Archive for September, 2014

h1

External threats…..continued

September 22, 2014

In yesterday’s entry, this blog noted that, certainly as far as Odessa is concerned, there is far less threat from the Russian military and its proxies, than there is from consistent and ne’er ending political coercion and subterfuge from Moscow amongst the regional leadership.

“As has been written before on the blog, cities such as Odessa have far less to fear from military invasion than they do from a coercive political assault amongst their corrupt political class and weak institutions. Only should such a political assault fail entirely, would the real prospect of military confrontation in Odessa rear its head. Such a confrontation would certainly bring about a reaction from Europe that would inflict serious damage on The Kremlin one way or another very quickly. The cost of physically taking the city for The Kremlin would be immense both in body count and western reaction – far outstripping anything seen so far. Therefore incessant political coercion and subterfuge is likely to be the chosen battlefield for Odessa unless The Kremlin decides to “go for broke”, quite literally.”

A case of too great a military and further imposed economic cost for overt adventurism into Odessa and other cities for The Kremlin, but corrupt and weak political classes and institutions remain enablers of importance.

Would anybody bet on any newly elected RADA from 26th October lasting a full 5 year term?  Bets against other cities political classes being turned and/or coerced toward “special status” regions far beyond any decentralisation to be offered in the near future?

However, there are other external threats that cannot be ignored both for Odessa and the rest of Ukraine more generally.

As this entry displays – underlining President Poroshenko’s continued line in speeches abroad over the past few days – the Ukrainian economy is in dire straits.

Ukrainian GDP is at -5% and expected to shrink further.  Retail sales have shrunk to peak financial crisis levels.  Industrial production has plummeted.  The local currency has devalued at a shocking rate despite NBU interventions, and inflation is running at more than 14%.  Default is a real possibility, although not guaranteed.

Thoroughly grim – but as explained yesterday;

“Nevertheless, for reasons of political and legal expediency for both Russia and Ukraine, not to mention the EU, IMF, WB, OSCE etc., the ceasefire will be deemed as holding. Only a gross violation of it, such as the fall of Donetsk airport or the city of Mariupol would probably constitute acknowledgement of its failure – and perhaps the fall of Donetsk airport would not be deemed enough even then. The fall of Mariupol could not, however, be ignored.

Thus for Ukraine, the ceasefire need to be seen to officially hold to facilitate the 26th October elections, as well as further IMF lending in the winter, whereby Ukraine hopes that the 3rd and 4th tranches will be simultaneously released by the IMF. A recognition of war simply puts an end to both necessary events for Ukraine.”

Hence nobody wants to officially recognise that there is indeed an inter-State war (albeit it within a small geographical theatre) in the east of Ukraine.

In short, for Ukraine to survive it needs a serious influx of capital in the short term, and western FDI and meaningful western corporate appearances in the medium term – as has already been hinted at in the blog, one way is via preferred bidders in certain government tenders.  Aside from the obvious job creation that comes with major western corporations pitching their tent in Ukraine (and not just in Kyiv), there is a psychological element for the domestic Ukrainian constituency.

The usual objections regarding risk would need to be mitigated – perhaps partnering with the EDRD, Government of Ukraine or via home nation government guarantees as an indirect form of aid to Ukraine.  Whatever the case, risks can be reduced by a little clever thinking, legal gymnastics, and political/diplomatic backing.

A “Ukraine first” western policy is of paramount importance for the coming years – at least 5 years, probably more.  That is especially so as western policy toward The Kremlin and imposed sanctions are probably about to hit a lengthy “wait and see” period.

Unless there is a serious upping of the ante from Moscow, there is little likelihood more sanctions will be introduced – by the same token, those existing sanctions may well remain in place for quite some time too.

The western nations now have two policies to formulate with immediate effect, and for the decade ahead.

One regarding Russia and the current Kremlin designs, both internally and externally of Russia itself.

The other, a policy to underpin the DCFTA policy and Ukraine during transition in exceptional circumstance, if the European neighbourhood policy is to actually be deemed a success in the years ahead.  If not, it will become the policy that finally buried the EU as an actor with projection ability in the face of opposition on the international stage.

Advertisements
h1

The end of the beginning – Ukraine

September 21, 2014

In the late hours of yesterday, a 9 point plan to in effect freeze the conflict in eastern Ukraine was hammered out.  As has become the pattern,  immediately before, during, and after any such talks, fighting has increased, rather than decreased.

