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Nalyvaychenko’s next role – Into the political void?

June 22, 2015

About a week ago, an entry was published relating to Dmitry Firtash, in which it stated that the then current SBU (Secret Services) Chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko would be dismissed iminently.

Retaining Mr Nalyvaychenko as head of the SBU, a position he assumed on 23rd February 2014 immediately after “the Family” fled made sense prima facie. Mr Nalyvaychenko has previous experience in national security, and to be fair, the SBU has consistently improved and continued to get its act together under his tenure during extremely difficult circumstances.

“The demise of Mr Nalyvaychenko has no doubt been expedited by Mr Firtash appearing on the Russian television channel Russia-24 yesterday calling on President Poroshenko to collapse the Rada. The timescale for the removal of Mr Nalyvaychenko as SBU head should now be measured in minutes, hours and days, rather than weeks or months.”

Within 72 hours of writing the above entry relating to Mr Firtash, Mr Nalyvaychenko was indeed removed as SBU Chief.  A victim of politics and a degree of guilt by association.  To be blunt neither Mr Nalyvaychenko’s patriotism, nor his achievements in turning a highly Kremlin infiltrated, unmotivated, corrupt and otherwise ineffective secret service agency around to the point where a steady flow of genuine and real results began to appear, are in question.

Indeed neither on – and perhaps more importantly off – the record, has any “western” diplomat ever inferred, nor bluntly stated, that there were issues with Mr Nalyvaychenko regarding his role and performance as SBU Chief to your author, despite conversations the subjects of which would have fallen within his competency.

That cannot be said for conversations held between “western” diplomats and your author over other personalities in both within Presidential Administration, Government UA, or institution chiefs.

The entire point of “off the record” conversations is that they are frank and sugar-coated opinion is not that which is exchanged.

Thus it would appear that many “western” capitals were quite comfortable with Mr Nalyvaychenko both in his role as SBU Chief, and his interaction with them.

That is not to say that Mr Nalyvaychenko does not skate on thin ice in the area of business interests and associations derived thereof.  Similar associations to that with Dmitry Firtash can also be made with Igor Kolomoisky, Yulia Tymoshenko, Sergie Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov – the ever opaque poisoned trough of energy and associated nefariousness is a skeleton in many a cupboard.  Mr Nalyvaychenko is no different.

Regardless of the above paragraph, after initially fumbling the ball somewhat with regard to Crimea and immediate events in The Donbas, Mr Nalyvaychenko recovered and did accomplish something approaching meaningful change and decent, continuous, results within the SBU.  Credit where credit is due, particularly when recognising what a shambles he inherited.  Though the SBU be far from fixed, it is in far better shape than it was 18 months ago.

Although it was not the plan to sack Mr Nalyvaychenko, thus throwing a man who was on national television/in the national media daily directly into the political fracas, that is what has happened.

Mr Nalyvaychenko is an ambitious man with political goals.  The plan to move him to a far less public role as head of the Foreign Intelligence Unit and quietly dismiss him some months into the future was clearly a plan to neuter those ambitious political goals.  Far too obvious to far too many, including Mr Nalyvaychenko.  Thus he was faced with a quiet neutering once out of the public eye, or to throw himself into the political fracas upon being removed from office and hoping that he can retain enough of a public persona to remain relevant and gain some political traction prior to the next presidential (and parliamentary) elections.

Though time will tell (as it always does), on balance being publicly pushed rather than horizontally moved into obscurity and quietly dismissed, may well be his best option.  It is the option he has chosen to take anyway.

With the Opposition Block (a phoenix of the Party of Regions) still far too politically toxic for another decade at least, no oligarch likely to back Ms Tymoshenko for the same reasons they refused to back her previously (almost limitless acrimony between these people) and politicians such as Lyashko little more than pet populists that will never gather enough votes to beat the current incumbent president, there is a political void regarding a credible opposition under a credible opposition leader.  The Prime Minister and his People’s Front party are sponsored by Igor Kolomoisky.  Not much room for the Firtash’s and Akhmetov’s as things stand today.

Whilst it may be very cozy/comfortable for the presidential administration to try and maneuver Andriy Sadoviy and his Samopomich Party into a position of the primary “friendly opposition” for the next elections, in the knowledge that whilst regionally strong, it is nationally weak, Samopomich makes a point of staying clear of oligarch money (though Mr Sadoviy is not a poor man, he is no oligarch).

Who then to back?

The oligarchy will be looking to create a new, credible, more or less unsullied opposition to the Poroshenko movement.  Whilst at the time of writing it seems very unlikely that any candidates or parties will unseat the current incumbent or his associated Rada party majority within the coalition, unlike Arsen Avakov, Mr Nalyvaychenko has not spent any energy upon creating his “own team” within the Rada whilst in office.

Therefore there is work to be done, and a political void exists.

We should not be surprised perhaps if over the next few months and years, not only does a political party arrive headed by Mr Nalyvaycehnko, but that the seeds of political ambition held by Mr Nalyvaychenko are watered and fed by those with a skilled historical hand behind the Ukrainian political curtain.  The bounty of such cultivation now may not be reaped at the next elections – but those afterwards?

(As for a permanent replacement for Mr Nalyvaychenko as SBU Chief.  It is perhaps wise not to hold your breath.  Of the names in the frame, Mr Artyuhov is altogether too politically toxic (as well as odious) and may well be moved from the SBU altogether if sense prevails, and Mr Gritsak is probably more predisposed to service the interests of certain internal personalities than he is to service the interests of the SBU or the nation.  An acting Mr Gritsak for some time, unless a sensible candidate can be found, would therefore seem likely.)

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