely stand for rule of law, free press, democracy etc, there are few amongst PoR and none of those are anywhere near the seat of power (Tigipko being closest I suppose), Klitschko and Poroshenko. Poroshenko simply doesn’t have the support.

        Still, there is 15 months between now and the election and much can happen between now and then – both good and bad – from any political quarter.

  3. OK

    Great post!

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