The 9 point plan appears to be a rather loosely worded bastard child born of both President Poroshenko’s and President Putin’s respective peace plans.  Thus it can be expected that only the very few points that are contained within both presidential plans will actually be adhered to by both sides.

Nevertheless, for reasons of political and legal expediency for both Russia and Ukraine, not to mention the EU, IMF, WB, OSCE etc., the ceasefire will be deemed as holding.  Only a gross violation of it, such as the fall of Donetsk airport or the city of Mariupol would probably constitute acknowledgement of its failure – and perhaps the fall of Donetsk airport would not be deemed enough even then.  The fall of Mariupol could not, however, be ignored.

Thus for Ukraine, the ceasefire need to be seen to officially hold to facilitate the 26th October elections, as well as further IMF lending in the winter, whereby Ukraine hopes that the 3rd and 4th tranches will be simultaneously released by the IMF.  A recognition of war simply puts an end to both necessary events for Ukraine.

For the Kremlin, further overt action would be needed to push on westward as local support simply isn’t there to augment its irregular and regular fighters in eastern Ukraine.  That in turn may lead to further sanctions.  By the turn of the year, the sanctions already in place will begin to bite in Russia.  A year from now they will actually hurt significantly.

The removal of Russian forces, irregular or regular from Ukrainian soil seems unlikely – but there will be a pretense of removal in the hope of then pressuring Kremlin Trojan Horses and the weakest European links to lessen the current EU sanctions.  The robust continuance of sanctions is a significant factor in the eventual outcome for Ukraine.  Sanctions cause damage over time – and the Europe/Ukraine/Russia confrontation is now set for the long term, both on and off the military battlefield.

Also, having scored a major political victory in delaying the DCFTA until 31st December 2015, it is also unlikely to throw that card away too swiftly by pushing onward on Ukrainian ground this calendar year, to the point where the EU and Ukraine throw Russia out of the negotiating room it has just forced its way into, and return to the DCFTA unchanged and without any delays.  It is for this reason The Kremlin seeks to gain a legal instrument from all parties to prevent implementation prior to 31 December 2015 – though they will be foolish to provide such.

The freezing of the armed conflict territorially in eastern Ukraine – should it hold more or less – is therefore nothing more than the end of the beginning.

As has been written before on the blog, cities such as Odessa have far less to fear from military invasion than they do from a coercive political assault amongst their corrupt political class and weak institutions.  Only should such a political assault fail entirely, would the real prospect of military confrontation in Odessa rear its head.  Such a confrontation would certainly bring about a reaction from Europe that would inflict serious damage on The Kremlin one way or another very quickly.  The cost of physically taking the city for The Kremlin would be immense both in body count and western reaction – far outstripping anything seen so far.  Therefore incessant political coercion and subterfuge is likely to be the chosen battlefield for Odessa unless The Kremlin decides to “go for broke”, quite literally.

To be entirely blunt, it suits all parties to freeze battlefield matters until the turn of the year if an acceptable position to freeze in, is found for all parties –  (aside form sporadic clashes where finger pointing as to who is responsible occurs).  If no such position is found, of course, matters in eastern Ukraine will continue as they have been these past months until one such a position is found.

On the presumption a freeze occurs – even if only until some time next year – the fight will then become more prominent  in other sectors.

There will be the political shenanigans within certain cities in order to turn them from a “united Ukraine” position to a “special status” position.  Kharkiv, Kherson and Odessa the most likely major targets.

There will be the usual gas games, other farcical economic pressures with Ukrainian products mysteriously and suddenly failing to meet Russian standards after having met them for decades.

The Kremlin will work on its friendly nations within the  EU as well as those over which it holds economic leverage to undermine existing sanctions.

All of these happen now of course and in concert with events on the battleground in eastern Ukraine – however as one area of physical conflict cools, The Kremlin will naturally turn up the heat on another area of political or economic life – or both.  Matters will be kept “hot” one way or another.

As much as a short term freeze may suit The Kremlin today, time is not on The Kremlin side if it is to prevent Ukraine from leaving its orbit.  That, in case we have forgotten, is what this is all about – The Kremlin resorted to military action to slow down the Ukrainian trajectory out of The Kremlin orbit.  It grabbed a somewhat strategic peninsula in Crimea whilst it could, fully prepared to take the international response for doing so, but in eastern Ukraine such action occurs whilst it scrambles around looking for other ways to keep Ukraine within its orbit.  It has, at most, bought itself until 31st December 2015 by delaying the DCFTA implementation.

