Reason as logic, reason as motive, or reason as a way of life?

December 9, 2015

Almost one year ago to the day, a rather critical if not scathing entry was published here relating to the creation of a Ministry of Information in Ukraine.

In that entry it was predicted that Yuri Stets would become the said Minister should the unnecessary Ministry be created – “Even war with the Kremlin is no excuse for what is a proposed ministry that will undoubtedly be misused when under the control of somebody loyal to one or another oligarch/politician. The same oligarchs/politicians that own most Ukrainian media between them. (Smart money would have Yuri Stets, godparent to one of President Poroshenko’s children, as front-runner to lead this potential abomination of an entity.)”


And so it came to pass, the said Ministry of Information was created a few days following that entry with Yuri Stets as Minister.

There are many ways to view “reason” in politics (and State institutional culture) – Reason as logic, reason as motive, and reason as a way of life – sometimes overlapping, sometimes not.

The one thing “reason” need not be, is “reasonable”.

The logical reason for creating the ministry was (amongst other things), as the aforementioned link states, “Refuting and rebutting wearisome nonsense emanating from the Kremlin machinery is not difficult the vast majority of the time. The troublesome aspect to its media strategy is the underlying attempt to undermine faith in all media regardless of source, not just that choreographed by the Kremlin. Ukraine need ask itself, if by creating what will undoubtedly be perceived as an odious and truth manipulating governmental ministry, does it help or hinder that Kremlin strategy?”

When it comes to reason as a motive, amongst several, would have been to give an otherwise politically unemployed/under-employed close and trusted friend of President Poroshenko a job within governance – and not just any job.  A job that held sway and influence over information and thus the media – of which President Poroshenko owns an influential part, as do his domestic adversaries.  Further as Minister of Information, the Information Ministry could stalk the corridors of all other ministries gleaning snippets of information and tittle-tattle undoubtedly fed directly to The Bankova and President, whilst dispensing “information wisdom” at whichever ministry the Ministry of Information was visiting.

That is not to infer that the Ministry of Information was specifically or deliberately tasked with such a “snooping” role.  Far from it.  Your author knows Tatyana Popova, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information, and an outspoken, patriotic, non-nonsense, capable woman she is too – firmly set in her belief that calling out Kremlin nonsense at any and every formal gathering she attends is absolutely necessary even if other ministers also in attendance may be somewhat “shy” about doing so.

Nevertheless, it is somewhat difficult to measure the success of the Ministry of Information over the 12 months it has been running.  Against what benchmarks is it to be measured?  Both reason as logic and reason as a way of life would require some form of benchmarking for any newly created ministry and any conscientious minister – and Mr Stets has never seriously been publicly accused of lacking in conscience.

With reason and benchmarks in mind, it is perhaps necessary to question the surprise resignation of Yuri Stets as Minister of Information after one year in the job.

Mr Stets gave the logical reason of governmental failure to effect reform swiftly for his decision – vowing to continue to fight for a reformed Ukraine where ever he may end up.  It was a resignation that prompted calls from Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov to Mr Stets to reconsider.  “Yuri, we must work even more.  The statement is rushed.  It is premature”.  Prima facie, not an anticipated act.

Well perhaps so.  But is it easier to influence government from within or from without?  Is it really a logical act?  (Even if principled?)

It may be that the Ministry of Information acted as a centre for external actors to sponsor and/or cooperate in a more effective media campaign in promoting Ukraine – albeit the anti-Kremlin propaganda effectiveness is perhaps far more difficult to assess (as with most “counter-whatever” roles within institutions).

Whatever the case, should Mr Stets resignation be accepted, it is timely to question once again the need for the Ministry of Information – for many within the Ukrainian constituency have never stopped questioning the need for it.

Naturally, when President Poroshenko has emptied his pool of trusted and close friends placing all in powerful positions within the Prosecutor’s Office, amongst the regional governors, the Presidential Administration and as a few government ministers, Mr Stets is not going to remain out of the Ukrainian political leadership for long – another appointment of influence will surely follow if his resignation is accepted – and should Mr Stets want any such role offered.

Thus reason as motive may well see this resignation (accepted or not) as simply a method to add pressure upon the government to stop stalling and start carrying out sweeping and effective reforms contrary to the vested interests of some within (and many behind) it.  It may also be, as this resignation submission will not have been unknown to President Poroshenko, that another position deemed more important to fill with a close friend and ally is, or is about to become, vacant.

After all, whilst the Europeans and the US are quite clear that they do not want to see early Verkhovna Rada elections – for they will simply slow down reform once again, yet deliver a legislative body no better than that which currently sits – cabinet reshuffles are healthy.  This notwithstanding several names (Messrs Shokin, Kononenko, etc) who are clearly “problematic” in their roles and in their relationships with the President.

Mr Stets was, and thus far is, a man that has been identified with some personal success.  Reason as a way of life, should that perception of always being successful be important to him – to the point of being associated with failure amounts to being more than “irksome” – would demand within him a need to distance himself from the current government which, if his resignation reasons be genuine, he clearly views as an abject failure when it comes to both speed and scope of reform during his time as a minister within this government.

So the surprise resignation of a Presidential friend and ally from the position of Minister of Information – Reason as logic, reason as motive or reason as a way of life?

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