Staunton, July 4 – It has often been said Ukrainians cannot expect the West to be more ready to stand up to Russian aggression than they are, an observation particularly disturbing now that Igor Kolomoysky, Vladimir Zelensky’s prime backer, has accepted Moscow’s version of the conflict as a civil war (actualcomment.ru/kolomoyskiy-podderzhal-rossiyskuyu-versiyu-konflikta-v-donbasse-1907041321.html).
But the problem in Kyiv may be even deeper than that because, as Aleksandr Tsipko of the Moscow Institute of Economics points out, the new Ukrainian president’s “absurd actions have had pro-Russian results,” ones that are even more subversive of Ukraine’s future than Kolomoysky’s words (mk.ru/politics/2019/07/04/absurdnye-deystviya-zelenskogo-dali-neozhidannyy-rezultat.html).
“The main result of the crushing victory of Vladimir Zelensky in the presidential elections of 2019,” the senior scholar and commentator says, “is uncertainty in everything that concerns the future of still independent Ukraine.”
Tsipko says that “it is indicative that in the West after the victory of Zelensky, Ukraine has been viewed by many as a country without a future.” Now, thanks to the victory of the comic, in fact, “Ukraine has become much more unpredictable than Russia” and as such less desirable as an ally.
“I do not think that anyone now will decide to take Ukraine into NATO.” No rational European “will want too fight and die for a nation which makes a profane comic president of a many-million-strong nation under conditions of war.” And no one can take seriously a country where the courts, “without waiting for orders from above,” returns “old Soviet street names.”
“The chaos in Ukraine comes from the reality that the new president cannot propose any alternative to the ideology of Poroshenko and his former domestic and foreign policy.” Having campaigned as an opponent of oligarchs, he has appointed them; and he has been incapable of coming up with any alternative to standing up to Russia.
According to Tsipko, only Medvedchuk represents “a real alternative” to the foreign policy of Poroshenko – “the policy of integration of Ukraine into the present-day Russian world. “Zelensky and his command do not understand that he headed not only a revolt of the people against the emerging national elite but also the revolt of the population against its own state.”
According to Tsipko, “the tragedy of Ukraine is that it is impossible to form a civic nation when the overwhelming part of the population is living in poverty. Zelensky still doesn’t understand that having overthrown by a democratic path Poroshenko, the articulator of ‘the national dream,’ he opened the way to power for the party of realists, those who do not believe in the existence of Ukraine independent from Russia or even more opposed to it.”
Zelensky, the Russian commentator continues, “has opened the path to power for the pro-Russian party of Medvedchuk, the leaders of which … openly declare that ‘sovereign Ukraine doesn’t have any sense without the restoration of normal, fraternal relations with Russia’” and that “in fact, ‘the threat to Ukraine comes not from Russia but from the West.’”
“The situation for national and patriotic forces of Ukraine is becoming ever more serious,” he argues. Those who say that Zelensky is preparing the war for the revenge of Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions do not recognize that Moscow no longer is interested in a Ukraine of the Yanukovich type.
They forget as do many in Russia that “Yanukovich was an opponent of the inclusion of Ukraine in the Tariff Union, that in fact he was the initiator of negotiations about the association of Ukraine with the EU, and that the Yanukovich regme was categorically against the participation of Ukraine in any organizations” under Russian leadership.
What Moscow wants now is far more than a return to that.
The real question now, Tsipko suggests, is this: “what in fact are the chances of transforming the pro-Russian party of Medvedchuk into the ruling party which could in the end define the fate of Ukraine?” That party is certainly growing in strength but it isn’t going to be the winner in the upcoming elections.
“But the very fact that Medvedchuk and Boyko have the chance to conduct direct talks with the leadership of Russia, without the sanction of their own national government … shows that today in fact there is no real, effective power in Ukraine.” And the more they attack Ukraine, the stronger they grow; while the more Poroshenko defends it, the weaker his party becomes.
This is leading ever more people in Ukraine to ask why they should be fighting the war against Russia or making any sacrifice for Ukraine. “Some Ukrainian political analysts call the pro-Russian party of Medvedchuk ‘the party of traitors.’ But in my view,” Tsipko says, “this is unjust because you can only betray something you once loved.”
“In 1991,” he continues, “the overwhelming part of the population of the Ukrainian SSR voted not for the independence of Ukraine but for a better life which they though the chernozem could give them. But if as it turned out an independent Ukraine gave them only poverty, then it is time to dispense with it and agree as quickly as possible to cut gas prices.”
Unlike those around Poroshenko, Tsipko says, he “doesn’t believe in the possibility of a return of Ukraine to Yanukovich’s times … the pro-Russian party can come to power only as a result of a civil war” and thus, the more rapidly Medvedchuk’s popularity grows, the more often nationalist deputies of the Rada on Poroshenko’s TV channels will speak about the inevitability of armed resistance to pro-Russian forces.”
People in Russia need to recognize that “by doing everything possible and impossible for the growth in the popularity of Medvedchuk’s party, we are not only broadening his electorate but are heating up hatred to the pro-Russian forces of Ukraine” and expanding the readiness of their opponents to fight them.
Paradoxically, Tsipko concludes, Russia would have been better off with predictable Ukraine of Poroshenko’s kind than “a Ukraine of chaos and indeterminacy, a Ukraine heading toward civil war, that Zelensky’s victory has given rise to.