Even an averagely successful, truly independent and genuinely democratic Ukraine becomes a major threat to a Kremlin machine built on and around endemic and ingrained corruption and repression.  The Kremlin needs poor and dysfunctional neighbours to remain the centre of anything.

Though clearly the intentional destabilisation of relations with most Russian neighbours is nothing more than an Orwellian-esque  doublethink exercise in threat generation for its own domestic constituency, carried out in order to justify and legitimise the Kremlin shift toward a Russian Military Complex capable of retaking and controlling all the FSU territories, a successfully departing Ukraine from Kremlin orbit, would certainly mean trouble for those other neighbours.

Thus if the EU and Ukraine do meet 1st January 2016 in full accordance with the AA and DCFTA, then currently there appears no alternative to yet another round of warfare – unless by that date, the sanctions are still in place and will therefore really be hurting.  Then perhaps a trade off of sanctions removal for uninhibited DCFTA can be engineered.

Further meaningful Kremlin military intervention therefore, is likely to come long before 31st December 2015, should it feel there is no way to completely scupper the DCFTA – however having managed to eek out the opportunity to do so, it will not squander that opportunity unnecessarily.

If the EU and Ukraine manage to hold it together and sanctions do instill a significant amount of pain over the next 15 months to the unlikely culmination of The Kremlin letting Ukraine go, then The Kremlin will need another target nation or entity to occupy the State controlled media and propaganda fed minds of the Russian public.  Preferably not a neighbour that will draw the same level of response from the western nations with whom they have agreements.

The end of the beginning, perhaps is now almost with us.

The beginning of the end for somebody, will be toasted in with the Year of the Sheep – perhaps appropriately, as somebody will begin an ever evident, and yet unwitting, journey as a lamb to the slaughter.

h1

GRETA on Ukraine – Human Trafficking Report

September 20, 2014

A very short entry today relating to the latest GRETA report on Ukraine and human trafficking.

A long 68 page read – but worth it for those with an interest in human trafficking, as this blog historically – and still – has, away from the more general every day entries.

That said human trafficking related entries still appear here every now and then., so if you have an interest, do put “human trafficking” into the search facility, because though entries in this blog are deliberately scarce, there are still far too many to link to.

 

h1

Kremlin DCFTA expectations

September 19, 2014

There is no better way to outline the Kremlin plans regarding the future of the DCFTA between the EU and Ukraine than to let The Kremlin officially state it:

rus

And so, there it is.  The Kremlin position as of 15th September – the day prior to AA and DCFTA ratification.

Russia demands a legally binding instrument between the EU and Ukraine recognising that the DCFTA between the two parties will not, in any shape or form, be brought into force prior to 31st December 2015 as far as Ukrainian commitments are concerned – even the parts Russia has raised no objection to.  If Russia believes Ukraine, even in part, implements this agreement prior to that date, then Russia will react adversely to Ukraine either symmetrically or asymmetrically as it decides is appropriate.  Furthermore Russia expects the DCFTA to be amended to accommodate its concerns – despite the fact it has already been ratified by the European Parliament, Ukraine, and several EU Member States.

Quite a set of demands for a third party to a bilateral legal instrument that has already been ratified.

What, if any, changes can or will be made to the ratified DCFTA to accommodate Russia?

Should any official replies to the Kremlin letter, from either the EU or Ukraine find their way to the blog, then naturally a suitable entry will be forthcoming.  Perhaps the mutual ratification the day after this Kremlin letter was received by the EU and Ukraine was indeed their answer – or part of it.  After all, ratification occurred without any changes despite what appears to be a desperate attempt to prevent it by The Kremlin.

Can the Ukrainian economy be transformed into an economy that can be competitive in the European marketplace in a 15 month time frame, whilst being capable of dealing with any Kremlin punishment for doing so when it does?

h1

A picture paints a thousand words……but

September 18, 2014

The saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words.  So here is the picture in question.   Indeed, it is President Poroshenko holding aloft the Ukraine-EU Association agreement mutually ratified by the Ukrainian RADA and European Parliament yesterday.

eu aa

Yet for any good picture to remain that way, it requires a robust (and hopefully attractive) frame – lest it tear, fade, fray, or warp, due to its external environment that would otherwise take their toll.

