Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Russian Autocracy ‘Will Always Threaten the Development of Ukraine,’ Shevtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 27 – Russian autocracy by its very nature “will always threaten the development of Ukraine,” and this threat may be especially serious now because the world has entered a kind of “interregnum” in which the old international arrangements have “exhausted themselves” and have not yet been replaced by new and effective ones, Lilya Shevtsova says.

            In the course of a wide-ranging interview with Ukraine’s Apostrophe portal, the Moscow-based Brookings Institution scholar argues Ukrainians understand the permanent threat Russia poses but may not fully comprehend how what is occurring in the West affects them (apostrophe.ua/article/world/ex-ussr/2016-09-27/liliya-shevtsova-rossiyskoe-samoderjavie-vsegda-budet-ugrojat-razvitiyu-ukrainyi/7441).

            One of the reasons Ukrainians have not focused on the underlying changes in the West is that Western support for sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s Anschluss of Crimea are “unwavering and steady,” Shevtsova says, although she cautions that because of loopholes, Moscow has been able to end run some of them. 

            Moreover, Moscow has launched a two-pronged attack to try to get some in the West to waver on sanctions. On the one hand, the Kremlin has sought to link sanctions to the Minsk accords rather than the occupation of Crimea. And on the other, it has tried to suggest that Ukraine is partially to blame for the Minsk accords not having had their intended result.

            At a deeper level, Shevtsova says, Russia, at least as long as “Russian autocracy” exists, will seek to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty, security and stability. But because Ukrainians understand this, there is “a paradox: It is precisely the existence of Russia [which] is accelerating the formation of Ukrainian national identity and its pro-European direction.”

            Unfortunately, “Ukraine is paying a heavy price for this,” she adds.

            At the same time, Shevtsova continues, “Ukraine itself has stirred up the Western community,” and it is “in essence the most important external factor for Europe which recalls to Europe its obligations, its international agreements and also its generally accepted European norms.” In short, “Ukraine has force the Europeans to return to their values.”

            But again and unfortunately, Ukraine is also paying a heavy price for this as well, although “despite its vacillations, Europe will hardly give Ukraine back into the pocket of any neighboring imperial state. But at the same time, Europe “is trying not to get into a fight with Russia.” It wants to find a balance and “doesn’t want to introduce new sanctions which would destroy the Russian economy.”

            The reason for that is simple, the Brookings analyst continues. “The Western community is worried about a Russia in a deep crisis and the unpredictably” that such a Russia represents.  The West will defend Ukraine and Ukrainian sovereignty; but the West has its own problems of balance and change.

            “In any case,” Shevtsova continues, “the current Interregnum, when the West is weakened is a temporary phenomenon. The West will get out of it via the renewal of elites, but this period will last several years. Sometime between 2022 and 2025 … we will see new political leaders who will seek to find a new consensus” on a variety of issues, including relations with Ukraine and Russia.

            The problem the West and indeed the world now feels is that “the old international institutions, beginning with the UN, the IMF, the WTO, and the OSCE and ending with regional regulators have exhausted themselves.” They are no longer setting the limits on action and have become “dysfunctional.”  The EU is affected by this as well.

            With Brexit, Germany’s position is weakened, while that of France and the Mediterranean countries has been strengthened. And this has consequences for Ukraine because the latter have always sought a more “pragmatic” and “utilitarian” approach to Russia, Shevtsova argues.

            These developments and the way in which they are reflected in American politics, she continues, “put Ukraine, which is seeking to strengthen its European vector in an extremely unfavorable position, because if the West is prostrate, has lost its role as example and icon, and is occupied with itself, it will be very difficult for young democracies to strengthen themselves.”

            In short, the next few years are going to be very difficult for Ukraine, because it is directly threatened from theEast and indirectly threatened by changes in the West.

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