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A play within a play (or diplomatic gamesmanship) NATO-Ukraine & the SBU

October 11, 2018

It’s been a while since there was a public exhibition of diplomatic gamesmanship between the current Ukrainian leadership and the more solid of Ukraine’s external supporters.

Another play within a play – such as those within The Bard’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Hamlet, or Love’s Labours Lost.

The current issue of contention is the rehashing of the laws surrounding the SBU and its parameters/terms of reference.

A public game of political and diplomatic gamesmanship is now being played.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the SBU, its activities and the laws and regulations outlining the agency’s scope is long overdue.  The SBU gets far too involved in acts that the police should be dealing with on a daily basis.  In some arenas it is far too publicly active, and generally there is a need for more macro and less micro involvement across many domestic issues.

Ukraine has long promised to address this particular issue.  All year President Poroshenko has stated that the revamp of the agency and the laws that proscribe its responsibilities will be overhauled as a matter of priority.

However making good on such promises does not exist in a vacuum – regardless of official electioneering some months away from starting, unofficially it has long been going on.  As the ever-turning calendar brings the election ever closer, so do opportunities to revamp the SBU and associated legislation prior to those elections diminish.

Depending upon the outcome of the elections, the chances of accomplishing this longstanding obligation by Ukraine, are also far from uncertain.  Indeed, this is not lost on any interested party (which includes the SBU and its own vested interests, powers and budget).

On 10th October, the NATO Deputy Head in Ukraine stated: “It is not expedient for Ukraine to postpone the reform of the Security Service of Ukraine, as this could undermine the trust of its allies.  

The reform of the Security Service of Ukraine was emphasized as a key priority, both in the comprehensive package of assistance to Ukraine, which was agreed at the NATO Warsaw Summit in 2016, and in the annual national program of Ukraine.

So, a blunt message with “undermined trust” at its core to President Poroshenko that NATO (and allies) are not going to be seen to tacitly (as it can never officially) support his reelection/release communiques inferring support if he doesn’t force this through the Verkhovna Rada before the year end?

Is it a reluctant recognition that there is no guarantee that whoever wins the March presidential election may have trouble controlling the current sitting Verkhovna Rada until those elections in October 2019 – and possibly beyond?  A matter of forcing it through now (or perhaps never)?

For sure Yulia Tymoshenko’s voting history within the Verkhovna Rada is not particularly impressive when it comes to laws that reform the system – in fact for a self-proclaimed reformer it is quite dismal, as all major external supporters of Ukraine will be very aware.

So is President Poroshenko presenting himself as an “if not me, then who?” to Ukraine’s supporters?  At the time of writing that is a particularly prickly question given the declared runners thus far.  Being President is not enough, there is a need to control the Verkhovna Rada to get things done (be they good, bad or indifferent).

If so does he feel he has the political capital to force it through the Verkhovna Rada at a time most politically expedient for his reelection – and reap the publicly expressed nods of approval at the most appropriate electioneering hour?

Will there be such an hour of political expedience before the elections when controlling the SBU provides him with a powerful tool during the electioneering process?

Can he so misjudge matters that he will have lost sufficient political power that when or if he does try it will be too late?

Can it be timed, as the anti-corruption court and Bureau of Special Investigations have been, that any such changes made would prove to be impotent until after the elections?  If so would the external supporters of Ukraine accept such an outcome – all interests met, but not with politically expedient immediate effect?

If a reader were faced with such a dilemma, what to do?  And when?  And how will it affect the bigger plot in the bigger play?

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