Now the EU is certainly no Monet masterpiece – far from it.  Yet for most Ukrainians, it is far more attractive than the inspiration-less, post-Soviet potato print effort they current view daily and is offered by The Kremlin.  The Association Agreement may only be a paint-by-numbers alternative to the potato print, but the vast majority would see that as an improvement.

A few days ago in this entry, the final paragraph read “Over the next 5 years, both presidential and RADA terms are quite literally going to be make or break for a genuinely independent Ukraine.  A Periclean foundational period, or an Ouroboros disaster awaits.” – Quite true, and although Ukraine will be nothing approaching the finished article in anything like such a 5 year time fame, notable changes can be effectively implemented to the benefit of the nation and its constituents – some very quickly indeed.

To be blunt, the time scale will be more like a decade without too great an obstructive interference from The Kremlin at every turn.  Maybe twice that time frame if The Kremlin does obstruct, undermine, and coerce persistently – presuming Ukraine has the determination to continue onward regardless and not succumb to persistent Kremlin shenanigans.  Thus the external environment is not conducive to the picture lasting without a solid frame.

A great deal depends upon and is expected from Ukraine – but not exclusively.

With the European Parliament ratifying the Association Agreement, it too has long term and robust role to play.  If Ukraine is the picture, then the EU must act as the solid frame.

If there are questions over the ability of Ukraine to complete the paint-by-numbers bright, vibrant and untainted picture, then there are certainly just as serious questions over the ability of the EU to act as a robust frame around it – and one that will not lose its attractiveness.

How robust is that EU frame?  It is certainly not dependent upon the European parliamentary frame.

It is dependent upon the Member State component parts.  It is they that are ultimately the frame.  The wood, the nails, and the varnish.  Without the Member States remaining robust in their determination with Ukraine, the frame itself will start to fall apart.  The mitered joints will creak and fall apart.  The nails will fall out.  The varnish will dull and chip.

Will the frame manage to remain robust for the next decade (at least) surrounding the Ukrainian picture?  Will it remain solid for even 5 years, enough time to give the 2014 Ukrainian authorities even a fighting chance of producing a picture worthy of looking at?

How long before The Kremlin induced external environment causes Finnish nails to rust or fall out?  Hungarian mitered joints to ease or warp?  Italian varnish to chip and dull?  The Austrians?  The Germans socialists misguidedly still sticking to Ostpolitik in the vein hope it will work when it has been so clearly refused so many times already?  Will the UK picture hook even be in the EU before the painting by numbers is close to completion?

Tens of billions of Euro in aid and grants is probably not going to be enough over the next decade for Ukraine to produce a reasonable picture whilst weathering its external, hostile environment.   How much do Member States pay for a paint by numbers picture?  What are the costs of not buying the paint by numbers picture the EU would prefer to see, rather than leaving The Kremlin potato print it clearly finds ugly, hanging on display for decades more to come?

Is there more faith in the Ukrainian picture, or the European ability and willingness to provide a robust (and attractive) frame in a continuously hostile Kremlin environment?

mona lisa

All of this is perhaps putting the cart before the horse.  The 28th October RADA (and local) elections need return a body that is actually capable of working effectively, to the point whereby any Ukrainian picture is deemed worthy of any effort to provide it with a frame.  Will any new RADA manage to agree which number to paint first, second and third – or will there be an artists block due to the clashing of leaders egos within the RADA leading to infighting and stagnation once again?

h1

Status of The Donbas – Presidential Bill

September 17, 2014

Whilst today saw the Ukrainian RADA and European Parliament simultaneously ratify the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, also traveling through the RADA is the Presidential Bill relating to the status of The Donbas, which states:

 

Submitted by the President of Ukraine

WITH A LAW DECREE And H & J

On special order of local government
in some areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions
______________________________________________
This Law determines the temporal order of local self-government of local government in certain areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions in order to create conditions for a speedy normalization of the situation, restore the rule of law, constitutional rights and freedoms, and the rights and legitimate interests of legal persons, creating conditions for returning residents were forced to abandoned places of residence, their reintegration and to restore life in the settlements in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and development areas.

Article 1   In accordance with this Law temporarily for three years from the date of entry into force of this Act, introduced a special procedure for local government in some areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which include the areas of the city, town, village, determined by the decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Next – some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions).

Article 2   Legislation in parts of Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk regions for the period of special order local government operates with the specifications set out in this Act.

Article 3   The State shall guarantee compliance with the law to prevent prosecution, criminal and administrative liability and punishment of persons – participants of the events in the Donetsk, Luhansk.

Authorities and their officials (office) individuals, enterprises, institutions, organizations of all patterns of ownership prohibited discrimination, harassment and prosecution of the persons on the events that took place in Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Article 4   The State shall guarantee under the Law of Ukraine “On the Principles of State Language Policy ‘right to self-determination of each citizen language in parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions for language that says native language selection dialogue, free use of Russian and any other language in the public and private life, learning and support Russian and any other language, their free development and equality.

Local governments, local authorities in the manner and within the powers provided for by the Law of Ukraine “On the Principles of State Language Policy” and other laws of Ukraine, international treaties of Ukraine ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, contribute in some areas Donetsk and Lugansk regions using Russian and other languages ​​in speech and writing in the field of education, the media and create opportunities for their use in the activities of state and local governments, legal proceedings, in economic and social activities during the cultural activities and other areas of public life.

Article 5   In some areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions local governments carried out in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Ukraine respective local communities directly and through local governments.

The powers of local councilors and officials elected by special election scheduled Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine this law can not be terminated.

In some areas of Donetsk and Lugansk Ukraine laws introduced a special procedure for the appointment of heads of prosecutors and courts, which involves local authorities in addressing these issues.

Article 6   To ensure coordinated activities of local governments and national and local authorities to ensure the development of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, ministries and other central executive bodies may enter into with the relevant local government agreements on economic, social and cultural development of individual regions.

Initiative on the agreement on economic, social and cultural development of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions belonging to the relevant local authorities.

For an agreement on economic, social and cultural development of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, local governments submit to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, ministries, other central executive power supply on the development of specific areas to be addressed by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, ministries and other central executive agencies, joint projects of the government and local authorities. Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the Ministry, other central executive authority considers proposals submitted within ten days from receipt of such proposals, offers consultation process with representatives of local governments of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, interested entities and the public. The decision on opening the consultation procedure adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, ministries and other central executive body of the decision immediately informed Pledge agreement that provides consultation involving representatives of local governments, interested entities, members of the public.

During the consultations, the representatives of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, ministries and other central executive authorities and local self-government separate districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions concerned actors, community leaders are preparing a draft agreement on economic, social and cultural development of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Agreement on economic, social and cultural development of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions shall enter into force on the date of its approval by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the Ministry.

Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine controls the performance of executive agencies signed agreements on economic, social and cultural development of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, hear their reports, take action under the law to enforce the parties signed agreements.

Article 7   The State shall support socio-economic development of certain regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

State support is by creating law other than general economic regime of economic and investment activities aimed at restoring industrial, transport and social infrastructure, housing, reorientation of industrial capacity, job creation, investment and loans for reconstruction and development facilities located in parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

To implement sustainable socio-economic development of certain regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “On State Target Program” approved by the state target program, which defines activities, objectives and indicators aimed at creating conditions for a comprehensive and balanced territorial development , restore the production and export potential, ensuring efficient use of resources and industrial potential needs of the population of the territories concerned in competitive high-tech environmentally friendly products, quality services, creating a favorable environment for investment and optimal investment activities, expansion of employment through job creation .

The Law on the State Budget of Ukraine provides for annual expenditures allocated to the social and economic development of certain regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Ukraine guarantees the determination of the general fund of the State Budget of Ukraine protected expenditures, the amount of which can not be changed when making reductions approved budget allocations.

Article 8   The executive promote development in some areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of cross-border cooperation to address common development challenges reinforce and foster neighborly relations between territorial communities and local governments of certain areas of administrative-territorial units of the Russian Federation on the basis of agreements border cooperation concluded by local communities, local governments, local authorities and local communities Ukraine within the jurisdiction prescribed by law.

Article 9   In some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts decision of city, town, village councils created teams of national police entrusted with the task of public order in the settlements in these areas.

Coordination of national police units to protect public order in towns carried out of the village, the mayor.

Detachments of people’s militia formed on a voluntary basis from among citizens of Ukraine, who permanently reside in their respective localities separate districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Detachments of people’s militia during public order implementing powers provided for them by the laws of Ukraine.
On the establishment and operation of people’s militia detachments village, town, city mayor informs the local population through the media.

Article 10   Final provisions

1. This Act shall take effect on the date of publication.

2. In accordance with paragraph 30 of Article 85 of the Constitution of Ukraine calls early elections of deputies of county, city, borough, town and village councils, village, town and city mayors in some areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions on Sunday, December 7, 2014.

Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine within the authorities to take immediate measures to ensure the financing of early elections, which are designed by the first paragraph of this paragraph by the reserve fund of the State Budget of Ukraine.

3.  Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine urgently with local governments of individual regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions prepare and submit to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, laws and regulations to ensure the adoption of legal acts deriving from this Law.

Head
Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

The vote held behind closed doors in a closed morning session of the RADA, means that those who voted this Bill through remain unknown to the public as the new RADA elections arrive next month.  Whether that was a good idea remains to be seen.  Whether the Kremlin proxies will accept this when it comes into law is also an unknown.

A necessary losing of the battle to win the long term war of genuine independence – or a losing of a battle that will ultimately turn out to be a losing of the war?

How much political capital will it cost President Poroshenko and his party prior to the elections?

Whether a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine is officially recognised or not, in effect that is what Ukraine, its allies and partners now have to deal with whilst the rest of the nation struggles on toward a more European rather than Kremlin orientated future.

Will Western sanctions continue with such a de facto a “freeze” be recognised – or not?  A freeze is not deescalation nor reversal of Kremlin policy at the expense of Ukraine, which was the point of implementing sanctions.

At what point, if ever, will all of Ukraine west of The Donbas, say it is no longer prepared to allow it to apply Kremlin pressure over the rest of the nation?  Will the rest of the nation eventually be in a position to say, you either stay within and head in our direction, or we cut you loose?

h1

A Periclean or Ouroboros future for Ukraine?

September 16, 2014

Only a few days ago this entry, following the delayed DCFTA between the EU and Ukraine, stated; “They went for the (perhaps Utopian) ideals of forever implanting and consolidating a full and robust democratic State regardless of the feckless Ukrainian political class. A Periclean democratic moment was upon them.”

per

A Periclean moment indeed.  The birth of something approaching genuine democracy with lasting, robust democratic pillars, or not – a moment that has yet to lead to its intended results.  In fact that Periclean moment, as runners and riders for the 26th October RADA elections emerge, may well become an Ouroboros moment instead, with the movement that ousted former President Yanukovych and his thoroughly corrupt regime, now offering up the real possibility of eating itself.

Are the children of the revolution about to commit suicide on the alter of populist politics under the banners of historically populist and ne’er-do-well leaders – or are they about to make the changes they expect to make from within the political beast, despite those party leaders under whose banners they will be included?  Will they succumb to the way its always been?   Will they give up in frustration when ideology struggles to shift entrenched institutions of State?

Initial party proportional representation lists would indicate that populism and not policy is remains stubbornly the driver for far too many political parties – and in particular their leaders.  They don’t come much more populist than this from Batkivshchyna – desperately populist indeed.

Rather than policy manifestos highlighting the extremely difficult choices to be made with blunt honesty for the Ukrainian voting constituency, not only regarding the situation the nation is in, but that it is also facing, once again, many old political populists, celebrities and now public figures born of  EuroMaidan only a few months ago, are likely to top the lists.  A number of decent journalists also amongst the number who must now, naturally, relinquish journalism when swapping it for politics.

On the whole, form (and popularity) clearly the preference over substance (and ability) – again.  Not only has Ukraine been here before – it has never left this retarded and debilitating cycle.

Those capable of navigating the treacherous and difficult paths that need be followed, seem unlikely to feature heavily anywhere near the top of such party lists, if they feature at all.  With or without a map or policy manifesto currently showing their proposed way out of the present situation from most political parties, it is the professional people, the lawyers and the economists, the professors and the doctors that are urgently required in Ukrainian policy making and politics.  Those who can not only understand any map their are given, but draw one if necessary.

The wooing of leading civil society personalities post-Maidan to run for party X or Y is a natural phenomenon.  Almost every democracy recruits from its leading lights amongst the domestic civil society pool to some extent.  It is the democratic way of things – but to take so many at once from a recently coalesced sphere of public life is not necessarily the best thing for the nation at this moment in time.  In doing so it leaves the very real possibility that Ukrainian civil society will once again return to a sphere that turns against itself.   Leadership and personalities matter as much in civil society as anywhere else, despite its necessary societal grass roots.  If the cause and a united front (where applicable) is to remain united and not fragment or degenerate into persistent infighting once again, a great deal of caution must be taken when politically recruiting from within.

Alternatively, to concentrate mostly on those civil society and public figures that have a recognition factor only from various acts at EuroMaidan, rather than a previously hard earned civil society ability, brings neither experience nor ability to parliament.  It will bring a great deal of idealism by way of liberal and perhaps even constructionist thinking, but it need be tempered by realism.  Politics is the art of making maximum within the limits of what is possible.  Idealism is far less constrained.

Six months/one year from now, when many of the idealists may resign from political parties as reality sets in, will it not be the political party and its populist leaders that suffer the most in the public eye, instantly being branded as empty democratic and change enabling vassals – again?  Several starlets of EuroMaidan plucked from the masses and included in the interim government have already resigned due to frustration – as well being responsible for crafting some of the most atrocious attempts at law that have fortunately never been passed in RADA history.  Should such resignations repeat in notable numbers through frustration again, and real democratic and institutional change fail to appear, who would categorically rule out yet another Maidan and political crisis?  As has already been pointed out within Ukrainian social media, there are more lampposts in Kyiv than there are RADA MPs to swing from them.

How many volunteer battalion commanders will enter the political fray?  Under whose banner?  How many celebrities verses civil society leaders, verses EuroMaidan public figures, verses populist politicians verses volunteer battalion commanders should be on any particular party list – before those who should be there on merit and ability actually appear?

om

Is the Periclean moment about to be spurned or wasted?   Are we about to enter an  Ouroboros moment instead?  A RADA full populist leaders, patriotically minded members, but nonetheless mostly incompetent policy-minded people?

Where does it leave Ukraine, if not working on at least a 3-speed gyroscopic axis spinning manically upon what may be a very unstable pivot point?  The first speed being long term survival by visibly tempering – or appearing to visibly temper – its speed westward whilst not disowning The Donbas entirely, but not allowing it to become a dead weight either.  What occurs less visibly or quietly may be a quite a different matter entirely.  The second, a far faster speed (and from tomorrow ratified Association Agreement binding) relates to the internal democracy reforming process, the results of which the Ukrainian public expect to see (perhaps far too ambitiously) almost immediately. Third, a fairly rapid deleveraging of such reliance on Russia as a trade parter – or at least the fairly rapid planning of such deleveraging.  There is much to unwind (or prepare to unwind) as painlessly as possible before the delayed implementation of the DCFTA on 1 January 2016, if it is to be ratified.  A much more manageable percentage of trade with Russia vis a vis the rest of the world being the obvious way to mitigate threats to simply crush the Ukrainian economy via bureaucratic nonsense from The Kremlin – even if this is accomplished one seemingly unimpressive percentage point at a time over the next 15 months.

It has to be said that all these things require seasoned experts and professionals to prevent the various gyroscopic rotations from spinning out of control.  Are such, people to be found within the celebrity, EuroMaidan starlets and populist political leaders – and if not, will a new RADA listen to those seasoned experts and professionals and be able to control their populist leaders?

It is desperately disappointing to see the top places of party lists filling with the wrong people again – and yet it is encouraging to see others on parties lists that may very well turn out to be exactly what the Ukrainian political system needs.  That encouragement comes with a sizeable caveat, as it comes at the expense of severely hollowing out civil society (and possibly its current cohesion) as well as media institutions – both instrumental in either influencing or holding the political class accountable.

That said, with sufficient will and determination much can be accomplished despite Kremlin interference, with an effective division of labour working honestly to good policy.  Perhaps Ukraine need only concern itself with voting in those with the will and determination –  whilst borrowing the good policies others have previously employed from within other nations.

Over the next 5 years, both presidential and RADA terms are quite literally going to be make or break for a genuinely independent Ukraine.  A Periclean foundational period, or an Ouroboros disaster awaits.

%d bloggers like this: